Walking Gently On The Earth

An Earthcare Checklist

Am I walking gently on the earth?
Do I live simply, mindful how my life
affects the earth and her resources?

Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN)

Walking Gently On The Earth

The first edition of Walking Gently on the Earth was written by Jack Phillips. Revisions for the second edition were coordinated by Robert Pollard, who also typeset this edition. Jack Phillips taught Environmental Studies at Saint Cloud University for eight years, and is editor of BeFriending Creation, the monthly newsletter of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN).

Published by the author and editor in collaboration with FCUN. The opinions herein expressed or implied are the responsibility of the authors alone, and do not represent those of FCUN unless specifically endorsed by that Committee.

This pamphlet is offered in the spirit of exploration and experiment, for wide dissemination not limited to Friends (Quakers), in the belief that protecting the earth's waters, atmosphere, soils and living things from destructive human impact requires changes in both attitude and behavior, and that changes in one can bring changes in the other.

Copyright 1989
Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
7899 St. Helena Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

May be freely reproduced with credit.

ISBN 0-934449-04-X

Second Edition
Friends are encouraged to formulate Queries and testimonies in their own Meetings, and to forward them to FCUN, for possible inclusion in a revised version of this checklist.

Spiritual Considerations Among Friends

Goals of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
Revised, March, 1989, at Des Moines, Iowa
Minute: Our concern for the earth is a spiritual one. We feel a need to examine our faith and practice in the context of this concern. We invite and celebrate the Light that each Meeting has to shed on this.
-- from a Conference on Being in Unity with Nature, Pacific Yearly Meeting
... it behooves us as Friends to examine the impact of our lifestyles; to search for the cause of environmental ills; to consider the effect of our investments upon the environment; to educate ourselves about ecological issues and volunteer to educate others; to lobby Congress to legislate and implement effective laws protecting the environment ... and finally to engage willingly, under Divine Guidance, in nonviolent civil disobedience in opposition to destruction of the planet's resources.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1988

An Earthcare Checklist

We offer this booklet as guide and support for people who are becoming more sensitive to how our daily lives affect the earth. It is intended to be feasible, non-judgmental, healthy, relevant, and cumulative.

Each section is introduced with a query that sets a context -- practical or spiritual -- in which to explore our behavior and attitudes in one sector of our lives. Then a series of possible action steps is listed -- steps we may choose to take, or that we may already be taking.

While we look at our actions, Walking Gently On the Earth encourages us to examine our rational, emotional and spiritual attitudes. We may be induced to look deeper and deeper into our relationship with the earth, and into how new behaviors and values might help us move towards a new integration of personal and planetary wellness.

The following questions might be referred to from time-to-time, as we move unhurriedly through the Earthcare Checklist:

As Friends, many of us are acting to take better care of ourselves and the earth's life-support systems. Some of us feel a need to do more, but also feel overwhelmed and perhaps a little hopeless about dangerous and destructive global trends like ocean pollution, ozone layer depletion, the "greenhouse effect," and the destruction of tropical forests and their inhabitants.

However, hope can be nurtured by acting, especially if we can find actions we can integrate into our daily or weekly routine. It can help to acknowledge those actions in ourselves and others, to support each other by example and encouragement, and to see each other succeeding where we would like to succeed.


One way you can use this booklet is to go through and place a numeral "1" alongside each item you are already doing. Give yourself credit for whatever ecological good citizenship you live.

Then think about the further steps you might like to take during the coming week. Place a numeral "2" before a few such items. Be realistic, and take on only what you think you can actually handle. A week later, if you were able to follow through consistently, place a check mark before the numeral "2" to indicate your success. (If an item doesn't apply to you, you might write in a zero.)

Perhaps you will remain on this "plateau" for a while. When you feel ready, place a "3" before one or two other items, and then monitor yourself a week later for all the 1s, 2s, and 3s. And so on, week by week, whether you progress or reach a plateau. You may reach a limit or you may go on indefinitely. Obviously, some items cannot be accomplished in a week.

