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Connected to creation: Addressing the spiritual roots of climate change

By: Madeline Schaefer
Published: January 2, 2013

Religious leaders gathered in Sri Lanka to discuss climate change.

Photo: AFSC

How do we—as Quakers, as humans—address climate change? It’s a broad question about a multi-faceted issue, I know—and one that I’m certainly not ready to answer in 500 words or fewer.  But Quakers around the country are gathering in their local meetings and churches to ask this question, consider answers, and work with others to speak about and advocate for the solutions they propose. 

Of course we’re addressing this issue as Quakers—climate change raises deep questions about the human condition. Our current environmental shifts are not simply a result of carbon emissions; they are evidence of a deep human disconnection from the earth and one another. Living in a community of faith challenges us to recognize this disconnection and how it permeates our relationships. Together we gather in silence and reawaken to the deeper reality that knits all of creation. By cultivating our capacity for connection, we can better understand how to live a life of balance and fulfillment.

Not surprisingly, Quakers are not the only religious group to consider climate change—people of faith around the world are working on this concern within their communities.

In September, AFSC helped to bring faith leaders from around Asia to Sri Lanka to discuss the role of religion in addressing this issue. It was a week to explore both scientific and moral aspects of environmental degradation.

To get a sense of the real ways that this change is affecting lives, participants first traveled to field sites in northern Sri Lanka to observe communities dealing with temperature change. Those visits were followed by a three-day conference on topics that engaged both the mind and the spirit; scientists presented data on the effects of climate change on the planet, and religious leaders presented on the philosophy of earth care in each of their traditions.

Religious leaders are very influential in many Asian countries, so modeling sustainable practices in mosques, churches, and monasteries will help those practices spread. But it is not only the influence of these leaders’ behavior that will change others; it is the direct tie between those actions and a deep moral and spiritual belief that will speak a powerful message to community members and lawmakers alike. 

Our Quaker communities can do more than make sustainable “consumer choices”; we can work together to uncover the spiritual and moral roots of climate change. Because living in harmony with the earth is not simply about stewardship—it is about recognizing our deep connection to all of creation.

Read more about the conference in Sri Lanka to consider climate change.

About the Author

Madeline Schaefer

Madeline is the Friends Relations Associate. She grew up in the beautiful Radnor Meeting community outside of Philadelphia, and attended Friends Schools in the area until the end of High School.  After several years of studying and traveling, she returned to Philadelphia only to immerse herself once again in the stories, the culture and the spirituality of Philadelphia Quakers.  While living in collective house in West Philadelphia, she grew curious about the history of young Quaker activists in the neighborhood, and started an oral history project to find out more.  Madeline is interested in exploring the ways in which life in community can stretch our capacity for compassion and growth.  Her dream is to create more alternative communities of people learning how to live together, creating models for a society fueled by cooperation and love.

More posts by Madeline Schaefer