At the Yearly Meeting in Hobart, 2019, Australian Quakers resolved to spiritually respond to the Climate Emergency and Spiritual Extinction. The meeting resolved, inter-alia, We are called to consider the world as an en-Spirited whole, to accept no boundary to repairing and sustaining the Earth for the future, and to appreciate more deeply the creative energy in all living things and life processes. We seek to mend what has been hurt, and to strengthen our courage to discern and bear witness to this spiritual care for the Earth.
Acknowledging the Great Harm
Decades of warnings about rising global temperatures have not led to sufficient political, community, or personal action, that would reverse the effect of greenhouse gases affecting life on earth. Nor have we acted to halt the major species extinction event. We face great harm.
Through global heating we expect serious diminishment to our predictable planetary climate dynamics; affecting ice caps and glaciers (particularly those feeding five of Asia’s most significant rivers); our global conveyor currents, and regional weather patterns. We face acidifying oceans affecting marine life; and rising sea levels that will affect islands, estuaries and coastlines (particularly the islands of Asia and the Pacific. On land these rising temperatures brings shifts to timing and extent of rainfall, heat and seasons.
These geophysical effects of global heating interact in complex ways, disrupting life processes, threatening innumerable species on land and sea, with the prospect of a mass extinction event across the Earth. In Australia this means we face the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, further deterioration of the Murray Darling River Basin, loss of snowfields, and dislocation of other bioregions and habitats across the country. This also accelerates species loss.
The climate emergency and loss of biodiversity undermines in complex ways everything from agricultural viability and public health, to social stability, human development, and international peace. Rising greenhouse gases and species extinction remain insufficiently addressed. This lack of action undermines people’s trust in political processes.
Global heating exacerbates species extinction. The rapid disappearance of species around the Earth is between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. More than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction, more than 27% of all assessed species. Australia has more than 1800 plants and animals on the threatened species list, with the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world. Government promises of no more species extinctions have not been sufficiently guaranteed.
There are some signs of hope found in new technologies, in the 2016 Paris Agreement, broad statements of good intention by some business groups and the cautionary warnings of risk assessors and financial regulators. These have not stopped global heating. The valuable project work of volunteers and crowdfunding is no substitute for system wide intervention.
For all we can find to inspire and keep us hopeful, we acknowledge the painful truth: we are involved in a climate emergency and extinction crisis. In despoiling the earth, we have worked against the Spirit. Friends must listen anew; and more urgently prepare to aid each other and the wider world.