As you move through the checklist with each of the five sets of questions above, you can use a similar approach to assess how you are doing with respect to each of the four levels.

In my house I recycle:
___ newspaper
___ paper bags
___ mixed paper
___ aluminum cans
___ aluminum foil, pans
___ tin cans
___ glass bottles & jars
___ food scraps
___ household batteries
___ plastics (e.g. milk & soda bottles)
___ egg cartons
___ used clothes, furniture, appliances

To reduce use of virgin materials, I:
___ use recycled paper
___ take my own bags to the grocery store
___ buy things from thrift stores, e.g. Salvation Army, Goodwill stores, and yard sales
___ repair, re-use things, instead of throwing away or replacing them

In my house, to reduce pollution, I:
___ dispose of toxic substances (e.g. paint thinner, cleansers, poisons) only on designated days or places, not in the trash or down the drain
___ use phosphate-free soaps and detergents
___ limit use of household pesticides (e.g use fly swatters instead)
___ clean windows with vinegar and water rather than chemicals
___ buy few commercial toxic materials
___ avoid asbestos
___ avoid formaldehyde products
___ participate in community "paint exchanges"

When I am shopping, I:
___ decline excess packaging and bagging from merchants
___ cut back on disposable products, especially plastics and styrofoam
___ buy durable products, keep them longer. Cheap short lived furniture, appliances, and clothing waste energy and fill up landfill areas fast
___ check the energy rating on major appliances
___ avoid products from endangered animal species
___ don't buy exotic pets
___ read labels and buy least toxic products
___ avoid purchasing trivial or unnecessary toys, gadgets
___ think of disposal impact at the time of purchase
___ speak to merchants, write manufacturers about effects of excess packaging on landfill capacity
___ talk with supermarket managers about pesticide residues
___ encourage others to adopt environmentally sound habits

To support activities that care for the earth, I:
___ seek and patronize local organic farmers, gardeners
___ choose clothing made from natural fibers
___ buy food and products that do not contain chemical additives
___ grow some of my own food as "organically" as possible

For nutrition and soil conservation, I eat low on the food chain by:
___ having small servings of beef or pork
___ eating more beans and less meat
___ learning more vegetarian recipes
___ learning to like vegetarian recipes
___ reducing the number of meat meals at fast-food restaurants
___ eating a predominantly vegetarian diet

Meat production requires ten times as much land per calorie as grain or beans. Overgrazing erodes soil. Tropical forests are being destroyed to meet demand for beef, much of it through fast-food restaurants.

In my house, to conserve energy I:
___ have adequate insulation (in apartments we ask the owner for it)
___ keep the thermostat from 65 to 70 (or less) in cold weather
___ wear warm enough clothing for the above
___ do not waste energy through open doors and windows
___ seal air leaks with caulking and weatherstripping
___ set the hot water heater at 130 degrees
___ use hot water sparingly for showers, laundry, dishes
___ keep the thermostat between 74 and 82 in hot weather
___ avoid air conditioning or take substitute measures
___ avoid unnecessary electrical tools, gadgets
___ use high-efficiency electrical appliances
___ use electricity sparingly in lights, range, TV, radios
___ have free or low cost energy audit from the local utility company
___ lower thermostat 1 degree per hour we're asleep or away
___ turn down the heat, turn off water heater before leaving on vacations
___ have solar hot water heater
___ use solar clothes dryer (old fashioned clothes line)
___ have solar collectors
___ use passive solar heating (large double glass windows; heavy curtains for night; extra insulation)

Energy conservation reduces acid rain, mining, smog, ocean pollution, the greenhouse effect. This is partly by lowering the demand for new power plants or eliminating existing one.

