Clearing the fog: taking part in campaigns for climate justice
Sue Curd took part in Exploring Faith and Climate Justice, a year of learning and spiritual reflection run in partnership by Quakers in Britain and Woodbrooke from July 2022-July 2023. She explains how she was inspired to take part and what she is planning to do now.
A fog crept in over the stones
over grass, hiding each snail, each flower.
What's real? What exists still when the fog lays long and low?
We retreat indoors nursing mugs of tea, stroking the dog.
We become restless, when will it lift, will it?
We feel trapped and useless.
Did the world die and only this remains?
And that's where I was, in a fog. I'd studied environmental science thirty years ago and knew the risks of doing nothing. I've lived through climate change denial and political short-termism and now blatant greed.
I'd also been tutoring an environmental studies course for the Open University and that opened my eyes to the rapid changes experienced already by people living within the Arctic Circle made up of several nation states, the possible conflicts on many continents for access to water, the mono-culture agricultural practices promoted by agri-businesses, the destruction of soil structure, desertification. I could go on and on.
There's the science and it seemed clear to me what we had to do, but there's also the question of economic growth, the ability for the majority to commit to social and behavioural change and of course the political will of governments. It is happening, climate crises, and it's probably too late. I knew all that and just felt pressed down and hopeless.
Exploring Faith and Climate Justice
So the climate justice course came at the right time. Since there is going to be societal collapse, let's work on facing up to the disparities caused by the Global North and suffered by the Global South. Let's understand our global history and pay attention to the urgency for justice. The booklets – available at: www.quaker.org.uk/efcj – are superb in uncovering the history and the work that others are engaged in.
The fog started to clear. I could see that whilst, in my opinion, there is little we can now do about climate change (I hope I'm wrong), we can do something about climate justice.
When I started the climate justice course in July 2022 I was on Iona working as a volunteer for the summer as part of the ecumenical community.
By the end of that summer I was convinced that I should become as involved as I could be and even though in reality I'm too old, I applied for a Climate Justice tutoring role being advertised by Woodbrooke, the Quaker learning and research organisation. I'd prayed with another Iona volunteer, I wrote crazily in my journal hoping that a path would be opened up.
I didn't get the job but something else happened on my return home: nominations were asking me to consider serving on Quaker Peace & Social Witness Central Committee (QPSWCC). This would mean that my journey with other Friends beyond the Exploring Faith and Climate Justice course would continue. I would be sitting with the chaos and the challenge and expecting to be led by the spirit.
In thinking about what next, some more reflection. In 2014 I started a three-year journey with about 20 other Friends studying Equipping for Ministry (EfM) at Woodbrooke. We built a community and had reunions pre-pandemic and we still know we are there for each other even though we're geographically dispersed. I kept a journal – a distillation of the essence – and each year I write a new entry looking back on my spiritual growth, the challenges and the learning.
I'm no longer an OU tutor, I lost some sight and regained some of it again, I am a writer (Alice paints Greenham: art and activism), I've moved house 4 times, I own less, I need less, I can do more than I did before. At the beginning of my journal, I wrote “The big things are peace, love and hope" and the last thing written towards the end of 2022 was “I feel more ready and confident to step up."
After the Exploring Faith and Climate Justice year of learning and spiritual reflection ended, a group of participants in the year formed to plan a gathering together in person at The Hayes, Derbyshire (with the option to attend online for those not able to join in person). I've signed up to join this Climate Justice Gathering, which will take place from 17-19 November 2023.
I started out thinking that I should instead be at QPSWCC scheduled at the same time but one of our lovely co-clerks advised to go where your heart is and where the spirit is leading. I also thought I couldn't afford it but the course is pay-as-led and Woodbrooke have some financial support available to help people attend.
I hope we can grow a community rooted in the spirit, taking necessary steps towards a peaceful and just way forward as we have already entered more surely into a climate crisis.