Quakers and Sustainability

About what Quakerism as a way of life and movement can contribute to transition through social turbulence created by energy scarcity, climate change, and social injustice.

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Community and Peak Oil, Yellow Springs 2006

I attended the 3rd annual conference hosted by Community Solution.org, in the quiet Ohio town of Yellow Springs, last weekend.
The roots of Community Solution go back to Arthur Morgan, the famous Quaker founder of the TVA and designer of India's university system in the 1940 and 50s, at least in part.
He was a believer in the inherent value of small communities, as places where human beings could show their best qualities, and live a fulfilling life.

This event was subtitled 'Beyond Energy Alternatives', because the organizers feel, as do I, that we are well beyond the limits of growth, energy consumption, climate stability and population, and alternative sources of energy are neither abundant enough nor a solution. The earth does not need more energy to fuel human activity. It needs less. Hence we are on a powerdown pathway, which CS believes is actually more likely to be fully satisfying and welcoming us back to the family of nature.

Sure we will use our inventiveness and technologies to ease the burdens every day living, but it will be obliged to conform to the constraints of nature, like humus in the topsoil, or water in the acquifers, or carbon in the atmosphere.

Quakers have long had a testimony of Simplicity, not only as a lifestyle but as a set of values. One speaker at the conference, Vicki Robin listed a very adequate set of elements of the testimony of Simplicity
- Enoughness
- Frugality
- Soulful (inwardly fresh)
- Intentional (the examined life)
- Ecological (living well within the means of the Earth)
- Justice (live simply that others may simply live)
- Economy (Financial independence, integrity, intelligence)
- Balance (healthy harmony among all parts)

This is a recipe for living my life in the midst of energy powerdown, inspired to act as though I make a difference in the world. It mobilizes me to action, in the face of complexity so overwhelming that it would be easy to give up. It gives rise to an urge to make my life relevant to the times I'm living in.

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