Wanstead and North East Thames Declare a Climate Emergency

EarthQuaker Issue 95

In July 2021, Wanstead Local Meeting declared a climate and ecological emergency. Part of the minute read:
As a meeting, we declare a climate and ecological emergency. This will inform every action we take, as a whole meeting and as committee members. Our agendas will include the climate emergency as a standing item. We reaffirm our intention to work together, challenging and supporting each other over our individual carbon footprints. We need to look again at all we do as a faith community and as individuals, going deep into our own lives to rise to the challenge of this emergency. We wish to unite with other churches, faith groups and organisations locally in our approach.

We will form a small group of volunteers to help us monitor and develop our planning and progress. A copy of this minute to be sent to Area Meeting.

In September of the same year, North East Thames Area Meeting followed this lead, adding the suggestion that Ffriends write to Alok Sharma in the lead-up to COP26. Several did so.

What has happened since?

Local and area meetings and committees include the climate emergency as a standing item. This keeps the issue to the forefront. There is not always new material but there is always the opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of the issue, and to challenge and support each other.

We continue to meet via Zoom each Sunday evening to review our progress and have, at times, invited local activists and faith groups to join us. From these discussions, we investigated the Eco Church award scheme in 2022 and currently have a Silver award. We actively encourage London Quaker Property Trust, who manage buildings in London, to green our 1960s-built meeting house, before aiming for Gold.

We set up a climate faith group for the local area. So far, we have had four meetings, the first at our meeting house, then successively at an Anglican church, a United Reform Church and lastly in an Islamic Centre, organised with a local Faith Forum in Redbridge. We are delighted that attendance has grown and become more representative of the range of faith groups within our area. We decided that the meeting will alternately focus on faith and action.

Other actions have included:

  • Many Wanstead Friends completed a carbon audit that will be repeated this year.

  • We held a publicity raising cycle ride coming up to COP26.

  • We now have our own ‘Quakers for Climate Justice’ banner, adding Wanstead Meeting to it. This has been on national and local actions.

  • We supported a Faith Forum walk on the theme of climate action.

  • We have written to MPs about our concerns and to local councillors in Redbridge about divestment of Pension Funds.

  • We have turned our AM burial ground at Wanstead into a meadow and, with local eco-groups, have organised a bug and moth hunt and an upcoming fungi hunt.

  • We have taken advice on what planting to do to encourage greater diversity in the grounds.

  • We display Loving Earth panels in a corridor of the Meeting House.

  • We joined Stoke Newington Meeting in a recent climate vigil suggested by Living Witness.

  • Several of us did the Woodbrooke course ‘Exploring Faith and Justice Together’ as a group and plan to meet to watch and discuss this year’s Salter lecture by Rupert Read.

We are aware that our politicians are not living up to their promises and that Quaker business of various sorts takes a lot of time and energy. We affirm to each other that the climate issue remains an emergency and that we need to continue to support each other in addressing it.

Melvyn Freake
on behalf of Wanstead Climate Emergency Group