Francisco Burgos is the executive director of Pendle Hill, a Quaker learning and conference center outside of Philadelphia. Kristen Archer spoke with him about the link between a personal relationship with the natural world and advocating for economic justice.
What sparked your interest in protecting the natural world, and how has it evolved?
As a teenager, I had the opportunity to go for a 10-day hike in the mountains of my native Dominican Republic. I was deeply touched by the beauty of the trees, the clean water, the clear night sky, and the fresh air. It transformed me. I wanted everyone to have the same opportunity to be in a relationship with nature and recognize that we are part of it and that it is an essential value for life.
My love for nature deepened as I took every opportunity to learn more about how my personal choices impacted the natural world. My studies in sustainable development enriched this. I wanted to support social transformation with attention to nature by engaging in education and policymaking to protect the environment.
That led me to the Organization of the American States, where I was part of a team that supported the deployment of renewable energy to address climate change and promote sustainable development in the Americas.
What lessons can your work with sustainable development in Costa Rica teach us?
When we relocated to Costa Rica, my family found that it offered everything we were looking for: a Quaker education for our kids, a small multicultural community, a bilingual setting, and the opportunity to be in the cloud forest.
There I learned that community education and participation are critical for any progress toward sustainable development. Also, advocating for good environmental policies does not impede socioeconomic development. By investing in environmental protection, we enhance our living standards. Good policies save lives; good environmental policies are no exception.
Finally, everyone can take part in making the world a better place. We can support our community, share concerns, and learn with others how to collaborate as we carry out our tasks. Our voices and actions can greatly impact the policymaking process toward environmental stewardship.
How is Pendle Hill supporting healing the natural world, and how do you see that work growing in the future?
At Pendle Hill, we strive to exercise good environmental stewardship. We focus on protecting the land and providing good management to our arboretum. We avoid using dangerous chemicals and maintain a pollinator garden.
We recently expanded our organic garden, which supplies our kitchen with fresh produce and supports our farm-to-table strategy.
We want to install solar panels on our buildings, update our facilities with more energy-efficient features, and eliminate our fossil fuel consumption. We look forward to installing more electric vehicle chargers and offering learning opportunities on nature and spirituality.
What could Friends do to support sustainable development and environmental justice efforts?
I celebrate that as Friends, we recognize our responsibility to care for nature as an important part of our faith and practice. At the same time, I am aware that we are not yet where we want to be regarding environmental sustainability. For me, that includes environmental justice.
Our Friends communities can model what other faith communities can do around environmental protection and justice. I hope my practice of caring for the environment is a testimony of solidarity and a concrete act of love. Hopefully, that can be a powerful tool for closing the environmental justice gap.
Burgos will lead worship at the 2022 Annual Meeting.