Yesterday I wrote about the message from the Friends World Committee for Consultation’s efforts to promote sustainability action in the global Quaker community. Following is my response, which included the Minutes related to our environment that have been approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) over the past decade.
I am glad to hear from you about FWCC’s work. I’m afraid I didn’t know about the 2016 Minute. I’ve shared that with the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of our yearly meeting, of which I am clerk.
I would be very glad to work with you on this. Our yearly meeting has a long history of concern for care for our environment. We have been challenged in trying to reduce our fossil fuel use because so many live in rural areas, as mentioned in the ethical transportation minute.
At one time we had an Earthcare subcommittee of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, but a couple of years ago laid that down and moved that work back to the Peace and Social Concerns Committee.
Attached are the more recent Minutes related to our environment that Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) has approved.
Several Friends have had a life long commitment to environmental justice and concerns. Don Laughlin, who died recently, was an engineer who worked on a number of things related, such as LED lighting. Probably about 10 years ago he and his son, who is an architect, designed the last house he lived in that had solar panels, passive solar, composting, in floor water heating, etc. His ANNUAL electric bill was about $300
Until recently I had spent most of my adult life in Indianapolis, but remained closely connected to the yearly meeting. The environment has been one of the main focuses of my life. After having a few cars, when one was involved in an accident about 40 years ago, I decided to see if I could live without owning another one, and was successful in that. That had a number of significant impacts on my life.
The last six years, before I moved to Iowa last summer, I attended North Meadow Circle of Friends, an unprogrammed meeting belonging to Ohio Valley YM, so some of my projects have been shared with that meeting and Iowa Friends. Some of those include being an Action Leader in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, being involved with Indianapolis’ Dakota Access Pipeline resistance efforts, where I made wonderful connections with Native Americans, and being involved with a black youth mentoring community, the Kheprw Institute, in an inner city neighborhood in Indianapolis, that has a strong environmental focus. They have a huge aquaponics system, sell rain barrels that they make, and are the social justice center for most of the organizations in Indianapolis. I was also involved in fossil fuel divestment campaigns. An article about that was in a Quaker Earthcare Witness publication. North Meadow Friends divested their Chase bank account.
Bear Creek meeting recently “officially” joined in my environmental efforts, and the ethical transportation Minute grew out of that.
I’m an avid photographer, which I use as photojournalism, so I have hundreds of photos related to these efforts.
In 2013 Iowa Yearly Meeting held a Climate Conference at the Yearly Meeting’s boarding high school that is on a working farm, Scattergood Friends School and Farm. The conference had presentations and discussions involving environmental justice leaders around the state, including a state senator, and Jose Aguto who was at the time the environmental lobbyist of FCNL. The next day an Earth Walk involved some of the participants of the conference (me) and several Scattergood students and staff, who walked the 13 miles from the school into the local university town, Iowa City, picking up trash along the way. I made a video of that that is included in the links on the Quakers and Climate Change Worldwide website. (I really wanted to be on the walk, because I was a senior at Scattergood in 1969, when, as part of the Moratorium on the Vietnam War, the entire student body and most of the staff walked that same 13 miles into Iowa City to join in the antiwar events there).
I also created a video related to the Dakota Access pipeline.
Native American concerns have long been a concern of my monthly meeting, Bear Creek, in central Iowa. My recent relationships with Native Americans, and learning about the water protectors at Standing Rock, have lead me to believe indigenous people may have many answers for how to proceed on environmental justice issues. In September I had an evening presentation at the Bear Creek meetinghouse where I showed videos of the dog attacks on the water protectors at Standing Rock, and played a number of videos of Nahko and Medicine for the People.
I write about these things almost daily on my blog: https://jeffkisling.com/
I’m glad to hear from you, and about your work. I’d be glad to continue interacting with you about this.
Minutes Approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)
The following minute is a statement of concern and suggestion for action about a set of issues that are affecting us now and will increasingly affect all of us in the future. Friends are encouraged to prayerfully consider how they will each respond as individuals, families, and meetings.
