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Dear Friends,
 
We have been hearing lots of stories about the action you are taking to prepare for the UN climate talks (COP26) and, more generally, against climate breakdown. We have loved hearing these stories and we know others would too! We also know that some of you may wish to connect with others across the UK taking action to share ideas and collaborate. With this in mind, we have been reflecting on how we could support you to tell stories and connect with one another. We had three ideas that we’re launching in this newsletter:
 
First, we are going to create an online database (through the freely accessible online Microsoft Suite - we will share more details about how to access this later). The database will be a place for you to share information about the action you are taking and your contact details. We will then make this publicly available for other Friends to access so you can read about one another’s actions and get in touch with each other directly. We are very conscious that as a team of part-time staff, we can often end up as bottlenecks and we want to try to reduce that!

 
So if you are taking action against climate breakdown and want to let other Friends know about this, please email me at rebeccaw@quaker.org.uk with:

  • a paragraph about the action you’ve been taking
  • the name of the local/ area meeting or group that you’re in (if you are in one – we can also add individuals to the database if you would like to connect with others)
  • any relevant websites with information about your action and/ or group
  • your name and contact details (or those of your nominated contact(s))

Second, we’re featuring some of your stories in this edition of the newsletter :) Scroll down to hear about Manchester & Warrington Area Meeting’s vigil for justice; South Wales Area Meeting’s collaborative working; Bristol Area Meeting and Wanstead Local Meeting’s climate emergency declarations; and pilgrimages organised by Friends in Norwich and Devon.

Finally, we’re going to give your stories a regular slot in our newsletter. We’d like to do this in a way that ties in with the online database so we’ll aim to showcase a story from the database in each edition of the newsletter going forwards.
 
The theme of this edition of the newsletter is all about connection and the power we build when we work together. With this in mind, we also want to share some really useful advice on connecting with others in our communities. Our collective voice is even more powerful when we ensure it is made up of diverse voices and includes those who are often excluded from the conversation. Below we share a recording from Judy Ling Wong CBE (painter poet, environmental activist and Honorary President of the Black Environment Network) and some key takeaways from a recent talk she gave for The Climate Coalition.

 
In Friendship,

Rebecca

Rebecca Woo
Campaigns and Advocacy Coordinator
Quaker Peace & Social Witness
020 7663 1107 | rebeccaw@quaker.org.uk 

Stories of Quaker action from across the UK

Manchester & Warrington Area Meeting vigil for justice

From Manchester & Warrington Friends: On 4 and 5 June, Friends from Manchester and Warrington Area Meeting held a vigil to encourage the leaders of the G7 to take decisive action on the climate and specifically in terms of climate justice. It called on the UK government to restore the cuts to the international aid budget and to cancel the debt burden or poorer countries. The vigil was in two one hour sessions on each day and roughly forty Friends took part, several for two or three sessions.
 
The six placards you can see in the photo above tell the story:
 
Slaves grew Manchester cotton
Cotton Created Huge Wealth
That Wealth Created Industry
Industry Spewed Out CO2
This CO2 caused the Climate Crisis
Climate Crisis is Worst for the Poorest

 
A leaflet was handed out on the street and on the bottom step we had a table with postcards for passers-by to write a postcard to Boris, which is a Christian Aid and Make COP Count campaign. About 40 cards were written be passers-by as well as a good numbers by those on the vigil. We were pleasantly surprised that so many were keen to write a card, and that there was little hesitation about taking a leaflet. To read more about the vigil, look out for an article in The Friend!
 
Friends from MWAM also have lots of other actions planned, including welcoming walkers from the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN)-hosted Relay to COP26 and reaching out to Friends in Kenya to hear about the views and experiences of people living in the Global South as part of our work for climate justice.
 
[Additional note from Rebecca: Friends World Committee for Consultation are also running a penpal project that is a great way to connect with Friends around the world.]

South Wales Area Meeting working collaboratively
 
From South Wales Friends: Early this year, South Wales Area Meeting (SWAM) set up an Environment and Sustainability Cluster. Its job was to consider the proposed SWAM policy on these matters; to report on what local meetings are doing or plan to do about sustainability; to progress the SWAM decision to become a partner body of Climate Cymru; and to pursue related activities at its discretion. The E&S Cluster now has members from Cardiff, Narberth, Penarth, St. David's and Swansea Meetings. Together, we’ve launched a blog and a newsletter (credit to Brian Jackson whose idea these were). We hope to encourage those taking local action to portray it to others and thus spread the idea of taking action in each locality.
 
