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George Lakey Blogs About the Green Walk: Update 5.16.12

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Living Revolution
How a small group can take a long walk — and make a difference
by George Lakey | May 29, 2012, 6:00 am
http://wagingnonviolence.org
 

Seventeenth Day: Pittsburgh Action
Blog for 5.16.2012
Nonviolent Direct Action at PNC National Headquarters
Video of the Day: Nonviolence Direct Action Training
Bonus Video: Bill Price of Coal River Mountain Watch
Media Coverage: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Accompanying Video
Essential Public Radio: Interview with George Lakey and Zachary Hershman

The sidewalk in front of PNC was wide enough to conduct a nonviolent action training, and that’s what we did this morning: practice a sit-in because, next time in Pittsburgh, we may need to go inside and do a sit-in to get PNC out of the business of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Dozens of participants lined the sidewalk in two rows, singing “This Little Light of Mine” while passers by frequently joined in the song as they walked by.  Dozens of other participants, playing the role of police officers, came to demand that the “sit-inners” move.  Still singing, the “sit-inners” sat on the sidewalk, and after some delay the “police officers” made arrests. 

Despite busy Wednesday morning traffic, the singing and the drama caught the attention of the crowds in front of the soaring buildings on the plaza of PNC’s national headquarters.  The real police remained unobtrusive, as did PNC’s own security guards.

Zach debriefed the roleplay training and asked, “How many of you have done this kind of direct action before?” 

Very few hands went up. 

I turned to the white-haired European American woman who was standing beside me.  “This is your first time?” I asked.

Thoughtfully, she turned to me.  “Well, you know, when the civil rights movement was happening, I was too scared to join it.  And then when the Vietnam war was happening, even though I was against it, I was too scared to join the protests against it.”

She paused and looked at me.  “But I have to say that I’m not scared any more.”

Reporters estimated that over 70 people walked the three miles from the Pittsburgh Friends Meetinghouse to PNC’s national headquarters, the final leg of the Green Walk for Jobs and Justice.  The walkers included anti-fracking activists from Beaver and Butler Counties (PA), Marty Hunter from the Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, Duquesne university students, peace and labor activists from Pittsburgh, and people who came in from Harrisburg and Philadelphia to join us for the climactic event of the 200 mile Walk.

The crowd was addressed by Veronica Coptis of the Mountain Watershed Area, Patrick Young of the Shadbush Collective, Loretta Weir from PA CURE, and me from EQAT. 

Two Appalachian speakers were Bill Price from the coordinating committee of the Alliance for Appalachia and Dustin White from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.  Dustin was an eleventh generation Appalachian whose ancestor fought at Blair Mountain for coal miners’ rights.  He lives in a holler in southern West Virginia.  He lives near a cemetery where ancestors lie buried and which is now a tiny oasis of green “surrounded by a lunar landscape.  Even birds don’t sing there any more.”

Justin said, “My people have been beaten down so long they think it’s normal.  Lots of people at home nevertheless wish they could be here with you.”  He said that his state could still lead the nation in making a comeback from devastation, but that the people need to know they are not alone in making their fight.  Our action reminds his people that others of goodwill are with them.

Other speakers emphasized that it is a regional fight against extreme extraction, which hurts some through fracking, others through long wall coal mining and mountain top removal, and hurts all of us through climate change and unhealthy environments.

Mass media outlets were strongly present for the action.  Watch the major Pittsburgh newspaper’s two-minute video of the action, and please “Like” it or send your comments to assist the newspaper to keep the video alive for others.

Also the local NPR station covered the action (as well as previously interviewing our members).

The final moment of the action was to tape on the PNC door the pledge to Green our Money.  That’s the next step, beginning June 1 if PNC doesn’t meet our deadline:  begin moving money from PNC to banks with a higher standard of eco-justice.

On June 7 we’ll be swelling the courtroom for the trial of two members of EQAT’s “Windmill Five” who were arrested inside Philly’s PNC headquarters with windmills.

The 200 mile walk generated sustainable energy across the state. In my speech at PNC headquarters I acknowledged the motivation that comes from my great-grandchildren. 

If we don’t Green our Money for ourselves, let’s do it for those who come after us!

And may Spirit bless and empower the readers of this blog.
 

Sixteenth Day of Walking
Blog for 5.15.2012
Monroeville to Pittsburgh
Video of the Day: Singing in a PNC Lobby
Bonus Video: GreenWalker Gail Newbold Reflects on the last Mile 
Media Coverage:  Essential Public Radio

"No comment."

That was the response of PNC's Vice President of Communications when asked by the NPR station in Pittsburgh to respond to EQAT's BLAM! campaign. Paul Guggenheimer, the host of "Essential Pittsburgh," read the VP's statement at the beginning and end of our fifteen minute segment that Zach and I recorded this afternoon.

The interview will be broadcast tomorrow morning as the Walk makes its way from the Pittsburgh Friends Meeting to the tall buildings at PNC plaza down town. You can hear the interview simply by going on line: www.essentialpublicradio.org, and going to the "Essential Pittsburgh" show.

What puzzles me is PNC's decision not to express itself to various media outlets seeking comment. True, it is consistent with a strategy of trying to minimize the "fuss" around the BLAM! campaign, but on the other hand, with the terrible reputation of the financial sector since 2007-08 now reinforced by JP Morgan Chase's $2 billion scandal, can PNC really afford to have its profile left undefended?

Doesn't that leave it to any observer to decide that PNC is "as bad as the rest of them" and no longer worthy of trust?

It may be that the "Green your money" initiative will be all the more successful because of PNC's unwillingness to speak. Or perhaps it's PNC's INABILITY to put a positive face on a policy that reduces jobs, increases climate change, destroys mountains, and doubles the cancer rate for the people living in the Appalachian hollers.

Perhaps the Vice President of Communications can't think of any way to "spin" such a policy that makes PNC sound good. Or worthy of its "green" label. Or worthy of its Quaker legacy. Or deserving of the TARP funds it received that put the taxpayers on the hook for its enormous wealth. I, for one, would not want the job of Vice President of Communications for such a firm.

People sometimes ask me if we should decide right now whether or not banks rooted in the capitalist system can be of service in a truly human economy. I usually say that we don't have to decide right now and that EQAT doesn't need to take a stand on that question. In other words, EQAT doesn't need to define itself as either capitalist or socialist in its vision.

Individuals may hold diverse opinions while our group takes a wait-and-see attitude.

Challenge PNC (or the financial sector) to clean itself up on mountaintop removal, and then on coal and fracking, and then on fossil fuels in general, and create Green Jobs instead, and then on stopping its practice of pressuring legislators to do all the wrong things for the planet. If PNC/the financial sector can accept changes and regulations, then it will have proven itself to be worth our support.

If, on the other hand, PNC and the rest cannot make the most elementary decisions such as investment in mountaintop removal and coal in the public interest, then it becomes obvious that they as institutions are incapable of serving us and must be replaced.

We don't have to have long ideological debates in EQAT or Quaker Meetings or other arenas, although we're welcome to have debates for clarification of our individual thinking. What most of all matters is that the banks will settle the matter for us, through their own actions.

