Minutes on Right Relationship
At a meeting for worship with a concern for business, held at Baltimore-Homewood Friends Meeting on 3/9/2014, Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting (CQM) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) approved the following minute:
Cove Point Natural Gas Facility
Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting is a gathering of Friends (also known as Quakers) from nine local Meetings in Maryland ranging in location from Harford and Baltimore Counties in the north through Baltimore City and Howard County to Montgomery and Calvert Counties in the south. As Friends, we believe that we have a moral and spiritual responsibility to examine, maintain, and improve our relationship with Nature.
The proposed expansion of the Cove Point natural gas facility in Calvert County to include a natural gas liquefaction plant and export terminal would have major detrimental environmental consequences if approved and built. The construction and operation of this facility will drive a dramatic increase in the extraction and transportation of natural gas through a process dangerous to the environment and to human health known as “fracking” or hydro fracturing. The power plant required to process natural gas to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) will be the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Maryland. Approval for this project will also divert Maryland from a necessary focus on developing clean, sustainable, and renewable energy sources.
In this year when important legislation is being considered and public decisions will be made related to this issue, we call upon Friends, individually and collectively, to commit to the following action steps:
- Consider the minute of Patuxent Friends Meeting (http://goo.gl/ftLgJF) raising concerns and offering suggestions to the Maryland Public Service Commission which is considering whether to approve the Cove Point project;
- Join with Friends Meetings in Maryland and many other individuals and organizations to oppose the Cove Point Natural Gas Liquefaction and Transport Project in legislative and public forums;
- Join with Friends Meetings in Maryland and many other individuals and organizations in supporting an extension to the Moratorium on Hydro-fracturing in Maryland and increased funding to study whether to allow “fracking” for natural gas in Maryland; and
- Support the development, availability, and expansion of clean and sustainable sources of energy in Maryland.
We have also formed an ad hoc working group to carry this work forward. Please share your responses using our contact form.
When Quakers make decisions together, such as approving this minute, we do not vote. We make our decisions in worship, and we know we have a decision only when we reach unity, that is, when there is no dissent. Moreover, we do not view our task as finding a decision we can all agree on; rather we are trying to discern what God is calling us to do.
In the process of considering this minute, we reviewed minutes relating to fracking and climate change that had been approved by six of our constituent Meetings:
- Baltimore-Stony Run, 3/2013 - http://goo.gl/4EUbz7 (minute), http://goo.gl/quEIAk(letter)
- Gunpowder, 5/2013 - http://goo.gl/InuRpA
- Sandy Spring, 2/2014 – http://goo.gl/hlHS8A (minute), http://goo.gl/LbjA37 (letter)
- Annapolis, 2/2014 - http://goo.gl/PS9Tz2
- Baltimore-Homewood, 2/2014 - http://goo.gl/wevKCy
- Patuxent, 3/2014 - http://goo.gl/ftLgJF
Also, to start our day-long gathering, our hosts provided an informational program about fracking and the Cove Point plant that invited us to consider it as a spiritual concern. The presenters shared much useful information, much of which can be found on the post announcing that program (http://goo.gl/znQb3b).
Members of the Religious Society of Friends, better known to most as “Quakers,” recognize “that of God” in every human heart and throughout the natural system that sustains all life, and we understand the moral imperative to be in reverence to this manifestation of the divine. At this point, we are called to consider whether the downstream effects of Cove Point’s proposed LNG export operations on the well-being of the natural world are consistent with this call to reverence. After careful deliberation, we offer the following thoughts:
- A new environmental impact statement should be undertaken, because the export process appears to be qualitatively and quantitatively very different from the previous use of the facility for imports, and because we cannot reasonably assess possible long-term or even short-term local damage without one.
- The overall impact of an LNG export facility cannot be meaningfully separated from the region-wide impact of “fracking” and of the construction of pipelines to bring the natural gas to the facility, and since it is widely acknowledged that “fracking” increases the risk of exposure to toxic pollutants, we should resist approving any enterprise that increases pressure to engage in this operation.
- Since the development of a significant overseas market for exported natural gas cannot do other than increase the price of natural gas, it will increase pressure to engage in “fracking.”
- Since this new export facility will use in its liquefaction process vast quantities of fresh water from a non-renewable source, we recognize that it poses a serious threat to future generations.
