Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting letter on Friends Committee on National Legislation environmental priorities

The Policy Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002-5795

Dear Friends:

Nine members of Strawberry Creek Monthly Meeting (Berkeley, California) of Pacific Yearly Meeting met for two hours on 3-26-00 to consider legislative priorities for work with the 107th Congress. The discussion was framed by the request of some Friends in the broader Quaker community that environmental issues be made a priority. We therefore asked ourselves three questions:

* Do Friends have a distinctive witness on the environment or can we trust various environmental groups to speak adequately to our concerns?
* If FCNL were to make the environment a priority would sufficient new resources be generated to pay for the staff who would be devoted to it?
* If the answer to the first question is yes and the second is no, which of the existing priorities would we sacrifice to this issue?

We believe that environmental issues underlie many of the existing FCNL legislative priorities and should be subject to explicit reference by FCNL when they arise. For example they affect income distribution and require effective regulation by international organizations. A concern with income disparities also ought to undergird a Quaker concern for the environment. We advocate a "right sharing of the world's resources;" environmental regulation must not be something that is done to the poor by the rich, either in the United States or in the world. Both the rich and the industrial countries have a "large foot print" consuming a disproportionate, unsustainable and irreplicable share of the world's resources. The Quaker testimony of simplicity leads us to witness to "enoughness." Finally, we see a spiritual core to environmental concerns. We are simply a part of a larger, sacred creation. We are not stewards of creation, for such a view implies that the creation exists for the benefit of humanity and is subject to its management. In all of this we see Quaker legislative work on the environment as focusing on core values and participatory, non-coercive processes. We do not think that FCNL has a comparative advantage on the technical issues surrounding the environment.

We noted that the environment is a matter of rising concern for Friends and there is considerable "grass-roots" Quaker organizing around it. On most of the other Quaker testimonies our national Quaker organizations are ahead of the Meetings and urging them on. This is the one issue on which our members seem to be in the lead. This suggests that there is a possibility that Friends could raise new money for lobbying on the environment.

Some in our group would be willing to put the environment ahead of other priorities; others adamantly would not. In the end we as a group are not willing to sacrifice any of the existing FCNL priorities to environmental advocacy.Nonetheless there might be some room for the environment, even it new resources are not forthcoming. We would like to hope that the payment of US dues would require less work in the 107th Congress than it has in the 106th, although this may be wishful thinking. We also feel that the priority to address issues that affect the disparity between rich and poor is incredibly broad. We have some concern that FCNL may not be working very effectively on this priority as it is stated, as the issues that are listed are highly technical and have highly mobilized advocacy groups in polarized contention. To the extent that it is possible to speak to the core issue of social justice that underlies these debates the same can and should be done for the environment.

Our concluding minute, which was adopted by the full Monthly Meeting on April 2nd is:

"We have a deep concern for `an earth restored' as a part of a witness to a `right sharing of the world's resources.' We see environmental issues as linked to many other key issues of Quaker witness. We believe that Quakers should work for a world with less disparity of income and standards of living that are sustainable and can be widely replicated. Thus for us environmental concern is linked to caring, simplicity and non coercive, participatory processes.

"We see a witness for the environment as a part, rather than in place of the existing FCNL priorities, which we reaffirm. We urge FCNL to invite those who are requesting a high priority to environmental advocacy to explore with it whether additional resources might be available to undertake this task without sacrificing the other important work of the Committee."

For Strawberry Creek Meeting, David K. Leonard; April 2, 2000

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