They, like we ourselves, will find that their actions speak louder than their words. We Quakers (who sometimes prefer words to actions) can observe them, and can also observe each other. If the space is filled with words ("green banks," "faithful people") and absent of actions, then everyone is showing what's really real: banks needing replacement and people needing transformation.

In our gathering tonight at the Pittsburgh Meetinghouse, preparing for our climactic action tomorrow at the PNC headquarters, there were many signs that it's action that opens the way to transformation. Walkers were uplifted by many of today's incidents, including being greeted by the Mayor of Forest Hills when they walked through that suburb of Pittsburgh, and being jumped by a TV crew for interviews when the walkers walked by the TV building! Beneath the fun of our many positive interactions on this Walk, and the tiredness of joints and muscles at the end of the day, is the fundamental fact that we are walking our talk. That's where the power comes from; that's the source of transformation.

Were we to replace words with actions as a Society of Friends, we would be renewed and grow.

Were our allies to replace words with actions, the Freedom Movements of the 'sixties would arise again, filled with the power not only to transform the movements' members but also the society itself.

Just as God's frozen people of the 1950s, sunk so deep in racism they didn't even know it, faced Truth in the 'sixties and took a giant step forward, so could we step away from the classist addiction to deferring to the 1% and its priorities for God's Earth.

"Show me the way," cried the poignant voice of Carl at 2010 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting sessions. More and more Friends are responding by replacing words with actions. Over two million Quaker dollars already Greened, and more on the way.

It's a privilege to live in these times.

Fifteenth Day of Walking
Blog for 5.14.2012
Grennsburg to Murrysville
Video of the Day: Father Bernard of Greensburg
Bonus Video: GreenWalkers meet the longhorns

This morning our otherwise unexceptional action at the PNC bank in Greensburg held an unusual story: in the short time we were there five fracking trucks rumbled by the bank!

Father Bernie Survil walked with us this morning, adding stories of Roman Catholic resistance to the idolatries of militarism and economic oppression to the ever-growing culture of the Walk.

Then in the evening our potluck/meeting was at the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) in Murraysville, where we met UU’s and Baptists and Quakers as well as people not identified with a particular religious group.  The organizer Mary Guthrie is a leader of the Thomas Merton Center. More EQAT’ers from Philadelphia arrived just in time for the potluck, which made for a joyous reunion.

I was tickled to meet at the potluck a retired Pittsburgh labor leader who I’d worked with for years in the ‘80s in the Jobs with Peace Campaign – and who I’d never actually met before!  Rosemary Trump was leading the Pittsburgh SEIU office and I was working from Philly side by side with her designated staffer for the campaign, so the work proceeded well without my ever actually meeting her face to face.  And (connections again) she knows well a Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Quaker who has been active in the labor movement for most of her life: Alice Hoffman!

We can hear the drums beating as we get closer to Pittsburgh.  Today Zach’s interview was being repeated on Pittsburgh radio, and tomorrow is my interview on the local NPR station.  I talked on the phone with a leading labor activist who is excited about joining our Wednesday morning march to the headquarters of PNC. 

Conversations along the walk itself are turning toward how we can make the most of the May 31 deadline that we gave PNC for turning around on mountaintop removal coal mining.  One New Jersey walker is thinking about how to get his Meeting members to agree to accompany whichever of them has a PNC account and is willing to give it up after June 1.  I hope to be doing the same with Swarthmore area Friends, since my personal PNC account is in the Swarthmore bank.  It’s important that individuals get that support, and that it be collective action so others will be emboldened to do the same. 

Tonight at the potluck Walter pointed out that when we started this 200 mile walk we had no real confidence that we were capable of completing it.  What we had was faith – the readiness to act in trust that we would be supported through the long trek.  This evening’s roomful of happy people in fellowship, half of whom would take the other half home to beds and breakfast, was one more of a hundred manifestations of how we have been held through this action. 

When I hear the walkers talk about this experience with their new friends at a potluck, I hear: “I feel empowered now.”  “I’ve given up my despair.”  “Now I can do more than I ever dared before.”  “My body has aches and pains but I’m so glad to be doing this.”

One of the potluckers said to me, “Thanks for bringing this group to us.  We needed the lift.  There’s so much bad news.  It’s great to feel your positive energy.”

And so tomorrow – our last full day of walking, 200 miles of it!
 

Fourteenth Day: A Day of Rest
Blog for 5.13.2012
Mothers Day, Greensburg, PA
Video of the Day:  The story of a host

GREENSBURG, PA, MOTHER'S DAY. On this, the walkers' day off, a Catholic priest distributed 2000 leaflets asking people to join us in the morning to start our next leg of the walk. 

"MOTHER Earth," it reads, "merits respect because she is God's creation. And our very source of life. Yet she suffers the abuse of Mountaintop Removal, financed by PNC. To help get PNC bank out of the business of mountaintop reoval coal mining, join the Earth Quaker Action Team's Walk."

The leaflet was signed by Pax Christi Greensburg, adding another faith group to our growing list of allies backing the Green Walk and the BLAM! campaign. 

At this evening's potluck the Greensburg people were impressed by the array of speakers and organizations set to join us on Wednesday's Pittsburgh action. More walkers arrived as well, returning from earlier in the our roadside journey. They bring fresh energy to our final two full days of walking and then Wednesday's action at PNC headquarters.

 

Thirteenth Day of Walking
Blog for 5.12.2012
Mt.Pleasant to Greensburg
Video of the Day: More from the action in Donegal, PA
Bonus video: Some messages outside the bank

“Hi,” I said with a smile on my face. “You’ve heard about us coming.  We’re Earth Quaker Action Team.” 

I stuck out my hand to shake hers.

“I’m a regional staff person and yes, we expected you,” she replied with a trace of a smile. 

“Oh – regional!” I said.  “That’s wonderful.  Closer to the top.”

She laughed.  “Not very close to the top, I would say.”

“We’re going to sing a song here in the lobby,” I said, “and then continue our action outside.” 

Without asking permission, I turned to the group and started singing “This little light of mine,” a favorite of the civil rights movement and emblematic of EQAT’s determination to shine the light on what PNC keeps hidden.  The group joined in with enthusiasm and we sang three choruses.  I led them out, shaking hands again with the regional manager and trying without success to shake hands with the security guard, who told me with some annoyance that we’re supposed to be doing our actions outside.

We then wrapped the entire building in “caution” tape and did quite a lot of chalking on the asphalt used by the drive-in feature of the bank.  We closed by putting our Greening our money Pledge on the PNC door, closely watched by a bevy of PNC officers.  As usual, it was our new walkers who got the honor of taping up the pledge on the door.

That was yesterday, at Jones Mills.  No two encounters with PNC have been the same on this Walk, even though we’ve done so many.  Usually the doors are closed/guarded/locked; occasionally one or two of us have gotten inside.  This was our first time our group sang our determination to the staff and tellers (and customers).

This morning we stopped by the Mt. Pleasant PNC Bank branch, found that it wasn’t open on Saturdays, chalked anyway, used “caution” tape, and affixed our Pledge to the door.  We’re always careful to place the Pledge just under the PNC name and logo, so customers can see what it’s about.

