- Jean Leclerq
Many of us these days seem to carry a feeling of dread just beneath the surface, that we are usually unwilling to face or talk about. In this year's Salter Lecture at Yearly Meeting, speaker Ed Mayo referred to it as 'a spirit of great sorrow on the edge of our every conversation about the future.'
It is hard to love an age of broken ecosystems and runaway climate change. We all face the temptation to despair or to bury our fear under denial or continual distraction. The ecological destruction wreaked by industrial civilisation is a long-term predicament that we, and our children, are going to have to live through whatever happens; but we do have a choice about the way we live through it.
As Quakers in Britain, we have committed ourselves to become a 'low carbon, sustainable community'. This is not just a matter of using less paper or turning the lights off. As I understand it, this is a commitment to a process of learning new patterns of work, consumption, culture and spirituality that are in balance with the living systems that sustain us. This doesn't just call for one type of person or one set of abilities. We don't all have to try to do everything, because we are in community together, where we can benefit from each others' varied abilities. We need people with a passion for gardening as well as political activists. We need Friends who can share their understanding of nature with children, and craftspeople who can teach those of us who have never learned the practical skills of making and repairing. We need Friends with business experience to build local enterprises that focus on serving their communities. Above all, we need everything that helps us to reduce our reliance on impersonal, unaccountable institutions; that grows our capacity to support each other and meet our real needs in locally accountable and ecologically responsible ways.
As elders of Sheffield Quaker Meeting, we have been discussing how to enable conversations about our commitment to become a sustainable, low carbon community that don't spiral into guilt and despair over all the ways that we are failing to live sustainably. Guilt and despair won't help us.
We need to encourage each other to focus on the gifts that each of us has, and what all of these can contribute towards a vision for our Quaker community that is built up from our personal gifts and passions, in all their variety. Each of us has something to offer to the world as it is, with all its brokenness. Each of us needs to seek and to follow our own leadings in order to respond to the needs of our time, to learn to love the age we have been born into.