On Saturday 5th March, QCEA British Committee hosted a conference at Friargate Meeting House in York on ‘Energy Security, Conflict and Climate Change – Europe leads the way’, with MEP Linda McAvan as keynote speaker. Martina Weitsch, QCEA’s Joint Representative, spoke about the day, and the work that QCEA is doing, on BBC Radio York. You can listen to Martina’s interview here – skip to 1:31.28 – for the next week or so that it is available on BBC iplayer, or read the transcript below.
BBC Radio York, Interview Transcript:
Steve Bailey, BBC Radio York
Steve: 8.35 on a Sunday morning, good morning, its Steve, for Julia, until 10 o’clock this morning. Now, when you think about the stance they took against slavery and the munitions industry, it’s not surprising that the Quakers care deeply about climate change. Members of the Quaker Council for European Affairs are in York this weekend for a conference looking at the inequalities around the world when it comes to energy consumption, wealth, distribution, and basically who will really suffer when climate change starts to bite. Martina Weitsch is one of them, and Martina’s with us now. Good morning Martina, thank you for joining us.
Martina: Good morning.
Steve: You’re usually based in Brussels, as I understand it, aren’t you?
Steve: So what does the Quaker Council for European Affairs do?
Martina: What our job is in Brussels is to represent Quaker concerns to the European institutions. In fact we do advocacy around what we call Quaker testimonies to peace, equality and simplicity. We work on human rights issues, and we try to influence European policy on these matters. The other thing that we do is to monitor European policy development and communicate that to Quakers right across Europe, and other supporters, to enable them, to empower them as you might say, to play an active role as European citizens.
Steve: I see. Now yesterday, delegates heard about the morality issues around climate change, what kind of things did you talk about?
Martina: Well at the beginning of the conference was an address by Linda McAvan, who is one of the MEPs for this region, and she spoke about the work that the EU, and in particular the European Parliament is doing on climate change issues. It is worth remembering here that the EU is the one region globally that has at least some, though not enough, binding targets, relating to renewable energy, and targets relating to other energy efficiency issues, and greenhouse gas emissions, and those binding targets have an effect. So she talked about that, but the rest of the conference we then spent discussing the whole range of issues that we need to address in relation to our wealthy European lifestyles in order to contribute to some of the solutions. We, as Westerners in Europe, have a real responsibility, both for having created the enormous greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the problem, and for finding ways forward, finding solutions. We talked about the implications for greenhouse gas emissions, of the way we consume and produce food, and we talked about the need for more energy efficiency, more renewable energy and more targets.
Steve: Now, many people will share your views with regards to this, but ultimately its down to manufacturers, businesses, governments even, are they really on board? Its one thing to say all these things, but we don’t really see that much action, do we?
Martina: We have a long way to go, and as you say, it is about manufacturers, its about the media, its about governments, its about the EU, doing far more to change the way we consume energy and other resources. We have to all embrace the reality that resources, and in particular fossil fuels, are limited, that their profligate use is causing real damage to the one Earth that we inhabit, the one Earth that we share with a lot of people who have far less access to these things, and greater need than we do, and we need to address this, not just from the point of view of survival, although that is very important, but also from the point of view of intergenerational and global justice. Because we consume so much, others living now, and others who might live in the future, will have far less, and therefore far bigger problems.
Steve: And just finally, how much do you think people of faith see a green lifestyle as a moral imperative?
Martina: I think quite a lot of them do see it as a moral imperative, but there are major obstacles in the way of actually embracing that means in practice. There are groups of Quakers, within the context of something called the Living Witness Project, here in the UK, who have taken very drastic and radical action to reduce their own carbon footprint, but, for example, if public transport is not at a good enough level, then people will continue to use private cars. If the media do as much advertising as they do for consumption over and above what is necessary, then people will continue to consume. If we continue to do intensive farming then we will continue to consume food that is neither good for us or good for the planet.
Steve: I mentioned that your normally based in Brussels, Martina, finally, what is it like to be in York, a city with such a rich Quaker heritage?
Martina: Well, its very important, as you say, York is a very important part of Quaker history, and Quaker present. I myself have lived in Yorkshire for some time in the past, and so for me it’s a little bit like coming home, but one of the key things that is important for me to be in York is that this is the home of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust set up by Joseph Rowntree, just over a hundred years ago, and which has been supporting the work that we do in Brussels for a good number of years. Support which is incredibly important to us, without which we could not do the work we do, and for which we are very grateful. Equally important is the fact that John Woolman, an 18th Century American Quaker, who has still much to say about the issues that we work on, actually lived and, as it happens, died in York, and is buried here, so for us, this is a place that symbolizes the issues around which we work. Maybe I can quote John Woolman, in one of the quotes that is at the base of the work we do around climate issues, although he said it about slavery, and the quote is “May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions’ (Quaker Faith and Practice, 23.16). If we add to that our cars, and our excessive lifestyles, then you can see how that relates to today’s situation.
Steve: That’s an interesting thought there to leave us with Martina, thank you very much for joining us.
Martina: Thank you.
Steve: Martina Weitsch there, from the Quaker Council for European Affairs, on BBC Radio York, at 18 minutes to 9.