Live in Possibility: A Voluntary Carbon Tax

- Posted by Publications Committee in ActivismBeFriending CreationIndividuals Taking ActionNumber 6ResourcesVolume 29,  | 2 min read
Bright green spring flower about to blossom with dew
Photo by Kathy Barnhart

By Alan Eccleston, Mount Toby Friends Meeting.

In meeting for worship four years ago I was meditating on climate change and what I was called to do about it. Words rose up, “I live in possibility,” which I attribute to Emily Dickinson. I had a deep realization this is a choice for all of us—but the way we are living is limiting possibility. So what am I called to do? We have solar panels on our house and it is weather tight, but systemic action is needed and politicians are not responding to calls for a carbon tax and rebate. Then it came to me: I can do a voluntary carbon tax—anyone can.  This clearly was an opening, a way to more fully live the Quaker testimony of Stewardship, and I embraced it.

I took this insight to our climate study group; all seven felt moved to join the witness. We agreed our witness would be public but the amount of one’s pledge would be confidential. A pledge could be a percent of a single carbon use or all of one’s carbon use; or it could be a fixed amount. It could be as small or large as one felt led and the contributed amount would be confidential (known only to the fund steward who receives the pledges and collects quarterly proceeds).

We sought and received our Meeting’s support. This directly connects our Meeting to the witness and allows grant recipients to receive a single check from the Meeting. Over time we have tripled the number in our Meeting participating in the witness and seven Friends Meetings that we know of are participating, as well as a Unitarian Universalist Church in Fairfax, Virginia and some secular groups that found us through our website I have been told by some Evangelical Quakers that their meeting would not be drawn to a voluntary tax but might embrace a voluntary carbon tithe. That is a wonderful witness as well.

What makes the voluntary carbon tax (tithe) so effective is:

(1) We are a team with a purpose and vision creating significant results and impact;
(2) We are continually aware of our carbon usage and there is on-going discernment—how much does this matter to me?
(3) We are bonding as a group as we decide where our money will go and all of us (now 21) have feelers out to see who we might support next;
(4) It is uplifting, fun, and dynamic to see what we are supporting that can make a difference;
(5) This witness goes on and on, whereas when you buy a Prius or change your electrical supplier it’s a one-time act.

In our complex, carbon-based economy, we are compromised in many ways beyond our control. This witness of stewardship is not a burden; it’s an invitation—an opportunity to “Live in possibility.”


Note: For more information on the pledge form, grants, recipients, etc. see