Letters - 12 January 2024

From Climate change to Peccata/peccatum

Climate change

The catastrophic effects of climate change on our planet, humankind, and many other living species, will be worse, I suggest, than any other event that the world has encountered in historical times, including nuclear wars, genocides and pandemics. The inability of politicians to take effective action is appalling.  Short-term political gain is the name of the game with no care for the future, it seems.
Such a perilous situation requires a dramatic response. For example, in the second world war Winston Churchill saw the need to transcend political differences and formed a coalition government so that short-termism was put on hold for the time being. Maybe some such actions are the way forward for England and other democracies?

The younger generations will curse us if effective measures are not taken now – it is almost too late already. Friends, we are not without influence.

David Austin

Kinder ground

I was pleased to read about the theme for Yearly Meeting this summer. Sessions will include ‘exploring how to find kinder ground on which to listen, acknowledge and disagree, and enable a shared quest for truth’. Each of these words is important. The theme recalls the 2021 Swarthmore Lecture by Thomas Penny, which seems even more relevant now than it was then.

Thomas Penny describes the disciplines needed for moving from ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth’ to ‘our truth’. We need to use language carefully, we need humility and reflective discernment, and above all we need patient listening. He writes of Quaker experiences in promoting dialogue in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, saying: ‘Creating kinder ground isn’t always agreeing – in fact, it’s at its most vital as a means of exploring disagreement. It’s about building a calmer environment in which there’s space for constructive dialogue.’

Friends, I hope that in the various heated controversies about which we may feel passionately, we will listen respectfully, avoid attributing base motives to those with differing views, and try to live up to the best of Quaker peacemaking.

Robin Waterston

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