Ethical Transportation

The following is an example of how Quakers work together as a spiritual community.  As those who know me know, and I’ve written about many times, nearly forty years ago I was led to live without a personal automobile.

That was triggered by a practical event.  I had reluctantly owned a couple of cars.  But when one was involved in an accident, at the time I was living in a city with a mass transit system, and increasingly concerned about many issues related to fossil fuels, the inner light showed me I simply could not continue to use a personal automobile.  So I did not replace that car.

This was from a confluence of factors, but basically because I felt it was wrong to waste so many resources on a personal luxury, when transportation could obviously be addressed by mass transit systems for the vast majority of people.  I was also acutely aware of the fact that fossil fuels are limited and nonrenewable resources, that we were wasting extravagantly, which would severely impact future generations.  I was also aware of the injustice of industrialized nations taking fossil fuels from other lands.

As someone with a strong background in science, there was no question that the greenhouse gas emissions would have devastating effects on our environment, although many of the specifics were not well understood at the time.

But perhaps the most motivating factor was related to art and beauty.  I was blessed to have been raised in beautiful, rural settings, as well as having been overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of places like the Rocky Mountains, where our family camped during vacations.  Taking photographs of these places was one of my passions.  When I moved to Indianapolis in my early twenties, and was immersed in clouds of smog (this being prior to the advent of catalytic converters), I had the horrifying image of the Rocky Mountains and all places of beauty, obscured by clouds of exhaust.


Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

It has been a lifelong source of frustration, and often tension with others, that I was unable to convince anyone else to give up their cars.  This was especially difficult regarding my own Quaker community, since so many Friends lived/live in rural settings with no mass transportation systems.  I was aware of these challenges, and knew I would be facing them myself when I returned to Iowa, which I just did.

In anticipation of this, using bicycles even more than I had in Indianapolis seemed one way forward.  I would often talk about this when I was asked about my plans for retirement.  I was very moved when my friends at Riley Hospital for Children, North Meadow Circle of Friends, and the Kheprw Institute (KI) all donated money to help me buy a good bicycle for this purpose.

One of the ways Friends support each other and their work is with a spiritual support committee.  Bear Creek Friends are small in number, and widely scattered geographically, but closely connected spiritually.   Recently one Friend brought attention to my concern about transportation, wondering if the meeting might provide more support, and suggested a conference phone call.  That resulted in some discussions by the whole meeting, and the writing and approval of the following minute (statement from the meeting).

I am very glad to have the meeting more connected to my concern now, and appreciate the support very much.  There are various things Friends have been doing related to this over the years.  I am not the only one who has been concerned about these things.  But I appreciate that this is now something that comes from the meeting as a whole.

One thing we have been doing now is to discuss ways we might bring more attention to the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation, especially in areas without mass transit available.  One idea is to explore the use of graphics and how they might help draw attention to this.


Following is the minute that was approved at Bear Creek Friends Meeting.  This will be taken to the annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) next week, where it will be one of the things the Peace and Social Concerns Committee will discuss.  If approved by the committee, after perhaps being modified, it would then be presented to the entire Yearly Meeting for discussion and possible approval.  If all of that happened, this would then be a statement from our Yearly Meeting to the wider world.  (This is not a forgone conclusion).

Ethical Transportation Minute

Bear Creek Meeting recognizes the long-standing concern that a member has held for several decades, regarding ethical transportation and care for the environment. As Standing Rock Water Protectors warn all of us, “We can’t drink oil. Keep it in the soil!”

We recognize that fossil fuel is a limited resource. Many of us consider the gravity of that fact seriously.
At this time, some of us continue to drive personal vehicles and use other gas-powered items, including farm equipment.

We recognize the discord between what we know–that we cannot rely on fossil fuel forever–and how we act. We are mindful that our driving is sometimes for convenience or matters of necessity, given the current structure of our urban, suburban, and rural landscape.

Engines and vehicles powered by renewable energy may be part of the answer, especially in rural areas and places without public transportation. Electric cars are not the entire or final answer. We also consider the infrastructure needed to support personal vehicles and the harmful extraction of resources and waste of materials involved in producing machinery that sits idle for so much of its lifetime.

With Divine leading, we endeavor to consider the urgency to take concrete steps now to prepare ourselves for prayerful discernment of a decision to give up our personal vehicle; to explore alternatives such as carpools, community-shared vehicles, moving to live close to public transit, etc.

Bear Creek Friends heeds the Counsel to take a serious look at making revolutionary and/or incremental changes in our lifestyles so we may move away from relying on fossil fuels , seeking to care for all creation.


Bear Creek Friends Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)


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