Environmental sustainability is a global concern. How do Quakers approach this work? We talked with two Friends who have collaborated with Quakers from around the world to answer this question.
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David Millar: My great hope is that we are at a point—and this is what the Kabarak call itself says—where all people of good faith, whether or not they’re Friends, can work together and say, “This is our only home.” And take the steps that are necessary, in diversity. There will be lots of differences of opinion, but believe me, there will be so many thousands of things that need to be done that every little bit counts.
How Do Quakers Approach Sustainability Work?
Rachel Madenyika: I think when we talk of Quakerism, we look at our inner selves. I think the whole issue of sustainability, or sustaining life on Earth is a challenge within ourselves. Sustainability means simplicity. How do we live in our own home? Sustainability means peace. If we want peace to be lasting, it means we need to work on how we can make it sustainable and lasting.
David Millar: I like to think of ourselves as an ecosystem. We need the diversity of cultures and languages and thoughts, and we have to stop and slow down and pay attention. So speaking as a Quaker now, the very first step we take is to listen to other people, to the still small voice.
The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice
David Millar: The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice was itself almost a miraculous thing. It emerged from this worldwide consultation and we asked people in Bolivia and the Pacific Islands and India and Nepal and Hong Kong and Alaska, Central America, the United States, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Great Britain. It was an amazing experience, and they all lead to the same conclusion: the way out is not more weapons; the way out is not building higher walls; the way out is not beggar your neighbor. It’s the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And we’re now looking at a situation where we have to do that at a planetary scale.
How Do Quakers Approach Sustainability Work?
Rachel Madenyika: It’s about thinking of our Earth and thinking of where we live. I think of community. How do we as Quakers work within—not only our own community. But what makes Quakers unique is the ability to work across divides, and bring people together and talk about those areas of concern.
David Millar: I see this as the peace testimony written at the level of the planet. In a sense, earthcare began with the Beatitudes, and when Jesus said, “You know there are really only two commandments: love God and love your neighbor,” I think that speaks to the very heart of the spiritual tradition of which Quakerism is a part. To me that’s what earthcare is, but a lot of people are still seeing it in terms of, “What type of lightbulb should I choose? Do I drive a car? Do I eat a hamburger?” Those are important questions.
Working on Sustainability Beyond North America
Rachel Madenyika: Sustainability is not only a North American issue. I think it is a global issue.
David Millar: What this is about is something that affects equally indigenous people around the world, who are on the front line right now at this very moment, and it will eventually come home to our children and grandchildren in their homes, where they live right now.
Rachel Madenyika: What we really try to do in the consultations, it just shows that how we work as Quakers is to listen and to be present, and to hear everybody’s perspectives.
The 2016 World Gathering in Pisac, Peru
Rachel Madenyika: In my capacity at the Quaker UN office, I was asked to attend the Friends World Plenary in Peru. The World Plenary is a meeting where all Friends from all over the world descended in Pisac, Peru. And then when I did this consultation, we had about 60 Friends from all over the world and we wanted to see what they do in their communities on sustainable living.
A young woman from Bolivia said, “We’ve been trying to work with kids on a daily basis so that they know the value of water.” And then we had a gentleman from Kenya saying, “We’re trying to have our government plant more trees, because people are cutting down trees because they need that to cook, and the cycle keeps going.”
It was kind of interesting to see that there were people from all walks of life that were doing small little things that were important within their community.
What Can Local Quaker Meetings Do?
David Millar: There are two answers to, “What can my meeting do?” One is the Pisac Minute. The Pisac Minute simply asks each monthly meeting to set itself two goals. Its own goals. Nobody’s going to impose on it. It’s an exercise, fundamentally, in listening to your own conscience. I think it’s really exciting because it means everybody can do something.
Rachel Madenyika: Start with what works within your community, and introduce it to your meeting. Say, “This is what my neighborhood is doing. We’re starting a community garden and would want our meeting to be a part of the process.” and bring people together. Because you’d be surprised that everybody’s doing small things but they’re not connecting with everybody else.
How to Join Quakers in This Work
Rachel Madenyika: If you want to get involved with what Quakers are doing on sustainability, contact your local meeting. Friends always have open arms to anyone who is interested in their work.
David Millar: Everybody is welcome. This is a common task. We are all living together on this planet that is our home. Welcome. Welcome and let’s work together.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.