Many Quaker meetings have a practice of discussing a series of questions about their lives and what they are doing in the world. At the end of the discussion a summary of what had been said is written. This as one of the ways Quakerism encourages us to have an active, engaged approach to our spiritual lives.
There are twelve sets of queries on various topics, so one set of queries are discussed each month. This morning my Quaker meeting, will be discussing our environmental responsibility.
All of creation is divine and interdependent: air, water, soil, and all that lives and grows. Since human beings are part of this fragile and mysterious web, whenever we pollute or neglect the earth we pollute and neglect our own wellsprings. Developing a keen awareness of our role in the universe is essential if we are to live peacefully within creation.
The way we choose to live each day‑‑as we manufacture, package, purchase and recycle goods, use resources, dispose of water, ‑design homes, plan families and travel‑affects the present and future of life on the planet. The thought and effort we give to replenishing what we receive from the earth, to keeping informed and promoting beneficial legislation on issues which affect the earth, to envisioning community with environmental conscience, are ways in which we contribute to the ongoing health of the planet we inhabit.
Preserving the quality of life on Earth calls forth all of our spiritual resources. Listening to and heeding the leadings of the Holy Spirit can help us develop qualities which enable us to become more sensitive to all life
- What are we doing about our disproportionate use of the world’s resources?
- Do we see unreasonable exploitation in our relationship ‑with the rest of creation?
- How can we nurture reverence and respect for life? How I can we become more fully aware of our interdependent relationship with the rest of creation?
- To what extent are we aware of all life and the role we play? What can we do in our own lives and communities to address environmental concerns?
Growing up on farms in Iowa, I had deep connections to the earth, many of which I wasn’t conscious of until later in life. I am grateful for those connections.
I was also blessed by the experiences of visiting and camping in parks. Some of my memories are of the group camping trips of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) Quakers. We looked forward to these weekends in Iowa state parks, where we could be with our friends. Many of us lived some distance from each other.
I was profoundly affected by our annual family camping trips to many different National Parks. Our favorite was Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, which we visited many times.
When I moved to Indianapolis in 1970 as a 20 year old, I was shocked by the filthy air (this was before catalytic converters). I had a terrible vision of my beloved mountains hidden behind clouds of smog. Although I did have a few cars, that terrible vision persisted, and led me to live without a car for the rest of my life.
But I knew, despite that, my carbon footprint was many times greater than those living in many other countries, many other cultures. It was knowing a little about the environmental integrity of indigenous cultures that led me to seek opportunities to learn more. Those prayers were answered and showed me how to make connections with Native Americans in the Midwest. I’ve been learning so much, especially expanding my spiritual understanding of Mother Earth and all our relations.
I made friends with a tree. I became more aware of the presence of the Spirit in all things, animate and inanimate. As I was writing this the three hawks that often accompany me on my nearly daily walks, flew close to my window, greeting me. Just now a young squirrel hopped toward me.
Tragically the assaults on Mother Earth around the world have expanded and continued. The vast destruction of the land and water in the Alberta tar sands fields, for example, are difficult to see. That is why the media doesn’t publish pictures of that.
Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, air and water temperatures are increasing, glaciers are melting causing water levels to rise, storms are more severe, areas of drought expanding.
The damage is becoming so widespread and severe that people can no longer avoid it. And still no real work is being done to help heal Mother Earth.
And then, a miracle occurred. The COVID-19 pandemic brought economies all over the world to a virtual standstill. Fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions fell dramatically. Mount Everest, similar to my vision of the Rocky Mountains hidden in smog, could clearly be seen again from many miles away.
Then the self quarantine, staying away from work, families spending more time together in response to the pandemic created the space for so many people to see life in different ways. See they didn’t have to drive to an office, for example. Created the space to re-evaluate their priorities, wonder if there were new and better ways to spend their lives.
So many were home at the time the horrific execution of George Floyd occurred, seeing that happen in real time. A shock to the system. Centuries of police brutality hadn’t been part of the experience of many White people.
George Floyd’s murder occurred during this time when so many people were at home, reevaluating their lives. Better understanding how we are all connected. Wanting to improve their lives and those of their families. Re-learning how important the care and connection with their neighbors was an important part of that. People were radicalized.
Enough was enough.
So thousands and thousands of people of all races and ages and genders went into the street to stand with their friends and neighbors. To peacefully protest day after day. To insist that politicians at all levels of government fix these broken systems of criminal justice and policing. To fix the broken systems causing racial, environmental, political, and economic injustice.
Enough is enough.