Just over three years ago, I wrote a blog post questioning whether I could still call myself an activist and reflecting on what type of social engagement I felt drawn to. An even earlier post, questioned what kinds of political events I wanted to bring my children to, especially after the Bush Administration demoralized so many of us who opposed the wars Bush started. This year I’ve felt a rebirth of my activist spirit and, after a long sojourn from blogging, want to share what has been life giving.
Ever since the genesis of the Earth Quaker Action Team, I’ve been cheering them from a distance, thinking that some day—after the book came out, then after the year of fundraising for the GSFS Costa Rica Exchange Program—I’d like to get involved with them. I got an added nudge last year when I showed up at the Philadelphia Flower Show and got to witness one of their protests against PNC Bank for its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining. Finally in December, I showed up at one of their meetings and found something I’ve been missing in my life: positive, Spirit-led and strategic activism about something important, which actually feels hopeful.
Part of it is that this is just a terrific group of people, several of whom I always wished I knew better. Part of it is the singing which begins most meetings, often led by a member of Tribe One, so the songs are spirit-filled and on key (not a given in activist circles, I must say). Something about the singing feels symbolic of what’s special about this group. People are showing up with their whole selves and with joy, which makes the meetings inspiring rather than draining.
Part of my enthusiasm comes from the fact that I’ve felt a deep spiritual connection to mountains since I started camping in high school, and I love the fact that we are working on an issue that connects that love with my concern about climate change and for economic justice. When the mountains are destroyed to get coal, the people of Appalachia are the first to suffer—with rising rates of cancer and birth defects—but then the coal is brought to places like our area to burn, triggering my daughter’s asthma and contributing to the climate change affecting the village where I was in the Peace Corps, which I wrote about in my last post. I love that we are making these connections. I also love that this is a campaign we could conceivably win. PNC describes itself as a “green bank” with Quaker roots, and EQAT has been both smart and visionary in calling them to live up to their own best image of themselves.
The fact that I joined just as EQAT (pronounced "equate") was getting ready to launch the Green Your Money Program and now the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice—a 200-miles walk from Philadelphia to PNC’s national headquarters in Pittsburgh—has made it easy for me to jump in with both feet, finding things to do that feel both meaningful and empowering. Mostly I’ve been networking with other people of faith and other green activists (I have to put in special plugs for Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light and the folks at 350.org), and it’s wonderful to connect with others who share the same concerns. If any of you want to join us along the way, or if you have contacts near Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in particular, please be in touch.
I still feel led to talk about the impact climate change will have on Africa, something you don’t hear much about in the US, and I am still searching for ways to bring forward that message. Partly I’m hoping to do it in the new book I’m working on (which is still taking shape, so don’t ask me what it is about). I’ll be going back to Botswana this summer for the first time in 25 years, so I’m extremely excited about that! It feels like 2012 is a year full of rich personal changes—and hopefully some social change, too.