Unity with Nature Committee Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports of the Unity with Nature Committee are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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The Unity with Nature committee consists of 11 members in addition to representatives from QEW and Friends Wilderness Center. We meet monthly via conference call and in person at Interim meetings and Annual Session. This method of meeting allows more participation since members are scattered throughout BYM, and also allows us to lower our carbon footprint.
The committee is filled with passion, energy and a sense of the spiritual underpinnings of our work toward a sustainable future. It seems that our “task list” grows and we are mindful of the need to balance this with time for reflection and seeking spiritual guidance.
Prior to Annual Session 2016, we researched effective carbon calculators and developed a brochure of Next Steps in reducing our carbon footprint. (Both are available on our website). The research was necessary to prepare for our request at last Annual Session for friends and meetings to calculate their carbon footprints. In addition, we had two interest groups and a lobby display on calculating carbon footprints. Two of our members also did a workshop with Young Friends based on Joanna Macy’s work: the Work that Reconnects, which was well received. From Annual Session, we followed up with phone calls and emails to local meetings. We provided links to carbon calculators and copies of the Next Steps brochure. Committee members have developed presentations on “Living in a Hinge Time: Creating a Sustainable Peaceable Kingdom” and on the Call to Calculate Carbon, focusing on the nuts and bolts of doing just that. Both of these presentations have been done at several local meetings.
In addition, our committee has unified with the following discernments. Our human economy needs to limit carbon emissions to that which nature and technology can sequester (remove from the atmosphere) so that we can safely live in the carbon cycle. Recognizing the limits of the environment and technology’s ability to sequester carbon, we also recognize our need to share the limited amount of safe emissions fairly. This has lead us to the concept of fair share of carbon emissions, seeking to further our understanding of living in right relationship. From this leading has come a brochure that we will have available for local meetings as they further their own understanding and discernment around living in right relationship. There will be two Interest Groups sponsored by Unity with Nature at Annual Session this year on these topics. We also are sponsoring two workshops at Annual Session: Sustaining our Spirits in the Natural World and Teach-in on How to be Part of the Environmental Justice Movement: Answering the Growing Call to Act.
We are bringing a plastics disavowal campaign to present at Annual Session this year. Our goal is to help friends realize that even small steps can make a difference. This is consistent with our Next Steps brochure (available on our website) and the belief that we need to move into a more active phase of working to reduce our carbon footprint.
We continue to work on the outreach nature of our task through managing our website and maintaining a Facebook page. We also maintain a listserv and post relevant articles pertaining to the environment. In addition, we have had a number of articles in the Interchange.
Our committee is also increasingly led to to act on our faith and belief in environmental justice. We have engaged in the following actions:
- Sending emails to Maryland legislators urging them to support a fracking ban in the state, later passed.
- Organizing and participating in the People’s Climate March
- Signing on to a Sierra Club letter to the EPA opposing reducing environmental regulations without meaningful public input.
These are uncertain and critical times. In our lifetime, this may be the critical moment in our history when action (or inaction) can make a difference. The way forward is unclear – how can we relate to nature, protect our fragile resources and move forward in a sustainable way? Our Quaker forebears, most of whom were farmers, knew first hand their dependence on nature and the need to live in harmony. By the mid 1700’s, John Woolman was challenging us to be mindful of future generations when he said: “The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants, and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an injury to the succeeding age.” At no time could his words be more relevant. The task ahead is difficult. We are blessed that our journey is filled with love and support from one another.
Debbi Sudduth, Clerk
As members of this beautiful human family, we seek meaningful commitments from our leaders and ourselves, to address climate change for our shared future, the Earth and all species, and the generations to come. We see this Earth as a stunning gift that supports life. It is our only home. Let us care for it together.
from Facing the Challenge of Climate Change, by FCNL, QEW and QUNO
Our committee always works to support "the twin principles that God's Creation is to be respected, protected, and held in reverence, and that human aspirations for peace and justice depend upon restoring the Earth's ecological integrity”, but now in a fast-changing world. Climate records continue to shatter and sea ice melts; doubts about climate science fade. Today the major faiths have spoken strongly for assuming our moral responsibility to heal the suffering earth.
As 2015 drew to a close,195 nations signed a landmark global pact, the Paris Accord, acknowledging the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. The nations agreed to balance the emission and removal of greenhouse gases, widely interpreted to mean to achieve “net zero emissions”.
