Report on Global Change Consultation at Portland Friends Meeting, Maine

Question One: How has global change affected our communities and ourselves?

There has been:

• a steady and alarming increase in the disparities between the haves and the have-nots.
• trend toward hoarding of goods, possessions, and wealth
• increase in grass roots volunteerism
• improvements in literacy work, especially among women
• continuing deforestation caused by suburban sprawl causing the loss of valuable land and habitats for all sentient beings
• reports of the dramatic decline in the population of pollinating bees with no cause as yet determined
• exporting of US manufacturing to countries where there are not the same protections for worker welfare, rights, and wages
• steady increase in cancer means we all are living ‘downstream’ and need to look for causes ‘upstream’
• one of those upstream places to look is the increase in use of antibiotics among livestock which when released into the environment through animal waste provides a growing cause for concern; 60% of all antibiotics is used among livestock
• another of those upstream places is the overuse of antibiotics in the human population which in turn means a reduction in its effectiveness over time
• another is the overuse of corn and soy in human food production which leads to over consumption, obesity and the dramatic rise in diabetes

Question Two: What actions have we taken in response to global change to express our responsibilities toward all creation?

Individual and group actions taken:

• recycling of household disposables
• participating in electronic/online petitioning
• creating land trusts
• growing our own vegetables
• developing community gardens
• seeking compliance with the Kyoto protocols
• participating in local farmer markets and consumer supported agriculture
• use of government supported subsidies for purchase of CSA
• micro loans to producers and small business start ups
• use of cell phones for transfer of monies by texting in economies where currencies are lacking
• teaching fast food acculturated peoples how to prepare, can, bottle, and freeze their own foodstuffs
• cut subsidies for corn

Question 3: How do changes around us affect our relationship with God? How does my relation with God affect my responses to the changes around us? How do we witness to Friends testimonies as they relate to global change?

• we are learning to express our faith in God and our faith in humanity by living our testimonies on nonviolence and simplicity
• we have a strength in our pattern of waiting on God’s leading as the makes living with the uncertainty more familiar
• we are learning to live more purposively as we seek greater economic justice
• we are realizing the benefits of nonviolence in American prisons through the work of Alternatives to Violence Program where those prisoners participating in AVP have dramatically lower rates of recidivism and far fewer anger episodes when incarcerated
• we are learning to work for the full civil rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters here in Maine, the USA, and elsewhere

Question 4: What stories or experiences from past times of catastrophic happenings – perhaps from Scripture, perhaps from the record of local or regional events – might inspire us to respond to the changes the world is facing today?

• Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flooding overwhelms the man made dikes and large segments of the city of New Orleans is devastated – most especially exposing the dramatic scale of poverty already present
• Slave holding from Biblical times right up to the early 1800s was deemed a necessary economic stratagem and those benefiting fought to preserve this economic system and the advantages that went with it, with its slow decline and final elimination came the reliance on fossil fuels which in turn created previously unimaginable wealth; now we find that we too – like those who fought to hold on to slavery as a necessary economic stratagem – are fighting to hold on the advantages that reliance on fossil fuels has brought.
• The international attention brought to the plight of miners in West Virginia, New Zealand, but especially in Chile all point to the extremes we are asking others to take to reap the benefits of the precious metals on which our economies rely
• The Russian forest fires of the summer of 2010 were unprecedented; at their peak they involved 162, 000 people fighting 800 separate fires, covering a total 1,608 square kilometers; it required the intensive cooperation of all of Russia’s neighbors to bring them under control; an estimated 56,000 people died from effects of this firestorm and at one time nuclear arsenals were threatened.
• The Pakistan floods of the summer of 2010 were caused by monsoon rains that had no precedent. The results were 6 million people were displaced; 4 million were left with food shortages, 1.9 million homes destroyed.
• There is an estimated 4.5% decline of sea ice per decade in the Artic translates into a series of unpredictable and momentum gathering impacts on all forms of life in the area.

Our discussion was preceded by 3 minute presentations by Earth and Spirit committee members of stories reflecting changes economically, in population, and climaticly. Positive results were reported from Indonesia where locals were able to work with foresters to switch to sustainably havesting the wood, that provided jobs, saved the environment and brought more profit to the company. We only had 2 hours so did not get too far into the process.