QCOP members, Roger Plenty, June New and Cherry Foster

Initial and past activities of QCOP

A Quakerly Concern about Population was accepted by Gloucestershire Area Meeting on 10.09.2013.A minute was sent to Yearly Meeting supporting the Concern of Roger Plenty (Nailsworth Meeting) on Global Population.

“Friends expressed their support for this minute because of the impossibility of continuing as we are if we are to reach the goal of giving every individual the value they deserve….
The writer Pam Lunn commented on the need for change as to how we think culturally about complex issues. Culture change takes a long time. The objective of the Population Group is that we should seek to raise awareness of the issue of over population, which is fundamental and allied to the drive towards sustainability. This can be broadened to remind us that sustainability is a worldwide issue and as Quakers we are a worldwide movement. Therefore increased awareness needs to be worldwide awareness.”

Bath Yearly Meeting August 5th 2014. Roger Plenty and a team of Quakers held a Special Interest meeting at which an audience of about 80 heard Roger Martin, from Population Matters, talk on Population, Change Without Coercion. This was followed by a stall at the Ideas Fair and the creation of an email group of concerned Friends. Further events followed . (see below)

General Election May 2015. Resources sheet produced by the embryonic QCOP group, with questions or points to raise with parliamentary candidates. (see Articles)

Inaugural meeting of 6 Quakers in Birmingham, to formalize a group. Adopting the name, QCOP, Quaker Concern Over Population, a simple structure was agreed and various plans made including developing a website, posters, and applying to Friends House to become a Listed Informal Group. The aims of the group are:- 

1. To remind Friends of the dangers of population growth, and the means by which growth can be addressed without coercion.

2. To encourage Friends to overcome their reticence and to explain this difficult and topical subject in a reflective way.

3. To communicate informally with various bodies within the Society of Friends, providing information as needed.

Early Discussions. Several QCOP members have approached their Meetings and Area Meetings to hold discussions on overpopulation with some success. Two QCOP steering group members gave presentations and ran discussions for the Hampshire and Islands Regional meeting in October 2016. A presentation was given in Sedburgh, two in Cambridge and one in Muswell Hill.

A Letter entitled, Why Population, was sent to all Area Meetings in August 2016 to consider. We will be following up this initiative in  2016, accompanied by an invitation to hold discussions.

Distribution of free large photographic books, ‘Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot’ to 5 secondary schools and colleges in the Stroud Area November 2015, with others in Cambridge.Book-Page-Composite-v2

A comprehensive website has been developed, with help from a Quaker in Wales, using a WordPress programme.

A Poster with cartoon is now available on the website to offer to Meetings.

We hold regular Skype steering group meetings and two open face to face meetings a year, to which QCOP members are invited.

2017 Yearly Meeting Gathering at Warwick.   Anne le Mare, a retired lecturer and QCOP member,  addressed a Special Interest Meeting on the subject of Global Population Issues with particular focus on why people have large families and on the different ways countries have reduced their birth rate. This was attended by about 50 Friends and well received.  In addition, we ran a stall at the Groups Fair, discussed issues and distributed information.

Woodbrooke course: “Costing Not Less Than Everything” 24th to 26th November 2017. The course was a re-visit of the Swarthmore lecture “Costing Not Less Than Everything” given in 2011 by Pam Lunn. This lecture concerning human sustainability on Earth, inspired and affirmed many feelings about how we live in the world and the footprint we leave behind. The lecture is still as relevant today as it was 6 years ago when it was first given. 14 Quakers attended the course which was ably led by Maud Granger, Woodbrooke’s Faith in Action Tutor. Representing QCOP were Jonathan Riddell, Cherry Foster, June New and Nick Chetwood. During the weekend we specifically looked at three areas that are particularly troublesome to sustainability – travel, food and population. On behalf of QCOP, Nick Chetwood gave a 40 minute presentation on the current population situation and then Cherry Foster  briefed attendees on some examples of countries which had had outstanding success in reducing their fertility rate. These presentations were followed by a discussion session. The presentations were received with mixed feelings ranging from anxiety as to what to do, anger at the situation and relief at understanding the Global Population picture better. 

QCOP in Gloucester 03.02.18.  18 Quakers attended an event organised by QCOP and held in the Friends Meeting House in the centre of Gloucester. Friends were drawn from the Area Meeting and from as far as Charlbury, Hereford and South Wales, as well as three of the QCOP organisers from the north of England.

The aim was firstly to introduce participants to the issues caused by global overpopulation in the Quakerly context of the Canterbury Commitment on living sustainably, (Yearly Meeting 2011,Minute 36 ). The second aim was to show how the solutions to the issues are close to Quakerly thinking, involving the education and equality of women and the provision of family planning facilities. The third was to familiarise Friends with the subject so that they find it easier to consider and discuss it with others.