Some of us were fortified for the action by going to the monthly prayer breakfast of the Mennonites, hearing a Bible study, and eating a fine breakfast featuring an old Amish baked breakfast dish.  It turns out that the Mennonite pastor’s family is friends with the family of Markus, a member of our Walk team and active in EQAT.

“Only connect,” E.M. Forster said.  The connections around this walk continue to be a marvel.  We did a lot of searching from Philly to try to find hospitality in Greensburg, which is where I’m writing from on this Saturday evening.  With such a positive reception from the United Church of Christ (UCC) in Somerset, we networked to the UCC in the Greensburg area but the trail ended somewhere in UCC-land.  Then we found a biologist who teaches environmental science at a nearby Catholic college, who was delighted that we were coming and put us in touch with “Bobbi who with her husband Tom loves to give potlucks.”  We called Bobbi.  She turned out to be an active member of the UCC!

Today we walkers were once again seven in number, the most frequent number we’ve been.  We’re starting to call ourselves “The Magnificent Seven,” because long distance walkers are prone to reach to ego or whatever it takes to put one foot in front of the other!

Once, for a couple of hours, we went down to three.  We’ve been as many as fifty.  Tomorrow we’re expecting a couple more to join us, and then increases each day as we get closer to Pittsburgh.  The local National Public Radio station wants an interview on Tuesday, which is great timing:  the day before our action at PNC headquarters! 

The closer we get to Pittsburgh the more stories we hear from people who have refused to let gas companies drill on their land, and people who have first-hand knowledge of extraction horror stories.  Today we walked for a while on a trail away from the highway – a blessing!  Then our walker-environmental-scientist Stephanie pointed to a creek alongside the trail that showed signs of toxic mine water infusion. 

A rabbit on our path seemed remarkably relaxed about our coming close to it.  Birds sing. As I write the potluck at Bobbi and Tom’s is winding down and the sky is still light although the sun has retreated beyond the hills. The air settles peacefully among the trees of this small town.  I’m on the porch remembering the theme of our Bible study this morning: Grace is the motion of God’s love even when it seems we don’t deserve it. Our path, the speaker said, may be to accept the grace, and then to do the work that is ours to do.


P.S. Please write EQAT with your feedback on this blog and project.  We need your comments, suggestions, contributions of all kinds.  “Only connect.”

Twelfth Day of Walking
Blog Post for 5.11.2012
Donegal to Mt. Pleasant
Video of the Day: Singing in Donegal PNC
B
onus Video:  Gail Newbold shares her experience of walking


A correction from yesterday’s blog: Gail’s conversation with the local man who told her that every member of his family had to have their gall bladder removed, also included the information not that his wife died of brain cancer but that his two grown daughters died of brain cancer.  The family doctor believes the cause of all this in one family was toxic substances from coal mining invading the water.

This morning some of us woke early in the cabin and, instead of staying for granola, went to the local eatery at the intersection of two small country roads and injected cash into the local economy:  glorious southern/country breakfasts of sausage and gravy on biscuits, eggs, homemade blueberry pie, etc.  The mix of vegetarians and meat-eaters among us reveled in the food and bottomless coffee cups and a banter with the server that could have been video’d , while other locals sat at nearby tables enjoying the sheer fun we were having. 

You might say it was the walkers’ equivalent of “a night out on the town.”  And we needed it, because we left there and proceeded to climb up – and then down – another mountain, called the Laurel Ridge.  The three mile walk down the other side was so continuously steep that at intervals the highway department had built special ramped uphill exits for runaway trucks to slow their momentum and come to a safe stop.

Our lunch was in the idyllic Laurelville Mennonite Conference and Retreat Center, 600 acres rising gradually away from a melodious Jacobs Creek.  It was very hard for Walter to pull the walkers away from the beauty and peacefulness of the sanctuary to face once again the trucks and motorists speeding toward us as we toiled up on the left side of the next long hill.

At one point we stopped by the side of the road to reinforce sunblock and found ourselves next to the mailbox of a house 25 feet away.  A woman’s concerned-looking face appeared at the window; she opened it and asked with some worry in her voice, “Can I help you folks?”

I realized what was on her mind so cheerfully told her about our sunblock task and said we’d be moving on in a minute on our trek from Philly to Pittsburgh.  Her concern dropped away, replaced by a tone of complete wonder.  “You’re what?”

Within three minutes of conversation about our mission, she was offering us food and drinks! We had to decline but marveled at her openness and generosity.

Our potluck this evening was offered by the Scottdale Mennonite Church.  Fifteen people gathered to meet and break bread with us, and stayed for our EQAT DVD and discussion.  Another occasion for generosity and gratitude, followed by church members taking us home with them.
The meeting was lively, with the EQAT team responding to their questions as well as our usual presenters.  The more walkers who participated, the freer the church members felt to ask questions and to push back.  Another resource was a local person whose full time job is working on the fracking issue and who had expertise in the relation of coal to the environment as well.  It was one of those times that the sheer variety of participation makes a meeting exciting and more engaging than a lecture format can ever be. 

Every day’s set of encounters replaces another layer of despair with hope and love.  Tomorrow, along with more climbs both up and down, we’re promised another day of deep blue sky and fleecy cumulous clouds.

Eleventh Day of Walking
Blog Post for 5.10.2012
Somerset to Champion
Video of the Day: Cooking in a Ski Lodge Lobby

Local people tell us that we’ve entered the northern end of Appalachia. Here in Somerset County they certainly feel the impact of fossil fuels extraction. 

Last night we were hosted by St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. There are members of the congregation who make their living in strip mining for coal in the area.  Natural gas companies are drilling Marcellus Shale formations and manipulating some owners of marginal farms into leasing contracts. 

As in West Virginia, we’ve learned that there is great uneasiness about what’s happening, as well as a tacit agreement not to talk about it – or at least not to talk loudly about it.

For one thing, who is so bold as to question a practice that is putting food on the table for a neighbor, a friend, a fellow member of church? 

The board of St. Paul’s, however, was quick to decide to host EQAT’s Green Walk for Jobs and Justice with a potluck, and to have us show our new video followed by questions and discussion.

For me a new realization: we get to be “the folks from out of town” who can raise the question that locals have a harder time raising, but would like to.

We have so much to learn from local people.  One of the hosts from last night told me that a long-standing coal mining company here was bought a few years ago by a Russian mining firm.  And she hears that a lot of coal that leaves the county is bound for China. 

Today as we walked along the sunny road we heard the loud masculine shouts: “Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right!”

We looked to a nearby house to see a man on the porch, and stopped while Gail ran over to meet this man who seemed to be making fun of our lack of military marching precision.  She learned that his story included every member of his family having had to have their gall bladder removed, and his wife dead of brain cancer.  His doctor’s conclusion: the water.

Putting our visits with people together, we learned that water is mightily on people’s minds.  The strip-mining and even the old tunnel mines that have filled with water contaminate families’ well water, not even to mention what the new chemicals of fracking might do.

Something we don’t hear much about is PNC bank.  Around here I share the information that Iris Bloom of Protecting our Waters brought to the EQAT action in Harrisburg: the largest investor in fracking in Pennsylvania is the BlackRock investing firm, and the largest single owner of BlackRock itself is PNC Bank.

