Saturday, 19 September 2009

Welcome to the new Good Lives blog!

To see more of what the Good Lives Project at Woodbrooke is doing at the moment, follow the link below. What I want to write a bit more about here is some of what lies behind the whole idea of Good Lives.

I hope to engage all of us in contemplation and re-evaluation of the profound psychological, social and spiritual crisis that we are facing; and, as a consequence to move us to action. Good Lives is, at one level, about climate change and peak oil and sustainability. But more importantly it’s about how we are all going to have to change – change our inner dispositions; change the ways we relate to our neighbours and the community of people within walking and cycling distance of where we live; change the ways we do all the ordinary things of life. We are going to be taken out of our comfort zones – individually and collectively – and so we need to be prepared for that.

The project isn’t about the technical issues around reducing our carbon footprints – important as that is – because there is already plenty of advice out there if you want to know about insulation, food miles, transport, or whatever. Nor are we a campaigning organisation – there are plenty of those already (and, by the way, if you haven’t caught up with 10:10 yet, do go and look:

Among Quakers we talk about coming to Meeting for Worship “with hearts and minds prepared”; Good Lives is really about preparing hearts and minds for what lies ahead.

The twin threats of climate change and peak oil raise fundamental questions about our familiar way of life. While there are obvious and real reasons for anxiety in the wake of these problems, focusing on the ‘danger’ is more likely to be paralysing than inspiring – we could be living better, more satisfying, more enjoyable lives! Our oil-fuelled, debt-fuelled economy has not increased human happiness. Mass transport has drained the life out of our local communities. Mass-produced consumer goods, sold by vast corporations, have destroyed the livelihoods of many small-scale producers and retailers, and reduced variety and local distinctiveness. The mass production and distribution of cheap food, wholly dependent on oil, is now generating health problems. What kind of lives do we want for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren? What can we start doing now to help ensure that it happens? We can make changes in our own lives and in the lives of our local communities; we can, together, create the popular will for change that moves our politicians (locally, nationally and internationally) to start making the large-scale changes that only they can do.

In modern times there have been, arguably, three major crises that have undermined our view of human beings – of ourselves – as rational human beings. The first was the carnage of the World War One trenches; the second was the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in spring 1945, revealing to the world the reality of what had gone on; the third was the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, facing us with the knowledge of our capacity for terrible, potentially global, destruction.

In each of these cases, the ‘ordinary person’ could look at what ‘they’ were doing, or had done, could look to the politicians or the generals, and blame someone else. In his memoir The Last Fighting Tommy, Harry Patch describes how his team of gunners decided not to shoot to kill, as the German foot soldiers were as much victims of the situation as they were themselves; they would aim for the legs, and the injured German would be stretchered off the battlefield and might thus hope to survive the war. So, even in the midst of the fighting, the responsibility was clearly felt to lie elsewhere than with the men who loaded and fired the guns.

In the anti-nuclear campaigning that followed the end of World War Two, it was clearly someone else who was in a position to ‘press the button’ – we could campaign self-righteously against it.

The present situation, the fourth crisis, is different. There is no-one to point the finger at except ourselves. Those of us who live in the rich industrialised West are part of the problem, just by living, just by getting up in the morning and going about our normal business, we are part of the problem. Even those of us who are working very hard at reducing our carbon emissions are part of the problem. So we can campaign and protest (and we surely need to do those things) but we also have to change our lives in ways that most people have barely glimpsed yet.

We can’t rely on technology to enable us to continue with business as usual by other means. We are going to be tested: as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, and as the whole tribe of humanity. We, Quakers in Britain, will be tested as a religious body. And the outcome is uncertain.

This is an exciting time to be alive, because – quite literally – everything we do makes a difference.

So please join in the conversation here, take part in the Good Lives programme, spread the conversations and the work around to others you meet, live with, work with, worship with. I look forward to reading your comments here.

Pam Lunn
19 September 2009


  1. Thank you for this blog! It is a wonderful idea - preparing our hearts and minds for what lies ahead. I look forward to reading more posts!

  2. Yes, me too! It's a brave thing to begin and much appreciated. I look forward to exploring the ways of staying connected between the weekend sessions and really appreciate how much work and thought goes into preparation - for all of us but particularly for you, Pam.

  3. It's great to see this blog, and I'm looking forward to getting more involved with 'Good Lives'. We are just starting to have these conversations within our Meeting ( I hope Good Lives will be a catalyst to help the whole of BYM finally get moving on this. I'm encouraged by the recent same-sex marriages decision to see how we can act together - why not on a serious collective commitment to carbon and energy reduction?