Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What would John Woolman do?

Hello faithful readers! Last week I was in Iowa at the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative. I had a great time, though enduring heat, incredible humidity, and swarms of bugs.

My mind is full and racing with all the things I learned, new ideas and connections, and new energy. So for the next little bit I'll be sharing some of the things that came out of Yearly Meeting.

First of all, a minute that was approved late in the week. I was so impressed with this statement. It was crafted by a subcommittee of the Peace & Social Concerns Committee and I believe they've been working on it for at least a year. Read on...

Humanity is no longer in a right relationship with God's creation. Because of our numbers and the way many of us live, we are using resources and impacting the environment in ways that cannot be sustained, the primary example being our dependence upon fossil fuels. Society’s consciousness of this has recently been heightened by rapidly increasing oil prices. People are becoming aware that the way of living that we have become accustomed to cannot continue. If we don't make changes voluntarily, they will be forced upon us.

There has been an unspoken assumption that it is acceptable for developed countries to use a disproportionate amount of resources compared to underdeveloped countries. As oil supplies dwindle and prices soar, there is a growing potential for conflict to arise world-wide over remaining oil supplies. Vast resources are required, not only to produce personal automobiles, but for the infrastructure to support them, including highway systems, parking, car washes, supply stores, repair shops, auto insurance, licenses, sales lots, highway patrol, and gas stations. Exhaust from all types of vehicles contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming.

Our communities are built on the assumption that we all have the means to travel great distances to get food, go to school, work, and meeting. This has an enormous impact on oil supplies.

Friends could help provide leadership by redesigning our communities and lifestyles in such a way that we can forego automobiles. Improved systems of inter- and intra-city mass transportation will be one key to this. There are organizations working to expand and improve rail passenger transportation. Creating more bicycle trails and encouraging the use of bicycles is important.

The challenge of giving up automobiles is much greater in rural than urban areas but the factors at work are the same. If those who do have alternatives to personal automobiles would use them, it would help those who need more time and resources to develop their own alternatives.

The ease and relatively low cost of long distance travel by air has led to a sense that rapid travel over long distances is normal and acceptable. This has made the air travel industry a major contributor to global climate change. Friends are encouraged to avoid air travel and to work to reduce the need for long distance travel. We need to explore ways to do business remotely. This is a new area that will require trial and error to see what does and does not work for us.

Our eating habits also should be considered. It is estimated that the food for an average American meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to the consumer. Studies have shown that the livestock industry contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than transportation does. We need to eat locally grown food whenever possible. Community garden plots, community supported agriculture, and re-learning how to preserve foods will help, as will reducing meat consumption.

Friends are encouraged to work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and their local, state, and national representatives to help pass environmentally responsible legislation, including government support for improved mass transportation, and blocking construction of new coal and nuclear fission power plants. We have seen the unintended side effects of legislation promoting the increased use of ethanol.

We encourage Friends to be examples as we explore creative ways to promote renewable energy, reduce energy consumption, recycle, and facilitate the use of local foods and products. There is an urgent need to curb oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, right now. Until some of these physical and social changes occur, it may be difficult for some Friends to give up their cars. Doing so as soon as possible is our goal, and could be a catalyst for change of the magnitude needed to reduce the current rate of environmental damage.

I understand the Earthcare committee (who crafted this) met over the year by email or phone only and never met face-to-face until they gathered at Yearly Meeting last week. Way to live what you're preaching!

A number of these Friends led an interest group earlier in the week that talked specifically about giving up our cars and using alternative transportation, like bicycling. Part of what led them to this thought was, "what would John Woolman do?"

John Woolman was an 18th century Quaker who took on a concern about slavery. In his mid-twenties he became convinced that slavery was wrong - even though it was practiced by everyone, even Quakers, at the time. He traveled among Friends in the US talking to everyone about his beliefs. The story goes that Quakers as a whole were eventually convinced of this as well and Quakers freed their slaves 100 years before the government abolition of slavery.

So, seeing our dependence on cars and oil and the damage being caused to the environment, the question is: should Quakers be the first to give up their cars?


@bdul muHib said...

So, are these Conservative Friends? How were they different from EFI or FGC? Did you wear a bonnet? Did Jeremy?

I think we still need cars. I think a great approach would be communal living, in regards to cars- sharing cars between a number of families, using only as they are needed, with everyone putting in care for the car and no one considering the car their own.

Aimee said...

