On March 15th, as high school students around the world walked out of their classes as part of the youth climate strike inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, I walked down the block to join the crowd gathered in downtown Cleveland. I had been in communication with one of the youth organizers all week, but it was not until that moment that I made the connection between the youth taking action and the history of the movement behind my own work as the Minister of Environmental Justice for the United Church of ChristThe birth of the environmental justice movement in 1982 owed a lot to children and youth, including at least one who skipped school. As Dollie Burwell, "the mother of the environmental justice movement," once explained, her ten-year-old daughter Kimberly had refused to go to school on the first day of a civil disobedience campaign that ultimately lasted six weeks.(More.)
To express our commitment to care for God’s creation, the Green Team at our church presented a Creation Justice Covenant to our governing body. We were surprised when two members were unsure why we included a paragraph about social justice and racism. As a predominantly white congregation in socially and religiously conservative Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, they did not appreciate that social justice issues were relevant for our church. After some discussion, the covenant did pass with the necessary votes but we were dumbfounded by that initial response. (More.)
For me, the focus of the United Church of Christ on Three Great Loves hits home as I reflect upon how love of neighbors, love of children, and love of creation are intertwined for me. I live in Carlisle, Cumberland County, the transportation hub of the mid-Atlantic. We are plagued with fine particulate matter air pollution from the thousands of 18-wheelers passing through here daily. Our doctors claim increased numbers of respiratory disturbances in young children and at one time even placed a full-page ad in the local newspaper to draw attention to the problem. The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania works with the Carlisle Area School District on a “flag program” to warn parents when levels of pollution are higher. Some children get no outdoor play on these days. (More.)
In moments of passion and enthusiasm, one can gain a glimpse of future potentials—both positive and negative. Such was the case when the executive leadership of my faith denomination issued a statement shortly after the introduction into congress of a resolution in support of the Green New Deal. Our leadership praised the resolution as creating a unique opportunity for our country that was consistent with our own long held values. The overwhelming response to the statement and related advocacy actions was overwhelming positive, but it did spark some conversation in a few circles that reflected the potential for infighting among environmentalists over what was the best course of legislative action in addressing climate change. (More.)
I am very concerned for the wellbeing of our planet. The time, effort, and money we provide maintaining and improving our physical homes should at least equal what we apply to our true gifted home, Earth. Climate change is real, the evidence proves it is happening: disappearing ice caps and melting glaciers leading to rising sea levels; extreme weather conditions resulting in larger hurricanes, wildfires and drought. All of this is happening because of our addiction to carbon. (More.)
In Genesis, we find that our first call as people of faith is to tend to God’s creation. In caring for this interconnected world in which we live, this call inevitably entails putting love into action for every living creature and for every economically or racially marginalized community that suffers from environmental harm. When it comes to how we discern this call in more specific terms, one will sometimes hear of “ladders of engagement.” The idea is that people start out with an activity that requires a low bar of commitment and then work their way upward to activities of increasing commitment. While this concept is helpful, history also suggests that sometimes people feel called to jump over rungs on the ladder to the place that they feel compelled to serve in that moment. There are no formulas for how God works in our lives. Look at this ladder of engagement to discern where you and your congregation belong in seeking to care for God’s creation. (More.)
Public dialogue and action are urgently needed for our society to confront the intertwined challenges of energy use, economic well-being, public health, and climate change. In partnership with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 program and Everyday Democracy, the Environmental Ministry Program of the UCC has created a small group discussion guide for meeting these vital needs. (More.)
In the last issue of the Pollinator, an invitation was extended to readers to write a “Letter to Pollinators” in response to a prompt that highlighted two seemingly contradictory opinion pieces in the Guardian over whether those who care about the environment should stop eating meat. In response, we received the following letter from the Rev. Sarah Horton-Campbell of Common Life Church & Farm: (More.)
Toward the end of 2018, Oliver Milman wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled, “Why Eating Less Meat Is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet in 2019.” Notably, The Guardian ran an oped earlier in the year by Isabella Tree with a title that might initially seem to contradict Milman: “If You Want to Save the World, Veganism Isn’t the Answer.” What are creation justice-minded people of faith supposed to do when it comes to eating? And should we even be focused on individual diets rather than larger issues of agricultural policy? The Rev. Brooks Berndt is collecting response for The Pollinator, the UCC's Environmental Justice Newsletter. Send Brooks a 250-words or less “Letter to Pollinators” to share your thoughts.
By the way, did you know that in 2011 the UCC passed a resolution on Mindful and Faithful Eating?
Moriba Jah, a space debris expert at the University of Texas in Austin, thinks we can learn a valuable lesson from the early history of mining in the United Sates. That industry harmed the natural environment and led to the loss of human life because government was slow to regulate its activities. We are going to repeat this history in space, Jah says, unless the international community adopts some rules to foster responsible stewardship of the space environment. (More.)