Starting with a short Population Matters film clearly explaining the current global situation, the group moved on to explore their own personal responses in pairs and small group discussion. Feedback on “How overpopulation impoverishes the earth” revealed a wide understanding in the group of the international environmental issues 7.5 billion people are creating, as well as the local problems created in nations. They included, “ Contribution to war, terrorism, migration and human misery”, “Disrupts economies” and “Problems with Cultural assumptions.”

The 3 hour event started with shared lunch in a room with resources on the subject, and ended with tea, cakes and feedback. The latter was very positive. The same theme was presented at Cambridge in June 2018, with similar encouraging feedback. Further meetings have been  held in Bull Street Meeting House, Birmingham,

  Recognition.    QCOP was accepted as a Quaker Recognised Group in July 2018. This led to a flurry of activity, such as becoming a signatory of the 2015 Shared Statement on Climate Change by Quaker Groups. In line with the Alliance of World Scientists – A Warning to Humanity, we urged our members to write to organisations they belong to, such as political parties, pressure groups urging them to read and sign up to the statement.    

    Another result of becoming a Quaker Registered group is the automatic invitation to hold  Special Interest Meetings and to run a table at the Groups Fair at Yearly Meetings.  So in May 2019,Simon Beard, a Quaker demographer at Cambridge University researching Population Ethics and the future, gave a very well received Special Interest Meeting talk at London Yearly Meeting. His subject was Quakers, Population and the Future of Humanity. He spoke of the need for Change, saying “We need the courage to accept that our own society will alter radically and that it may be better if it changes more, than if it changes less.”

A further event was held with the AGM at Oxford Meeting House in heatwave conditions in late June 2019.

In October 2019 Roger Plenty was invited by the Planet Centred Forum to contribute to a seminar in Birmingham with an 8 minute talk on QCOP and what we do. The general theme was Responses to the future and Roger described what QCOP are doing to raise awareness of the issue amongst Quakers.. Nearly the whole Steering group attended and  had a table there.They also enjoyed listening to Richard Guillebaud and  a speaker from Extinction Rebellion amongst others.

In February 2020, our first event took place at a London Local meeting, Kingston upon Thames. At the invitation of the local Learning Group, QCOP ran a 5 hour session, with Cherry Foster, Roger Plenty and David Tinsley all contributing to a successful and interactive occasion. Materials used included wall photographs with quotes, useful and thought-provoking graphics such as the orange One-child-less, the David Attenborough at the RSA film, the ‘What are the Choices’ wall activity and  an exercise with the Difficult Questions draft booklet. Presentations included one by David Tinsley, a Questions and Answer session with Roger Plenty and a short worldwide solutions presentation with Cherry Foster .

Advices and Queries.   Despite global population being fundamental to the recently adopted Quaker commitment to living sustainably, there is a lack of comment on Family Planning or the wider issues of global population in Quaker writing such as Quaker Faith and Practice and  Advices and Queries. A Writers Group was set up in 2018 up to try to rectify this.  After several years of collecting ideas and a final set of comments by 22 QCOP members, a choice of 3 Advices and Queries to cover the subject of population was put forward in 2019 for consideration by the new revision group of Christian Faith and Practice. QCOP will next be looking at Quaker writings on the subject, for inclusion in the new version of the larger book.

In September 2020, a zoom meeting was held with Lindsey Fielder Cook and her colleague Beatrice Liese from QUNO, the Quaker UN Office. Our aim was to discuss with them how we could broaden the appeal of QCOP for Quakers. The answer was to embed it more firmly in the Climate Change debate and the drive to live more sustainably. Since then we have been checking that all our literature reflects this more explicitly.

A booklet called Difficult Questions about Population was about two years in the making, and was finally published in November 2020. A collaborative effort with contributions from Roger Plenty and others, this aims to be a readable resource with plenty of graphics, examples, quotations and illustrations. It is sent free to members and is available to buy in the Friends House Bookshop, London, and at the Edinburgh Friends Meeting House. (This booklet is on this website under the title Difficult Questions)

On November 19th 2020, QCOP made its first presentation at a school, at Leighton Park  school.This was an initiative by David Tinsley of the Steering Group, who produced an interactive event on zoom as we were still in the second national lockdown.The feedback showed much appreciation of the explanation of  the place of population in the Climate Change debate, short clips from films such as David Attenborough at the RSA,and Smaller Families,the mention of solutions, graphs, and personal or group mind exercises.