Capitalocene and Revolution

Two things are clear.  We are facing rapidly accelerating deterioration of environmental conditions, and current approaches to making changes on the scale necessary to prevent these things from spiraling out of control are stunningly ineffective.

It is time for nothing short of a revolution.  The capitalist system is killing Mother Earth and us.  As I study a wide variety of sources about this, the term Capitalocene,  is emerging as an important concept.

Geologic ages are divided into epochs.  Our current epoch is the Holocene epic.

“The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems,including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change.”

The following is from the blog of David F. Ruccio Occasional Links and Commentary.

“Jason Moore in Capitalism in the Web of Life proposes that the Anthropocene be renamed the ‘Capitalocene’, since ‘the rise of capitalism after 1450 marked a turning point in the history of humanity’s relation with the rest of nature, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture.’”

Capitalocene points to the ways capitalism—the particular tendencies and dynamics associated with the appropriation and distribution of surplus-value, the accumulation of capital, and much else—has both made the despoiling of the natural environment (e.g., through the use of fossil fuels) central to the production and distribution of commodities and shifted its effects onto poor people and minorities, who bear higher levels of water, air, and other kinds of pollution than anyone else.

Finally, the term Capitalocene carries with it the possibility of imagining the end of capitalism, and therefore a radical change in the way human beings relate to the natural environment. To be clear, I am not suggesting that global warming and other environmental problems would be automatically eliminated with a radical transformation of the way the economy is currently organized.

Environmental concerns will require particular changes in thinking to be made central to whatever noncapitalist economies are imagined and enacted as we move forward.

I do, however, maintain that eliminating capitalism will be an important step in setting aside and overcoming many of the obstacles to creating a different, better relationship in and with the natural environment.”

Posted in climate change, revolution, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and our Environment

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.

Dear Susanna,
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:
I’m glad to hear from you, and about your work. I’d be glad to continue interacting with you about this.
Jeff Kisling

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.


Ethical Transportation

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.


Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, Ethical Transportation, Indigenous, Kheprw Institute, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

FWCC Sustainability Project

The Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) is an organization to facilitate connections among Quakers worldwide.

This morning I received the following message from Susanna Mattingly, the Sustainability Communications Officer for FWCC.  She references the information on the Quakers and Climate Change Worldwide website, where we have shared some information about Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservatives)’s environmental work.  I intend to reply to this soon, as part of the yearly meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns work.

Greetings from London! My name is Susanna Mattingly and I have recently joined the FWCC World Office in London in the newly created role of Sustainability Communications Officer to promote sustainability action in the global Quaker community, over the next 2 years.

I am getting in touch following your post about the actions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) on the Quakers and Climate Change Worldwide website.
I am working to help yearly meetings around the world take further action on the Sustainability Minute approved at the World Plenary Meeting in Peru in 2016, which as you may know, asks yearly meetings to initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability, involving Young Friends in key roles.
As I start out on this project, I am keen to understand more about what yearly meetings need in relation to sustainability and climate change. This is something I have asked all yearly meetings around the world to consider. I would welcome your reflections on your yearly meeting’s experiences in recent years.

We want to create an empowering movement that will inspire Friends around the world to get involved, so a large focus of my work is sharing positive stories that celebrate Quaker responses to climate change. I hoped you might be interested in working with me to potentially produce a case study about the environmental initiatives of Friends in Iowa, in particular the Ethical Transportation Minute? Examples of other case studies from Friends around the world can be found on our website here.

The kind of questions it would be interesting to discuss with you include:

• How does climate change affect your life and your community in Iowa?
• Examples of environmental action taking place within your yearly meeting or your local meeting or church
• What changes would you most like to see in this area? What would you like to see happen?
• Do you have any inspiring stories to share of Friends taking climate action?

If you would be interested in working with me on this, I would be happy to set up a Skype call when we might discuss it in more detail, but I’m also happy to communicate by email – whatever is most convenient for you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and please let me know if you have any questions.