When I brought up PNC in one small town a “solid citizen” said: “We are very lucky in this town to have a really local bank, owned by local people, and the bank gives mortgages and finances cars and quietly supports the community in ways that another bank would make a big deal in advertising.  We’re lucky here.”

And we’re lucky in this Green Walk we’re taking.  This morning we were joined for worship in a living room by Quakers who have a house meeting in Somerset, a group that sometimes walks into the woods on a Sunday morning and worships with the birds and ends with the playing of a mountain dulcimer.  Those Friends were with us last night at St. Paul’s, too, and took us to their homes to sleep.  Two of them tracked us down this afternoon as we were walking down the other side of Laurel Mountain, and walked with us for a few hours. 

As we neared our destination -- a large cabin we’re renting for the night --  we came to a small working class country restaurant where we found a local woman writing EQAT a $50 check to give to Zach and Markus sitting in a support car.  She was delighted to see us walkers arrive and offered to buy us food and drinks at the restaurant. 

Why?

“It’s important to support people who are standing up for something.”
 

 

Tenth Day: Driving over the mountains.
Blog Post for 5.9.2012
Carlisle to Somerset
Video of the Day: Bank Action in Carlisle
Media Coverage: Daily American

To protect some of those we’ve met along the way, I’ve waited until now to tell you that we have met a number of police and bank security guards who agree with us about mountaintop removal coal mining.  Not everyone, of course; one memorable comment was, on hearing that 500 mountains have already been destroyed, “Well, we have plenty of mountains.”  But it’s been heartening to find people who can’t publicly take a stand find one way or another to let us know that they are glad we’re doing what we’re doing.

 

It reminds me of the Occupy movement, which resonated so widely among people who seemed to be waiting for the excuse to “come out” with their deep opposition to the policies of the 1% -- even pundits who had a profile of cautious moderation or tepid liberal. 

Hard-bitten activists, so habituated to marginalization, are vulnerable to despair about changing this country because that would take a truly massive people’s movement, and “the people are listening to Rush Limbaugh.” 

I see it very differently.  A majority actually disagrees with most if not all of the 1% agenda items (as polls show), but why speak up through a social movement if (a) no one invites them to personally (the first rule of community organizing), (b) there’s no strategy that shows how the movement could win, (c) most campaigns shrink from boldness and the directness of expression that shows that leaders really mean it.

In this Green Walk for Jobs and Justice our mostly inexperienced group has gotten itself out of the bubble of Philly, practices boldness and the encounter with strangers and “just folks” every day, and discovers its own power.  In the process we’re building a network of concerned people across Pennsylvania who can see from example the relief – along with the hard work, the relief – of practicing nonviolent direct action. 

What’s the relief?  Letting go of the middle class habit of chatter-as-the-way-to change, punching through wordiness, breaking out of the cage of verbiosity, and acting.

With the particular form we’ve taken here, most fundamentally it’s putting one foot in front of the other.  In a chilly rainstorm, in a sweaty sunny afternoon, on the flat cement of a highway, on the dirt shoulder of a country road.  I think of it as a spiritual practice, and I notice as the days go by, the walkers feel less need to chat with each other, are more likely to stride through the miles with eyes on the passing scene and hearts in the moment.

Before we left Carlisle this morning we were served breakfast by Carlisle Quakers.  It was the first time our group slept in a meetinghouse, and I remembered walks I’ve been on before where the standard mode was sleeping bags on the church basement floor.  While this approach can be very practical, it runs the risk of the walkers forming a group “bubble” that creates a lively and oblivious internal life that forms a barrier to meeting people along the way.  EQAT chose for this walk to accept hospitality in people’s houses as a way of meeting more people in more depth and extending our network.

We stopped at the Carlisle PNC Bank, chalked the sidewalk and driveway, and wrapped the handles of the door with crime scene tape before taping our “green your money pledge” poster to the front door.  We greeted a regional PNC manager who has met us at four PNC branches in a row! Police came and got our names and phone numbers, which we cheerfully gave, proud as we are of our work and still chuckling over the Harrisburg Patriot-Citizen newspaper describing EQAT as a “multi-million dollar threat to PNC.”

The route between Carlisle and Somerset lacks PNC Branches, so we took the next one hundred twenty miles watching the beautiful mountains of central Pennsylvania from the comfort of our support cars.

We arrived in Somerset in a few hours and hung out with local sympathizers.  When the newspaper photographer arrived, waved our Earth flag vigorously before the front entrance of PNC while singing “This land is your land” and chalking. 

The chief of police was on the scene (he’d called us yesterday and said he would be there to make sure our rights were observed).  It was especially fun to put up our crime scene tape while he watched, then Fran lay on the ground while chalk created the outline of a dead body and notes on the rise of cancer in Appalachia.

Today’s potluck is hosted by St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, then we scatter to the hospitality of new friends.  Tomorrow it’s back to walking; we climb a mountain to about 2800 feet, then go down the other side.  Bear country. Who knows what our adventures will  be?

 

Ninth Day of Walking
Blog Post 5.8.2012
Harrisburg to Carlisle
Video of the Day: Walking in the Rain


“The handful of gray-haired Quakers who trudged into Harrisburg late Sunday afternoon were walking the walk, and in doing so, have become a multimillion-dollar threat to the sixth-largest bank in the nation.”

That was the lead paragraph in a long story in the mainstream Harrisburg Patriot-News, just below a large photo in color (3/4 quarters across the page, above the fold) showing our action in front of PNC Bank.  The photo includes in the foreground our EQAT banner with the globe, and to make sure the reader “gets it,” across the top of the photo in the newspaper’s own large type is “Earth Quaker Action Team.”

The article was inaccurate in claiming us all as gray-haired in the first paragraph, since some were younger and even included young adults.  Still, the article went into clear detail about our request that people green their money, that we use nonviolent direct action to dramatize our demand to PNC, and that PNC itself “declined comment.”

Celebrating the fact that in the Harrisburg media market we’d made a splash, we then proceeded to splash our feet across puddles in the road for a mostly rainy-day walk.  We gained a new walker from Occupy Harrisburg for the day as well as two more walkers for the rest of the march: Fran and Markus.  Also joining us in a support vehicle for the day was EQAT member Colleen.

Today’s nearly-twenty mile walk to Carlisle took us past an abundance of beautiful farmland.  High points included locally-grown strawberries in a Mennonite farm family’s stand and ice cream in unusually comfortable chairs under an outdoor canvas tent.  We saw a shop that sold violins in Mechanicsburg and multiple old structures including a log cabin tavern from the 1800s.  Our map-makers have taken care to find routes when possible that minimize trucks and maximize country roads and the main streets of old villages.

We experimented with putting plastic bags between our socks and our shoes, so when our shoes became soaking wet our socks didn’t follow suit.  Passersby were curious about our efforts to avoid reducing ourselves to sponges, which led to conversations about . . . what else?  PNC Bank and mountaintop removal!

One set of men in a truck sales and service store could hardly believe we were going on to Pittsburgh, and finally decided that we were OK if we would at least yell “Go Steelers!” when we got there.

