Loud and Busy

EarthQuaker Issue 95

Quakers talk a lot about being heard, the art of deep listening. In our meetings, we wait in silence. In Poole, we decided to hold our climate vigil on the lawn outside the Meeting House, on a busy main road. Starting at 6pm, the light was beginning to fade and a brisk wind blew in from the south west. A beautiful piece by Howard Zinn was read by our Trustee, Alison.

How lovely it would have been to settle into silence in a meadow on the Purbecks where we could all appreciate nature at its best. Instead, this experience of silent reflection was in a busy conurbation with ambulances and police cars rushing by, the high-pitched beep of a pelican crossing, planes overhead and buses releasing fumes that caught in the throat. No birdsong could be heard except for a half-hearted caw by a crow and a trill drowned out by a bus. No chance to communicate for them or us as we strained to hear ministry given at the end.

How unpleasant it felt, just thirty minutes of experiencing this barrage of noise and dust, despite the wonderful energy of our group. I wanted to go inside and I’m sure others felt the same. Yet, this is a choice that does not exist for wildlife, plants and many people across the planet. Our screens show us stories of habitat loss, air, light and noise pollution, changes in animal and bird behaviour - but it is easy to become complacent when you can retreat from it. As I sat waiting and listening in that hubbub of human activity on the Meeting House lawn, I became fully aware of how it feels to be out there in the man-made world we have created. A world where voices on the outside can hardly be heard even if we are listening.

Gill Coleman
Poole Meeting