Quakers and Climate Change

by Susanna Mattingly
Sustainability Communications Officer, FWCC


We hear a lot in the news about how big businesses and governments are responding to climate change (or not as the case may be), but we tend to hear far less about the inspiring work being done by people at the grassroots. However, what we’re doing as individuals and as communities is no different than what happens on a much bigger scale with politicians or oil company executives—it absolutely matters. 


Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) is undertaking an ambitious and exciting new project working with Friends around the world to strengthen our environmental commitment and amplify our voice through a positive, global Quaker sustainability movement. 


In my role as Sustainability Communications Officer at FWCC, I am working to help yearly meetings around the world take further action on the Pisac Sustainability Minute approved at the World Plenary Meeting in Peru in 2016, which asks yearly meetings to initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability, involving young adult Friends in key roles. 


FWCC is posing a supportive challenge to Quakers to take action so that life on earth will continue. This is a spiritual call as well as a material one, to act not out of fear or through accusation, but with hope and love. We recognize sustainability and care for the earth are integral to our faith and our Quaker testimonies as we strive to live in right relationship with all creation. As a community, we can make a meaningful contribution to stabilizing the climate and building resilience. The fact that I am writing this article is a direct result of the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice of 2012 and the Pisac Sustainability Minute of 2016 and the hugely significant commitment Quakers globally have made to sustainability and stewardship of the earth.  


Small changes make a big difference and every action matters. As it was so beautifully expressed in the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice: “However few our numbers, we are called to be the salt that flavors and preserves, to be a light in the darkness of greed and destruction.”


We want to build an empowering movement that Friends everywhere can join, and to steer the movement away from the guilt and fear that dominates so much of the climate change agenda. The upsetting facts of climate change often seem to discourage people from talking about it at all. In fact, recent research in the UK has found that two-thirds of people surveyed cannot remember ever having a conversation about it.


We are collecting stories that celebrate Quaker witness from Friends worldwide to help inspire others and gather our collective voice. You can find these stories on the FWCC website: fwcc.world/sustainability-resources. If you’re reading this and would be interested in sharing your story, please get in touch.


The Urgency of Now

I attended the COP23 UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. During the conference, I heard deeply moving and powerful stories from Pacific Islanders about the devastating impact that climate change is having on their lives, homes, communities and cultures. Urgent changes are needed, not just for future generations, but for the sake of our common family around the world who are already living with the impacts of climate change today. The majority of Quakers in the world live in the Global South and this is the reality of their daily liv es. But also here in North America, communities are still reeling from the spate of devastating extreme weather events in 2017. We need to stop thinking of this as a future problem.


We have the tools and knowledge we need to take action now. So let’s ask ourselves, what’s next?


What’s next?

There are plenty of things we can all do in our lives to make a difference, from simply telling our stories or engaging a neighbor in a conversation about climate change, to lobbying our representatives or adopting sustainable living habits.


We can support and empower each other to have confident conversations with powerful people about climate change, be it our boss; a spiritual leader; a local or national representative; or the people who run our businesses.


We ask meetings and churches to reflect and ask, without judgement or guilt, what more could we do? The focus should be on doing what we can, not what we can’t, so we must each choose which steps work for us.


Whatever you choose to do, share it with us at the FWCC World Office so that your actions are celebrated and shared to inspire others. Join us in this movement and be the change and the inspiration you want to see in the world!