UwN, recognizing the importance of quickly moving beyond mere agreements, created three new resources to assist Meetings and individuals to thoroughly understand the climate crisis; to accurately assess personal and meeting contributions to it; and to embark upon the real changes needed to reach net zero carbon.
- A Friend created, and UWN assisted with and approved, a power point presentation to aid in understanding climate issues, entitled “Envisioning the Peaceable Kingdom after Fossil Fuels”. UwN welcomes requests to present or loan the power point.
- A subgroup researched and vetted, and UwN approved, a document offering a set of carbon calculators to help both meetings and individuals accurately identify and calculate their carbon footprints, a necessary step toward effectively lowering consumption contributing to climate change. https://nextstepsearch.wordpress.com/call-to-calculate-carbon/
- A UwN subgroup created, and UwN approved, an interactive document titled “Next Steps”. This document lists many specific actions f/Friends can take to lower their carbon footprints in order to, step-by-step, live into a cleaner, safer, and gentler future. Friends are invited to add their own suggested Next Steps at UwN’s blog site, https://nextstepsearch.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/next-steps-in-journey-to-right-relationship-with-creation/
- The Carbon Calculator and Next Steps documents will be distributed to BYM and monthly meetings, as well as presented at Interim Meeting, in June 2016.
QEW alerted us to "Facing the Challenge of Climate Change: A shared statement by Quaker groups" a document they, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) coauthored. The Statement was created as witness to the gravity of climate changes; to acknowledge our role in those changes, particularly through burning fossil fuels; and to urge action acknowledging our moral duty to “cherish Creation for future generations.” Quaker organizations around the world continue to sign the document. At Annual Session 2015, UwN offered the statement to BYM, asking BYM to share it with her monthly meetings. As of June 2016, BYM, 24 BYM monthly meetings, and three preparative meetings have signed the statement.
The Committee received 31 responses to its 2014 request for discernment on environmental concerns from monthly meetings. This defined 2015’s early work as UwN members gathered responses and reached out to monthly meetings to provide nurture and resources as needed.
In June 2015, UwN gathered for a weekend at The Clearing, a retreat center under the care of Richmond Meeting. The retreat's goal was to seek spiritual refreshment, friendship, and to review, organize, and understand meetings’ responses. This work enabled UwN to report responses to BYM, share them on line, as well as to display them at Annual Session 2015.
In 2015, Right Relationship with Animals (RRwA), an ad hoc group approached us asking to become a Working Group under our care. Once clear that the group’s mission fit with our own, UwN asked, and BYM 2015 Interim approved, the new working group under our care. RRwA seeks to stimulate thought and discussion about the effects that our food choices and other personal decisions have on the lives of animals and on the rest of the living world. The UwN Committee found the detrimental effect on the earth wrought by such things as deforestation for grazing, factory farming of animals for food and more were clearly linked to our mission. UwN encourages others to consider forming earthcare-related working groups under our care.
We have attempted, not always successfully, to bring Young Friends and Young Adult Friends into the climate and environmental conversation. The lack of young voices continues to be a concern.
It is in this shifting context that the Unity with Nature Committee (UwN) continues its monthly meetings in person, by phone, or by Skype. We enjoy robust meeting participation by our members as well as by our Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) and Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) liaisons.
Throughout the year, committee members traveled to monthly and quarterly meetings upon request. At Interim Meetings, we welcomed others to join us during part of our committee time. We hosted a Connecting Local Meetings group at Annual Session.
In order to fulfill our mission with diligence, the 12-member committee meets electronically via Skype nearly monthly. This method of gathering allows us to include distant members; reduce our carbon footprints (no driving); and avoid issues of weather and meeting times. Attendance is generally good.
Early in 2014, Program Committee approved the 2015 Annual Session theme of Right Relationship which we had proposed. For Annual Session 2014, we developed a number of workshops and activities, including: Patty Robinson's Spirituality and Communion with Nature; the film "Chasing Ice"; a worship sharing; and a Healing Tree activity. BYM also hosted a workshop by Roy Taylor, Clerk of QEW, entitled "Transformation and Healing of Creation."
We held a retreat at Annapolis during March 2014 Interim. Thereafter, the Committee spent much of the year refining its role of supporting monthly meetings in pursuing sustainability. From this work we seasoned a request to introduce to BYM Annual Session 2014. It reads:
When Yearly Meeting embraced this request, our committee members personally contacted five monthly meetings each, to serve as liaisons in the meetings' work on the request. Several committee members traveled to mentor quarterly and monthly meetings.
