Monday, March 21, 2016

A Quaker Testimony on Sustainability: Some Resources

Jill and I had a blast  facilitating an Easter/spring retreat with Orange County Friends, which took place in Camp Stevens, an Episcopalian retreat center in the beautiful mountains of San Diego county, not far from the quaint 19th century gold mining town of Julian.  Around 20 Friends participated. We were pleased that Orange County Friends are eager to know more about the Sustainability Testimony that is becoming increasingly important to Friends (and everyone) world-wide.
We shared our experience at the FWCC World Plenary in Peru where over 320 Friends from around the world unanimously approved a statement on Sustainability. I believe that just as the Peace Testimony brought Friends together for the first world conference of Friends in 1920 (right after World War I), the Sustainability Testimony is uniting Friends from around the world in the 21st century as we face the challenge of climate disruption. See FWCC World Plenary in Peru
We also discussed the way we "greened" our home as well as policies that help green our cities. We shared about our gray water system and how to make non-toxic, earth-friendly cleaning products..See Greening our home.

Least but not least, we  shared the spiritual basis for Sustainability which can be found in the Bible, the writings of early Friends, and the advices and queries of modern Friends. . Scroll down past these Quaker organizations working for sustainability to see our list of resources.

Biblical Perspectives on Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." --Psalm 19:1-4

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. --Psalm 24:1

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. --Psalm 96:11-13

All creation is yearning for the revealing of the children of God.–Romans 8:19. (The Bible verse for the 2016 FWCC World Plenary in Pisac, Peru)

 Testimonies on Sustainability from Early Friends

God's works declare his power, wisdom and goodness; but man's works, for the most part declare his pride, folly and excess. God's are for practical use; man's works are chiefly for show and lust. (222) From William Penn’s Fruits of Solitude

It would be better if we studied nature more in natural things; and acted the way nature does; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable…. That would go a long way to caution and direct people in their use of the world, if they were better studied and understanding in the creation of it. For how could man find the confidence to abuse the things of the creation, when they could see the great creator stare them in the face, in all and every part of it? (9-13) From William Penn’s Fruits of Solitude

I have known landholders who…being intent on paying their debts by raising grain, have by too much tilling, so robbed the earth of its natural fatness, that the produce thereof has grown light…The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious Creator to the inhabitants, and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an injury to the succeeding age.—John Woolman

Care of the Natural World
Queries adapted from Southwest Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice


·         Do we seek live in harmony with nature amidst the messiness and confusion of modern life? If so, how?
·         Do we seek to live in keeping with the spirit of the unity, sacredness, and integrity of all creation? If so, how?
·         How do we seek to minimize our consumption of the earth's resources?
·         Do we encourage equitable and sustainable use of those resources?
·         Do we walk, drive, fly, etc. gently over the earth, seeing that of God in all of nature?
·         How do we seek to educate ourselves, our children, our meeting, and our community about how our lives can be more sustainably?
·         How does the meeting strive to bring all its practices in harmony with the natural world?

Advices from Britain Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice (quoted by Doug Gwyn in A Sustainable Life):

·         #39: Consider which of the ways to happiness offered by society are truly fulfilling and which are potentially destructive. Be discriminating when choosing means of entertainment and information. Resist the desire to acquire possessions or income through unethical investment, speculation or games of chance.
·         #41: Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?
·         #42: We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a living consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to insure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendor of God’s continuing creation.

Faith-based Environmental Organizations

Interfaith Power and Light:
Quaker Earthcare Witness: 
Other organizations:

Citizen Climate Lobby
Recommended readings:

Doug Gwyn, A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation (2013)
Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything (2015)

Scientific  Perspectives

To learn how to respond to climate change deniers who cherry-pick evidence to argue against global warming, see and Al Gore’s

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