A seventeen-year-old Quaker's urgent call for climate justice

Youth climate striker and London Quaker, Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, addressed faith groups with this call to climate justice ahead of the climate lobby of parliament on 26 June 2019. Here is the full text of her speech.

anya nanning ramamurthy
Anya Nanning Ramamurthy speaking at Church House, Westminster. Photo: Phil Wood

Quakers believe that there is that of God in everyone. It means that equality is absolutely at the core of our faith. Everyone should be given the same chance to a happy life no matter their age, background, or where they live.

17.2 million people were displaced due to natural disasters, in 2018 alone, which is equivalent to over ¼ of the UK population. This number is likely to rise in the next few years. The World Bank has estimated that there will be 143 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America alone that will be forced to migrate due to climate breakdown, by 2050.

Beyond individual change

There is no time to waste and this is why I have felt called to act. Why should people in developing countries, who have barely contributed to this warming, have to take the brunt? We are the ones who have caused this damage and we need to accept this truth and do as much as we can to slow down the climate breakdown.

If there is that of God in everyone, we must work to protect every single person, animal, plant and organism on this planet. Each one of us has something to offer to this world and we can't afford to lose that.

From a young age, I have been aware of the need to reduce my climate impact. I try to live a simple and sustainable life, for example, by only buying the clothes and resources that I need rather than want; buying second hand; giving away or reusing products which still have life in them; and buying locally sourced produce to reduce airmiles. I have attended multiple marches and demonstrations calling on the government, businesses and people to act!

This is not a new phenomenon: the Earth has been warming for decades. Since 1906 the global surface temperature has increased by more than 0.9 degrees Celsius, nearly 500 animals have become extinct, and the western world still refuses to do anything.

Quakers have committed to a low-carbon sustainable community. Changing how we can live can be joyous as well as challenging, but we must take this challenge if we want to see the future of the human race or even the planet. Individual change is one step in the right direction, but we do not have time for baby steps. We must continue with these steps but increase them to a run: we need system change.

Our politicians must do something and now! We need policies and action to change the way our system is and we need these changes now! The time is now!

Reckoning with our legacies

Quakers have a long-standing commitment to peace.

Climate justice has become central to our peace work and concerns as we believe that climate breakdown will fan the flames of war and injustice.

Climate justice has become central to our peace work and concerns as we believe that climate breakdown will fan the flames of war and injustice. A vision of climate justice is not just about tweaking our energy systems, committing to slightly more efficient cars on our roads, or becoming vegan.

It's about recognising that our climate crisis is rooted in inequality: for hundreds of years our global economy has been a place where a few have been winning whilst others have been losing out. Those who have lost out are now, as we speak, being hit by climate breakdown.

We've realised that, to confront this injustice, we need to be active. We need to voice our views, loud and clear, be active and engage politically. We all must confront the injustice and hold our leaders to account.

We must build the world as we want to see it. God is within every one of us and therefore we must act like it.

As Ian Christie from the University of Surrey said: “Four in five of us are, to some extent, members of faith communities. If just a fraction of this huge body of believers were to connect their faith to sustainable development and act accordingly, with the support of their institutions, the gain could be world-changing."

The relevance of faith

As well as a Quaker I am also involved with the UK Student Climate Network, the organisation which hosts the student climate strikes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Many faith groups are trying to engage young people more. How can we make our faiths, and our teachings relevant to the younger generation – those who are starting out in the world and are beginning their spiritual path? As a climate striker, I invite you to learn from what we do, and respond! We are a wide, diverse group of young people, living out our faith in the hope of a just future: coming together with purpose.

Faith groups have much to offer the movement for climate justice. We can speak out with moral clarity, reach across difference, speak with both love and conviction. But the climate movement has much to offer our faith too. It's an opportunity to come together, with purpose, helping others to see our vision for a just world.

The UK Student Climate Network is calling on faith groups and communities to act. We ask that you:

  • Encourage faith members, and everyone to join us in the General Strike on the 20th of September.
  • Publicly voice support for the youth strikes.
  • Make every effort to educate those in your community about the scale of the climate crisis and what we can do about it.
  • Attempt to make changes in your community that will reduce carbon, consumption and waste to net zero by 2030.

To achieve these goals we believe in the power of prayer and campaigns, changing energy suppliers, lobbying, applying pressure, public statements, social media, pledges, reducing and removing single items – anything and everything you can do to support this cause.

There is that of God in everyone. We all have so much to offer.

Learn more about Quaker work for climate justice