Earth Quaker Action Team
July - August 2010
Volume and Number:
Volume 10, No 4
Information and Action Addressing Public Policy for
an Ecologically Sustainable World
Volume 10, Number 4
Earth Quaker Action Team
George Lakey and Sharon Cantor
ivian Stockman <ohvec.org>
A Wake-up Call in Appalachia
low bulldozers rested from their labor of pushing debris over the
“Stop a minute and listen to the birds,” Larry Gibson said. side of what mountain remained. Beds of dynamite were already
We didn’t hear any.
laid out for the next onslaught where black rock indicated the
Our group—seven Swarthmore College students and presence of coal.
three members of the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) from
While Massey Energy Company wants to blow up the land
Philadelphia—had traveled to Larry’s land on top of Kayford where Larry’s family has lived for generations, Larry has turned
Mountain in West Virginia to see the brutality of mountaintop down millions of dollars and withstood violent intimidation to
removal (MTR) surface mining for coal.
keep his home. He told us, “I’ve put the property into a land
Blasting the tops off mountains destroys forests and the trust, so whatever happens to me, this part of the mountain will
mountains themselves, buries valleys, contaminates streams and be safe. I just wish the country would wake up and save the rest.”
rivers, destroys biodiversity, and ruins peoples’ lives and com- Bank Like Appalachia Matters (BLAM!)
munities. We read about the toxic chemicals that MTR deposits
Mountaintop removal and its consequences are part of
in the mountain valley villages’ water supply. Now we could see the larger challenge of global warming. As burning coal releases
one of those communities nestled below, where the steep sides of more carbon dioxide than any other source of energy, ecological
Kayford Mountain and Coal River Mountain joined.
activists must help sway large actors to motivate systemic changes
“The people down there are living in a war zone,” Larry said. away from a coal-based economy. Coal is not, and cannot be,
“It’s a war against nature using dynamite and huge machines, and clean or green.
it hurts all our families. Their houses shake when Massey Coal
EQAT (pronounced “equate”) is a new group of Friends
blows up the mountain. The water goes bad, the air goes bad, and and friends of Friends who join millions of people around the
sometimes people are even hurt or killed by the flying debris.”
world fighting for our threatened planet. Our mission is to build
Larry led us along the ridge to the edge of his property, the a just and sustainable economy through campaigns that draw on
breeze turning stiffer as the path grew narrower. Then, suddenly, the Quaker legacy of nonviolent direct action. We are based in
we were standing above the lunar landscape of a slaughtered Philadelphia but open to becoming national. We’ve started with
mountain. In the distance, looking like tiny children’s toys, yel- one campaign but are open to joining others as we grow.
For our first campaign, Bank Like Appalachia Matters (BLAM!), we chose a
Quaker Eco-Bulletin (QEB) is pub-
target close to home: PNC Bank. PNC is a descendant of Provident National, the
lished bi-monthly by Quaker Earthcare
“Quaker bank” founded by members of the Religious Society of Friends in 1865.
Witness (formerly FCUN) as an insert
PNC currently promotes itself as a “green” bank, due to its buildings being certified
in BeFriending Creation.
by the U.S. Green Building Council and a policy of applying green construction
standards to any renovated or newly constructed branch office. PNC states, “We’re
The vision of Quaker Earthcare Wit-
always looking for new ways to be green.”
ness (QEW) includes integrating into
the beliefs and practices of the Society
However, PNC Bank makes money from its involvement with MTR-practicing
of Friends the Truths that God’s Cre-
coal companies. In 1995, PNC bought a controlling interest in BlackRock, an in-
ation is to be held in reverence in its own
vestment firm specializing in coal and oil. Massey Energy, Consol Energy, and Arch
right, and that human aspirations for
Coal are among the top 10 holdings of BlackRock energy funds. Al three companies
peace and justice depend upon restor-
practice mountaintop removal to mine coal in impoverished areas of Appalachia. PNC
ing the Earth’s ecological integrity. As a
member organization of Friends Com-
has also provided loans and directly managed Massey transactions, in one instance
mittee on National Legislation, QEW
resulting in $600 million to expand coal production.
seeks to strengthen Friends’ support for
We have asked PNC Bank to withdraw investments in any companies that
FCNL’s witness in Washington DC for
engage in MTR and to refrain from making loans or offering other financial services
peace, justice, and an Earth restored.
to those companies. Instead, PNC should financially support alternative, renewable
QEB’s purpose is to advance Friends’
sources of energy along with community development in Appalachia.
witness on public and institutional poli-
Here is one of those junctures where climate change meets economic justice—
cies that affect the Earth’s capacity to
where the profitable exploitation of people and nature creates local and global harm
support life. QEB articles aim to inform
Friends about public and corporate poli-
by pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. PNC Bank can choose a different kind
cies that have an impact on society’s
of escalation. Instead of supporting the war against people and nature represented by
relationship to Earth, and to provide
MTR, it can escalate its own commitment to green practices, going beyond vegetated
analysis and critique of societal trends
roofs on its local branches to cleanse itself of financial dealings with coal companies.