In friendship,

Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth
The Light of Christ has inspired Quakers throughout the generations. As we gather together in Pisac, Peru in 2016, we feel this light stronger than ever in our calling to care for the Earth on which we live. It is calling us from all traditions: programmed, unprogrammed, liberal, and evangelical. It calls us to preserve this Earth for our children, our grandchildren and all future generations to come, working as though life were to continue for 10,000 years to come. Be ready for action with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight. (Luke 12:35, Revised English Bible)
Our faith as Quakers is inseparable from our care for the health of our planet Earth. We see that our misuse of the Earth’s resources creates inequality, destroys community, affects health and well-being, leads to war and erodes our integrity. We are all responsible for stewardship of our natural world. We love this world as God’s gift to us all. Our hearts are crying for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care.
We are at a historical turning point. Internationally, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals oblige governments to take action. Faith groups and other civil society are playing a major role. As Quakers, we are part of this movement. The FWCC World Conference approved the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice in April 2012, while the FWCC World Office was a signatory to the Quaker statement on climate change in 2014 and divested from fossil fuels in June 2015.
We recognise that the environmental crisis is a symptom of a wider crisis in our political and economic systems. Our loving and well informed environmental actions as Friends, consistent with our spiritual values, must therefore work to transform these systems.
Many of us all over the Quaker world are taking practical actions as individuals and communities. At this Plenary, a consultation of more than sixty Friends from all over the world worked to build on these leadings with further practical action. The Annex attached to these minutes shows examples of what Friends are doing already or propose to do.
We must redouble our efforts right now. We must move beyond our individual and collective comfort zones and involve the worldwide Quaker community and others of like mind. Just as Jesus showed us, real change requires us to challenge ourselves to be effective instruments of change. We can do more.
On recommendation of this Consultation, and after some discussion, we adopt the following minute:
In this effort for sustainability, and mindful of the urgency of this work, this Plenary asks the FWCC World Office and Central Executive Committee to:
1. Invest FWCC World funds ethically.
2. Share Quaker experiences with other faith groups to inspire them to action, especially through the World Council of Churches.
3. Seek ways of connecting Friends worldwide that are sustainable.
4. Facilitate dissemination of training materials on sustainability issues for Quaker leaders, pastors and teachers.
This FWCC Plenary Meeting also asks all Yearly Meetings to:
1. Initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next 12 months. These may build on existing projects of individuals or monthly meetings or they may be new initiatives. We ask that they encourage Young Friends to play key roles. We ask that meetings minute the progress and results, so as to share them with FWCC and Quaker meetings.
2. Support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability.
3. Support the work done by Quaker organisations such as the Quaker United Nations Office and the Quaker Council for European Affairs to ensure that international agreements and their implementation support sustainability.
This FWCC Plenary Meeting asks individual Friends and groups (such as Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and ad hoc groups within Meetings) to Share inspiring experiences of living sustainably on the new “sustainability webpage” of the Quakers in the World website: This webpage can be used as a source of ideas, inspiration and action.
Annex to the Minute: Possibilities for practical sustainability action
from the Pisac consultation
Individuals can:
1. Dedicate personal time to nature.
2. Reduce consumption and use your consumer buying power to create change.
3. Cut down on meat consumption, be aware of energy costs in production and transport of all foods and methane from ruminant animals, support sustainable agriculture.
4. Travel – cycle, walk, use public transport or alternatives to private cars, keep air travel to a minimum.
5. Grow your own food and plant trees.
6. Be politically active in promoting sustainability concerns.
7. Share environmental concerns through books, publications, conversations, electronic media
8. Reduce energy use.
9. Use less water and harvest water.
10. Make time for spiritual connection with God.
Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and small groups within Meetings can:
1. Live in a community, share housing, participate in a transition town movement.
2. Educate yourself and others.
3. Share transport and equipment.
4. Develop urban agriculture, community gardens, community supported agriculture, tree planting.
5. Love nature and encourage others to do so: we protect the things we love; get children out in nature; take care of nature around your meeting house (e.g., picking up trash/litter).
6. Invest ethically and divest from fossil fuels.
7. Ensure meeting houses are carbon neutral.
8. Build alliances, seek visibility, approach legislators.
9. Share sustainability skills.
Yearly Meetings can:
1. Support the sustainability actions of Monthly Meetings.
2. Build solidarity with local people.
3. Support Quakers in politics and international work.
4. Form support networks and alliances to make more impact – we can only do so much on our own.
5. Invest ethically, including on sustainability issues.
6. Practice what we preach.
7. Discern and move concerns to action.
8. Set targets for increased sustainability.
9. Connect and share with other YMs, direct or via FWCC Sections and World Office
We recognise that different actions are relevant to different Quaker meetings in different parts of the world.

Posted in climate change, Ethical Transportation, Quaker Meetings, renewable energy, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

What I Have Learned About Racism

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Quakers, social justice and revolution:
I am speaking from my personal experience.  I do not claim to be an expert on this issue, but I have been blessed with a number of experiences related to this recently. …

Gallery | Leave a comment

MLK Day and Race Today

On this Martin Luther King, Jr, Day, I’m happy I can share part of the eloquent post Mat Davis just wrote about the successful resolution to issues he has been struggling with recently.   I was fortunate to meet Mat at the Kheprw Institute.  Mat has been on the board of an Indianapolis food coop and wasn’t treated well by the board when he raised some legitimate issues about the store’s policies, and how well the neighborhood the store is in was being served.  Indianapolis has a huge problem with food deserts, adding to the importance of this issue.

