Love & Political Power

Photo of people during a protest, a man holding a sign that says "Power Local Green Jobs"

By Bruce Birchard

I WANT TO LIFT UP  two sentences from Martin Luther King’s 1967 address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference about the relationship between love and power:

“What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

I urge Friends to get serious about building real political power to support clean energy and an end to the fossil fuel economy. We are in the early stages of a worldwide political movement for such change. My life partner, Demie, and I have committed to two efforts.

We’ve gotten involved in electoral politics. We are doing “meet and greets” with candidates for the U.S. Congress and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We also joined with 60 other activists to create a new political action committee which is supporting candidates for the Pennsylvania legislature who will work for:

  • Moratoria on fracking, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure,
  • Legislation to move Pennsylvania toward 100% renewable energy,
  • An economic development plan that brings jobs, community wealth, and economic self-reliance to our state.

Did I mention that the Pennsylvania legislature is totally controlled by Republicans—and some Democrats—who resist most efforts to rein in the fracking and fossil fuel industry and oppose steps to build a serious clean energy infrastructure? It’s time to vote them out! So far, our PAC has endorsed eleven candidates—nine of them women—who fully support these goals and have pledged to refuse any financial support from the fossil fuel industry.

Thousands of us are already canvassing and calling people to support these candidates.

We also support the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) in their campaign to pressure the Philadelphia electric utility (PECO) to initiate a major program of purchasing solar energy for their grid from locally installed solar panels. This campaign links clean energy with the creation of living-wage jobs for hundreds of Philadelphians. In 2016, Philadelphia had the highest poverty rate (25.7%) among the 10 largest U.S. cities. We also have thousands of flat rooftops that could easily accommodate solar cells.

EQAT has worked with grassroots community groups to bring public attention to its demand that PECO
get 20% of its electrical power from local rooftop solar installations by 2020 by:

  • Holding a three-week walk through the five counties that PECO serves and holding rallies with local supporters in each one,
  • Doing laps (on scooters, stilts, and legs) around PECO headquarters,
  • Blockading the entrances to PECO headquarters with the bodies of 18 activists who were subsequently arrested.

In the fall midterms, let’s show that we can vote dirty energy supporters out of office and bring in new political leaders who will support effective programs to slow, then reverse, the slide into climate catastrophe. We can also support direct actions which can prevent governments, corporations, and powerful individuals from forging ahead with their plans for more fracking, more oil drilling, and more destruction of our earth.

And that will be “love implementing the demands of justice” with effective nonviolent and electoral power.

Bruce Birchard has spent 44 years in Quaker service and currently serves on the boards of Quaker Voluntary Service and Right Sharing of World Resources.