We have also embarked upon some new adventures through working together in clusters of meetings. West Wales has four local meetings and two worship groups.  Because some of the meetings are small we have combined together as a cluster and one of the joint activities has been a study group (the West Wales LMs Canterbury Commitment study group). In our group, we have looked at doughnut economy, migration and asylum seekers. You can read more about our journey here. It's an exciting development that has deepened friendships across West Wales. 
 
SWAM and half a dozen Local Meetings in South Wales have also signed up to become partner organisations of Climate Cymru. This allows us to express the Quaker testimony to the environment, and to add to the pressures on all the governments attending the COP26 UN climate talks to adopt a more radical stance than hitherto (including the British government). You can read more on our page of the Climate Cymru website. Climate Cymru is seeking to galvanise the people of Wales in support of a strong agreement at COP26 in Glasgow in November. This is vitally necessary, as the national commitments made at the Paris Conference of 2015 are consistent with an average temperature rise of 3 degrees, twice that of the agreed target. Friends based in Wales can add your voice as a local meeting, Quaker body and as an individual Friend by visiting https://climate.cymru/our-mission/.

Bristol Area Meeting and Wanstead Local Meeting climate emergency declarations

From Bristol Friends: In January 2020, Bristol Area Meeting (BAM) supported a suggestion by young Friends to develop a Bristol Quaker declaration of a climate (& ecological) emergency. The final declaration was accepted in February 2020 and included a commitment by trustees to report regularly & frequently on progress so BAM can hold ourselves to account.
 
Many actions followed from the declaration, beginning with setting up a sustainability champions group, developing a detailed action plan with tasks for the area meeting, trustees, local meetings and individuals and working together to produce Sustainability Advices & Queries for Quakers. The Sustainability Advices & Queries include sections on individual responses, the worshipping community, considering how we live and local, national and international issues. Among many questions, they ask:
 
34. Our society currently is far from equal, with home ownership increasingly expensive, and secure, affordable tenancies rare. Some choices, such as the often more expensive fossil-free fuel, home insulation, etc are only available for more affluent citizens. Yet the ill-effects of climate change often impact most severely the poorest people in any country. How can we work towards social justice in response to climate change so that all are equally empowered? What does climate justice require you to do?
 
From Wanstead Friends: Wanstead Quakers have also declared climate and ecological emergencies, and are starting to work out how Wanstead Local Meeting can honour the Canterbury Commitment by achieving net zero by 2030. Our committees have been asked to consider this as a standing agenda item and there are lots of plans developing including setting up a weekly zoom call and inviting a local expert to help the meeting assess its current position.
 
[Additional note from Rebecca: Has your local or area meeting declared (or thinking about declaring) an emergency? Get in touch with me if so at rebeccaw@quaker.org.uk so I can help link you with other meetings that have. If you’re wondering what a declaration might include, you can see some of our suggestions for commitments below:

  • We acknowledge that the climate crisis is driven by an economic system based on violence and exploitation. We also recognise that the UK, as a rich nation which has benefited from ‘cheap’ fossil fuel energy, must do its fair share to address the crisis and repay its carbon debt through finance and technology transfers. We will tell this story wherever we can.
  • We will ensure that our money, including savings, investments and insurance payments, does not support the fossil fuel industry or others who profit from environmental destruction.
  • We commit to using our meeting’s assets to support the climate movement, including by providing space in our meeting houses to groups working for climate justice. Recognising historic and current inequalities, we will prioritise under-resourced groups in which people of colour, working-class people or other marginalised groups are actively involved.
  • We will actively put pressure on local and national government to adopt policies which will rapidly decarbonise the UK economy, protect and regenerate the natural environment, and build a more equal society.
  • We will uphold those in our meeting engaged in nonviolent climate action, even if we are not individually led to take the same kind of action ourselves.]
Pilgrimages - past, present and future - organised by Friends in Norwich and Devon
Pilgrimage past

From a Friend in Devon: In April as we began to emerge from lockdown, the idea of local pilgrimage resonated with me. I looked out on my local landscape thinking of the year ahead. I thought of the inner and outer changes needed as we face the Covid-19 pandemic, climate and other crises. And I thought of how we face up to our role in creating them. COP26 seemed a marker like a pilgrimage destination. What I or we would learn and discover along the way was likely to be more significant than the end point.
 
