Earth Quaker Action Team is a new group of Quaker Friends and friends of Friends who join millions of people around the world fighting for our threatened planet. We understand that the primary cause – corporations and nation-states – will continue their practice of business-as-usual: this was confirmed at the Copenhagen world climate conference – until strong movements using nonviolent direct action force them to do otherwise.
We are people who recycle and re-use, who drive hybrids and bicycles, who take buses and shorter showers, and at the same time know that the sum of individual actions cannot make up for the destructive decisions taken by large structures. We realize we must turn to the power of collective action.
We are people who love life, who can be noisy and can be quiet, and who can put our bodies in the way of business-as-usual. We love truth, are open to dialogue, and can show respect to opponents even as we confront them. We draw on a Quaker legacy of passion for doing the right thing and going inward to discover what the right thing is.
We begin with people in the Delaware Valley (PA, NJ, Delaware) but are open to becoming national. We start with one campaign but we are open to joining others as we grow.
After more than a century of exploitation of people and nature in the mountains of Appalachia, the coal companies found a way to do even more damage: to provide ever-fewer jobs with ever-growing destruction by literally blowing the tops off mountains.
Incredible wealth has been extracted from the coal seams of Appalachia while the people remain poor and often hungry. It’s a specific example of Warren Buffet’s comment as quoted by the New York Times, 11/26/06: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” (Buffet is one of the richest people in the world.)
Dynamite and giant equipment are escalating this war and photos of mountain-top removal show it. The struggle is intense in places like W. Virginia, and allies are needed around the U.S. Earth Quakers want to help.
The coal companies need banks to finance their destructive practices, and PNC Bank is one of those involved. PNC is the fifth-largest bank in the U.S. in terms of deposits, and makes money from its involvement with mountain-top removal coal companies. PNC also portrays itself as a “green bank” because of its building practices.
This is one of those places where climate change meets economic justice, where the profitable exploitation of people and nature hurts locally AND globally, by pushing more carbon into the atmosphere.
But PNC Bank can make good on its desire to be green. Instead of supporting the war against people and nature represented by mountain-top removal, it can escalate its own commitment to green practices, going beyond vegetated roofs on its local branches to cleansing itself from financial dealings with coal companies. (See our Call to Action for details.)
Bank Like Appalachia Matters! Uses nonviolent direct action to shine the light on PNC Bank and support the bank to make the changes it needs to make. If banks withdraw their support from mountain-top removal, and coal and fossil fuels in general, and begin to lobby for sustainable policies on national and international levels, office holders gain more space to make planet-friendly decisions. If banks refuse to change, politicians who fail to vote green will increasingly be seen as aligned with special interests against people and planet, and will be disgraced. By shining the light on the banks, politicians – with already shredding credibility – will face public accountability. Nonviolent direct action will, as it did in the ‘sixties and other decades, force a renewal of democracy.
In March our delegation had a face-to-face meeting with the regional president of PNC. We acknowledged that individuals like us can adjust our lifestyles in light of information about climate change, but major changes in business practices must be made by institutions like PNC. The financial giants that brought the world to its knees two years ago – and are still resisting regulations that can prevent another plunge — cannot now be trusted to guide the economy through the even larger challenge of climate change. To take one example, if NASA climate scientist James Hansen is correct, the coal that is now in the ground needs to stay in the ground if disaster is to be averted; coal is the worst of the energy sources in terms of carbon impact.
Coal companies say that coal is essential to keep electricity available, but science doesn’t agree. The cover article in Scientific American (November 2009) explains that the developing technologies using wind, solar, geothermal, and water power will be able by 2030 to meet the energy needs of the planet without fossil fuels. (Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future.”)
Mountain-top removal attacks not only nature but also the health of the people. (See Science, January 8, 2010.) Yet both nature and the people would be helped by switching to wind farms to generate energy. An engineering study of the Coal River Mountain found that a wind farm positioned on the ridge would create more electricity than the coal under the ridge could produce, AND would create more jobs in building the wind farm, AND would require more workers over the longer run. (Once a mountain top is destroyed, the jobs are over.)
William Penn is only the best known of the Quakers who believe that it is not enough to point out the injury caused by bad policies; we also need to point to a vision of something better. The crisis called “climate change” is in fact an opportunity to revamp structures that have been hurting people and nature for centuries. Just as Penn invented a “Holy Experiment” in Philadelphia to try new ways of planning a city, of living without an army, of governance and fair dealing, so it is our generation’s turn to try new ways of relating to the earth and each other. One guide is the book written for the Quaker Institute for the Future, Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy, by Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver. Better than a blueprint, the book describes a different framework that makes harmonious the new institutions we build.
Earth Quakers do not shrink from the necessary task of protest, especially under the increased urgency of environmental decline, but at the same time our protest is saying “Yes” to a better way. As the alliances grow from the grassroots, we expect hope to grow as well. The widely-shared values of justice, democracy, and respect for nature will increasingly guide the choices made in our society.
Member-at-large George Lakey answers with five points here.