Nothing like how most of us currently live and work

It is humbling to realize mistakes I’ve made over the course of many years. In the 1970’s, when I moved to Indianapolis, the foul air from automobile exhaust convinced me I could not add to the environmental damage, and I was led by the Spirit to live without a car since. People of faith believe our actions should reflect our convictions. And while a life without a car was right for me, I could not convince others to do the same. This was a source of contention with my Quaker meeting. This is a significant challenge for people living in rural areas, as was the case with many of the meeting members.

There was a breakthrough of sorts when a Quaker friend asked if I had invited the (Quaker) meeting into this concern, and I realized I had not done so. That led us to consider, together, what could be done, i.e. what would be possible for us to do in the current circumstances. And led to the Minute we called Ethical Transportation (see below).

While riding bicycles might not seem that significant, the importance is that it is a concrete thing that could be done. My error in pleading for people to give up their cars was not working, in part because I hadn’t shared ways to make the transition. I knew it was possible, if not often inconvenient, to do so where mass transit is available.

But I hadn’t fully realized “living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.”

I’m exploring these things now as I advocate for the adoption of Mutual Aid. Being involved in Mutual Aid for three years has given me the experience to speak from. It was the Spirit that led me to Des Moines Mutual Aid. And that leads me to advocate for Quakers and others to adopt Mutual Aid. This time, I’m trying to envision practical ways to transition to the Mutual Aid model.

Capitalism is destroying our environment (because it is based upon fossil fuels), and the hierarchies of capitalism enforce structures of superiority, privilege, and oppression. Historically Quakers have worked for justice, against injustice. Capitalism is a profoundly unjust system. At the end of this is a Quaker statement about economic justice.

The concept of dual power means transitioning from current circumstances to desired change. I am hoping my Quaker meeting will support my leading to explore how Mutual Aid can be used to support our justice work. And how Mutual Aid can support our spirituality, and connections with others in the communities our meetings are located in.

There is much more detail in this blog post: Mutual Aid is the Quaker Way of Being in the World.

Living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.

Kim Kendall

Living and working, having lifestyles and livelihoods that are truly regenerative and sustainable look nothing like how most of us currently live and work.

When we are told we need to cut fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 we not only need to completely reorganize our energy systems (deep decarbonization), we also need to completely reorganize our day-to-day lives. When thoughtful authors speak of the need for “the deep transformation” of our values and sense of connection to Earth, the need for transformative or “quantum” social change, what exactly are they getting at? What would that transformation look like on a day-to-day basis for the majority of us? And what is getting in the way?

I hear a lot of vague talk about the need for a shift in our spiritual orientation and economic goals in order to move forward more sustainably and grapple with the inevitable stressors fueled by the climate crisis. Some authors also refer to the greater levels of happiness we could experience living more simply. Gratefully these latter authors are coming close to describing the changes that the large majority of us need to make implied in the idea of living more simply. But notions of increased happiness and simplicity while helpful, are not sufficient to get us going, because they omit reference to practical strategies that are available to us and overlook significant sociocultural barriers in our way.

Against the Economic Grain: Addressing the Social Challenges of Sustainable Livelihoods by Kim Kendall,, January 27, 2023

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.


May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions. John Woolman, A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich published posthumously, 1793

I will never adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many and give luxuries to the few. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, [St Paul’s Episcopal Church] 1963

Friends’ historical testimony has included the message that all people are equal, and deserve to share equally in the blessings of creation. The world is far from this ideal, and most in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) have benefited from global and local inequalities, however inadvertently. But we also suffer spiritually and otherwise because of the injustice in which we participate.

Friends believe that we should live in ways that do not “sow seeds of war.” Many are called to act in quiet or public ways to promote lifestyle choices, policies, laws, and treaties that will ensure the basic human rights of all people, including the rights to safe and healthy places to live and work. Historically, Friends have been able to help correct major injustices such as slavery, inhumane conditions for prisoners, and inequality in the treatment of women. The magnitude of current problems caused by economic injustice does not excuse Friends from the struggle against it, but makes obedience to God’s call all the more necessary.

Friends are reminded that there can be no peace without justice, and to live simply, so others may simply live. Many Friends find seeds of war and injustice in their lifestyles. Friends are challenged to participate constructively in the economy by supporting fair trade, choosing investments with attention to their social impact, and purchasing products produced under safe and healthy conditions. What each can do individually may not seem like much, but, guided by the Spirit and added to the efforts of others, it can make a difference.

The Book of Discipline of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative)
Religious Society of Friends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s