Supporting Ourselves and Each Other on Sustainability and Climate Change

EarthQuaker Issue 92

One of the interest groups that emerged at the Living Witness weekend in October was focused on wellbeing. Each member of the group had a concern about how we can support ourselves and each other to face the challenges posed by climate change over time; how we can continue to do the work we do without feeling overwhelmed and burnt-out in the face of its enormity. The conversations we had showed that we saw the challenge in our own nuanced ways and pointed to four areas of immediate concern:

Overcoming Emotional States that Prevent us from Taking Action Sustainability is about the survival of future generations. However, being made aware of the enormity of the problems we face, such as climate change, can lead to guilty paralysis rather than action. There is need for emotional nurturing and guidance, to enable us to be active in working for change. Under this heading we would like to explore ways of facing “the mess we’re in without going crazy” as Joanna Macey and Chris Johnstone succinctly define the challenge in
their book “Active Hope”.

How can we allow ourselves to be motivated and energised by love and gratitude, rather than by fear, which can stop us from taking action altogether? Or being motivated by anger, which can alter the meaning and outcomes of our actions?


Some of us will need to reach a place of acceptance before we can face the world as it is and act freely on our concerns about sustainability and climate change. Recognising and accepting the reality we face right now is the first step to opening ourselves to the possibilities of change.

Supporting Ourselves and Each Other along the Way

In a recent Radio 4 programme, a war correspondent was asked how she was able to continue working in hostile and traumatic environments like Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan for months at a time. She explained that in
complete contrast to her work, when she returned to the US, she focused on activities that reconnected her with family and friends, and to the beauty of nature and art.

What are our own strategies for reconnecting to ourselves and for replenishing the energy required to continue working on sustainability and climate change in the face of challenges and setbacks? How do we celebrate the
successes of our work?

What can we do to strengthen our resilience individually and as a community?

Reconnecting with Nature

We recognise the special part that our relationship with nature has in our work: for some of us it is the
inspiration for what we do and equally provides a place of sanctuary, healing and renewal.

How can we reconnect with nature and make it part of our individual and shared support systems?

Forthcoming Events

To address these concerns and to support Friends in their sustainability journeys and their work on climate change we are hoping to organise two following two events:

The first event, a weekend retreat, is likely to take place during the third quarter of 2017 at the Quaker Community in Bamford and will focus on ways of building resilience by balancing the intensity of our work with ways of supporting ourselves individually and in our community.

What are the resources and insights we already have or need to develop to take care of
ourselves and each other to avoid burn-out?

The second event, a Woodbrooke-style weekend, is likely to take place in 2018. Our current thinking about it is to bring together Living Witness, the Woodbrooke tutor team and psychologists working in the field of climate change to explore personal and community resilience. We would hope to invite speakers – both Friends and others – whose work is centred around the psychological impact of climate change and to link the event with the interests of the Human Dimensions of Climate Change group, which Living Witness has facilitated.

These events will be offered in addition to the Living Witness Annual Gathering which is being planned for the second quarter of 2017 and is expected to take place at the Quaker Community in Bamford.

Andrew Taylor Brown
Elizabeth Coleman
Lina Jordan