We designed and distributed helpful communications for BYM clerks, including a list of resources relevant to the request. As responses, such as Minutes and reports related to the request, were received, they were posted on BYM’s UWN Committee web page. The enriching work of receiving and compiling responses continues.
We published several short articles in the Interchange, sent notices through BYM's monthly announcements, and had a short article published in Friends Journal. We communicated information to meetings about the 700,000 person Climate March in New York City in September. There was a national Quaker presence and several committee members made the trip and participated in the march.
UWN is creating several forums for BYM’s family to explore the myriad aspect of our search for Right Relationships. It is our faith that common wisdom and understanding will emerge in from our prayerful communal search. BYM members are asked to please participate in this critically important dialogue. All voices are needed in this discussion.
UWN manages a Facebook page, BYM Friends’ Listening Post on Sustainability at https://www.facebook.com/BYM.FriendsListeningPost. Friends are invited to add posts. We also created and manage a dedicated List serve at firstname.lastname@example.org. The List Serve, with about 80 members, enables individuals and meetings to communicate about shared environmental concerns. To communicate directly with UWN, send messages to email@example.com.
We added Keith Curtis, board member of Friends Wilderness Center (FWC), to serve as that organization's liaison with our committee. FWC works toward UWN goals through its programs and sustainability projects. FWC recently added a solar geodiesic dome and added LED lighting to a FWC cabin. We added Barbara Adams, RIchmond Meeting, as UWN's alternate liaison with Quaker Earthcare Witness, serving with Toni Hudson and Eli Fishpaw.
Unity with Nature is clerked by Eli Fishpaw and Ann Payne. Recording clerk is Kathy Fox. We intend to continue the conversation with and between meetings initiated at Annual Session 2014.
The Unity with Nature Committee has a responsibility to work into the beliefs and practices of the Yearly Meeting that God's Creation is to be respected, protected and held in reverence. Human aspirations for peace and justice depend upon restoring the Earth's ecological integrity. The committee is to promote these beliefs by example, communication and support. It is to be a resource for committee concerns and the activities of individual Friends as well as Monthly Meetings.
During the past year the committee sought to share their Queries on Sustainability (which are on the Unity with Nature page on the BYM website) with a broader audience. In recognition that many Friends already cared about how they connected with the Earth, a Listening Post was created in the hallway of the Lane Center during the Annual Session. Friends were asked how they were witnesses to seeking to live sustainably. Their response was either audio taped or written.
Later a Face book page was created by committee members, Ann Payne and Rick Morgan. Making use of recordings from the 2013 Annual Session, Friends Listening Post on Sustainability is a place where Friends can share their experiences and ideas about living sustainably. The page was advertised in the Interchange and invitations are being sent to Monthly Meetings through the committee's system of contacts.
Committee members have chosen Monthly Meetings, usually geographically nearby, that they have agreed to contact about Unity with Nature activities. The contact is a Friend who is interested in the environment and is willing to share with their Meeting the Committee's request for Friends to consider the call to be sustainable and in Right Relationship with the Earth. The contact also receives messages such as announcements from Greater Washington Power and Light's promotion of group purchase of wind energy.
The Committee has reached out to educate interested Friends through the workshops at Annual Session. Two Friends, who are heavily invested in their leadings, came to us to share their expertise and enthusiasm this past year. Ruah Swennerfelt, who lives in Vermont and was the General Secretary of Quaker Earthcare Witness for many years, is now involved in the Transition Movement. The Movement seeks to have communities find ways that they can prepare for a future without fossil fuels. Ruah shared that the Movement encourages very individual responses to the future and is very positive in its outlook.
The other Friend, Ed Dreby, came from Philadephia Yearly Meeting to share the Growth Dilemma Project. He and other Friends who are knowledgeable about economics share through the Project the need for a new way to deal with our economy - one that does not rely on continuous growth in a world of limited resources. This is a very difficult situation that must change imbedded ideas in our society.
At the Unity with Nature display table there were many sources of information about hydraulic fracturing. Copies of Minutes from New York Yearly Meeting and Gunpowder Monthly Meeting were available and suggested that Quakers are examining this destructive way to extract a fossil fuel from deep in the Earth.