Tonight is unusual: most of the team is in sleeping bags in the Carlisle Friends Meeting, while I was taken by the Peace and Social Concerns Committee clerk Morgan Evans back to his house to write this blog and sleep over in an actual bed.  Before I left we were treated to tasty and healthy food, and commiserated with each other over our aches and pains. 

As I look back on the day I remember the PNC Bank we passed in Mechanicsburg with only a brief chalking.  A middle-aged woman came up to us and said, “You must be the people I read about in this morning’s paper!  You are awesome!”

We admitted we were indeed the ones in the paper.

“I’m a depositor at that PNC bank across the street,” she said, “and I had no idea they were doing that.  I’m going to take my money out if they don’t change.  Thanks so much for letting us all know about it!  You are really going all the way to Pittsburgh?  Well, I mean it, and I’m telling my friends.  You people are amazing!”

 

Eighth Day: Harrisburg Action
Blog Post 5.7.2012
Video of the Day: Action at PNC Bank
Bonus Video: Sierra Club PA Announcement
Media Coverage: The Patriot-News

At today's rainy bank action in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Sierra Club announced that it will Green its Money if PNC doesn't announce by May 31 the end of its funding of mountaintop removal coal mining. Executive Director Jeff Schmidt said that Sierra Club has had its account at PNC for some time but will move it if PNC continues to be attached to destroying mountains and hurting the people of Appalachia.

Also speaking at the event was Rev. Sandra Strauss from the Pennsylvania Council of Churches and Iris Bloom from Protecting Our Waters. The event was co-sponsored by Occupy Harrisburg. 40-50 were there, along with three TV channels (ABC, CBS, and Fox) and the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

The climax of the action was a "die-in" filling the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the PNC Bank branch in the center of Harrisburg. It was a dramatic action in the rain and symbolized the deaths which have been taking place in Appalachia because of PNC's willful funding of irresponsible coal companies that take away jobs and wealth from the region while leaving a lunar landscape where mountains used to be.

I held my three-year-old granddaughter Ella in my arms while reminding the crowd that all of us who are close to children need to realize that their chances for a good life are impacted by taking control of climate change, and that requires us to step up our action on their behalf. I acknowledged that Protecting Our Waters is giving leadership in the Pennsylvania debate about the impact of tracking, and noted that when I see a debate about outcomes, which can't be totally certain until time passes, I also take note of the track record of those who are advocating a potentially devastating practice. Iris Bloom had said that PNC Bank is the number one owner of Blackrock investing firm, which is in turn deeply invested in mountaintop removal coal mining AND number one invested in Pennsylvania's exploitation of Marcellus Shale.

We KNOW the track record of PNC in Appalachia: it does NOT "Bank Like Appalachia Matters."

Why should we expect PNC to bank like Pennsylvania matters?

For that matter, why would we ever trust entities whose primary motive is profit to make wise decisions about the environment and economic justice? It has been foolish of us to believe we could trust them, and it is time to take back the responsibility for our land and our people from the corporations.

Their track record alone is enough. We don't have to wait for the scientific verdict on mountaintop removal coal mining -- scientists already agree that it is a disaster. Why wait for years for a scientific consensus on fracking? PNC hasn't backed away from mountaintop removal even though the science is clear and people and nature are dying! Why would we expect that PNC would back away from fracking if scientists agree that it is devastating? PNC uses its power (including political power, for example through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) to manipulate politicians into allowing continued abuse.

We the people need to stop acting like victims and take nonviolent direct action to stop the abuse. Greening our money is one way to do this. Everyone who reads this must know at least some people who are PNC depositors, including nonprofits. Everyone can act or support someone who is acting.

This evening included a lovely meeting in the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 40-50 people, followed by a like number crowding into the Friends Meetinghouse for a potluck and deeper look at nonviolent campaign strategy, again including Occupy Harrisburg and others. We said goodbye to some walkers who are returning home, and greeted new walkers who've come to replace them.

Harrisburg families that took in EQAT walkers had some of us for two nights, their generosity giving us the respite of two nights in the same bed, for which we were deeply grateful! Tomorrow morning we'll start our nineteen-plus miles to Carlisle, in an expected rainstorm. It's great to know we have so many people at our back.

 

Seventh Day of Walking
Blog Post 5.6.2012
Elizabethtown to Harrisburg
Video of the Day: Lee reports on George's Sunday sermon

"PNC BANK BESIEGED BY GROUP PROTESTING REMOVAL OF MOUNTAIN TOPS FOR MINING"

So read the headline of the Lancaster daily newspaper May 5, with a large photo showing our group with signs and flags in front of the bank's front door. The article included this: "The members of EQAT began a cross-state walk Monday from PNC in Philadelphia. They also plan a protest in Harrisburg before ending at the bank's Pittsburgh headquarters May 16."

This morning, after the Walk left Elizabethtown to head for Harrisburg, I stayed behind to participate in the Sunday service of the Church of the Brethren. Pastor Greg Laszakovits opened the service with a warm welcome to EQAT, referring to our mission, and he and Pastor Pam Reist went on to lead a heartwarming service with beautiful music, a thoughtful and challenging sermon, and the blessing of each of the four-year-olds of the congregation. 

When it was my turn to share -- just before the offering was taken -- I told the story of my short career as a child preacher in the church where I grew up. At age twelve I was given the pulpit to preach on the topic of my choice, and I preached that it was God's will that there be racial equality. This was 1949. The response of the elders was not voiced but nevertheless perfectly clear: don't call us; we'll call you.

I had to make meaning of this and turned to the example of Jesus' life, realizing that even he had times when his message was unwelcome. I then understood that it's not the degree of acceptance that counts; it's the willingness to keep offering one's perception of the truth. 

Now, after experience with many groups including religious groups, I see that awakening happens not through sudden group conversion but through an individual first voicing a truth that may be resisted or even violently opposed. A member of the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren told me only this morning that when he first publicly questioned the Vietnam war he was hung in effigy on the College campus! Of course by the end of the war nearly everyone agreed with him.

EQAT's offering is to say that it makes no sense to place the stewardship of God's earth in the hands of the entities -- "the principalities and powers" -- whose motive is profit. We call on people of faith to take back that responsibility. PNC is only one of the corporations destroying our climate, and why would we think they would do differently?? They are not built to reverence the earth; they are built to amass wealth. Why would we, for one minute, delegate to them the responsibility for stewardship of the earth?

My deepest hope this morning, I said, is to see a partnership form between Brethren and Friends in which we take back our responsibility for stewardship. 

On my way out to be driven back to the Walk by Lee and Robin, I was stopped by many participants expressing appreciation for what I said. One woman was particularly engaged, and challenged me with the difficulty of taking on corporate America. She described a family situation in which part of the extended family felt they needed to end their farming life and sell the farm, but dreaded the idea of selling it to developers. Another member of the extended family wanted to save the farm by buying it, but simply couldn't raise the money. Such a dilemma can't be unusual, she said. How can we take on these entities that act against our values?

