ESR dean joins global faith leaders in call for bold action ahead of UN climate conference

ESR Dean Gretchen Castle speaks at “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” at the Vatican.

Gretchen Castle, dean of the Earlham School of Religion, has joined faith leaders from around the world in calling on the United Nations to take bold action to address climate change.

For the last year, Castle has represented Quakers at “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” an initiative sponsored by The Holy See and the Italian and British embassies. During a culminating event earlier this month at the Vatican, Castle shared her perspectives on climate justice before signing an appeal that will be presented in November during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

“Quakers, known for our work in peace and justice, are guided by a spiritual imperative to respect all life,” Castle said in her statement at the Oct. 4 event which was translated in seven languages. “God has entrusted us with the beauty and miracle of creation, and as a human family, we have fallen short of caring for it.

“We must address our overconsumption and wasteful habits and learn to live in a collective, socially supportive world community, respectful of all life. We must address the unequal economic systems and the human impacts of climate change.”

The four-page appeal resulting from the Faith and Science effort calls for global leaders to act with greater ambition to address existential threats to the environment. The group also pledged to work in partnership with the UN in taking urgent, radical and responsible action.

Castle has been representing Quakers on a global stage throughout her career. Prior to becoming dean at ESR, she served for nine years as general secretary of the Friends World Committee for Consultation in the Quaker World Office in London. She has also served at the Quaker United Nations Offices in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York City.

She is currently the chair of the Christian World Communions Annual Meeting of the General Secretaries, the first woman and Quaker to hold the title. Her term ends in November.

“It is amazing and humbling to be a part of this Faith and Science effort,” Castle said. “And it’s really valuable to Quakers across the board, because it’s so important to be at the table. Quakers are interested in systems and are good at looking at the big picture. We have to do our part and keep trying to get others to do their part, too. We have an important voice. We have a lot to offer.”

COP26 takes place from Sunday, Oct. 31 to Friday, Nov. 12. ESR Professor of Theology Grace Ji-Sun Kim is attending on Earlham’s behalf. Quaker representation is also expected from the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and the Friends World Committee for Consultation.

“Every year the climate crisis feels more urgent,” Castle said. “We have to do everything we can to influence countries to commit to lowering their carbon footprint.”

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