As I have said since October, I don’t think anyone individually is racist or bigoted whatsoever, BUT that doesn’t mean that this institution hasn’t been practicing racism and classism for a long time now. The discrimination I experienced and how it was handled is a very clear example of that pattern.

Our resolution is a testament to how co-ops can be used as a business model that can make equity and access a priority even when leadership makes a major mistake. In a co-op, community always has the power to address and properly confront issues that hold them back from serving their mission.

Moving forward, responsiveness builds trust and should be the outcome of accountability. Despite their behavior and mistakes, we as members and community showed (and will continue to show) where the leadership needs to improve and how we as a board and staff can better serve the real mission of the co-op. Here are 10 immediate, concrete changes that have come out of this issue of discrimination: 
1. Reinstatement of a discriminated board member 
2. All hostile board and staff are no longer at the store
3. Better and responsive communication between board and members
4. $150 Membership fee can now be paid in income based installments over longer time frame (Ex. $25 once a year for up to 5 years)
5. 10% discount for ALL members going forward on everything in the store (expect alcohol) along with that discount being extended to SNAP recipients, even if they’re not members
6. Donated and transferred memberships for low-income residents on the Near Eastside 
7. WIC access will be provided soon after initial stabilization is secured 
8. Open board elections next month will start early 2 weeks early to encourage candidates (and all members) who are committed to food access to build off of the momentum of these changes
9. Various community engagement and food access initiatives including community meal, classes and workshops
10. Strategic plan about how we plan to increase food access on the Near East Side and turn the store around

I grew up in Martindale-Brightwood and the Near East Side and lived here most of my life. I’ve done a lot to help improve my neighborhood but I think we would see something incredibly transformative for my hood and city if we were to turn this store around! I think it would send a clear message to everyone, everywhere about Indianapolis if we successfully support the store and increase food access in the one of the worst food deserts in the country.

I want to be clear about some reflection on race that are being discussed around this conflict:
It’s ok for professionals of color to be and stand up for themselves in this city;
It’s ok for white people with privilege, resources, leverage, and networks to trust the participation, input, and leadership of black people and other people of color, especially if we’re preaching diversity and inclusion;
It’s also ok to care about people in our neighborhood who are working class or live in poverty;
It’s also ok for white people to make a mistake in regards to race or class and let people support them in finding a solution.
If you’re someone who didn’t agree with my side of the story, my approach or some of the truths exposed because of how it was handled BUT you truly do want to increase food access for the Near East Side and across the city, then hopefully you can see that despite our disagreements, I have done this in good faith and hope that we can actually serve the mission the co-op set out to accomplish. I’ve been community organizing for 12 years and I know the difficulty of trying to help increase awareness on an institutional/systemic issues to create change and having decision makers or gatekeepers constantly confuse it for an interpersonal dynamic or character flaw, sometimes purposefully. It’s so important that organizers or activists (or those aspiring) to help people in institutions understand that organizing isn’t divisive or “too political” because it prioritizes social change and real impact for people who need it the most. I hope a year from now we can look back on this process and find an even deeper appreciation for this resolution when the store is steady and the community is engaged! All of this effort was done out of love by HUNDREDS of people who wanted to see some real change in our neighborhood, the local food community and the whole city in general. I am grateful and now it’s time to work!
In Cooperation,
Mat Davis

#LoveWins #WhitePrivilegeLost #EastsidePride #FoodJustice #BestMLKDayEver #CoopsWork #MatsBack #TimeToWork

And I’d like to mention the book I’m reading in case you are interested: “And Still I Rise: Black American Since MLK”, by Henry L. Gates and Kevin M. Burke explores the last half century of the African American Experience,  including many photos.

Still I Rise

Posted in Black Lives, Kheprw Institute, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

King, Ali, the Kheprw Institute Taught Me

Yesterday I discussed some reflections as Martin Luther King Day approaches.  I can’t help but be saddened as I remember the moral integrity and leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr, Muhammad Ali, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and all those who fought for racial justice, and the paradox of having a President and his party who do not believe in racial equality. To realize how little progress we have made in the years since to undo the structural racism in our county.