"How about Norway?" I asked. There the people decided to buck large-scale economic trends because they value the family farm system so much; they set up a government program to encourage today's flourishing family farm sector. They didn't try to take on corporate control family-by-family: there's no way to do that. Individuals can't, and families can't. What works is for mass movements to take control of the economy away from the corporate sector -- or you could say like Occupy does, "the 1%." 

She looked at me as though I was talking Greek. 

"Norway's not the only country that's done that. The Swedes did, too. They overwhelmed the 1% with people power and re-organized the economy so it would reflect the people's own values."

"But," she said, "most countries haven't done that; most countries have the corporations in control instead of the people. Like in the U.S., with corrupt politicians -- what do you do about them."

"A massive movement can use nonviolent direct action to sweep aside corrupt politicians and open the space for new institutions that reflect our values. The existing party system can't do that, but grassroots movements can. People in other countries don't even know what Swedes and Norwegians achieved and don't realize they can fight for what they want and win. People power is greater than money power, but few people realize that."

"Well . . . I'm late to get my child from Sunday School and go home so I can't talk more about this." She looked puzzled, as though a crack had opened in her belief in her powerlessness, but didn't know what to do with it. We smiled our farewell, and out she went while another church member came up to me.

For me it was a significant conversation, revealing "the next layer out" from our EQAT campaign "Bank Like Appalachia Matters!" (BLAM!). When we choose to campaign powerfully against one economic perpetrator of injustice, the next question naturally arises: don't we have to despair about our ability to transform our economy into one we deserve?

The answer is that we don't have to despair, or at least those of us who are willing to fight don't have to. The Swedes and Norwegians decided to fight -- nonviolently -- for justice. That existential decision has not yet been made by most of the 99% in our country. But knowing that it has happened ANYWHERE can be tremendously encouraging, as shown by the global response to my article on the subject. (A Harrisburg Occupy member sent to all Occupy participants the article I wrote on the Swedes and Norwegians that became the most popular article Waging Nonviolence ever published. Find it by Googling Waging Nonviolence, and double-clicking on my name.) 

We arrived late in Harrisburg; it was the longest day of our trek, almost 20 miles. Footsore and weary we stumbled into the Harrisburg Quaker Meetinghouse to a chorus of welcome accompanied by hugs. Tomorrow's our Harrisburg action, co-sponsored by Harrisburg Occupy and others. And I'm ready for sleep.

 

Sixth Day of Walking
Blog Post 5.5.2012
Lancaster to Elizabethtown
Video of the Day: Vint Speaks
B
onus video: We join 350.org Connecting the dots
Media coverage: Lancaster Online Journal

For this morning's PNC Bank action in Lancaster EQAT was joined by Lancaster Occupy, Lancaster Friends, and Philadelphia Friends who drove in for the event. PNC tried a relaxed approach, not objecting to our being on their considerable turf (a corner of a mall). Police kept their distance while the group spoke, sang, and placed the mini-poster on the bank, and didn't even interrupt the winding of the crime scene tape around the PNC entrance until a PNC staff person called the police and asked them to intervene. Zach explained to the police that we considered the violation of the federal clean air and clean water acts to be criminal (the violation done by mountaintop removal coal mining) and, since the EPA wasn't intervening and the Attorney General's office didn't seem interested, it was up to citizens to declare a crime scene. The police officer, noting that bank personnel were able to take away the crime scene tape, said he understood and went back to his car.

The group said goodbye to injured Vint Deming, who has been one of four members of our support team, and two other walkers who needed to go home at this time. The group welcomed for half of the walking day a Westtown School student and teacher, and a local Lancaster activist.

Today's route was strikingly different from that of other days. After some highway walking we spent hours walking country roads between glorious farms, some of them Amish, through gently rolling hills. Horses were a high point for me, two of them seemingly arrogant in their handsomeness and as fascinated with us as we were with them. In another field there were six horses who cantered across the distance, wheeling to come as close as they dared to stare at us walking by with our green and blue flags and green EQAT T-shirts.

At one point we were so far out in the countryside that we were no where near a gas station or other spot to use the toilet. A woman was weeding her flower garden in the front yard, so I explained to her what we were doing and that we were, so to speak, "high and dry" when it came to toilet opportunities. She smiled and invited us in, where we also filled water bottles and had a grand conversation that led once again to discovering things in common -- she and her husband Mennonites who had served overseas, among other things.

We also walked through neighborhoods of towns, where we often encountered people and exchanged a few words and sometimes more than that, along with our Green PNC leaflet. Almost everywhere we met curiosity and interest. On one working class street in a small town a woman and a couple of men asked how they could help and offered us the licorice they'd just bought from a store down the street. "We love the great outdoors, too," they said.

We find ourselves on the lookout for challenged mothers! Today it was a Canadian goose with a half dozen furry chicks in a not very promising front lawn of a corporate campus. Yesterday it was a duck with even more ducklings in a small planted area on the edge of a giant mall beside a highway full of rushing trucks. In both cases the moms looked as though they had a plan. We wished them well.

As we wish you well, you readers of this blog who follow our adventures. We, too, have a plan. Today was our longest walk -- probably nineteen miles -- and the five of us who toiled up the long hill in the hot sun before finally coming to the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren were reaching for whatever reserve of energy we could muster. It helps to know that you are reading this and thinking about your own role in confronting PNC Bank to do the right thing. At the end of a day like today we're almost flattened, and then we're greeted with exuberant friendliness by peace-loving Brethren and their abundant potluck and promise of a hot shower, and know that somehow we can make it to bedtime.

Hanging on the wall above the desk where I'm writing this blog is a poster featuring Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins. They are all profound, but at this moment the third and seventh stand out:

"Politics without principle
Wealth without work
Commerce without morality
Pleasure without conscience
Education without character
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice."

To me the worship in this walk combines joy and sacrifice, and we do it to confront commerce without morality.

Together, this can be done.

Fifth Day of Walking
Blog Post 5.4.2012
Gap to Lancaster
Video of the Day: Matt reflects on his experience
Bonus Video: PA Route 30 meets #GreenWalk

"Do you guys rest at night?"

The question came from one of two guys in a pick-up truck that stopped to learn about our walk. They'd seen us yesterday in Coatesville and noted us as a curiosity, but seeing us again today, so many miles away, they HAD to know learn we were about.

While Matt was explaining our mission and handing over our flyer, Geniver noticed that the other guy was busy looking us up on his smart phone.

Well, we DO rest at night, thanks to generous hospitality of Friends and friends of Friends, and this morning we got a good start under cloudy skies with weather predictions of thunderstorms. We got neither thunder nor storms, but instead got two new Quakers from Harrisburg Occupy. Their fresh energy lifted our pace and we made our sixteen miles with time to spare before the potluck and meeting at Lancaster Friends.

Our PNC action isn't til tomorrow morning, perhaps to the disappointment of PNC people hovering about the suburban PNC Bank branch that we passed on our way into town. (They do keep track!)

While we were expected to stop at that bank, we weren't expected at a bank branch (closed for the day) up the street from a charming coffee house/bakery in the center of Lancaster. So we chalked the sidewalk of THAT PNC and posted our usual mini-poster on the front door, proclaiming the intention of greening our money from June 1 on if PNC doesn't stop funding mountain top removal coal mining.

Today Vint hurt his leg, Amy had to take a break, several of us felt the heat, and Matt left to lead a workshop (promising to return).

Apparently some of the truckers are telling each other about our cause on their CB radios, because we get quite a few loud blasts and thumbs-up from them. One car driver aggressively tracked us down to a sidewalk where we'd paused, to jump out and tell us that a neighbor who attended one of our evening meetings told him what we were doing and that he just had to find us to say how glad he is that we're doing the Green Walk.

Lancaster Friends welcomed us with open arms, food, and promise of rest after the public meeting. 

We need that good sleep because we wake up early tomorrow for an action at PNC that will be a part of 350.org's May 5 global demonstrations to "connect the dots." A bunch of us heard 350's Bill McKibben last week at Swarthmore College and he not only referred to the Green Walk in his talk but also said he was delighted that Lancaster PNC is one of the "dots." 

 

Fourth Day of Walking
Blog Post 5.3.2012
Downington to Gap
Video of the Day: Thorndale Action
Bonus Video: Matt's commentary

This morning PNC Bank tried a different tactic from yesterday’s.  Yesterday the staff and security stayed inside, behind closed, then locked doors – even after we wrapped our “CRIME SCENE” tape around the structure of the entry area.

Today as soon as our first members appeared, PNC personnel came out through the front doors to challenge us to remove our Walk support cars and ourselves from their property since we didn’t have legitimate business to conduct.  Police already summoned backed them up. 

We moved the cars and circled up on the public sidewalk about ten yards from the bank building to plan our next move.  We had no intention of doing the “crime scene” scenario again, and instead were prepared with chalk to do some chalking wherever opportunity might present itself.  We also had our usual mini-poster to tape to the front door; at each bank we taped this Martin Luther imitation (he’d nailed his manifesto to the door of the cathedral).  Our version was a promise to green our money or support others to do it, and our version was signed with a variety of names. 

The youngest member partnered with our newest member to cross the parking lot to explain to the police what we planned to do.  The rest of us got busy chalking the sidewalk. 

We found out later that when our negotiating team described our planned posting on the front door, the policewoman in charge said, “No you’re not.”  Our team replied firmly but not defiantly that we indeed would do so.  You can hear from Matt how the dialogue continued by watching the video.  The bottom line was that the group went back on the property where police had ordered us off and taped the posting on the front door while a covey of PNC officials stood behind the window watching.

As we formed our line to begin walking westward, we looked back to see bank officials reading our posting and conferring on cell phones with – we guessed – officials in Philadelphia and/or Pittsburgh.

As Matt later reflected while we were walking, there’s a kind of chess game going on.  PNC considers what happens each day and plans for the next, and we do, too.  Gandhi might call PNC, the fifth largest bank in the U.S., “a worthy opponent.”  Some might look at our 8-10 walkers on this fourth day and sneer at the idea that PNC could be moved by such a small group.  But we remember another saying attributed to Gandhi: someone who thinks that a small campaign cannot have an effect has never spent a night in a tent with a mosquito.

The fourth day was remarkable in many ways.  First, that our presence at a PNC branch attracted the attention of so many bank personnel plus three police cars.  Second, that we had the company, for the first time, of a dog trotting along beside us.  His human Pat James said at the end of the day that it was some relief to discover that there was, after all, an activity that could bring dog Levi to a point of real fatigue!

Third, that it was the first time that we had long stretches on a major highway (Business Route 30): noisy, with narrow shoulders, and large trucks.  We proved our strength by supporting each other to get well into Lancaster County and the blessed turn-off on a country road: quiet, infrequent traffic, and Amish buggies. 

 

Third Day of Walking
Blog post 5.2.2012
Westtown to Downingtown
Video of the day: Action in West Chester
Bonus Video: Self care on the #GreenWalk

 

Today the PNC branch at West Chester locked the door when we arrived and the regional manager that we met in Swarthmore didn't make an appearance. We put up crime scene tape (we see blowing up mountains as criminal activity) and took photos of ourselves in front of the front door. Then we noticed that they were taking photos of us, so we waved cheerfully (and handed out flyers to customers who were showing up and for whom the door was unlocked.

We walked a dozen miles through cloudy, threatening weather with only occasional raindrops, trying to ensure our safety along roads without shoulders by waving our green and blue flags. For the tightest spots the seven of us walked close, in single file.

The lunches that Westtown Friends School packed were enjoyed at West Chester Friends Meeting along with a delicious hot soup. For our mid-afternoon break we stopped at the house of one of our walkers and hot-tubbed, easing sore muscles and cracking jokes about the decadence of modern protest.

One of the many ways that corporations aren't people is that they don't inhabit a container of flesh and bone and blood. We do, and every mile reminds us of that; in a sense, with every mile we become more fully human, more fully incarnated beings alive to our bodies and our senses and the present moment.

Victoria Pearson, a teacher at Westtown and one of our hosts, seemed to tune into that and felt moved to share in our worship-sharing this morning. To express it, she sang the Whitmanesque song from FAME: "I sing the body electric." I noticed tears coming to my eyes as I listened to her clear soprano:

I sing the body electric
I celebrate the me yet to come
I toast to my own reunion
When I become one with the sun

And I'll look back on Venus
I'll look back on Mars
And I'll burn with the fire of ten million stars
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars.

 

Second Day of Walking
Blog post 5.1.2012
Swarthmore to Westtown
Todays Video

For about a year Earth Quaker Action Team had a habit of going into PNC Bank's local branches with signs and our green T-shirts on and sometimes pictures of what mountain top removal coal mining looks like, and while some of us talked with customers and tellers, a few of us would sit down with the branch manager and explain our concern.

PNC corporate headquarters apparently didn't at all like the results of this, because it issued a policy forbidding local branch managers from talking with EQAT people, or, for that matter, talking even with regular customers who wanted to discuss mountaintop removal!

This morning we started our walking day with a demonstration outside the PNC Bank branch in Swarthmore, a suburb near Philadelphia. Two of our number -- Gail Newbold who is walking the whole way to Pittsburgh, and Sue Edwards who is a Swarthmore depositor in PNC -- tried to go inside to talk to the branch manager, who Sue knows well.

At first they couldn't get in, because the bank had locked its doors! Then after some hesitation they were let in where they were greeted, not by the branch manager (who mysteriously had off today) but by a REGIONAL manager who gave his name simply as "Matt." No last name, and he didn't happen to have a business card on him. But he did say he would be happy to talk with Gail and Sue.

Forty or so of us were outside singing and doing impromptu speeches. We included students from Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr Colleges, a high schooler, a carload of elders from two Quaker retirement communities at Kennett Square, some Swarthmore residents, and a dozen and a half EQAT Green walkers.

Finally Gail and Sue came out (with the door locked carefully behind them) to tell us that the regional manager said he'd happened to talk on the phone that morning with the main office in Pittsburgh and they did know about the Walk and that we were coming. The Earth Quakers pressed their case with the regional man and he said they are considering their policy regarding mountaintop removal coal mining.

And so our walking day began, up hill and down dale, crossing narrow bridges and walking (briefly) alongside broad highways, with some welcome residential streets along the way. Pendle Hill (a Quaker center for study and contemplation) was our site for a morning break, and rural Middletown Friends Meeting was the site for our lunch break.