The local Journey to COP26 pilgrimage was a first step out. A way to connect in person with Friends not seen during lockdown and some new to meeting or neighbouring meetings. We started up a Devon Quakers informal Climate Cafe on Zoom and through newfound use of padlet noticeboards we shared pictures and words, across to those on the other side of Dartmoor.
 
As summer came on and G7 headed to Cornwall so the pilgrimage turned to feet on the ground journeying from Plymouth to Carbis Bay. Quakers amongst those 50 or more walking on the Protect the Earth March. We lent support by waving them off, cooking and transporting their camp and upholding in our thoughts and prayers. Media was abundant and drawn to the colourful, creative art and theatre that the walkers and campaigners put on.
G7 Protect the Earth March (including XR Green Spirits and local Friends)
 Pilgrimage present

From a Friend in Devon: Now pilgrimage continues. The YCCN Relay to COP26 is walking through Devon towards Exeter in early July. Devon Quaker Climate Cafe linked to their effort and supported them by spreading news of it to other churches and local groups; through prayers and encouragement via Whats App. Making such connections seem important in building a broad movement around climate justice and those advocating for their churches to get on board with it.

[Additional note from Rebecca: You can find out more about the YCCN Relay to COP26 and how to join in it as it travels northwards towards Glasgow here.]
Devon Friends join YCCN Relay to COP26 as it passes through Devon
Pilgrimage future

From a Friend in Norwich: The challenges of climate change are huge and, for an individual, it is very difficult to see how one could contribute in significant way. But as Quaker history has shown, acting together to bear witness can make truth prevail. I feel that it is important engage as many people as possible, so have been thinking about a pilgrimage in which most people could take part. Instead of walking or cycling all the way to the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, participants would walk from their home meeting house to the next nearest in the direction of Glasgow. This would then continue on from meeting house to meeting house.
 
Each participating Friend will be asked to carry a letter addressed to some person of influence stressing the need for action and a real commitment to change. These letters would be posted in the town of each meeting house at which a group of pilgrims arrive. This would ensure a constant flow of letters arriving during the whole period of the pilgrimage. So far a number of Friends from across the country have expressed interest in this idea and together with the Diocese of Norwich we have a very active and advanced group working in Norfolk.
 
Pilgrimage is a time of mediation, atonement and joy. It should be a spiritual exercise in which we walk cheerfully over the world to demonstrate our commitment to our testimonies. I hope that in this way Friends can make the point of their concern, gain publicity for the need for radical change and to increase their own awareness of the issues. For further details, please contact Peter Belton: email peter.belton2@ntlworld.com
Working with others in our communities to uplift marginalised voices
 
To close this special edition of the newsletter we're sharing some ideas for connecting in our wider communities too. In May, The Climate Coalition invited painter poet and environmental activist Judy Ling Wong CBE along to speak about how to amplify Black, Asian and minority voices in our climate action. You can watch the recording of her session here (she covers lots of ground in just 25 minutes).
 
Our key takeaways were:
  • Your starting point should be that all climate policy is people-centred climate policy: people for nature and nature for people. 
  • The wider population doesn’t understand what COP26 is about and why it’s important. COP is also an unfortunate acronym for many who will associate it with the police. Many BAME communities around us have connections to family and friends in the Global South and it is their stories that will help illustrate why COP26 is important. Working with them to explore and uplift these stories will also provide opportunities to build relationships and act in solidarity with minoritised communities. 
  • The Climate Reframe database - Judy encouraged us all to use the database and to collaborate with the people in it to uplift marginalised voices.
  • Providing a platform to marginalised voices is key, but so is local relationship building with BAME communities - BAME community groups exist to support BAME people to live because their lives are hard. That’s why you don’t often see BAME climate groups. Without basic human health you have neither the energy nor the capacity to do anything else. Knowing that, what can you do to act in solidarity and build relationships with your neighbours?
  • There are great examples out there of ways we can work together, e.g. Camden's Think and Do space.
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