Salter Lecture 2023: How the love we are will guide us through ecological collapse

This year's Salter Lecture, delivered by ecological philosopher Rupert Read during the Big One protests, was a timely and rousing call to action.

Rupert Read, Salter Lecturer, 2023. Image: Rama (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR)

A Norwich Quaker and longtime environmental leader, Read led his audience carefully from the horrible truth of the climate crisis to the wonderful truth hidden within.

Feelings of fear and desperation about the climate crisis are not pathological, but spurs to act, he told the audience at Westminster Meeting House and online on 21 April.


Right here is a life's purpose waiting for anyone and everyone who needs one

- Rupert Read


As philosophers from Frankl to Nietzsche have taught us, there is nothing humans need more than meaning.

“Right here is a life's purpose waiting for anyone and everyone who needs one and I put it to you that there is nothing that our society [...] needs more than purpose," said Read, at the annual Quaker Socialist Society lecture.

A reader in philosophy at the University of East Anglia and former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, Read is increasingly high profile in the environment movement.

He appeared on both Sky News and BBC Newsnight around the Big One protests to discuss growing “the moderate flank" of the climate movement.

More extreme demonstration tactics as employed by Just Stop Oil and others, while useful for starting the conversation, risk alienating the wider public, Read believes.

Suggesting that one of the major challenges facing us is polarization, Read told the audience that appealing to ordinary people in communities, civic associations and faiths was key.

There are two stages of transformational change, he said, when everyone realizes that we can't go on like this, and when everyone realizes that everyone realizes it.

He said: “The love that we are, whether taking form as effort, as 'sacrifice', as giving, as joyfulness, as griefstrickenness, as worry, as desperation, as presence, the love that we have for our children, for life itself, this love is an indescribable gift and a truly mighty power

“Friends, let yourself fall deep into it; which means with and into and through all of us. There will be tears, and dark nights, there will be impossible heartbreak and magnificent joy."

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