- Since the extraction, processing, and consumption of natural gas produce very significant amounts of greenhouse gases, use of natural gas is at best a stopgap partial solution to the challenge of climate change. While natural gas is perhaps less “dirty” in this sense than coal, it is very far from being a “green” source of energy, and it is, of course, non-renewable. Wisdom demands that we should instead encourage the development of long-term solutions to the problem of meeting our energy needs.
The Maryland Public Services Commission states that its mission encompasses the encouragement of the conservation of natural resources and the preservation of the environment. Governor O’Malley has said, “…We only have one planet….There is no either/or choice between our prosperity and our environment—we cannot create either a future where there are more jobs, or a future where there is a healthy environment – we must do both.”
Friends urge the Commission to balance the profound and prolonged global environmental cost against any temporary local economic benefits as it determines whether this project should move forward.
As Quakers, we are called to a right relationship with Nature. A right relationship requires that we learn and respect the ways in which Nature works. A right relationship requires that humans share the Earth’s productivity and resources with one another and with other species. A right relationship requires us to be good stewards of our planet.
The practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract natural gas from deep below the earth’s surface is inconsistent with our understanding of right relationship with Nature. Fracking disrupts the environment by using disproportionate amounts of our precious water resources, by contaminating that water with proprietary chemicals that are not subject to rigorous scientific safety studies, and by expanding our reliance on fossil fuels. Because fracking involves both vertical and extensive horizontal drilling, it stresses the environment far beyond the immediate drilling site. Because it extends our reliance on fossil fuels, it accelerates the release of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, where the consequences of human activity contribute to imbalance, climate change, and possible squandering of Nature’s bounty.
Fracking in the Marcellus Shale fields of our neighboring states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia has led to reports of destruction of ecologically sensitive ecosystems and contamination of streams and drinking wells, reports we find too credible to dismiss in the name of expediency and short-term rewards. We have the opportunity to act now in the State of Maryland to prevent fracking rather than to clean up environmental damage later and deepen our dependence on fossil fuels. We encourage the further exploration and development of alternative and sustainable sources of energy. We ask that the government wait to approve any new fracking until a full Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on the matter is concluded. We seek a pause and slow reversal of our patterns of unsustainable exploitation and reshaping of planet Earth. This will not be easy in state, national, or international terms, as it requires vision beyond ourselves and our generation. Yet, the choice is clear enough, and where data remain uncertain, we favor a prudent expectation that the resiliency of Nature as we know it is not limitless. We urge an assumption of individual, collective, and governmental responsibility to bring our energy consumption in better alignment with available resources. We seek a right relationship with Nature.
It would go a great way to caution and direct people in their Use of the World, that they were better studied and known in the Creation of it. For how could Mankind find the confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the Face, in all and every Part thereof?
William Penn, from Some Fruits of Solitude, 1692
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationships, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.
Black Elk, Oglala Sioux
…be patterns, be examples, in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.
As Quakers we are called to a right relationship with Nature and all its sacredness. A right relationship requires that we learn and respect the ways in which Nature works and rediscover our sacred connections. A right relationship requires that humans share the Earth’s productivity and resources with one another and with other species. A right relationship requires us to be good stewards of our planet.
Interconnectedness and Sacredness of Nature
- There is that of God in all of Nature.
- Nature reveals ways of understanding the divine, the sacred. Nature inspires us.
- There is an interconnectedness and sacred unity of all Nature. Humans play a pivotal role as part of that whole.
- Humans have an innate affinity with Nature and are entirely dependent on Nature for our survival.
Our calling to Right Relationship
We are called to:
- develop a spiritual awareness of our oneness with Nature;
- pay attention to Nature; re-discover its beauty and complexity;
- develop gratitude and reverence for the organisms and systems that sustain us;
- learn the rules that govern natural systems and how to follow them within a sustainable economic system;
- explore the connection between our overconsumption and the suffering of humans and other organisms; and
- work together to protect and conserve Nature.
The Problem: Failure in our relationship with the rest of Nature
- Humans have a unique place in Nature due to our ability to effect change, yet we are part of Nature.
- We are connected to other humans and the rest of Nature through time and space because we make decisions that affect the future and affect distant places.
