The Quakers on upcoming climate change talks
“Australia and Malcolm Turnbull have a moment of choice about how we face the future together”
In the Bulletin’s continuing series on religious groups’ response to climate change, Jenny Goldie interviews Adrian Glamorgan from the Quakers
The Quakers are renowned for their commitment to peace and justice. With climate change threatening the collapse of ecosystems, and in turn that of living species, they have extended that commitment to include sustainability of the planet.
As the vital climate talks in Paris loom, the Quakers hope that humanity will act ‘urgently, fairly and sufficiently’ on climate change, otherwise the most vulnerable communities now and future generations will suffer, they say.
Adrian Glamorgan is an award-winning Quaker journalist, author and broadcaster and co-convenor of the national Quaker Earthcare committee. Speaking by phone from his home in Perth, Glamorgan told The Bulletin that direct lobbying by Quakers of their local Members of Parliament – including Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister – has to happen if we are to have strong climate action.
“But we also need a change in how we deal with the landscape and environment. It is important how each if us carries ourselves, of walking lightly across the world,” he says.
With the Quakers commitment to peace, did they regard climate change as a security issue?
“Yes, it’s definitely a security issue,” Glamorgan says. “Climate change is likely to put pressure on already vulnerable people who depend on rains coming when they should, of flowers flowering when they should.
Climate change is a threat to the natural world and thus puts pressure on human beings in agriculture. In addition, sea level rise will make life difficult for people in low-lying areas. Others will be subject to flash floods and bushfires.”
Looks at how military drives climate change
Glamorgan says we also need to look at how the military drives climate change. War misdirects human energy; wars are wasteful. The military is interested in oil reserves.
“There’s a strong connection between high fossil fuel use and the way armies use war or the threat of war to achieve strategic ends,” he says.
He says there’s another dimension. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 2015, the doomsday clock has shifted from 10 minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight. Why? “Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernisations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals,” it says.
And then there’s the counter-intuitive problem of nuclear winter. According to Glamorgan, a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would eject enough debris to affect cloud cover for 20 years.
“Anywhere from 900 million people to 2.3 billion people would be vulnerable, yet nobody in the media thinks this is big news.
“We have a disconnect with nature. We’re in a state of collective denial. Our current model of behaviour is driving our climate into peril, yet no-one is looking at an alternative relationship with nature.”
Will the climate talks in Paris help? Will they keep global warming within 2oC?
“No, they won’t keep global warming within 2oC,” says Glamorgan. “But who knows, you have to do the best you can. I do think the US, China and Europe are aware; they have acknowledged there’s a problem.
Turning everything into a commodity is a trap
“Our selfishness has led to the Tragedy of the Commons; we’re acting as though someone else has to do it. Yet the way we function best is through cooperation. The alternative is destructive, both materially and spiritually.”
Glamorgan says the present system is relentlessly trying to tell us that we need to commodify anything that’s precious for it to have any value.
“Yet our experience tells us that the best things are so simple and so much about being in nature and relishing the moment. They are really about appreciation and gratitude.
“But the potential is there in Paris. In the past we thought we could play around, thinking it could go on forever. Now, Australia and Malcolm Turnbull have a moment of choice about how we face the future together.”