Along the way we got more expressions from passersby of agreement and interest. Fifteen of us finished at Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school surrounded by beautiful countryside. The school fed us and gave us beds for the night after we'd put on a program for their students about mountaintop removal coal mining and PNC.

As we were nearing the school, sweating from the sun and aware of our tired legs and sore joints, this question arose in my mind: how many senior executives in PNC Bank would be willing to walk 200 miles in order to demonstrate their conviction that mountaintop removal coal mining is the right thing to do?

 

First Day of Walking
Blog post 4.30.2012
Philadelphia to Swarthmore

The weather blessed us on our first day's walk: sunshine and breezy. Rain is needed and so I'm counting on some -- maybe as early as tomorrow
-- but our crowd of walkers enjoyed how easy our walk from Philly to Swarthmore was.

Check out the photo album from day 1.

We had a great combination of young and old today, from Robin Harper in his eighties to Ella Goldman who will be three in August, with lots of students and young adults plus gray-haired people besides.

We started with an amazing breakfast laid on by members of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends, and spent some worship time together in the Quaker meeting room before walking over to the PNC Bank's regional headquarters. We must have been between seventy and eighty people at that point. PNC security was ready for us and we noticed that they locked the doors of the branch that is housed there, preventing customers from going in (and preventing us, but then it wasn't our plan to go in anyway).

We posted on the headquarters windows the signatures of people pledging to "green their money" if PNC Bank doesn't stop funding mountain top removal coal-mining, then marched west to the bank branch that services the University of Pennsylvania students. Penn students met us there and held a protest meeting outside the branch, then we departed with a song and walked to the city limits.

 

 

Some walkers left us there so we said our goodbyes and continued all day to Swarthmore Friends Meeting House.

Along the way we had conversations with a variety of bystanders, nearly all signaling support as soon as they learned what we were about.  Unexpectedly, our route took us past an ailing member of the Swarthmore College staff who saw us and came out to get hugs and give an impromptu break to the whole crew of us, which by that time numbered thirty or forty. We also had a great stop for lunch in a community park, with lunch brought to us by Delores Robinson and Cynthia Jetter of Swarthmore's staff.

A great first day. Only 189 miles left to go!
 

 

Thoughts on the Eve of our Departure
Blog post 2.27.2012

This morning I bought a more waterproof raincoat at our local Army/Navy store and had a conversation with the cashier about the likelihood of lots of rain for our 200 mile walk across Pennsylvania.  "We're due for it," we agreed, "and we need it!"

"What's the walk about?" she asked

I hardly had the words out of my mouth about "mountaintop removal coal mining" and she was vigorously shaking her head and smiling ear to ear.

I'm constantly amazed, in Pennsylvania where we don't suffer from this particular attack on our mountains, that as many people know about the practice as do.  But then, I often make assumptions about people who live outside "my bubble," assumptions that are wrong.

I remember being surprised to learn from Pew, Rasmussen, and Gallup polls how unenthusiastic many Americans are about capitalism.  Like the Rasmussen poll that found only 53% of Americans described capitalism as "superior" to socialism.  And the 29% in the Pew poll who describe socialism as positive.  And the Gallup poll that found 37% of Americans preferring socialism as "superior" to capitalism.  For young Americans (18-30), as many thought socialism was superior as thought that capitalism was superior.

And of course twice as many blacks as whites react positively to socialism , and people with high school education or less are more likely to prefer socialism than those with a college education. (Pew)

It's anybody's guess what all those people preferring socialism actually meant by the term; it's an elastic word that's gotten stretched every which way!  But what impresses me is that the right wing has been for years trying to immunize America's political consciousness against anything besides the holiness of capitalism -- so we the people will allow PNC and other corporations do anything they like -- and the liberal part of the mass media almost never even present someone on a talk show who identifies themselves as socialist!  The U.S. political culture is allergic to anything like an honest debate among economic visions.

Yet, under the radar, it seems there's a lot of independent thinking going on out there!

Now the polls show an increase in concern about climate change, suggesting that the right wing propaganda machine hasn't fully succeeded on that front, either.

I love it that I get to live and work in the U.S.  When I was twenty-one and living in gorgeous Norway, with its terrific education/health care/pension/full employment policies available to all, I was tempted to remain there with my Norwegian in-laws and make a life.  But I am truly and deeply a man of my country, and one of the benefits of living here is finding that, no matter what greed and craziness the U.S. 1% get up to, there remains so much good sense resident among common people.

May this Green Walk for Jobs and Justice jolt everyone out of their bubble, whatever it is, and put us in touch with some of those people who are out there and open to alternatives!

George
 

 

Why I’m walking to Pittsburgh
Blog post 4.18.2012

I come from Bangor, a Pennsylvania slate mining town, and identify with the hard work, strong community, and bonding with nature in my heritage.  When I visit Appalachian people I see those same qualities, but I also see the horror of beloved mountains blown up, cancer rates rising, and jobs lost.

I’m sad to imagine what it’s like to have your water and air contaminated by poisons, your town on the skids, the jobs disappearing, and 500 mountains destroyed while more mountains are on the kill list.

I was proud to join others in starting the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) in 2010 with its first campaign targeting PNC Bank: Bank Like Appalachia Matters!  PNC is one of the major funders of mountain top removal coal mining.

I also figured that I was doing something for the future of my four great-grandkids, who will join the miners in the catastrophes of climate change if PNC and our country don’t convert to renewable energy.

In the beginning of this year I was led to step up my own commitment.  I felt called to walk to Pittsburgh to challenge directly the corporate CEO of PNC Bank: “Why would you rather fund fewer jobs – while blowing up mountains and spreading cancer – than fund more jobs for clean wind power from those same mountains?”

EQAT supported my calling, and is initiating the

Green Walk for Jobs and Justice

Start: April 30 in Philadelphia, walking 200 miles of the route

 Arrive: May 16, at PNC Bank’s headquarters in Pittsburgh

Stops at PNC branches along the way.
 

 

Please sponsor me on this walk, and join me for part of the Walk or events along the route if you can.  Financial sponsors are needed to make the Walk possible.

I also want to know from bank officials: “If PNC calls the destruction of Appalachia ‘responsible banking,’ why should any of us do business with you?”  I pledge to close my account in PNC on June 1 if it does not promise to stop funding mountain top removal coal mining.

Join me for breakfast and worship at Friends Center Monday, April 30th, as we start the walk.

Join me in pledging to Green your money by removing it from PNC June 1 or after.  Details on kick-off event, how to sponsor and how to Green Your Money are on-line:

www.EQAT.org

GEORGE LAKEY, 74, is a great-grandfather of four who represents continuity between the 1950s successful movement to stop nuclear testing in the atmosphere and today's activist response to environmental crisis.  He is a professor and research fellow at Swarthmore College and author of eight books on social change.  A Quaker, his first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and most recent was at a PNC Bank in Washington, D.C. in 2010 with Appalachia Rising.  He has received the Martin Luther King Peace Award, the Paul Robeson Social Justice Award, and the Giraffe Award "for sticking his neck out for the common good."