Visiting author discusses climate action and economics
George Lakey was part of an environmental organization that was able to shut down a mining project whose pollution was causing increased rates of cancer and birth defects, over the years from 2010 to 2015, according to the Global Nonviolent Action Database.
Lakey will be visiting UAF as part of his tour for his newest book “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Right — And How We Can Too.” He will be presenting his experience with activism and economics in the Murie Auditorium on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. His talk is sponsored by the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition.
Charley Basham is a founding member of the Coalition and is the liaison for Lakey’s visit.
“This will not be a technical discussion of economics,” Basham said. “He is a very entertaining speaker, he’s funny, he tells stories.”
For this particular presentation, Lakey will mostly be talking about climate action campaigns that he has been a part of through the Earth Quaker Action Team, using his book mostly as a positive vision for the future. The Scandinavian system of addressing Climate Change has been successful and can be looked to as a reference, according to Lakey.
The Earth Quaker Action Team is a climate action organization based out of Philadelphia, PA.
“We recently completed a campaign that people said that we would never win and we won,” Lakey said. “It’s kind of a case study of what a successful campaign can look like even if large numbers of people are not involved.”
The campaign was to stop funding of a project to mine coals in the Appalachian Mountains, which included blowing the top off of the mountains to access the coal and then repeating the process. The process was increasing the rate of cancer and birth defects in the local communities, according to Lakey.
They got the bank funding the project to stop by spreading information about what the bank was doing and by occupying the bank branches by practicing their worship as Quakers. In the end, it was more advantageous for the bank to just stop funding the project, according to Lakey.
Lakey also has advice for people who are not going to do things like occupying a bank but are still interested in helping out the cause. They can do things like writing letters for to the target (for example, a bank or a government agency), coming to meetings and donating money to their organizations.
“The community’s support for campaigners can help make the difference for the campaign and whether is can be sustained,” Lakey said. “Sustaining power is very important in dealing with a powerful and wealthy institutional you have got to really show them that you will not give up.”
The most successful movements in history have been in pursuit of a positive vision of the future, rather than just removing what isn’t working but adding what can work well, according to Lakey.
“Right now Alaska’s economy is really in a bad situation and I think we can learn from hearing what has happened in Scandinavian countries,” Basham said. “They had a crash … and what did they do about it? What can we learn from what they’ve done?”