Philadelphia Yearly Meeting hosted an evening question and answer session with the Eco Justice Collaborative in preparation for the Saturday March 24th Continuing Sessions work on the topic of Climate Change. Here follows an interview with Pat Finley and Ruth Darlington of the Eco Justice Collaborative (EJC) and Anthony Stover, Clerk of Quaker Life Council.
The interview explains how the Quaker Life Council will form a Sprint (a nimble, short-term committee convened around a Yearly Meeting initiative of importance) and the Eco Justice Collaborative will support the PYM community in climate justice work.
Ruth and Pat, what were your takeaway from the Q&A on March 23 as Eco Justice Collaborative Members?
The strong turnout at the Q&A, and the questions asked, revealed Friends’ deep concern and sense of urgency for the climate crisis and climate justice.
Two early concerns were allayed regarding whether Eco Justice Collaborative (EJC) wanted to supplant or diffuse the current corporate priority to end racism and why the Eco Justice minute specified no particular action or goal.
Eco Justice explained why they believed that anti-racism and climate justice goals are complementary and synergistic and that our relationship with each other determined whether we could make a difference. EJC then clarified reasons for not specifying goals and project; the climate crisis is multifaceted and there is no single project or approach that will suffice to address it. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) should not/could not impose a single goal or project on all monthly meetings. The goal is to see intentional and integrated work within the Yearly Meeting, and EJC would like to help.
Pat and Ruth: What about at Saturday’s Continuing Sessions; were there additional take-aways there?
The clerks of the Yearly Meeting gave a positive review of the decades of work of EJC and the history of the Climate Minute. Out of worship Friends expressed their concerns about the urgent need for action on the climate crisis and the critical need to act together.
There appeared to be a desire among PYM Friends to rethink how we relate to the Earth and all life in ways that are more in keeping with our testimonies, in both personal messages and in the resounding “Yes!” to Clerks’ question asking if we were ready to come under the weight of acting on climate change as a Yearly Meeting.
There was also enthusiasm for a Sprint to develop a framework for climate action to put before annual sessions. One Friend seemed to speak the mind of many who were present when he said, “What are we waiting for?!” There was a strong sense that EJC should play a significant role in this Sprint, but those present also saw the Sprint as an opportunity to involve Friends from across the YM.
A question for Anthony Stover: you are both clerk of Quaker Life Council and part of the PYM Sprint to create a PYM minute on climate change. What is the timeline for the Sprint and the Minute?
With attention to the Leading of Spirit, the Sprint is expected to bring a report and specific recommendations to Quaker Life Council in time for consideration of that report and recommendations to be included in Annual Sessions, 2021 for discernment and action.
(This will include) an explanation of what such a yearly meeting-wide Witness means for the yearly Meeting, quarterly Meetings, monthly meetings and individual Friends. (It will focus attention on) questions such as:
- What does it really mean to have a PYM-wide corporate witness on climate change & eco-justice? What would it look like? How would it function?
- How would we promote transparency and facilitate sharing? How would we support action creativity?
- How would we hold ourselves accountable? What would I, as an individual, be called to do? What would my meeting and quarterly meeting be called to do? What would the whole yearly meeting be called to do?
Anthony, as Clerk can you tell us what oversight role the Council of Quaker Life Council will have in supporting this work?
Quaker Life Council will appoint a Clerk of the Sprint.
Anthony, as a personal issue how do you feel climate change affects you and the people you love?
In so many ways social justice, racial justice our caste system just to name a few that needs to be address now while there still time.
Finally, Anthony; what would you like to see ten years from now?
A better world than we are living in right now if we act now. If not, I see things far worst than what we are experiencing today.
Pat and Ruth: Our community is generally behind supporting positive actions to reduce our carbon footprint. The Anti-racism collaborative contacted each of our meetings to survey each meeting on their individual DEI work. Is Eco Justice Collaborative doing anything similar?
In the past Eco Justice Collaborative sent out formal surveys to Monthly Meetings to survey their work and interests. Other approaches, however, were more fruitful.
In addition to ongoing visits to Monthly Meetings for presentations, workshops, and our Traveling Ministry, we initiated monthly PYM wide phone calls that began as listening sessions and then evolved into conversations with speakers on pertinent topics.
Since Covid, EJC has been conducting Zoom webinars with notable professionals on critical subjects. Through these webinars, we have learned about what Meetings and individuals want to do and how EJC and PYM can support them. Throughout the last year we gathered valuable feedback from twenty Meetings as they seasoned our climate minute.
In January 2020 at a Thread Gathering, the Friends present mapped out goals and priorities they hope to present to the yearly Meeting. As EJC gathers information from Meetings we also provide information and resources.
The exchange has been valuable on both sides.
Pat and Ruth: PYM hopes to formally adopt a climate initiative at Annual Sessions. How will we ensure the PYM community is successful in living that out with energy and focus?
Accountability lies with the Eco Justice Collaborative to organize and coordinate the resources of PYM to support Friends under the weight of protecting the Earth and future generations from unchecked climate change and helping those already suffering from the climate crisis.
Eco Justice Collaborative is answerable to the Yearly Meeting in session for communicating the progress of work of PYM.
The Yearly Meeting is accountable for giving space at its Sessions to report on our progress or failings. Climate change and environmental justice initiatives should have a prominent place on the agenda of annual and continuing sessions. Staff should have time and resources to support Meetings. PYM and Eco Justice leadership should report regularly on how resources are being used to address the climate crisis.
We, as the PYM community, will not know if we are successful because the crisis is so great that success may not be known in our lifetimes. Our job is to remain faithful to the possibility that we can make a difference and that our work is an act of love for the earth, for all the children, and for all the creatures that live on the earth.
Pat, Ruth, and Anthony: is there anything else Friends need to know?
Pat and Ruth
At both the Q&A and at Continuing Sessions there was a strong yearning expressed by Friends for opportunities to make a difference in the crises we face, as well as a plea to include systems of accountability. Eco Justice has called on the Yearly Meeting to let us help, let us be agents of accountability.
While we offer to build a system of accountability, we are all responsible for faithful action.
In 1972, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, [and] in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” The destruction of our planet is an evil we are compelled to confront.
This has been 50 years in the making with Friends. The time is now for progressive change before it’s too late.