Quakers around the world work in many different ways towards a sustainable world for all of humanity. In this they recognise that while it is vital to work on key environmental issues such as climate change, it is also important to work on underlying factors such as inequality and economic justice
Environment and sustainability
Like many others, Quakers’ understanding of environmental issues has developed over time, and continues to do so. Quaker actions have evolved, responding to increasing knowledge and opportunity. Today planetary sustainability is a key focus, often known as Earthcare.
Sustainability: Personal Witness
Many Quakers try to witness to the importance of the sustainability testimony in their own lives, and recognise that many who are not Quakers also do the same. Quakers are constantly reminded of the challenging truth that their lives ‘speak’, however they are lived.
From the 17th to the 19th century there were many more Quaker botanists than would be expected from the number of Quakers in the world. Botany fitted well with their respect for and care of the environment, but there were many other factors too.
Botanists and the Study of Trees
Trees played an important part in the Quaker interest in plants. Saplings were transported across the Atlantic in both directions, and arboreta were created both for study and the general public.
Botanists: the Gardeners and the Nurserymen
Many Quakers ran businesses supplying plants to the nobility. There were famous nurseries in Lancashire, York and London. They were responsible for making many varieties of plants commercially available. Many were also dedicated gardeners and had a reputation for diligence and hard work. They were sought after by the gentry to care for their gardens and estates.
Botanists: the Illustrators
Many Quaker botanists were talented illustrators. Their work was particularly valuable because of their attention to detail and the care that they took to accurately represent the plants that they drew.
Hlekweni Rural Training Centre
Hlekweni (founded 1967) is a Quaker founded rural training centre outside Bulawayo, in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, run by Zimbabweans, under the auspices of Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting and supported by Quakers around the world.
QSA - VACVINA in Vietnam
Australian Quaker interest in the concept of Permaculture (a design for producing sustainable life-supporting systems on the smallest possible land area) led them to establish a ten-year partnership with VACVINA – a movement in Vietnam to re-establish traditional methods of smallholding in order overcome endemic hunger in deprived rural districts following the Vietnam War.
Quaker Earthcare Witness
QEW (Quaker Earthcare Witness) is a network of Friends and other like-minded people seeking to address the ecological and social crises of the world from a spiritual perspective, emphasizing Quaker process and testimonies. They seek emerging insights into the nature of humankind’s ‘right relationship’ with the Earth.
Quakers in Costa Rica
The small Quaker community in Costa Rica was founded in 1951 by a group of eleven Quaker families from Alabama. Working with the local community, they set up Monteverde Friends School, a thriving dairy farm and other community farming projects, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and a Peace Centre.
QUNO: Quaker United Nations Office
Quakers/Friends have been active behind the scenes at the United Nations from the beginning, and in the League of Nations before that. Each of the two main UN centres - New York and Geneva – has a Quaker House, staffed by a small team. They listen, they contribute, and they facilitate quiet dialogue and solution building, especially with regard to peace, justice and human rights.