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?