Yep, they're Conservative Friends. There are only three Conservative yearly meetings in the US - IYM-C, Ohio YM, and North Carolina YM-C. I don't know if anyone in IYM-C are simple dressers. I'm guessing those folks might be in one or both of the other yearly meetings.
Some Conservatives will tell you that they are called that because they are "conserving" Quakerism the way it was originally practiced when it came to the US. You might hear that they never strayed from what the original quakerism looked like - it was FGC, FUM, and EFI that branched.
My impression was that they had bits of every other branch. They balanced bible study and social activism in a way I haven't seen in FGC or EFI. I think there is a spectrum (as in FGC) from Christ-centered to not Christ-centered.

I agree with you about the cars - stay tuned for more on that. =)

@bdul muHib said...

Hey, do you know you can't read comments on your main page, because the text and background are both black?

So, we originally wore the full Quaker outfits when we arrived though, yak?

I'm kind of bummed. I wanted a picture of Jeremy in a bonnet.

Do you think FUM has that merging that you were saying FGC and EFI lack? Do you feel more at home in IYMC then EFI or FGC in the Midwest? Would you want to switch?

Aimee said...

Yeah, we wore the outfits, so it's a little funny that the conservatives changed that, for the most part. My understanding is that was part simplicity and partly to not support slavery. Our clothes (and dyes) aren't generally made by slaves anymore. But I can still see a place for dressing "plain" out of simplicity and other values.

I don't know much about FUM. I haven't been to one of their yearly meetings. I did feel pretty at-home at IYMC. But it's not perfect. There are things I like about EFI and FGC as well. I suppose Conservative might be a better option for me, but I'm not into switching. I'm still a member of NWYM and don't feel led to change that yet.

@bdul muHib said...

And you'd just look so cute in a bonnet! ;-)

This might be a difference in how we view membership, from our backgrounds. I'd never become a member of a church until I came to FMC. I suppose that might seem to mean that I think it a big deal if I become a member, and in a way I do. But I hold the allegiance loosely too. I feel a member there as long as I'm attending, or am sent out by the church. With neither being true, I no longer feel a member there, and therefore don't consider myself that way. And if I'm not in the NW, of either continent, I also don't feel like part of NWYM.

Aimee said...

I understand your feeling about membership and it makes sense. My feeling has been more about where I feel at home. I was originally a member at Netarts and didn't change that when I attended North Valley for 4 years in college. I wasn't as involved in NVFC and felt like I was passing through. When I became more involved in NSFC I wanted to be a member there too.
I don't feel that involved in TCFM yet, though that is progressing. And - I'm not sure if I can just transfer membership or if I have to go through their whole membership process. I'm feeling lazy about that right now. =)

@bdul muHib said...

What is Netarts?

Aimee said...

Netarts is a tiny town on the Oregon coast where I lived for 6 years while I was growing up. I kind of consider that I did grow up there (5th grade to sophomore in high school).

Liz Opp said...

Hi, Aimee--

Great to see your thoughts about what you experienced at IYMC... I was thinking the other day how little time we were able to reflect together about our experiences, since we were transporting either David or Emily in the backseat...

Thanks for posting the report from the Earthcare subcommittee of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee... Did that committee share a copy during its interest group? (I haven't seen a printed copy, so I wondered where you got it... Or is it already up on the IYMC website?)

BTW, generally, Friends who are already members of one monthly meeting--regardless of the branch--can transfer membership by writing a letter to the meeting that currently holds the membership and requesting such a transfer.

On occasion, a Friend may wish to meet with a clearness committee from the "prospective" meeting, to explore issues of concern if that would help the Friend in her or his consideration.

Lastly, I've finally had enough time to write out my own (long) reflections about my time in Iowa.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Bill Samuel said...

Transfers of membership are not always accepted across branches. Policies regarding transfers vary widely among Friends meetings and churches.

Aimee said...

Hi Liz, I happen to know a member of the PSC committee and asked her to email me a copy of the minute. =) I don't know if it is online or posted anywhere else yet.

Thanks for the input about transferring membership. I'm sure that would require a couple letters at the very least. I'll look into that, someday, when I'm ready. =)

Ashley W said...

If and when you consider transferring membership, another option that some meetings offer is to be a sojourning member. This is kind of like dual membership -- you keep your original membership but are also considered a fully participating member of the new meeting.

I am currently in the process of applying for sojourning membership at University Friends. I didn't feel clear to fully transfer my membership from Freedom Friends, but I am involved enough at UFM that it seemed like a good idea to have some official connection.

Back to your original post topic, I am really glad that you have been posting about energy consumption. And I would argue that we don't need cars, though they can be useful!

Aimee said...

Hmm, thanks Ashley. I've never heard of that type of membership. I'll have to look into that.

And thanks for trying to bring the commenting back on topic. =)

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