I don’t think I realized how much the words and actions of those in the civil rights movement taught me about racial justice.  Seeing these people as heroes and mentors to me as I struggled with oppression related to the war machine, and how they put their beliefs, which were also my beliefs, into action made it impossible for me to believe people who believe themselves to be white, as Ta-Nehisi Coates expresses it in Between the World and Me, to be in any way superior to people of color. I love that expression because it makes you consider what it really means to be white.  I also love the advertisements for the DNA ancestry kits showing people’s ethnic mix, and that no one is purely “white”, so what does that even mean? Maybe a way to address race is to use DNA to show the ethnicity of every person.

Having spent my life working in neonatal intensive care, and then in pediatric medical research, the worry of parents, and grief at death are universal. I  was blessed to work with colleagues of many ethnicities, all of whom I deeply respect, and none of whom showed any bias in the care they extended to their patients and those patient’s families.  Working in a narrow area of research, infant lung development and disease, meant being part of a small international community, where we were not only colleagues but friends. Some of my closest friends live in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, because those physicians spent at least a year in our lab at Riley Hospital for Children, learning how to do research. So I spent every working day with each of them as they spent at least a year with us.

As I’ve written about extensively, these past four or five years I’ve been blessed to have been able to work with the people at the Kheprw Institute (KI) in Indianapolis. One of the many things I appreciate was the way they gently insisted on getting to know me at our first meeting.  It was thanks to that, that I was encouraged to share with them what Quakerism meant to me, which provided a spiritual connection among us from the beginning.  I wasn’t used to talking about Quakerism, and now realize there are occasions, such as that one, where it is essential to do so. It was also significant that the Quaker meeting I attended in Indianapolis, North Meadow Circle of Friends, chose to become involved with KI by means of the AFSC program, Quaker Social Change Ministry.

In a similar way, I was also very fortunate to become part of the environmental justice community, including the NAACP Environmental Justice members.  And, most recently, with those who worked to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline in Indianapolis, which gave me an opportunity to begin to learn about Native Americans.

I am glad I have been able to continue to find such people and communities to work with now that I am back in Iowa.  It was a joy to be connected to the Prairie Awakening ceremony that Bear Creek Friends have supported for many years. And share photos with the Meskwaki community.

Being connected with these many, diverse communities, is how I have learned about racial justice, and how much we have in common. And how much work we have yet to do to undo the structural racism in our country.





Posted in #NDAPL, Black Lives, Indigenous, Kheprw Institute, Quaker Meetings, Quaker Social Change Ministry, race, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Letter from Birmingham Jail

As Martin Luther King day approaches, I wanted to re-read the letter he wrote from Birmingham Jail.  The civil rights struggles of the 1960’s had a large impact on me. I was a student at Scattergood Friends School at the time, and deep into trying to understand my place in our society.  The example of Quaker men refusing to participate in the military helped me realize I needed to look very closely at my decisions related to war, conscription, conscientious objection and draft resistance. I was being forced to make a choice because of the law requiring young men to register with the Selective Service System on their 18th birthday.

I read everything I could find about this, and spent a lot of time praying.  It was very clear that this choice would profoundly affect the direction of the rest of my life.  Those who weren’t alive during this time probably can’t grasp what a violent and chaotic time it was in our country.  Almost 3 million American men, nearly 10% of our generation, served in Vietnam. Television, a relatively new appliance in most American homes, daily showed black and white pictures and video from Vietnam.

College campuses were in an uproar.  A series of national Moratorium Days Against the Vietnam war occurred in 1969, which Scattergood students and staff participated in.  May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed students protesting the war at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine others.

At the same time the civil rights struggle was going on. There were obvious parallels between the antiwar and the civil rights movements. Muhammad Ali refused to register for the Selective Service System in 1967. Part of what he said was ““Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Martin Luther King also saw the parallels. “To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war.”  He was criticized by many in the civil rights movement for doing so. “Let me say finally that I oppose the War in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world.”


Martin Luther King Memorial

The Letter from Birmingham Jail was written during this time, in 1963. King was in solitary confinement, arrested for not having a permit for a peaceful anti-segregation march. Segregation laws were part of the Jim Crow system. The letter was partly written to respond to criticism by some in the civil rights movement about his tactics of using nonviolence and civil disobedience.

These memories have returned often in recent years as I have had occasions to travel south, through the cities of Birmingham, Montgomery and Atlanta.  And while visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr, memorial while in Washington, DC.

You can find copies of the letter multiple places online.  While searching for that, I came across the audio of King reading the speech, which I find very powerful.


Posted in civil disobedience, peace, revolution, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment