What is our response to environmental chaos?

I imagine you have seen the shocking videos of the flooding of Ellicott City, MD. That is just the latest of a series of alarming environmental changes. The Bering Sea ice is at historic lows. Permafrost is melting and releasing large of amounts of methane. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 continue to rise at an accelerating rate. The increasing temperature of the atmosphere holds more water vapor, which acts as a greenhouse gas, further increasing air temperatures. We have seen the effects last year in Houston and this year already with tropical storm Alberto creating massive downpours of water and flooding from that increased water vapor in the air. As Alberto moves inland it will continue to dump large amounts of rain with more flooding.

A study published today in the New York Times estimates the death toll from last year’s Hurricane Maria may exceed 4,000.

What is your vision of the future, and do you share these concerns and the urgency of responding? Following is an outline of a plan to build pre-fab communities for people who will become climate refugees, either because of rising sea levels flooding cities, or extreme weather events, or more slowly developing threats such as drought and desertification. Do you think working to build communities for the resulting climate refugees is something we should be working on?


Design and Build Beloved Community Models

In a recent article in Friends Journal, Donald McCormick asks “why is there no vision for the future of Quakerism?” That and the increasing threats from environmental destruction led me to share my vision, which has been evolving over the past several years.

As outlined below, I believe we are already experiencing an environmental catastrophe, the effects of which will be rapidly, increasingly destructive. Much of the increasing heat from increasing greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the oceans. But they are basically heat saturated, so air temperatures will begin to increase more rapidly. The other major danger is the release of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, as permafrost melts in the artic regions.

The havoc from increasingly violent storms and development of large areas of drought will overwhelm our economic and political systems. Municipal services such as water, power, sewage and trash processing will fail.  Food will no longer be transported to grocery stores. We need to begin to prepare now. Not wait until the day water is no longer flowing from the faucet. Not wait until more of us are left without infrastructure as in the case of Puerto Rico. Not wait until millions are forced to flee coastal cities as the oceans flow into their streets.

Even if you don’t believe these changes will happen, or not happen soon, there are other compelling reasons to design and build new communities. Our economic system has not adapted to the loss of jobs overseas and to automation. There are simply not enough jobs for millions of people, and many of those who do have work are paid at poverty levels. Forced to depend upon increasingly diminishing social safety nets. That is morally wrong. Building small communities in rural areas will give people fulfilling work to do, food to eat, shelter, and a caring community to belong to, restoring their dignity.

Following is a draft of how I see us creating such communities, with the intention of creating a model that can be rapidly replicated all over our country. So the flood of climate refuges have a template to build their own self sufficient communities.

How do we speak to our current and approaching challenges?

  • Environmental disasters
    • Weather extremes
      • Widespread and persistent drought, rising seas and more intense storms and fires
        • Destroyed homes, cities, land
        • Destroyed infrastructure
        • Water, food and energy scarcity
        • Resource wars
        • Collapsing social/political order
        • Climate refugees
    • Militarism and police states
    • Decreasing availability and complexity of health care and medications
    • Spiritual poverty

We are facing, and will increasingly experience failures of our social, economic, energy, health, education, safety, production and distribution systems. This will result in millions of climate refugees. People without stable sources of food, water, lodging, healthcare, education, power, spiritual community, or security.


We saw the intense rainfall in Houston, the devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean, the extreme wildfires in the west, melting permafrost and collapse of ice sheets this past year. Cape Town, South Africa, a city of nearly 4 million is on the verge of running out of water. These are just a prelude of things to come.

Climate changes continue to occur much more rapidly than predicted. Feedback mechanisms are accelerating changes.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 250 million people will be displaced by climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, floods, famine, drought, hurricanes, desertification and the negative impacts on ecosystems.

The Midwest

We are faced with two broad problems. How to adapt our own lives to deal with these changes, and what to do about the flood of people who will be migrating to the Midwest.

“Along America’s most fragile shorelines, [thousands] will embark on a great migration inland as their homes disappear beneath the water’s surface.” LA Times, Victoria Herrmann Jan 25, 2016

Since we will soon not be able to depend on municipal water and power, transport of food from distances, schools and hospitals, many will be forced to move to rural areas where they can live and grow their own food.

The Choice

It would seem we have two choices.

  1. One is to narrowly focus on the best we can do to prepare ourselves and immediate community to adapt to the coming changes.
  2. The other is to also work on ways we can help the many people who will be coming to learn, adapt and thrive as well as possible.

Disaster Preparedness

As Friends we will make the second choice, to care for those who will be displaced. This will be like disaster relief work, only on a scale never seen before.

We first need to learn how to adapt to this uncertain future ourselves. Part of that will be to network with others, both to learn from, and to build a network to coordinate the response to the needs of the climate refugees.

Building Communities-The Vision

We need to build model sustainable communities. There have been numerous such experiments in intentional community. But this model must be created with the intention of being replicated many times over with minimal complexity, using locally available materials—a pre-fab community.

Pre-fab components

  • Community hub with housing and other structures
    • Simple housing
      • Straw bale or berm houses
      • Passive solar and solar panels
      • No kitchens, bathrooms or showers (community ones instead)
    • Stores, school, meetinghouse
    • Central kitchen, bathrooms and showers
  • Surrounding fields for food and straw
  • Water supply
    • Wells, cisterns and/or rain barrels
  • Power
    • Solar, wind, hydro, horse
  • Manufacturing
    • 3 D printing
    • Pottery
    • Sawmill
  • Communication
    • Radio, local networks
  • Transportation
    • Bicycles
    • Horses
    • Pedal powered vehicles
  • Medical
    • Stockpile common medications
    • Essential diagnostic and treatment equipment
    • Medical personnel adapt to work in community
  • Spiritual
    • Meeting for worship
    • Meeting for business
    • Religious education

I believe this may be the answer to the question about the future of Quakerism. The future for us all.


This entry was posted in climate change, climate refugees, Quaker Meetings, spiritual seekers, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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