In my transportation, I:
___ have low-horsepower, high-miles-per-gallon car
___ maintain efficient exhaust emissions control
___ keep the car tuned up
___ carpool when feasible
___ walk or ride a bicycle for short trips
___ use public transportation
___ consolidate or combine car trips during the week
___ eliminate unnecessary trips
___ recycle used motor oil
___ recycle used tires

To cultivate a diverse habitat for other species, in my yard, I:
___ put up birdhouses and a birdbath
___ plant shrubs and trees that give food and shelter to birds, squirrels, rabbits
___ have a compost pile and operate it well
___ pull weeds instead of using herbicides
___ grow indigenous plants that require minimal fertilizer or watering
___ learn natural insect controls to avoid pesticides
___ use trees for cooling, shrubs for insulating the house

In my recreation, I:
___ seek opportunities to spend time outdoors, in natural spaces, in parks
___ cultivate quiet, simple enjoyment instead of frantic action
___ enjoy walking and observing
___ canoe or swim instead of water-ski
___ cross country ski instead of snowmobile
___ use tent, sleeping bags instead of motor home, trailer
___ don't pick wildflowers or collect protected plants
___ don't litter, or throw cans, bottles, junk in lakes or streams
___ carry reusable cups and dishes
___ pick up litter in parks and the neighborhood
___ participate in clean-up days
___ participate in activities sponsored by local and national environmental and wildlife organizations
___ am a member of The Nature Conservancy or the National Wildlife Federation, or similar organizations that protect nature
___ support the work of some of the above with my time, energy, and money

At my workplace, I:
___ support or initiate recycling programs for computer paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, etc.
___ support or initiate programs that reduce waste of materials
___ purchase and use recycled paper increasingly
___ re-use manila envelopes and file folders
___ print or copy both sides of paper
___ post non-urgent communications, or route them around the office, rather than make multiple copies
___ promote alternatives to disposable cups, encourage people to use their own mugs and plates
___ use the stairs, rather than the elevators, when feasible
___ encourage landscaping with trees and shrubs that birds like, rather than with sterile lawns and bedding flowers
___ participate in industrial recycling programs
___ support energy conservation with insulation, window design, etc.

Some habits are not easy to change. We are addicted to overconsumption and waste of energy, water and materials. Drug addiction of individuals is paralleled by society's addiction to pesticides,, herbicides, lawn chemicals, oil, fast-food beef, chicken, etc. Can we learn about liberation from these addictions from the support groups of Alcoholics Anonymous and other drug-addiction support groups?

In my place of worship, we:
___ have discussed the ways in which environmental protection and respect for creation are spiritual issues
___ have discussed whether "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 means stewardship and conservation rather than pollution and the destruction of species
___ have discussed extinction of species as a violation of God's commandment as given to Noah (Genesis 6:19)
___ have discussed acid rain, water pollution, deforestation as violations of God's will and love of His creation.
___ avoid styrofoam cups
___ recycle newsprint, other paper
___ purchase and use recycled paper increasingly
___ have discussed and implemented energy-saving steps
___ have discussed and implemented pollution-reducing steps
___ have a carpooling program in place
___ have held a discussion group to look at our compliance with this whole checklist

Many of us might benefit from meeting weekly, with a small group committed to helping each other, non-judgmentally, to carry out our intentions and commitments.

The procedure might include sharing our successes and failures of the past week, sharing our intentions and hopes for the coming week and giving each other encouragement. Not competition, but support. Not judgment, but satisfaction in seeing the progress of others and ourselves in caring for the earth.

To limit the effects of a growing world population, I:
___ have, or intend to have, only two children, adopting any others
___ have, or intend to have, only one child, adopting any others
___ support birth control programs worldwide
___ perceive clearly how overpopulation, along with overconsumption, intensifies all the other stresses on the earth's ability to support life:

___ belong to Zero Population Growth
___ belong to Negative Population Growth
___ support the work of the above with extra money, time or energy
___ support the worldwide family planning work of Planned Parenthood in education and teenage pregnancy
___ have had a vasectomy or tubal ligation
___ continually ask people and politicians to face up the overpopulation dimension of the threat to earth's and humanity's future, and to support humane remedies
___ continually ask affluent people, even with small families, to face up to the overconsumption dimension of the threat to earth's and humanity's future.
Some readers of the Earthcare Checklist may not agree with the way the overpopulation issue is handled above. The need for brevity may result in oversimplification of complex issues. We point out that readers are free to ignore any items, or to write their own items, and to suggest revisions or additions.