and institutions that threaten the health
BLAM! uses nonviolent direct action to shine the light on PNC Bank and
of the planet.
provide space for the bank to make the changes it needs to make. If PNC withdraws
Friends are invited to contact us about
its support first from MTR and then from coal and fossil fuels, in general, and begins
writing an article for QEB. Submissions
to lobby for sustainable policies on national and international levels, political leaders
are subject to editing and should:
gain more ground to make planet-friendly decisions.
• Explain why the issue is a
On the other hand, if PNC refuses to change, politicians who fail to vote
• Provide accurate, documented
green will increasingly be seen as aligned with special interests against people and
background information that re-
the planet, and they will be disgraced. By shining the light on banks, we ultimately
ﬂects the complexity of the issue
expose politicians to public accountability. Nonviolent direct action, as it did in the
and is respectful toward other
1960s and other decades, will force a renewal of democracy.
points of view.
• Relate the issue to legislation or
Nonviolent direct action is in our Quaker DNA, going back to the 17th century
• List what Friends can do.
founder of the Religious Society of Friends, George Fox. Thousands of Quakers in
• Provide references and sources
that first generation spent time in jail in England. The founder of Pennsylvania,
for additional information.
William Penn—whose statue on top of Philadelphia’s City Hall is called “The Law-
QEB Coordinator: Keith Helmuth
giver”—engaged in civil disobedience in London. Many Quakers participated in a
nonviolent invasion of Puritan Massachusetts, defying the theocracy and getting
QEB Editorial Team: Judy Lumb,
Sandra Lewis, Barbara Day
tortured and even killed for their trouble.
With a beginning like that, it’s no surprise that every century since has had its
To receive QEB:
“Quaker troublemakers”—the Underground Railroad being only the most famous
example. In the 1960s, A Quaker Action Group (AQAG) defied the U.S. govern-
ment by sailing to North Vietnam with medical supplies. AQAG also joined Martin
Mail: write to address below
Luther King’s organization in the People’s Campaign in Washington, DC and part-
Projects of Quaker Earthcare Witness,
nered with Puerto Ricans protesting the U.S. Navy’s use of the island of Culebra for
such as QEB, are funded by contribu-
target practice. Group members were arrested while building a chapel on a targeted
beach. That campaign ended the Navy’s dangerous and environmentally destructive
Quaker Earthcare Witness
use of Culebra.
173-B N Prospect Street
Many people are ready to unite the issues of economy and environment. Neither
Burlington VT 05401
an ecologist’s practice of seeing the big picture nor a Quaker’s practice of seeking
integrity supports a worldview that separates economic institutions from their impact
Quaker Eco-Bulletin 10:4 • July–August 2010
(from left) Lily Cavanagh, Zein Nakhoda, Hannah Jones, and Julian Brelsford play the
Fossil Fools during an April 1, 2010 action outside PNC headquarters in Philadelphia
on nature and nature’s children. People die when an economic
Our Flower Show action got the attention of the local press,
system “externalizes” the costs of pollution. Species die and the with articles printed in the Philadelphia City Paper (Billman et
climate warms when an economic system pretends that the market al., “A Mil ion Stories,” 3/10/10) and University City Review
is paramount. We need groups that support people to go outside (Bloom, “Earth Quaker Action Team Confronts PNC Bank at
the box to tel a regional president of PNC, as we did, that a bank Flower Show,” 3/10/10). We felt very encouraged and satisfied
has to take environmental responsibility for its financial dealings. with this first effort!
Protest, though valuable, is not enough. Climate change
Not long afterward was Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s March
chal enges basic assumptions, for example, that economic growth Sessions, one of two annual gatherings for business and fel owship.
of the kind we’re used to is still a good idea. When deep assump- We spoke about BLAM! in a plenary meeting on contemporary
tions are chal enged, people yearn for an answering vision. EQAT prophetic witness. EQAT also joined the Middle School Friends
commits to bold visioning that affirms life.
program in a street-speaking session outside Philadelphia’s Envi-
While EQAT comes from a seedbed of past Quaker action, ronmental Protection Agency office. Two passersby stopped and
we welcome non-Friends to join us in a community of respect. joined us, and several middle schoolers spoke.
