Confronting the Climate Crisis as Friends

Story author
Stephen Gates for Earthcare Ministries Committee

There are so many good reasons for not tackling the climate crisis:  it’s so big that it is overwhelming; it has defied humankind’s efforts despite decades of attempts to address this obvious challenge; there is no single body responsible for causing it or solving it; it will take decades to fix fully; and it has so many dimensions (political, legal, moral, financial, military, scientific, etc.) that no one even fully understands it.

And yet, we have managed to tackle the current pandemic, which has most of these same problems. Why? Ultimately, the pandemic was viewed as an existential threat to our society on the one hand, and the solutions were difficult but known (just bring a new vaccine to market in under a year!) on the other hand.

Yet similar to the pandemic, climate has the characteristics of being existential and yet solvable. It just feels less immediate—with time spans of decades instead of months before the problem gets absolutely catastrophic, and similar time spans needed to solve the underlying problems.

But solve the climate crisis we must—and it will take far larger resources to do so than the pandemic has. So how do Quakers, as people of faith, contribute to the solution?

Earthcare Ministry Committee is bringing to Sessions this year a minute that outlines some key queries which may help Friends in addressing the climate crisis. I’d like to share the first three queries from that minute, with my comments in italics:

  • Overall, what does Spirit call us to do that will have the most impact on the climate crisis over the next ten years? What will we tell our children and grandchildren we were called to do? Did we do in time to help avert the crisis?
  • What is our responsibility toward the people who have been most harmed by the climate crisis?  All of us are vulnerable as part of God’s creation and it is difficult to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to those already suffering, but how can we address the harm that the poor, people of color, indigenous communities and others have already suffered?  Two recent items in the New York Times illustrate how the climate crisis has affected the indigenous peoples in our country and the residents of island nations such as the Bahamas.
  • How can we get involved in public policy at every level—local, state, federal, and international—to push for rapid evidence-based action to end the emission of greenhouse gases, to create nature-based solutions, and to remediate the damage already done? We may have a small window of opportunity due to current political dynamics, so focusing on this is especially important at this time.

Please join us as we attempt to discern the way forward on this and the other issues at Sessions 2021.