Dawn Joyce, Queensland Regional Meeting
As part of a submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Inquiry on climate change and national security, Quakers reflected on listening deeply as an approach to climate change. They observe that a “business as usual” approach — about climate change and political processes — fails to ignite public imagination or engender confidence in Australian politicians. The submission is #27 on the government website. It provides nine practical actions for Australia to take now, including strengthening of diplomatic resources to anticipate potential security problems and offering mediated support to prevent conflict.
The fate of many species, including humans, depends on addressing an addiction to war. It is a sad fact that the current numbers of persons displaced by war are the highest in the history of the world. Constructive efforts to attend to this world crisis would surely include steps to avoid further conflict. Some of us are led to use our privilege to engage in civil disobedience. Meanwhile there is a growing chorus of voices in the community asking for all of us to “Move the Money”. This can mean shifting superannuation funds to a deep-green ethical fund or changing our bank accounts to an ethical bank. We can also speak out about moving the military budget to useful purposes only; as well as transitioning the “war” department to a Ministry for Peace. We know that nonviolent campaigns have a better success rate than violent campaigns, and their long term outcomes are also beneficial. We can be examples of lives lived in simplicity and abundance, daily supporting a “war” against waste.
When lives are disrupted by war or other disasters, victims do not need just food, shelter, schools and meaningful work: they need healing and they need hope. Throughout the world, the work of Musicians Without Borders and clown therapy is expanding to address an avalanche of psychological damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder is rampant in both refugee and military settings. In WW1 it was called “shell shock”, in WW2 it was labeled “LMF (low moral fibre)”; but whatever name it goes by, it is a consequence of men and women being conditioned to do acts that are, simply, unconscionable. Sometimes in the first weeks of retraining, new recruits experience nightmares. For others, the adrenaline rush is enough to survive this brutal reprograming; but the psychological damage becomes starkly evident when adrenal burnout occurs, or when violent-conditioning responses emerge in domestic and community settings. War is the ultimate Faustian pact, fraught with unintended consequences.
Much of the damage caused by the military is not recorded or studied. The biennial war rehearsals held at Shoalwater Bay cause unknown levels of distress to whales and dolphins. Promoters actively seek to “normalise” war weaponry via community Open Days. The alternative message is to point out that war is, simply, an admission of failure. We do know that a drought in Syria was one factor leading to civil unrest, but a military response has exacerbated the situation, with millions of people displaced and untold damage caused to the natural and built environments. Through its spy base at Pine Gap, Australia remains complicit in drone strikes, an example of state-sanctioned barbarism that is unworthy of a species with higher-order capacity. It is heartening that numbers of military personnel have resigned, citing a refusal to employ this technology.
The military industrial complex is the biggest environmental vandal imaginable, with a capacity for nuclear annihilation, by accident or design. The impact of the military on carbon emissions is massive, but this is generally ignored. Conversely, investment in and sharing of sustainable technologies is providing building blocks for world peace. Demilitarisation would be a huge step towards easing climate chaos; and the colossal military budget could support life-affirming projects instead.
In the past, human survival depended on cooperation. It still does. Nations have already shown an ability to work together in response to natural disasters. Miracles can happen. Nations actually can work together. Sustainable technologies, including cell phones, have been manufactured on a large scale in China for the benefit of all. We know that everyone is happier, healthier and better connected when our resources are shared fairly. Our real security lies in creating alternatives to violence, in a context of greater simplicity and equality.
The submission of the Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee to the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Inquiry on climate change and national security concluded with the following thoughts:
Listening deeply: a Quaker approach
Since the early 1990s climate change has been an issue of serious concern to many scientists. These concerns, based on early but extensive evidence, were taken up at that time in a unified way by Australian environment groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Greenpeace Australia, World Wide Fund for Nature, as well as other groups. By 1993 there was general bipartite political consensus to act on climate change at that time.
It is important to consider why this early start to act on climate change failed. It has meant we have failed to take advantage of where we were a quarter of a century ago. It may not be a coincidence that in the intervening 25 years, public trust in political leaders has declined, and there has been an unease about the influence of powerful companies with a conflict of interest having too great an impact on political decisions. More and more, we are hearing that a “business as usual” approach – about climate change, as well as the political processes – fails to ignite public imagination or engender confidence in Australia’s politicians. This has the potential longer term to undermine social cohesion, creating an internal threat to harmony, further impeding clarity around decision-making.
The approach of the Religious Society of Friends is built on a way of being, a set of perspectives and right relationships that seeks out the kindest and most truthful ways of finding ways forward. That way is one of reflection as well as action. One informs the other.
A statement made by the World Gathering of Friends, held under the auspices of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) in 2012, included the following words:
In past times God’s Creation restored itself. Now humanity dominates, our growing population consuming more resources than nature can replace. We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life. Earthcare unites traditional Quaker testimonies: peace, equality, simplicity, love, integrity, and justice. We are called to work for the peaceable Kingdom of God on the whole earth, in right sharing with all peoples.
Another statement by several international Quaker organisations in 2015 included these words:
We seek to nurture a global human society that prioritises the well-being of people over profit, and lives in right relationships with our Earth; a peaceful world with fulfilling employment, clean air and water, renewable energy, and healthy thriving communities and ecosystems.
In Australia, Quakers have had an Earthcare testimony since 2008. It includes these words:
We must listen to the call of creation, recognise and respect the profound knowledge and wisdom of Indigenous peoples and learn from scientific understanding. We will work with those many others already deeply engaged, who make the links between religious belief, lifestyle, social justice and peace.
We consider that, as stewards of the earth that sustains us, we humans have a responsibility to respond to the challenge of climate change in ways that enhance the prospects for peace among all people. We can only achieve this by going beyond the current “business as usual” approach which currently denies the extent of the climatic problem; which is overly shy of addressing its root causes, including relentless and often inequitable consumption between and across generations; and which has fed a “democratic deficit”. A rethinking will be necessary, to foster a realistic sense of prosperity based on “enoughness” and respectful relationships with each other and the planet.
Our recommendation here is not about a specific act that needs doing, but an inward, honest and firm consideration of why we have lost a quarter of century to act on environmental evidence, and what we need to change about the way we make decisions as a country. We must go beyond blame as well as inaction. This might lead to reset our way of life, connecting with enduring values of respect, kindness, honesty and community.
To conclude, we respectfully but firmly expect our political representatives to give priority to measures that address global warming so as to minimise the danger of conflict and trauma to those most affected, in ways which will maximise intergenerational and intragenerational equity between humans, and which shows (whatever the future for humanity) intrinsic respect for life processes.
In so doing, we expect there are opportunities for a renewal of trust in our current political system, and a bounty of thanks we can expect from future generations, and a “coming up right way” in our relationships with the Earth itself.