In March, the Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting faced with Minutes on Fracking from six of their Monthly Meetings was asked by Patuxent Monthly Meeting to support their opposition to a facility for exporting liquefied natural gas at Cove Point (in their community). The Quarter wrote a Minute Against Cove Point that included action items and created an ad hoc Fracking Working Group. Unity with Nature endorsed this Minute at the March Interim Meeting and is supporting the Working Group by sharing the names of contacts at Monthly Meetings, helping to disseminate petitions and encouraging participation in their activities.
As an example to Yearly Meeting Friends, the committee sought to encourage the use of less individual riders by arranging a bus to the Interim Meeting at Hopewell Center. The bus originated at the BYM office in Sandy Spring. It is hoped that a bus can be arranged for at least one of the Interim Meetings each year. It is based on availability of camp buses and the central location of a critical mass of riders.
The work of Unity with Nature can be overwhelming. The committee meets almost monthly by Skype and a social hour is held the hour before the meeting. A weekend retreat was attempted during the winter but it was scaled back to an overnight before the March Interim Meeting in Annapolis. It was opportunity for members to spend a little more time socializing and discerning their ideas.
The committee has requested that the theme of the 2015 Annual Session be Right Relationship. Ann Payne brought forward our request to the Program Committee and served on their committee to arrange the main speakers for next year. In preparation for next year's theme the committee is seeking to present to this year's Annual Session a request of the Yearly Meeting to recognize our environmental losses, seek healing and resolve to work on seeking to become more in Right Relationship with the Earth.
Over the past year, we have sought attention among Friends to consider the ethical, moral, and spiritual implications of Sustainability. To be sustainable, we must meet our needs in such a way that we preserve or enhance the resources and environmental resilience available to the future. For this purpose, we developed the "Sustainability Queries".
Are we called to learn how to live sustainably? We are encouraging Monthly Meetings deliberate as a worship community for discernment. To promote this, we have developed a list of contacts in each monthly meeting of Friends that are likely to be concerned about these issues. Our committee members are tasked with communicating with these contacts for ongoing conversation.
At 2012 Annual Session, we set up a display considering these same themes. We conducted 3 workshops which included "Evaluating our Carbon Footprint", "Homage to Dunkard Creek", and "Are Quakers called to live sustainably?" Ann Payne brought the traveling art exhibit "Homage to Dunkard Creek" consisting of works of art honoring specific species that were killed by the combined effects of strip coal mining and natural gas fracking.
John Hudson and Toni Hudson represented BYM at Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) June 2012 Steering Committee Meeting in Boston. Toni Hudson and Eli Fishpaw represented BYM at QEW October Annual Meeting in Chicago. John Hudson also attended. We appreciate the support of BYM for travel expenses.
Michael Moore has served as our committee's representative on the Friend's Wilderness Committee.
We had committee meetings before BYM interim meetings at Sidwell Friends School (Washington DC), Nottingham Quarterly Meeting (Southern PA) and Friends Community School (College Park, MD). We have been developing our skills using Skype to allow for committee members to participate remotely, reducing our carbon footprint.
We met remotely in November 2012 to develop recommendations for the revised Faith and Practice concerning stewardship of the environment. Typically we get 10 to 12 people attending our meetings which often includes a few non committee members.
At 6/15 Interim Meeting, our committee brought forward a proposed "minute" to be considered at Annual Session, opposing hydro fracking. Though this initiative that did not receive unity, we see it as a start of a conversation that seeks to increase awareness of the violence being done by this process.
At 2013 BYM Annual Session, we plan 3 workshops which include "The Growth Dilemma" (Ed Dreby of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's Growth Dilemma Project), "What is Transitions and Why are Quakers Attracted to it?" (Ruah Swennerfelt, an activist with Charlotte VT Transition Town), and "Spiritual Unity with Nature" (Patricia Robinson, clerk of worship and ministry Annapolis Monthly Meeting.
We continue to search for ways to bring light to significant fundamental dilemmas we face in order find inspiration on how to transform ourselves into right relationship with creation.
The Unity with Nature (UwN) Committee serves as a resource for environmental concerns and activities of individuals and Monthly Meetings.
The Committee met for the March 2011 Interim Meeting but were not able to come to a decision about a number of items on the agenda. The life change for our Clerk, which involved relocating to the most remote end of our Yearly Meeting, impacted on our Committee. We did not meet at the June Interim Day. At Yearly Meeting, two committee members (John and Toni Hudson), a newly appointed committee member (Michael Moore) and an interested Friend (Eli Fishpaw) met and were determined to revive the Unity with Nature Committee. It was noted at this time that our committee might benefit from meeting by Skype and conference call.
