North Pacific Yearly Meeting session on Global Change

General reflections in response to the query “Where is your heart in regard to Global Change?”

* My concern is about population growth.  All other actions are temporary if we can’t slow this growth. I think frequently about how we are quickly doubling the world’s population.

* I live near the beach and often walk it, on errands as well as for pleasure and regularly find much plastic scattered around.  I now pick it up and am using it to create art boxes and baskets of marine debris.  I use this for teaching children to do art projects while using the opportunity to teach about plastics and their effects, so that they come to understand this – a process much more effective than shrill “You can’t do this!”  My approach is to gives kids choices so they might illustrate the dangers of poisons to the bloodstream or create something pretty.

* I have had a nudge to work on this – the question of rich vs. poor – and am so aware of the many choices we, the rich have.

* I deeply love the earth as I have known it and am saddened by the changes I see.  I feel compassion and also anger at the injustices, and the inequality of opportunity.  What huge amounts of resources we use.  We need to reduce this use.

* When my kids were born, I feared for nuclear war.  Now I fear for changes in the environment.

* The term “right relationship” resonates with me. It helps me move beyond guilt, fear and hopelessness.  We are capable of right relationship.  I have learned much from a book by this title based on the writings of Kenneth Boulding and others.  I am now a “climate master” and train others to go into the community and help lower the carbon footprint on a one-on-one basis.

* This is the greatest challenge of our lives.  My wife is mayor here and sponsored a conference to encourage action.  We must build a Post-Carbon society and control population growth.  Heinberg’s “Power Down” is helpful.  We are vulnerable and our long-distance connections are easy to break down as shortages cut in.  We face the choice of resource wars vs. cooperative efforts and collaboration.

* I am the parent of 2 young children and aware of the speed of change around me.  My field is international conflict resolution, but my heart is now at home in awareness of the conflict and stress on families.  Our micro level actions have to be approached from a spiritual base and not in a way tied to the rat race.

* My heart is burdened, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and its likely unfolding in the near and mid-term.  I am less concerned about my own life than the global “freight train” of sea level rise, etc.  The moral issues involved in facing dislocation of peoples is huge.

* I am challenged to bring a spiritual perspective to global economics, which I teach at the university level.  The tie between poverty and global degradation is real.  Both are addressable.  My response is a blend of optimism and pragmatism. Right relationship is central and there is much we can do.  We participate as part of a faith community.  Can we be a prophetic voice empowering others to act.

* I hold shame and anger.  I live as part of an evangelical Friends community which is often tenuous and hesitant to address the connection between poverty and our individual actions – this is sin.  I feel overwhelmed and deeply saddened, but in this I felt a deep call to help my 5th grade class connect their choices to the suffering of others.  Th

* I feel a strong heart connection to this work and recognize the value of our tradition which helps us see that there is no magic silver bullet, only many small things.

* I grew up in Eritrea in Africa and have a body memory of the locusts swarming and eating the  grain crop.  Then, we kids would gather up the locusts so we might eat them – they became our main protein source.  Then the UN came and began spraying the locusts, but didn’t kill enough to save the crop, but still poisoned them so they could not be eaten, thus there was not enough food.  Why was there no conversation first between the cultures about other ways of acting.  We do have the potential to be in right relationship if we choose to do so.

Session considering the queries from FWCC on Global Change

Responses compiled from individual comments of approximately 25 people present

QUERY # 1.   In our region, global change has not directly affected our communities and thus it is hard to get others to change, or even for each of us to always choose to take the bus or other actions which will help. Fears keep us from acting. We think about local, sustainable actions, but many such actions, eg buying a Prius and buying at the Farmer’s Market, are very expensive.  It saddens us that affluence is often needed to make such choices and we hope this will change.

The crisis and conflicts we see – where humans are at war with the planet and the rich with the disadvantage — will continue globally.  We need to draw on all we know about peace-making and share this.  Immigration is an increasing concern for us locally, in addition to the current economic refugees, we should expect to see more “environmental refugees.”  The Pacific Northwest has abundant resources, land, and a mild climate.  The question for us is “how do we welcome refugees and help them find a home.

QUERY #3.  We often tell others that we believe there is that of God in every person. We should expand this to say we see God in all of creation.  So many effects of climate change, such as rising waters will effect other creatures before humans are harmed.

A school teacher reported how she was convicted that birthday parties and gift-giving among affluent children with too many things was wrong.  Thus she did not hold such gift exchanges among her 5th-graders in order to empower her students to think about unhealthy consumption.  The kids got it.  For the whole year they made good choices such as eating sandwiches from home then donating the cost of the pizzas they might have eaten to buy goats and heifers for people who had great need of such creatures.  This sent ripple effects through the school.  She described this process as “speaking the truth of my soul.”

It is by asking God what is the next step, that our lives can change and help change others.  Jim Wallace speaks much about “don’t give up hope.”  It is easy to become conservative as we age and forget the time when we didn’t know things couldn’t be done. We also have a responsibility not to be shrill, but rather project a hopeful attitude.

QUERY # 5.  We can offer to our community models of moderate and simple living.  “Contentment is the greatest wealth” is a strong response to the culture of money which exists here where happiness is too often confused with wealth.  We can speak to the thirst others have to live this way and empower many with John Woolmanlike stories of living with “enough” and witnessing to that truth.

Much practical and spiritual learning can happen in everyday situations. One participant had this experience when visiting two elderly, very frugal aunts. They were happy to hear about installing florescent lights, and it turned out they had a closetful bought on sale and were waiting for incandescent bulbs to burn out. This opened a broad conversation on how we spend money and where real savings are.

QUERY # 6.   One person was part of an environmental study group and found during that time many people were not sleeping well, feeling dismay and guilt over what is happening. The last session, however, was about practical actions and changed people, encouraging them to be pro-active and agents of transforming power.  We need to talk about the problems, but even more, be examples of another way of being.

In a book about “decluttering,” the key starting point was “how to I want to use this space?”  She found she was able to take action once she could visualize a new use, in contrast to the abstract push to eliminate clutter which had paralyzed her.  By bringing the issue down to daily, regular actions and knowing one is not alone in this, much can change.  Similarly, another Friend spoke of the Movement For A New Society which was formed by individual Friends in the 1970s.  This group used Quaker process to transform the whole concept of how we live. In this community he learned about letting the whole community engage in raising his children: a huge contrast to the individualism in our culture and a wonderful gift to his family.  This was just one example of bring God’s transforming power alive.