EQAT’s strategy is to design a campaign that focuses on a specific
On April 1, we partnered with another grassroots environ-
goal rather than trying to act on a variety of issues. Our values mental group, Philly Rising Tide, to conduct a Fossil Fools Day
include creativity, participation, listening, empowerment, and action outside PNC’s city headquarters. We carried signs with
attention to Spirit.
oversized voided checks, wore jester’s hats, played the guitar and
First Months in Action
banjo, and sang folk songs. We also did street-speaking, handed
In March 2010, our delegation had a face-to-face meeting out flyers, and engaged passersby with a spirit of fun. The Daily
with the regional president of PNC. We acknowledged that we, Pennsylvanian student newspaper covered this action (Trimmer,
as individuals, can adjust our lifestyles in light of information “Problems with PNC’s business ventures,” 4/8/10).
about climate change, but major changes in business practices
Most recently, we gathered for a memorial service after
must be made by institutions like PNC. After that dialogue, we the tragic explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 Massey coal
mounted our first action at the Philadelphia Flower Show—an miners. About 35 people came to our vigil on April 13 outside
annual event attracting over 250,000 people of which PNC is a the main city branch of PNC. Amid the cold and rainy weather,
there were bright umbrellas and raincoats and posters to explain
EQAT staked out various entrances at the Flower Show, our witness. Those present experienced a deep solidarity and
working in shifts throughout the week and distributing over 2,500 commitment, as they prayed for the families of the miners and
flyers. Swarthmore student activists led a chorus of familiar songs for PNC’s disengagement from this exploitative industry.
with updated lyrics about PNC and MTR. We spoke with lots The Threat and the Vision
of people who were aware of MTR but shocked by their bank’s
Coal companies say that coal is essential to keep electricity
involvement, as wel as four visitors from West Virginia who available, but not everyone agrees. Jacobson and Delucchi outline
expressed gratitude for our concern.
a plan to power the planet without fossil fuels by 2030, using
Quaker Eco-Bulletin 10:4 • July–August 2010
renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal,
One guide is the book written for the Quaker Institute for
and hydropower (Jacobson, M.Z. and Delucchi, M.A. Evaluat- the Future by Brown and Garver, Right Relationship: Building a
ing the Feasibility of a Large-Scale Wind,Water, and Sun Energy Whole Earth Economy. Better than a blueprint, the book describes
Infrastructure, Scientific American, November 2009).
a different framework that makes harmonious the new institu-
Reputable and scholarly publications have denounced MTR tions we build.
and the coal industry as harmful to the nature and people of Ap-
EQAT does not shrink from the necessary task of protest,
palachia, for example, the January 2010 issue of Science magazine especially under the increased urgency of environmental decline,
(Palmer et al., “Mountaintop Mining Consequences”) and a May but at the same time our protest is saying “Yes” to a better way.
2006 article in Mountain Research and Development (Owen and As the alliances grow from the grassroots, we expect that hope
Boyer, “Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Industry in the will grow as well. The widely shared values of justice, democracy,
and respect for nature increasingly will guide the choices made
Owen and Boyer see real potential for sustainable energy in our society.
development in Appalachia, but only if regional activism enables
To join our BLAM! campaign or learn more about EQAT,
wind energy to play a larger role. As reported in Orion (Reece, please contact Ingrid Lakey at email@example.com or visit our
“Hell Yeah, We Want Windmills,” July/August 2009), an engi- website <eqat.wordpress.com>.
neering study of the Coal River Mountain found that a wind
farm positioned on the ridge would create more electricity than George Lakey is a Visiting Professor and Research Fel ow at
the coal under the ridge could produce, create new jobs during Swarthmore Col ege. He has led 1,500 workshops on five continents.
He has worked with Cesar Chavez in leading strategy workshops for
construction, and require more workers for operation and main- activists; and preceding the 1994 elections in South Africa, he co-led
tenance in the long run.
peacekeeping workshops with African National Congress members
William Penn is only the best known of the Quakers who and others in skills of nonviolent intervention. Lakey has founded
believed that it is not enough to point out the injury caused by and co-founded numerous organizations, including A Quaker Action
bad policies. We also need to point to a vision of something bet- Group, Training for Change, Movement for a New Society, and
Philadelphia Jobs with Peace Campaign. In addition to his activism,
ter. The crisis called “climate change” is in fact an opportunity he has authored eight books as well as numerous articles.
to revamp structures that have been hurting people and nature
for centuries. Just as Penn invented a “Holy Experiment” in Sharon Cantor is a member of Bethesda Monthly Meeting (Maryland)
and active in EQAT. From 2008–10, she served as Grants Associate
Philadelphia to try new ways of planning and governing a city, at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. She is now pursuing an MBA at
living without an army, and dealing fairly with native people, so Carnegie Mellon University and planning to work on environmental
it is our generation’s turn to try new ways of relating to Earth sustainability in business. She wishes to thank EQAT members for
and to each other.
contributing their language and ideas to this article.
EQAT members and Swarthmore students gather in solidarity to mourn the 29 Massey
coal miners killed in April 2010.