Eco-Witness Roots and Shoots, Seeds and Trees

Shelley Tanenbaum

Greetings, Friends! We hope as 2014 draws to a close you are feeling a sense of gratitude and hopefulness about the changes we’re seeing—and making—in the world around us. Quaker Earthcare Witness coordinates a network of Quakers working on Earthcare, in part by sharing our stories through our bi-monthly journal and our website. We learn what Friends are doing in their local communities, meetings, and regionally—we share resources, get inspired, and use our collective Quaker voice to speak out on environmental issues. We work toward nothing less than a spiritual transformation within the Society of Friends, so that eco-justice and environmental integrity can guide us.

Roots

All of our work is grounded in eco-spirituality. QEW was founded more than 25 years ago during a session of Friends General Conference after several Friends felt an upwelling of passion and concern for the way we were living on this planet. Originally calling themselves Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN), Friends came together with the following purpose:

• To search and to help others search for that life which affirms the unity of all creation.

• To apply and to help others apply Friends’ practice of living in deep communion with all life spirit.

• To be guided by and to help others be guided by the light within us to participate in the healing of the earth.

• To provide resources, networking, and support to yearly and monthly meetings of the Religious
Society of Friends, and to others of whatever persuasion; to help them in their search for effective ways to achieve the above objectives.

Our name was changed 10 years ago to broaden our reach, but our purpose remains the same: to nurture and inspire Friends’ spiritual connections to each other and the natural world and to be guided by this sense of spirit in how we live our lives and how we witness in the world.

Shoots

QEW is a grassroots organization, with a small staff and a long reach within the Quaker community. Our Steering Committee includes 29 representatives from 20 yearly meetings plus 13 at-large members. Most representatives and at-large steering committee members visit their own monthly and yearly meetings on behalf of QEW, distribute our resources, and/or provide workshops and interest groups. Most of our connections are with North American FGC and unprogrammed Friends, although we welcome FUM and EFI Friends and have started to build those connections in recent years. All Friends’ yearly meetings are invited to send up to two representatives to serve on our Steering Committee or connect with us through a designated liaison. In recent years, we added four yearly meetings to our network: welcome to Alaska Friends Conference, North Pacific, Wyoming, and Iowa Conservative yearly meetings!

Seeds and Trees

If you are not already involved with QEW beyond receiving Befriending Creation, please consider working on a project with one of our committees or working groups, helping us spread our resources by collecting information from our website and bringing it to your meeting, sharing your story with our network, attending a QEW Steering Committee meeting, and visiting our resource display and programs at FGC. Is your monthly or yearly meeting looking for inspiration and information on Friends’ spiritual connection with nature and what that means for our witness in the world? If so, we can provide a speaker or workshop leader.

Here are ways you can get involved with QEW and be part of the Quaker effort to advocate for our planet:

• Take on a project with one of our committees. This year, our Sustainability: Faith and Action working group is promoting divestment of fossil fuels, native plantings and permaculture, use of renewable energy sources for meeting electricity and participation in states’ climate action plans (see the article in this issue). Our Outreach committee will be building connections with our current representatives and looking for ways to reach other yearly meetings. Our UN working group tracks international agreements and negotiations and suggests organizational sign-ons. Our FCNL working group follows national legislation on energy and environmental issues. Our Mini-Grants working group provides funds for hands-on projects from Philadelphia to Uganda.

• Contribute to our publications and website by sending us stories about what is going on at your monthly and yearly meetings or sharing your expertise in an earthcare topic area.

• Explore our website for useful material and bring it to your monthly and yearly meeting.

• Join our lively online discussion list-serve to exchange ideas and share resources.

• Invite QEW to provide a speaker or conduct a workshop at your monthly or yearly meeting

• Join us at a Steering Committee Meeting in 2015. We’ll gather April 23-26 in Ann Arbor, MI and October 22-25 at Ben Lomond Quaker Center near Santa Cruz, CA.

• Like us on Facebook and share our posts with your network. Follow our tweets at @quakerearthcare.

• Suggest a project. Do you have a project you would like to see us working on or material you would like to see us distribute? Let us know, and we will connect you with like-minded Friends to make it happen.

QEW was pleased to play a major role in organizing the Quaker contingent to the People’s Climate March in September 2014. QEW was an early sponsor of the March, which eventually included more than 100 religious groups and 1,500 organizations. We publicized the march in our journal, Befriending Creation, in our e-newsletter, on our website, and via Facebook and Twitter. We coordinated logistics for Quakers, allowing us to communicate directly with more than 100 Friends who had signed up for information (on average, each sign-up included four more March participants who were attending along with the sign-up person). Six hundred Friends joined the 400,000 marchers in New York. This is an example of how we join coalitions to speak publicly.

If we hope to limit the effects of climate change to merely bad (rather than catastrophic), we have only a small window of time to change the way we use energy and the way our economy runs. Already we are seeing enormous losses of ecosystems, with subsequent loss of species, some of which are linked to climate change and some of which are a result of land grabs and other destructive practices. There is urgency to our work—both to bring our message to all Friends and to witness in the world. The good news is that we are experiencing an awakening among Friends: collectively, we are beginning to acknowledge that peace, justice, and earthcare are truly interconnected and that a spirit-led response makes a difference for the world.

For information about getting involved with QEW, please contact me at shelley@quakerearthcare.org or visit our website at www.quakerearthcare.org. Our annual report will soon be posted with more detail about last year’s projects, activities and finances, and our plans for 2015.