Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Testimony to Carbon Reduction?

These are just a few thoughts in response to Simon Heywood's recent posts about Quaker responses to climate change.

I recently heard about the 10:10 campaign, which is collecting pledges to cut individuals' and organisations' carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

It is intended to convince policymakers of widespread public support for an immediate strategy of carbon reduction. The UK is the first country in the world to have passed a 'Climate Change Law' which requires an 80% cut in national greenhouse emissions by 2050, but we need to start now, as delays in implementing carbon reduction targets mean more greenhouse gases ultimately ending up in the atmosphere and greater impacts from higher global temperatures.

At first sight, I didn't consider the 10:10 campaign that relevant to me. We have been trying to reduce our household's energy use for some time, and assumed that we've already done about as much as we can. On reflection, though, it seems to me that all of us are going to have to continue adjusting to an ever-reducing energy usage for the conceivable future. My family's current lifestyle is not sustainable and will probably not be possible in ten years. Carbon reduction is something that will require a constant adjustment for the foreseeable future.

For British Quakers as a whole, the 10:10 campaign could offer a stimulus to a new corporate commitment to steadily reducing our collective carbon emissions. This would obviously need to be threshed and discerned throughout our local and area meetings, as with the decision on same-sex marriages. But we do not have 25 years to mull it over. Carbon reduction is a matter of critical urgency, as the actions all of us are taking now will determine the climate of our planet for millenia to come.

Simon Heywood has written on this blog about his vision of a new Quaker 'Age of Simplicity'. What if British Quakers were able to seize this challenge and make a collective commitment to year-on-year reductions of 10% of carbon emissions – not just in Meeting Houses and 'Quaker' activities, but in all aspects of our lives? Then our Testimony to Simplicity would have the authority of personal and collective action. Not just a general statement of intention to live more sustainably, but a concrete and measurable target, that we would be responsible for supporting each other to reach? By making it a collective as well as personal commitment, we would be motivated to create a collective framework for mutual support to help each other to be faithful.

Some people may fear a concrete target such as this leading to legalism or compulsion, but there is no need for any kind of pressure or imposed authority. Just as in the early years of the Quaker movement, it was a voluntary commitment to use 'plain speech', refuse 'hat honour' and oath-taking. But freely adopting these costly testimonies was an outward sign of personal commitment to be faithful to what was discerned as God's purposes. So freely choosing to adopt the corporate Quaker commitment to carbon reduction targets would be a concrete manifestation of faithfulness to God's purposes for our time, when we are being challenged to 'choose life' in an era of global eco-cide and mass extinction that threatens the lives of billions.

There would be no place for blame or criticism of anyone's failure to meet their own freely-chosen targets. Might we write a new 'Advice & Query' to help us with this testimony?

“We all need the loving support and encouragement of our Quaker community to help us in the transition to a sustainable and life-enhancing society. Are you faithful to our commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions each year, both in our personal and collective activities?”


Gordon Ferguson said...

Craig, I feel the same. Words are easy – measurable targets count for something.
Go here for some serious numbers:
I fear that many could use the campaign as mere tokenism – get a ten percent reduction in 2010, and then revert back to the same behaviour after that – perhaps just skipping that long haul flight next year might do it on its own.
Indeed, I think the campaign could usefully be restyled '10:10 - 10 percent per year for 10 years'. This would produce a reduction of around two thirds on current levels.
I intend to make this commitment.
However, I know I am a very profligate user of energy at the moment. We may not own a car or fly any more, but we still like to travel, and we like to keep our draughty old house very comfortable. So we can have some semblance of comfort left I also have a ten year plan to upgrade the house. So though we may have further to go than many, I hope to show what people with fairly normal middle class aspirations, who live in a typical older house, can achieve.
However, I do fear very much that these sorts of actions could lead to legalism and compulsion. It is essential that we first of all recognise that we have a spiritual problem, which I address in my latest post. I commend to you the Earthcare pamphlet that Simon mentioned in a recent post, which ends:
“Now is the time for Friends to explore these new revelations. We must move forward with joyful hearts to help heal our human communities, and to reconnect humanity to the rest of Creation.”
We must avoid the mistake we made last time of having a 'silly poor gospel'

Nadine Wills said...

Hi, this was a useful post and comment section for me, thanks. I like the 10:10 site for it's simplicity as well. The problem of starting something like this, for myself at least, is that it feels so overwhelming and full of blame and shame.

I mean I do some things, but not enough, and it's not a way of life or thinking in ways that it could be. And it feels like too much to change the world myself in the trying to be creative with it or make it fun or like an adventure seems like a much more interesting proposition to me in the end than a punishment because we've all been naughty which seems like the underlying rhetoric to some of the earlier approaches/campaigns.

So, one website that helped me think about little changes I could make through a series of "shows" (and yes, it is Darryl Hannah from "Splash" but she was one of the first to seriously get into vidcasting and I think it's brilliant for it's simplicity, obviously if you want to know more, you can do the research yourself but interesting intros) was:

Likewise, I liked how simple the 10:10 site was. On the 10:10 site it gives options and makes it very clear where you need to at least start. And maybe even feeling good and creative about what I could be doing rather than feeling bad/should have done it already and if I ain't well then....That's why the Hannah site and stuff like the 10:10 are so interesting to me. The potential for simplicity rather than complication.