To be effective in the political arena, I:
___ keep myself well-informed about environmental issues

___ am aware of the pending legislative issues
___ am in an environmental study and action group
___ vote environmentally. It's not "single issue" voting.
___ lobby and pressure for environmental protection:
It's not "special interest" lobbying. It's taking sides for the future of life on earth.
___ I belong to local, national and international environmental organizations that are actively involved in efforts to:
___ I support one or more such organizations with extra contributions of money
___ I support one or more such organizations by directly contributing my time and energy
___ I have ordered, received, and studied George Bush's environmental policy statement of August 31, 1988, in which he said: "I would start (as President) by integrating environmental considerations into all policy decisions. ... In my first year in office I will convene a global conference on the environment. It will include the Soviets, the Chinese, the developing world. We will talk about acid rain, saving our ocean and preventing the loss of tropical forests. And we will act. ... The protocol to limit emissions of NOx should be signed by the U.S. and implemented around the world. ... On the question of acid rain,the time for study alone has passed. We know enough now to begin steps to limit future damage. ... I plan to attack the toxic waste menace with every ounce of energy I have, and with every enforcement tool at my disposal. Superfund has the money. But we can use it faster ... For those who don't cooperate, EPA should use its authority to sue them for triple damages... . I will appoint the finest and most qualified individuals in the land (to the EPA). This will have my support, my mandate: go after the polluters. ... We have been losing wetlands ... We must bring together the private and public sectors to find ways to conserve wetlands ... We consume mountains of plastic packages, waste millions of gallons of water, produce barrels of hazardous waste. We can waste less and reduce pollutants at their source ... We can instill a new spirit in the people of this country. A conservation ethic.
___ I am holding George Bush to his statements with as much political pressure as I and my friends can generate.
___ I have sent for, received (from the Soviet Embassy), and studied Soviet Foreign Minister Schevardnadze's speech to the US General Assembly on September 28, 1988, in which he called for an environmental summit conference (p17), called for turning the UN Environment Programme into a council capable of taking effective decisions to ensure "ecological security," for other effective mechanisms for international ecological cooperation (p14), and called attention to the UN's Bruntland Report, "Our Common Future" and to UNEP's models of environmental renaissance to counter environmental apocalypse (p15), and called for many similar environmental actions.
___ With friends or an action group, I have mobilized political support for Senator John Kerry's call for an "environmental summit" for Soviet-American cooperative efforts to expand their many existing joint projects in environmental protection, and the 71 US Senators who wrote Mikhail Gorbachev, following up his call to "pool the enormous might of our countries' economic and intellectual capacities to solve problems we share in common" (Gorbachev's interview with Tom Brokaw), that global environmental problems were the place to start.

Environmental Organizations

Listing an organization here, or on the checklists on the previous pages, is not intended to imply endorsement by Friends of the point of view or of all the activities of these organizations.

Friends Environmental Groups

Several Yearly Meetings have established their own committees under a similar name. Pacific, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Illinois are among those Yearly Meetings that have been active in the concern for nature.


George Bush's statement may be ordered from: The Office of the President, Washington, DC. It may also be ordered from FCUN, above, at the cost of printing and mailing (2/$1.00).

Senator John Kerry (Massachusetts) may have documentation available on the items mentioned above, page 13, from his address: Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20010.

Please note that this document is the text of a 1989 document. Because of this, a number of the references may be anachronistic -- and a number of the addresses of organizations may not be correct.