Report on our recent climate action event: What Now? Refresh Rethink Reset
On Saturday 7th May, Norwich Quaker Meeting hosted a public event organised by Norwich Meeting Sustainability Group. It was envisaged as as follow-on to the pilgrimage organised by Norwich meeting in the run-up to COP 26. It was felt that the outcome of COP 26 was disappointing and that the outcome to COP 27 was also likely to have a poor result, so that those active in their response to the climate crisis would benefit and be re-enthused by sharing new ideas. It was also hoped that such a meeting organised by Quakers would stimulate increased concern and activity by members of Area Meeting, given the commitment of BYM to responding to the climate crisis.
The meeting took the form of a combination of talks, an interview and workshops.
Rebecca Woo from QPSW spoke about the work that is being done centrally by Quakers on climate justice, and the important, but not very well known, matter of reparation for loss and damage for the effects on the global South of the global North’s carbon emissions. These effects are exacerbated by post-colonial exploitation, resulting in immense debt to the countries concerned and huge interest payments to international financial bodies, such as the World Bank. The South is doubly exploited and damaged, the scale of the injustice is staggering, as starkly illustrated by the case study Rebecca gave of the plight of Mozambique. The situation clearly runs counter to our Testimony to equality. On the positive side, however, Rebecca pointed out that, due to the work of QPSW before COP26, the term Loss and Damage as very much entered the political arena and has been recorded quite a number of times in the House of Commons.
Julian Thompson spoke about how local action can be organised and encouraged. He described the activities of iFarm (Ikigai Farm Limited), a volunteer-led Community Benefit Society, operating in and around the villages on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk, of which he is managing director. It has a vision for rural regeneration, led by a restorative approach to agricultural and horticultural business, scientific, educational and cultural activities. This type of organisation is a model of how to build local resilience and to empower local people, the starting point being combatting loneliness through collective action.
Jenny Haycocks spoke about her vision of a world where all living things are in correspondence with each other, and how to use simple and practical body awareness practices to actualise this vision. Tuning into bodily wisdom in this way can guide us in the midst of what can sometimes feel like chaos and can allow us to fully enter the radical reunion of all life that is reaching out to connect with us.
Sadly, Ben Margolis, who was to have spoken about the view of COP26 from the perspective of the Climate Coalition, and have run a workshop, was ill and unable to take part on this occasion.
In the afternoon Teresa Belton and Peter Belton conducted an interview with Rupert Read, a Norwich Quaker, who has become a very influential writer and broadcaster on how the climate crisis will result in the breakdown of society and how this may, or may not, be survived. Although this may seem apocalyptic it is now becoming a more and more mainstream thought amongst both scientists and other thinkers. Although the subject matter was sombre the tone of the interview was upbeat and was a way of squarely addressing issues that many of us find hard to face.
Rebecca, Julian and Jenny offered workshops around the themes of their talks. In addition, there were workshops by Mick Collins on Eco-mysticism and the ‘Transformocene’ Age, and Ruth Taylor, Caroline Fernandez and Azza Dirar ran two climate cafés.
Mick’s workshop dealt with a theme that arose frequently in discussion and talks, about the spiritual element that is an important factor in responding to the climate crisis. His preferred term was mysticism rather than spirituality but offered a way to explore an element that is often left out but is of great importance in more general discussions.
The climate café is an offering by the mental health charity MIND in Norfolk and Waveney as a non-judgemental and apolitical space to share diverse feelings about the climate emergency, which can often feel taboo or overwhelming. Talking with others can help to air feelings of despair, anger anxiety or guilt, bringing compassion for ourselves and opening the way for a greater sense of agency and emotional resilience.
The meeting was attended by about 50 people. Disappointingly few of the Quaker attenders were from the wider Area Meeting outside Norwich, although we were pleased to welcome one Friend from Ipswich and Diss AM. Responses to the day provided on the feedback form were most enthusiastic, unanimously positive in response to the question, “Do you feel re-invigorated or inspired re climate action as result of the meeting?”
As result of the enthusiasm shown for the meeting and its positive outcome the Sustainability Group together with the speakers and workshop leaders at the meeting will consider another event before COP 27 later this year. Contributions to the plenary session which wrapped up the day also suggested that the beginnings of several new active connections will also result from the day.
Given the existential threat that climate change now poses and the totally inadequate response of global governance, it is clear that sustainability as a concept is no longer an appropriate term. Whilst all attempts to reduce carbon emission and damage to biodiversity are to be welcomed as mitigation, and as matter of moral principle, they will prove inadequate. Quakers should therefore seek to find their role in the massive disruption is now inevitable in coming decades.
Those unable to participate in person will be able to listen to audio recordings of the talks and plenary which will be uploaded to this website over the next few days.
Here are the slides from Rebecca Woo's presentation