Nearly the entire committee met November 6 in Gaithersburg in lieu of the October Interim Day. One member attended by Skype and others by conference call. We set a date for a January meeting but bad weather caused us to move the meeting to February 4. Again we had 3 or more people on Skype and some people on conference call for those unable to be present in Gaithersburg. The committee was able to attend the March Interim Day. Using technology has enabled Unity with Nature to have a nearly complete and active committee. We feel the presence of members on Skype and find ourselves going to the screen to say personal goodbyes. We find we are able to use Skype between meetings which allows us to know each other better.
The committee has focused on finding Monthly Meeting contacts who have an environmental interest. At the same time the committee has embraced a member's vision of "Queries on Sustainability" that could help Friends reach for Right Relationship with our environment. The committee has worked on the wording and expectation of Monthly Meetings with regard to these "Queries on Sustainability". A difficult part of this project has been exploring the technology that would enable the Monthly Meetings to share their responses to the queries. The Committee plans to do follow-up contact by phone with Monthly Meetings and help them share the Queries with their Meeting and invite them to meet with members of our committee.
The Monogalia Monthly Meeting (newly joined to BYM) has provided the Committee with an enthusiastic artist/environmentalist, Ann Payne, who has focused the Committee on the damage of the fracking of natural gas on her community. Ann and other artists have made a traveling exhibit called "A Homage to Dunnkard Creek". The exhibit and the "Queries on Sustainability" have inspired the Committee to prepare three workshops for the 2012 Annual Session.
John and Toni Hudson are representatives from BYM to Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) and attended the 2011 QEW Steering Committee in Chicago, IL. They also attended the 2011 QEW Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL in October.
Joyce Hillstrom is the BYM representative to the Friends Wilderness Committee Board. Michael Moore is on the Board of Friends Wilderness Committee.
No report received.
The Unity with Nature (UwN) Committee serves as a resource for environmental concerns and activities of individuals and Monthly Meetings.
During 2009 the UwN Committee learned the important lesson that asking for help is not a burden but an opportunity to exercise Friends’ Testimony on Community. Sue deVeer (Frederick) served as clerk of the committee. At the Annual Session, Susan Thompson (Pipe Creek) and Barbara Williamson (Richmond) were appointed to the UwN Committee. In 2010, Sue deVeer serves as Recording Clerk and Barbara Clerk.
A concern of the Committee is that individuals join the Committee with enthusiasm but too often never participate in the work of the Committee. This can be understandable since there are so many environmental/conservation organizations active in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Our home towns/communities seem to have so many needs for activists, from cleaning up streams to advocating for environmentally sound legislation, that a commitment to BYM’s UwN Committee can be forgotten. The Committee has been looking at ways to make it easier for Committee members to work within the Committee, including holding meetings in central locations and making use of social networking.
During the 2010 March Interim Meeting Day, the Committee worked together on a response to the visioning committee request. Members of the Committee that were present found reflecting on the questions helpful in framing a statement of purpose for the Committee. The Committee believes that it the responsibility of Committee members to educate themselves about environmental issues and find ways to share that information with the rest of Baltimore Yearly Meeting and that our efforts will not be successful without the spiritual guidance so important to the Religious Society of Friends. To remind ourselves of our task, we will begin using the acronym LEAPED (LEArn Pray EDucate).
The Committee is putting together a traveling road show to take to BYM Monthly Meetings, camps, workshops and conferences. The road show will provide information on how individually and as a meeting we can live more sustainably. Contacting the clerk of UwN is the first step in arranging to have the road show visit.
The Committee is also considering ways in which the Committee and Baltimore Yearly Meeting can be more involved in efforts to clean-up the Chesapeake Bay.
John Hudson (Sandy Spring) and Barbara Williamson are representatives from BYM to Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW), and John Hudson is the BYM representative to the Friends Wilderness Committee’s board. In March 2010, John and Toni Hudson and Barbara Williamson attended the QEW Steering Committee in Chicago, IL. The major action taken during this meeting was QEWs decision to assist FWCC in its new initiative on Global Warming. QEW steering committee members will be working with Yearly Meeting FWCC representatives and David Miller (Canada).