- Our behavior is not consistent with our interconnectedness with Nature. We are disrupting, and in places destroying, the natural systems on Earth that support and sustain us.
- We act for short term economic benefit and convenience rather than long-term sustainability. An economy based on increasing expansion of the use of natural resources is not sustainable.
- At our current level of consumption of natural resources, our population exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet.
- Our consumption produces an enormous quantity of waste and toxic byproducts.
- We are interfering with other species’ niches. Other species have the right to exist and evolve within Nature. We are not the sole inheritors of it.
- Peace and justice depend upon restoring and maintaining the Earth's ecological integrity, and accepting constraints on our behaviors that affect others.
What to Do
- Explore the spiritual lessons that we can learn from Nature.
- Celebrate Nature as a community. Practice gratitude.
- Learn the stories of our place at the Gunpowder Meetinghouse grounds and of our individual homes and communities. Become native to our place.
- Protect the natural systems that sustain us. Make decisions thinking ahead future generations.
- Encourage one another to live simply and consume mindfully.
- Be willing to incur the costs and inconvenience of environmental responsibility.
- Further policies and practices that foster a peaceful, just, and environmentally sustainable future.
- Re-imagine what our daily lives could be like in a sustainable world.
- Operate the Gunpowder Meetinghouse and grounds in ways that are consistent with our calling.
Tragedy of the Commons - Garret Harden
Next Industrial Revolution DVD - William McDonough
How Green is Your Meetinghouse? A Five Star Rating System - Quaker Earthcare Witness and Canadian Yearly Meeting's Quaker Ecology Action Network
Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy - Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Grover
Quaker Earthcare Witness - Witness and Vision Statement
Befriending Creation: Newsletter of Quaker Earthcare Witness
Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in your Community - Bill McKibben
We believe that right relationship with all Creation is a testimony in accord with our traditional Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality. We are called to live in right relationship, recognizing that the entire world is interconnected. Our individual and corporate choices significantly affect the lives of our fellow humans, the well-being of other species, the functioning of the natural environment, and future generations. We have a leading to act so as to do less harm in a continuing transformation process to find right relationship.
- As we move toward a testimony concerning right relationship with Creation, we must remember to keep this an open, ongoing conversation. This will be an inquiry as much as a statement of beliefs or resolutions, and it will foster a continuing conversation about where individual leadings are taking us and what steps we are taking collectively.
- We need to remember that small steps lead to big steps, and that there is always a tension between grief and joy, despair and hope. We see life on Earth in an increasingly visible crisis. We can accept incremental transformation, but we must also recognize urgency in the need to achieve right relationship. We can honor both sides of these problems as we face them.
- We need to remember that right relationship is a spiritual matter, that we have spiritual skills that can help bring the issue to the world, and that we can communicate with others to bridge the common gap between environmental concerns and spiritual concerns. For we do not in fact think there is such a gap.
- We need to deliberate as a Meeting on how to share our concern with other meetings, other Quaker organizations, and other churches.
- Community is important in thinking through these concerns. We act as a community, so that not everyone need be concerned with every issue. Educating ourselves is a step toward educating others.
We recognize that the testimony of right relationship calls for mindfulness in a continuing process of transformation, both personal and corporate. Mindfulness is spirit-led. We seek ways to uplift and nurture, rather than be overwhelmed with environmental despair. We encourage Friends to proceed with divine guidance, love, and a commitment for action in our daily lives.
We of Adelphi Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends recognize that the earth community is in an increasingly visible crisis. There is a decline of world resources and biological diversity, and an increase of toxic contaminants in our soil, air, and water. Human induced climate change is having catastrophic consequences for many species of life and threatens the future capacity of some of the most populated areas of earth to support human life. Irresponsible and short-sighted patterns of energy consumption for homes, transportation, commerce, and food production are rampant. These practices are not in accord with good stewardship, which calls for us to care for, protect, and preserve the earth. Industrial production, over-consumption, and wasteful living patterns are at dangerous and unsustainable levels. These are not in accord with our testimony of simplicity. The disparity in right sharing among people continues to grow. This is not in accord with our testimony of equality. Overuse and misuse of world resources is an increasing cause of war which is not in accord with our testimony of peace. These and other practices are urgently in need of re-examination and change. As we search for the root of these problems, we recognize that living in harmony with creation is first and foremost a spiritual issue.
- As a first step, we affirm that all beings and elements, beyond humans alone, are a part of the web of life. We further observe that all of our actions resonate throughout the symphony of creation, flowing through space and time. We affirm that our spiritual lives are enriched when we experience ourselves as being an integral part of creation.
- With this spiritual grounding, we are called to walk more gently on this earth and to live more sustainably. This involves using resources wisely, increasing biological diversity, health and wellness, finding balance between human and other life, farming for current and future generations, and designing our human culture to support life on earth. At a minimum, sustainability requires our using renewable resources no faster than they can be replaced, replacing the use of non-renewable resources with renewable alternatives, and releasing pollutants no faster than they can be recycled by nature.
- We minute our commitment to live more sustainably personally, in our families and neighborhoods, at our workplaces, and within our Meeting community. We will learn, speak, and act as individuals, families, and as a religious community, for the cause of sustainability.
- We will work individually and through our committees to find ways that our Meeting's spiritual life, pastoral life, educational life, and physical life can increasingly reflect awareness of and respect for the spiritual interconnectedness of all beings in the web of creation.
- We will develop a greater "sense of place" where we live, travel, work, play, and worship by strengthening our local communities and economies, and by becoming more familiar with our local natural areas and history.
- We will stay informed about the effects of climate change and overuse of world resources and will seek policies and programs that promote right sharing of resources. We will seek to prevent suffering on the part of people and other earth mates affected by climate change and destructive human practices.
- We will encourage and join with other spiritual and social groups outside of Adelphi in similar action, and we will strive for policy changes and deep structural changes in our communities, corporations, and governments.
We take these first steps toward speaking truth to power, even when it is to ourselves. We trust that Spirit will lead the way. We will strive for sustainable lives in order that all of creation might flourish both now and long into the future.
(Adapted and revised from a Sustainability Minute Approved by Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting August 2, 2002)
Valley Friends Meeting is a (Quaker) community of faith dedicated to peace, justice, and right relationships: with the Creator, with fellow human beings, with fellow creatures, and with the Earth. We affirm that right relationships—of all forms—are rooted in attitudes of respect rather than domination.
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we will shall have for destruction.
We embrace the wisdom that human beings are integral to the web of life rather than independent from it. We grieve, recognizing that, by living out of harmony with one another and the natural world, humanity has severely damaged the web on which life depends.
We honor the insights of scientists and the revelations of our own senses, both of which reveal with ever-increasing certainty and clarity the devastation that our unsustainable ways of living have inflicted upon the biosphere, especially through the destabilization of the Earth’s climate. We confess that humankind’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, extreme methods of resource extraction, widespread destruction of old-growth and rain forests, and over-consumption of natural resources are largely responsible for the Earth’s degraded state and climate disruption.
Moreover, because climate change disproportionately affects the world’s most impoverished peoples and has contributed to international conflicts and genocide, our commitments to peace and justice, as well as our commitment to care for the Earth, compel us to restorative action.
We seek authentic, loving connections to Nature and to one another. Therefore, we commit ourselves, individually and collectively, to the process of restoring right-relationship with the Earth and to stabilizing the Earth’s climate. As conscience dictates, we will support and/or engage in actions such as the following: further education regarding climate change and sustainable living, conservation, downsizing our standards of living, reducing our carbon footprints, investing in renewable energy, and divesting from fossil fuels.
While we recognize that such efforts by individuals and local communities are important, they alone are insufficient to effect climate stabilization. Therefore, we support comprehensive and concerted remedial and mitigative climate actions by state and national governments, and we will encourage our political representatives to take such actions by community education, by individual and collective lobbying, and, if necessary, by peaceful protest as conscience dictates.
We are convinced that the problem of climate change is real, significant, worsening, and urgent. With this minute, we add the voice of Valley Friends Meeting to a growing chorus—from science, from communities of faith, and from the general public—to call for immediate attention to the climate at all levels: personal, community, national, and international.
Although the challenge posed by climate change is complex and may seem daunting, we are called to action that is grounded in creative faith and supported by community. We invite other faith communities, individuals, and groups to endorse this minute and, for the sake of future generations, join us in this ongoing effort to heal ourselves and the planet.