Now, the more personal version
I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment over a movie theatre in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia and then attended Duke University as a first generation college student
(and later Yale for grad school). These experiences planted an early awareness of economic inequality, which was nurtured by two and a half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana. Living in southern Africa during apartheid, with friends who had fled that brutal regime, inspired my first activism when I came back to the U.S., as well as a lifelong concern about racism, which I taught about for several years on the university level.
My concern for the natural world also has deep roots. Camping with the Girl Scouts and then my high school Outing Club, I fell in love with the woods, which is where I have always felt closest to the Divine. Initially I expressed my desire to protect the earth by carrying canvass shopping bags and trying to limit my consumption, which became more challenging after having children. Eventually I came to see these individual acts as spiritual practices–choices that helped me to live in integrity–but not enough to address the scale of change needed to prevent climate catastrophe.
By my late forties, I despaired that any of my work to make the world a better place had made a difference. To make matters worse, my first two books and much of my teaching had been about how to listen for and follow a calling, and I did not feel like I was walking my own talk. My memoir Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope tells the story of how I navigated this period of inner-struggle and found a new midlife calling that integrated my passion for justice, earthcare, and spirituality, while teaching me a whole new, more effective way to work for positive change.
From 2013 to 2018, I served as board chair of Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT, pronounced “equate”), which uses nonviolent direct action to work for a just and sustainable economy. During my leadership, we won our campaign to get PNC Bank to pull out of financing mountaintop removal coal mining. After a few months of discernment, we began a new campaign to push Pennsylvania’s largest utility to make a major shift to local solar in a way that creates jobs and economic opportunity in low income neighborhoods, which have been hurt the most from the fossil fuel economy. More recently, I served as Campaign Director of EQAT as we built a grassroots movement to demand meaningful climate action from Vanguard, the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels. You can learn more about that ongoing work here.
Meanwhile, I felt called to start teaching online courses on effective and spiritually grounded activism after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I found that many people were feeling as I had before joining EQAT–discouraged by the state of the world and unsure how to help. Within a few years, I supported thousands of activists from five continents through my teaching, speaking and writing. When it became clear that Donald Trump might not accept the results of the 2020 election, I was recruited to serve as Trainings Coordinator of Choose Democracy, which trained nearly 10,000 people in nonviolent strategies to prevent a coup.
Now, I am working to finish a new book about how all these threads are connected, while keeping my heart open about what I might be led to offer next. Please join my mailing list to stay posted!