We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life.”
Advices and queries 42 from Quaker faith & practice, the book of Quaker discipline
Quaker concern for the wellbeing of our planet and for all who live in it is not new, and it is deeply embedded in Quaker faith. Quakers are perhaps best known for their peace testimony, and for their role in the peace movement. But in 2011 Quakers made their ‘Canterbury Commitment’ to become a ‘low carbon, sustainable community’, reaffirming the need for corporate and individual action on climate change. Currently, Quakers are involved in really exciting actions around fracking, divestment and climate justice.
Quakers campaign for energy justice, and believe that all people should have access to clean, affordable energy. Divestment from fossil fuels is something we can all do, as individuals or as Quaker meetings, and nearly a quarter of Area Meetings in Britain have divested. Fracking will slow our transition to fossil-free energy and Quakers have called for a ban on fracking. In early May, nearly 100 Quakers held a meeting for worship on Pendle Hill, an area threatened by fracking. Find out more about this action here.
I have been involved with a group called Earth Quaker Action UK. We are a group of Quaker activists opposed to fossil fuel sponsorship of arts institutions, holding meeting for worship at such institutions as the British Museum and the National Gallery. We believe that the actions of oil companies such as Shell and BP are incompatible with the desperate need for a transition away from fossil fuels if we are to save people and our planet from runaway climate change. By accepting money from oil companies, public arts institutions are legitimising their practices and normalising them within the culture of the UK.
By no means are we the only group who opposes oil sponsorship of cultural institutions. Groups such as Liberate Tate and BP or not BP have opposed corporate sponsorship, and we’ve enjoyed being a part of their actions in the past.
The meetings for worship that we have held in these institutions have felt gathered; often members of the public have joined in or stopped to watch, and the feeling of being still and silent in these often busy public spaces is powerful. These meetings for worship are an act of protest and worship, and have put in a lot of time thinking about what it is that is Quaker about our form of protest. We have described this as such: “As Quakers, we call for climate justice for those who have been unequally impacted by climate change, and for global climate action that stops this injustice continuing. This stems from our faith commitment to strive for equality and to speak truth to those with power. The truth we hope to speak to those at the British Museum is that climate change is causing horrific and unjust harm to both people and the earth. For this reason we believe it is wrong to receive sponsorship from the institutions and power-holders that perpetuate this injustice, such as BP.”
Quakers can bring a unique, faith-based perspective to the climate movement, whether through individual or corporate, collective action. There is lots of information about how to get involved, and individual or group actions you can take at http://quaker.org.uk/our-work/sustainability.
Lou, May 2017