Unity with Nature Interchange Reports
The text of recent Unity with Nature Committee reports in the Interchange are are below, with the most recent at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the item listed below.
|Spring 2010 Interchange|
|Spring 2012 Interchange|
|Winter 2014 Interchange||Spring 2014 Interchange||Fall 2014 Interchange|
|Winter 2015 Interchange||Spring 2015 Interchange|
|Fall 2016 Interchange|
|Winter 2017 Interchange|
Ann Payne, Clerk of Unity with Nature
Did you ever look at your work and/or home to-do list and think, “I don’t know where to start!” Sometimes, in fact, I DON’T start. It’s just feels too overwhelming. I confess it’s times like these that I might just irrationally settle down for a totally wasted evening zoning out on Facebook. Unity with Nature notes that often this is how it goes when we face the escalating climate crisis. Now called by many “the Moral Crisis of Our Time”, the climate crisis is vast, and, even more than our personal to-do lists, overwhelming. We might even feel mysteriously drawn to Facebook just thinking about it - but what is our Quakerly moral duty to respond?
Unity with Nature’s recent inquiries focus on how we Quakers might begin to tackle our burgeoning ‘climate to-do list’. Following advice from Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the best place to start may be for each of us to examine our own personal contribution to the problem first. It is a simple beginning, to ask “What is my and my family’s personal contribution to the climate problem?” Sure, your truthful witness won’t fix everything - far from it. But examining one’s own role in a problem does create momentum, which can’t be said for avoidance, worrying, or overdosing on Facebook.
To launch us BYM Quakers into action with a little momentum, UWN vetted carbon calculators, some of which are reasonably accurate - and even fun to do. The short list of the best has been distributed to every BYM Monthly Meeting, for clerks or contacts to share with you. (Ask if you haven’t seen it. We can resend.) The simple task of calculating your carbon footprint takes very little time. It reveals how big your footprint is. UWN’s accompanying brochure “Next Steps”* lists a host of modest ways to start shrinking the Big Footprint problem most of us share. As a bonus, you’ll very likely gain a sense of satisfaction for facing up to the problem. That’s the wind in your hair - you’re moving.
In addition, the calculator exercise also reveals places we are ‘trapped’ by our wasteful society. “I can’t reduce my drive to work” or “I can’t afford an electric car”, for example, may reveal the need for better public transportation. With discernment, an issue that most draws (or frustrates) you may reveal itself. Look for that. Unity with Nature invites you to join BYM Quakers as we face our collective ‘’to-do lists”. Let’s begin together in righting our relationship with the earth, one step at a time. I’m guessing your dread of engaging this issue will begin to diminish once you’ve put your foot on the path. If you do happen to find yourself on Facebook, please visit/like https://www.facebook.com/BYM.FriendsListeningPost/. (I hope you won’t find me there.) UWN welcomes suggestions and inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes interactive discussions at email@example.com.
Clerks and Environmental Contacts are asked to share this information with their meetings. At the request of the Unity with Nature Committee (UWM), BYM’s Annual Session 2016 agreed to ask each monthly meeting, as well as individuals within each meeting, to consider calculating their carbon footprints.
At the close of the 2015 Paris Accord, the world’s nations agreed that the very survival of the earth requires a sharp reduction in human caused carbon emissions. But the Accord raised the question, “Where do we begin these reductions?”
An essential step in finding a peaceful solution to any social ill is to understand the problem and determine if/how we ourselves are contributing to it. UWN studied and compared various carbon calculators in order to find reasonably accurate instruments for measuring our own household carbon footprints. Are we Quakers unknowingly contributing to the atmosphere’s problem of excessive carbon?
To begin, use one or more of the recommended carbon calculators, a list of simple questions designed to determine your household’s and/or your meeting’s baseline carbon output. A carbon calculator estimates your carbon footprint and also identifies which of your activities most heavily contributes excess carbon to the atmosphere. This information clarifies where to begin taking the steps needed to shrink your carbon footprint.
In addition to the recommended carbon calculators, UWN also generated a list of “Next Steps.” Once you establish your carbon footprint baseline, the Next Steps list will suggest modifications to your regular activities that can shrink your footprint. The list also suggests ways to advocate for a carbon neutral world. By assuming full responsibility for the details of our own lives, we are in a stronger position to advocate for a carbon neutral society. In Gandhi’s words, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
We are a gathered people, listening . . .” read Tasha Walsh, Interim Clerk, opening Meeting for Business at March Interim Meeting. Of the 53 Meetings gathered under the wing of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, some cluster near the metropolitan centers in cities and suburbs. Others of our ‘gathered people’ worship across a broader territory from small towns to mountain country and into idyllic farmland. Geographically we are separate, but we find unity in our search for truth.
Diversity, that key component of nature, clearly colors how our Meetings are responding to BYM’s request that they pursue discernment on the issues of environmental degradation, climate change, and fossil fuel depletion.
One rural farming Meeting reflects their joy and gratitude of living close to the earth, but the discernment request has led them to consider that they are “at risk of enjoying it personally and passively and not doing enough to actively restore the environment and spread the principles of sustainable living.“ This reflection has led them to investigate a system to distribute surplus CSA food to the needy, as well as how to create a ‘slow money’ local economy and explore micro-loans.
Several Meetings seek unity as they confront immediate environmental threats from active frack drilling and/or transport via natural gas pipelines proposed nearby. An eastern Meeting, blessed with in-house technical expertise, has been able to retrofit their Meeting House to be sustainable. In addition, they have been active in founding a regional interfaith climate action group.
