How does your faith help you in times of struggle, change, and new beginnings?
My faith gives me hope on days of despair, in myself and in others; hope in what humanity can do through love, through nurturing and cherishing the sacred. How does your faith describe the relationship between all living things, the Earth, and the Divine?
I was so caught up in peace and justice concerns as a humanitarian worker in war zones, that I was not very aware of my relationship with the Earth. But as I began to understand how our lifestyles are destabilizing nature, and how rising temperatures could lead to the violent, failed countries where I had worked, I began to understand that climate change (and other environmental crises), and in turn sustainable lifestyles, are a peace and justice concern.
What does your faith tradition teach about material consumption and simplicity?
As a Quaker, I am surrounded by people who do live more simply than I do, so I am continually both inspired and challenged by them. The teachings of Jesus, which inspire Quaker Testimonies, call for us to live in a way that at its core does need simplicity to be real. And if we try, even though none of us are perfect, if we try then we will be closer to God, to our neighbors and the Earth. In what ways does your community provide you with a guide to life?
The Quaker Testimonies are a backbone, focused as they are on Truth, Simplicity, Equality, Integrity, Peace and Sustainability. But the Quaker approach is also one of ‘seeking’, always asking ourselves if we are doing enough, being a witness within and without. We believe that God’s love is within us – not just in Quakers, not just in the general Christian community, but in ALL humans – and this links back to the cherishing of all living creatures. Which sacred texts most inspire you to act for change?
I gain from Buddhist, indigenous, and Hindu understandings of cherishing nature, since the monotheistic faiths around which I was raised often stress dominance. Yet the implications of how we live on Earth, and the destruction we see, are profoundly Biblical. Many of the root causes of environmental destruction are financially lucrative actions; the majority of Jesus’s teachings are about money, and caring for the poor and most vulnerable, and the destructions of pursuing wealth.
What have you done to improve the sustainability of your diet, transportation, and/or energy use?
It is easy as an individual, but we are a family of four seeking ways forward together and we are far from perfect. We do not eat meat (and I no dairy), we have solar panels, we bike or train when we can, we have joined a community agriculture farm, we buy heating from renewable sources, we supported a refugee family to integrate, we give away possessions and question new purchases, we devote our working life to fairtrade and climate change effort – blah blah – but there is always more we can do, and our lifestyles remain more privileged than most on Earth. We went without a car until the teenagers revolted, as they were struggling with our choices. Yet now, with one job far away, my husband flies monthly, and until we bring our lives back together next year, our travel is far from sustainable.
How would you describe the experience of making these lifestyle changes?
I knew dairy-free was a critical contribution to sustainable agriculture, but only went off dairy kicking and screaming due to an allergy. I hesitate with fundamentalist approaches – each life is different, and we must look honestly within ourselves at what we can do. Transformation needs to come from the heart to sustain, which is why faith is so powerful a call to act, a call to conscience that even in our own lives, in how we live and how we are with others, we can help create a more courageous and compassionate world so desperately needed to face the environmental and existential crises before us.What are others doing?