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The Work of Quaker Earthcare

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The Earth is facing unprecedented crises. What are Quakers doing about it?



Hayley Hathaway: When we talk about the need for a spiritual transformation, what we’re saying is what we’re seeing in the world is a crisis of us being so separated from the land and from each other that we poison the food that we eat. We steal water from the future generations. We destroy the things that are literally giving us life. The spiritual piece is working toward right relationship with the land, with the planet, and trying to reconnect in a way that we’ve lost.

The Work of Quaker Earthcare

Beverly Ward: I think our species is challenged with an inflated sense of itself. That challenge has gotten us into a lot of trouble and we’ve involved a lot of other species in our trouble.

Shelley Tanenbaum: We are living in unprecedented times when it comes to the ecological crises we’re facing. We’re seeing problems related to climate, related to biodiversity, related to ocean health, related to soils, the list goes on and on. We’ve never experienced anything as daunting as this, and it’s going to impact—it is already impacting—everything we care about. All the concerns we carry: peace, justice, environmental justice. It’s swamping everything else.

Barb Adams: It’s a loss of connection. I think that can be a pathway that’s a spiritual loss, but also a physical/emotional/mental/psychic loss that creates a lot of dissonance in humans individually and collectively, and I think we see the evidence all around us.

A Quaker Approach to Environmental Issues

Hayley Hathaway: As Quaker Earthcare Witness, we look at the changes we need to make as individuals, as a society, from a spiritual place, because what needs to happen is we need to understand our role as humans as being part of nature.

Shelley Tanenbaum: Quakers have traditionally valued peace and justice, and that has been our public witness in the world. That’s what we’re known for. I see the environmental crises that we’re facing as not being separate from that but as completely intertwined with peace and justice issues. Everything that we’re seeing and experiencing in terms of ecological problems has a direct link to environmental justice, to justice itself, to the disproportionate impact to people most of whom were the least responsible for causing the problem.

Barb Adams: What feels very Quakerly to me too is we have so much history of Quakers being active. We have these deep understandings of listening for messages with our testimonies of peace and simplicity and community, our sense of that of God in everyone and everything, but there’s also a history of Quakers putting themselves in difficult situations and speaking truth to power. If that was ever needed before, it is deeply needed now.

Quaker Earthcare Witness

Shelley Tanenbaum: Quaker Earthcare Witness (or, we call it, QEW) is a network of North American Friends who carry a concern for earth care, who are passionate about what’s going on with the ecological integrity and environmental justice, and we connect people.

Barb Adams: It’s been around for 30-plus years and has been the organization solely looking at earth care, but now in later years, climate change, climate disruption, environmental justice.

Beverly Ward: As a person of color, quite often when people hear the environmental movement, they think of something that’s very mainstream, white, “let’s go save this endangered species” and that’s it. It’s a very narrow focus. Why I go to Quaker Earthcare Witness is because of that understanding of how things are connected. Quaker Earthcare Witness is looking at both the science and the spirit. And if you get stuck, you go into worship.

An Invitation to Get Involved

Shelley Tanenbaum: I would say to Friends who are wondering, “Is this an issue for me?” It’s an issue for all of us, because it’s going to take all of us. Because of the magnitude of the problem it touches all of us, and as people of faith this is what we’re called to do.

Barb Adams: Quaker Earthcare Witness can come to Meetings—monthly meetings, yearly meetings—and do, and lead, workshops and work in tandem in collaboration with folks and with monthly and yearly meetings to look at projects in ways that we can all lift up each other and lift up these ideas about how things can change.

Beverly Ward: If you found this video, you’ve found a way to connect with other like-minded people, and I say that for people to be open, you don’t have to be a Quaker to reach out. There’s enough work for all of us to do.

Shelley Tanenbaum: There have been a handful of Friends in each meeting who have been passionate about this particular concern for a long time, but I’m hoping that whole meetings will get it and will understand what’s going on and will feel called to live out their faith. I’m really excited to be part of a society of Friends that will be helping us Shepard in a world of beauty and harmony and peace and justice and understanding that we can be part of a much larger spiritual community.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you believe there is an element of spiritual healing involved in addressing the environmental crises of our day? What does that look like?
  • How is your meeting responding to the climate crisis?

The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its