Throughout the Yearly Meeting, books, films and speakers are being considered; milkweed and native plant gardens are greening up; local, national, and global policies are being examined; paper plates are becoming a thing of the past; and, in spite of the distance that separates us, we are creatively gathering into what one Meeting calls our ‘environmental heritage’ as Quakers, who ‘have a tradition of peace, simplicity and a testimony for the stewardship of the Earth.’
UWN will go into retreat in early June, ideally with responses from most or all of the gathered Meetings of BYM. Please hold this BYM Committee in the Light as they seek to discern our way forward as a gathered people.
The Unity with Nature Committee welcomes Meetings/individuals to communicate about their environmental discernment on UWN’s new List serve or in person at Interim Meeting. UWN’s goal is to help answer questions, inspire cross-pollination of ideas, and learn more deeply from the environmental discernment processes launched by BYM Meetings following Annual Session 2014. Meetings have responded to BYM’s invitation to enter into a process of discernment on climate change, environmental degradation, and resources extraction in a variety of ways.
Some Meetings are pondering the best approach, while others have initiated Second Hour discussions, hosted relevant speakers, shown films and/or read books to inspire deeper discussion, or actively ‘greened’ their Meeting Houses. Some have joined with other ‘green’ or interfaith groups to work on local initiatives. UWN is making room at the March 21 Interim Meeting at Patapsco, during its regular committee time (10:30 am-1:00 pm), to hear from individuals and Meetings. In addition, UWN invites Friends to join an informal online discussion of issues and initiatives on its new List Serve at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome to participate. The committee can also be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com, and posts about sustainability are welcomed on the UWN Facebook page.
The following proposal was approved at Annual Session:
Baltimore Yearly Meeting embraces the Unity with Nature Committee’s request for each monthly meeting to discern on climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. We believe a mindful discernment process will lead us to the hope, inspiration and strength we need.
In approving Unity with Nature’s proposal at Annual Session, Baltimore Yearly Meeting is requesting local meetings, individuals, and Quaker youth communities to engage in a process of discernment on a way forward. Unity with Nature (UWN) submitted its proposal so that a mindful discernment process might inform and unify the family of BYM to better face the future.
The committee offers various assistance to those who wish it. Available resources will include links to completed Minutes from other meetings and a list of readings helpful in deepening consideration and facilitating a meaningful process of discernment. In addition, the committee offers
A forum for discussions on sustainability and related topics available at the UWN Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BYM.FriendsListeningPost
A discrete email address has been set up to communicate directly with the Committee at BYM UWN firstname.lastname@example.org
Unity With Nature’s Sustainability queries are available for consideration at www.bym-rsf.org/what_we_do/committees/nature/sustainablity.html
Quaker Earthcare Witness offers diverse resources at www.quakerearthcare.org/search/site/climate%20minute
In the coming months, members of the UWN Committee will be contacting local meeting clerks and/or liaisons. Committee members are willing to travel to meetings who request a visit.
BYM Friends’ Listening Post on Sustainability is a new Facebook page created by Unity with Nature. The Listening Post is intended to help individuals and Meetings engage in active discernment about the dilemmas of living sustainably in today’s complex world. Visitors to the Listening Post can share text or audio messages and respond to queries on the topic of sustainable living and reverence for the earth. Friends are invited to access the new Facebook page. We hope you will ‘like’ us.
The Committee endorses Chesapeake Quarterly’s Minute, which opposes the expansion of Cove Point, a Maryland natural gas facility, as a step forward in righting our misaligned relationship with creation.
Unity with Nature would like to highlight the successful efforts of individual BYM Friends and/or their Meetings to live more simply and sustainably. The following report celebrates one such Meeting.
Long devoted to honoring the Quaker values of simplicity and stewardship for the earth, Annapolis Friends are taking a hands-on approach to creating a more sustainable world. A just completed 40-panel solar array now provides the Meeting House with all of its power needs. The array eliminates about the same amount of pollution and carbon as planting four acres of trees.
One Annapolis friend says going solar was a ‘no-brainer’ after a member-engineer outlined solar’s long-term financial as well as environmental benefits. (See aprs.org/AFM-environment.html for details.) Annapolis Friends have also installed an electric car charging station; rain catch barrels; put up Switch off the Lights stickers; and are nurturing a native plant garden.
Attenders at the March 15 Interim Meeting at Annapolis will be able to peruse some of these innovations in person. BYM’s Unity with Nature Committee invites Local Meetings and individuals to share their stories of creating a more sustainable world by contacting the committee at email@example.com.
The Committee will present a three-part series of workshops at Annual Session. Quaker artist Ann Payne will introduce the series in Roper Gallery, Frostburg’s Fine Arts Building, amidst a 90-artist exhibit paying homage to 65,000 (est.) aquatic animals killed near her (Monongalia Friends) Meeting. Payne’s workshop will be followed by John Hudson’s look at Carbon Footprints and the series concludes with Eli Fishpaw’s queries on Quakers and Sustainability. The exhibit will remain on view in the Roper Gallery throughout Annual Session.
The Committee will have a workshop on Saturday during Annual Session. The title of the workshop is Global Climate Change, Peak Oil and the Future: How Can Quakers Lead. Anyone interested in attending this workshop is encouraged to read at least one of the following books:
- Plan B 4.0 by Lester Brown
- Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy by Lyle Estill
- Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change by Pat Murphy
- Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben