Today’s post shows how a small group can act meaningfully within a congregation before the whole congregation is fully and enthusiastically engaged, and how that engaged action can grow the “choir”. It is a story that originates in my parents’ Friends Meeting (Quaker) in Western Massachusetts. The idea is spreading quickly among New England Quakers, is being used by a Unitarians congregation in Virginia, and there is active interest from some groups here in Pennsylvania. Want to try?
2. Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness
Since we are a multi-faith group here at PA IPL, before I turn this over to the Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness group of Mt. Toby Meeting, I’ll note that Quakers often use the word witness to indicate that they are making a choice to live out their faith. It’s a way of saying “This isn’t just a thing I am doing. It is a thing I am doing because of my Quakerism.” Similar ideas are called “carbon tithes” in some circles.
The basic idea is this:
- A group of interested people agrees to “tax” themselves a percentage of their spending on fossil fuels for their vehicles, their electricity (if applicable), their home heating, and their air travel. Each makes their own commitment. Names, but not amounts are publicized.
- They send their fees in to a dedicated sub account at their congregation.
- They decide quarterly where to gift those fees, giving to climate-related causes (emissions reduction projects, climate justice, adaptation projects, response efforts and more).
- They share their results with their congregation and beyond.
Members of this group have spoken about how meaningful it is to join together for this witness, how heartening it is to see the amounts donated grow as the group grows— and sometimes shrink as people are able to reduce the amount of fossil fuel they are using.
They encourage everyone to start at a low amount of voluntary tax, and then to revisit the amount and consider raising it. The group has grown steadily in size, and conversation around climate justice and climate action at fellowship time occur more often and draw in more people. Participants also talk about how much more aware they are of their fuel use now, but how that awareness is accompanied by a sense of empowerment and hope, rather than a sense of paralyzing guilt.
Check out their very helpful Voluntary Carbon Tax Witness page, with sample forms, a list of where they have made their quarterly donations.
Listen to Alan Eccleston of Mt. Toby describe the program, in context, in under 5 minutes, at the meeting of New England Yearly Meeting.
Read a reflection on the program at Quaker Earthcare Witness.