Humanity is no longer in a right relationship with God’s creation. Because of our numbers and the way many of us live, we are using resources and impacting the environment in ways that cannot be sustained, the primary example being our dependence upon fossil fuels. Society‘s consciousness of this has recently been heightened by rapidly increasing oil prices. People are becoming aware that the way of living that we have become accustomed to cannot continue. If we don’t make changes voluntarily, they will be forced upon us. There has been an unspoken assumption that it is acceptable for developed countries to use a disproportionate amount of resources compared to underdeveloped countries. As oil supplies dwindle and prices soar, there is a growing potential for conflict to arise worldwide over remaining oil supplies. Vast resources are required, not only to produce personal automobiles, but for the infrastructure to support them, including highway systems, parking, car washes, supply stores, repair shops, auto insurance, licenses, sales lots, highway patrol, and gas stations. Exhaust from all types of vehicles contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming. Our communities are built on the assumption that we all have the means to travel great distances to get food, go to school, work, and meeting. This has an enormous impact on oil supplies. Friends could help provide leadership by redesigning our communities and lifestyles in such a way that we can forego automobiles. Improved systems of inter- and intra-city mass transportation will be one key to this. There are organizations working to expand and improve rail passenger transportation. Creating more bicycle trails and encouraging the use of bicycles is important. The challenge of giving up automobiles is much greater in rural than urban areas, but the factors at work are the same. If those who do have alternatives to personal automobiles would use them, it would help those who need more time and resources to develop their own alternatives. The ease and relatively low cost of long distance travel by air has led to a sense that rapid travel over long distances is normal and acceptable. This has made the air travel industry a major contributor to global climate change. Friends are encouraged to avoid air travel and to work to reduce the need for long distance travel. We need to explore ways to do business remotely. This is a new area that will require trial and error to see what does and does not work for us. Our eating habits also should be considered. It is estimated that the food for an average American meal travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the consumer. Studies have shown that the livestock industry contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than transportation does. We need to eat locally grown food whenever possible. Community garden plots, community-supported agriculture, and re-learning how to preserve foods will help, as will reducing meat consumption. Friends are encouraged to work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and their local, state, and national representatives to help pass environmentally responsible legislation, including government support for improved mass transportation, and blocking construction of new coal and nuclear fission power plants. We have seen the unintended side effects of legislation promoting the increased use of ethanol. We encourage Friends to be examples as we explore creative ways to promote renewable energy, reduce energy consumption, recycle, and facilitate the use of local foods and products. There is an urgent need to curb oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, right now. Until some of these physical and social changes occur, it may be difficult for some Friends to give up their cars. Doing so as soon as possible is our goal, and could be a catalyst for change of the magnitude needed to reduce the current rate of environmental damage.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) opposes the practices of both tar sands extraction and hydraulic fracturing.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) is grateful to Scattergood Friends School and Farm for recognizing the need for converting to renewable energy supplies, and strongly supports it in this endeavor.
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) supports a carbon fee and dividend approach to accelerate the necessary transition from fossil fuel to renewable sources of energy.
We are deeply moved and appreciate the contribution of Junior Yearly Meeting to our ongoing concern regarding changes in our environment. Their project to raise funds for FCNL’s efforts to address environmental concerns by selling flowers was both spiritually and artistically beautiful.
Interconnections Among Dilemmas
We as Quakers, experience the unifying core that animates all peoples and nature. This common experience compels us to work at resolving injustices that separate peoples and people from nature.
American society, in which we live and breathe, is today saturated by greed and violence to the extent that life as we know it veers toward extinction. Maladies that we experience as separate are in reality deeply interconnected.
Examples are legion:
Our imperialist foreign policy, which encompasses mass killings of people of color has the same roots as violence within our borders.
Gun violence parallels military violence and systemic racism.
Domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse are directly coupled with military violence and structural poverty.
Massive population displacement results from war, climate disruption and economic policy.
Climate disruption follows from the unquenchable greed and military dominance that alienates us from each other and the rest of the world.
Only radical turning will save the world. It is both frightening and challenging to consider that a great part of both the problem and the solution lies within U.S. society.
Our hope rests in the spirit of Christ moving within and among us and our attentiveness to its direction. Within Friends, different members bring different gifts of discernment and action.
Artistic creativity opens possibility and inspires broader participation. Those who faithfully lobby lawmakers and insert themselves in democratic processes move us forward. Those who engage in healing and rebuilding our communities provide the basis for peace and stability. Interrupting the racism woven into our culture opens untold possibilities. Alternatives to Violence workers dismantle roots of violence and build bridges. Those who aid in releasing us from the greed endemic to capitalism can do much to save the environment and interrupt rapacious resource exploitation. Spirit-grounded educators ease technological and intellectual barriers to the world we seek. Individuals nearing the end of their life may offer unique wisdom, love and support to those with the energy to continue life on earth.
Quaker Social Change Ministry of AFSC, Advocacy Teams of FCNL, Experiment with Light, and Clearness Committees are among the various Quaker techniques for moving us forward towards the Light and away from fear and despair. How we avail ourselves of them will rest on the particular resources of the communities in which we live and diverse gifts within our meetings.
We have one purpose; a spiritual awakening and creating a peaceful, loving, just and sustainable world. And there are diverse approaches to reach the goal. We act in harmony when we support, appreciate, and speak truth to those whose struggles intersect with ours, even when the paths seem to be different.
Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles. We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult. This is even more challenging in rural areas. But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.
Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.
Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems. These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.
Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help. We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc. We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation.
One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation. Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles. Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness. This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness. We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths. We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.