The Pollinator: UCC Environmental Justice Blog

The Pollinator is a digital platform of the UCC for the sharing of ideas and inspiration. Its focus is the building of a faith-filled and faith-rooted movement for the care of creation.

Sign up to recieve the Pollinator newsletter to get regular updates from our UCC Minister for Environmental Justice, Rev. Brooks Berndt.

Background on Race and Climate

the-seas-are-rising.jpegThere has been an ongoing focus on race and the environment in the United States since the 1980s when United Church of Christ ministers helped give birth to the environmental justice movement and coined the use of the phrase “environmental racism.” In more recent years, environmental justice advocates have advanced some important discussions about race in relation to climate change. (Read more.)


Lessons from a 1,500-Square-Mile Lead Catastrophe

After a hundred years of mining contaminated the Coeur d’Alene River as well as nearby lakes and lands with lead, the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983 designated 21-square-miles of  Spring Valley as the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund site. The federal government was to fund the cleanup of one of the largest and most polluted places in the country. Mining had long polluted the area with lead, arsenic, cadmium, and zinc. In 2002, the site was expanded to cover all of the 1,500-square-mile Coeur d’Alene Basin that stretches across both Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. It is now the largest lead superfund site in the nation.

BarbaraMiller.jpegTo this day, the lead poisoning of children remains an ongoing issue. In this interview, I spoke with Barbara Miller of the Silver Valley Community Resource Center which established a program called Children Run Better Unleaded to address this health crisis that spans decades. I wanted to learn more about SVCRC’s program as well as the situation she currently faces in seeking environmental justice. I also wanted to know if there were lessons for other parts of the country to learn in addressing lead poisoning. (Read more.)


Urgent: Stand with Standing Rock!

honor-the-treaties.jpgThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its intention to issue a permit for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe. This pipeline permit route jeopardizes drinking water and desecrates sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The Army Corps also stated that they would grant the easement without completing an Environmental Impact Statement (an inclusive project evaluation process that allows for public input). Read more.


The Immediate Threats to Scientific Advancement in the United States

On the website of The Washington Post on January 31, Chris Mooney posted an article titled, “A new battle over politics and science could be brewing. And scientists are ready for it.” A day earlier, ProPublica posted an article about President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, with the alarming headline, “DeVos’ Code Words for Creationism Offshoot Raise Concerns About ‘Junk Science’.”

If anyone had any doubt that the current administration is at the very least skeptical of science, if not opposed to it nearly completely, these two headlines should speak a powerful truth: unless the results of scientific inquiry can be monetized immediately, or those results do not threaten the money-making industries of the oligarchy, this administration has little to no interest in continuing the scientific inquiry and exploration that has been the bedrock of American ingenuity for nearly four centuries. The two-pronged approach in evidence muzzles scientists and suspends or caps funding, particularly for government projects (or so current events indicate) while also curtailing the accuracy of science education across elementary and secondary schools, which could leave high school graduates with a substantial scientific knowledge deficit and make it harder for those educated in America to continue in the hard sciences at the college level. Our hope of reversing global climate change and all its attendant problems across the fields of science hinges on funding research, building scientifically sound industries, and teaching our children and youth well so they can continue the work for their generation and their children’s, as well. (Read more.)


Impeachment as a Moral Referendum

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Photo: Gage Skidmore

While I have been heartened to see articles in the New York Times and elsewhere about religious leaders issuing statements against Trump’s executive orders, the continued barrage of blows from the new administration has made the tactical state of the "resistance" seem like hand wringing in the face of a pugilist. It begs the question of how to escalate the response of faith communities to a level of greater efficacy. The high levels of opposition in the general public to the current administration has opened up conversations about courses of action that—with the right organizing—could potentially shift from “totally-hard-to-imagine” to “maybe possible” to “very-much-doable.” Among those courses of action, impeachment is the one that is currently building the public sentiment necessary to move along this continuum of potentiality. (Read more.)


Confronting with Courage the One Who Sees Only ‘Carnage’ - Making God’s Work Our Own

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This is the moment for which we have been called.  How fitting that every four years, the Inauguration of the American President is surrounded by the season of Epiphany – when the truth of Gospel is revealed to the world. (Read more.)


Trump Administration to Scrap NASA’s Role in Climate Research

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In 2017, it’s not just space debris that threatens satellites monitoring climate change. It’s also anti-science politics.

Read more.


Creation Justice and Church 3.0: An Interview with Cyndy Ash

Cyndy.jpegProgressive Christian leaders such as Cameron Trimble and John Dorhauer have been leading a discussion about the historical trajectory of churches and what the future holds as the body of Christ evolves. In his book Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World, Dorhauer summarizes the conceptual framework proposed by Trimble by describing the pre-Reformation Church as Church 1.0, the post-Reformation Church as Church 2.0, and “whatever is emerging as Church 3.0.” Through a series of interviews, my goal is to bring into this conversation the voices of those who are envisioning and bringing to life Church 3.0 with a notable emphasis on creation care and justice.

My first interview in this series is with Cyndy Ash who owns a five acre organic produce and livestock farm in central Illinois called Jubilee. In April, Jubilee Farms will also become a worshipping community. It will then become the second farm church in the country after one established by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Durham, North Carolina. (Read more.)


Trump, a Fascist? Let’s Dig Deeper

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For some, it has become almost fashionable to call Donald Trump a “fascist.” While I believe Trump steals from the fascist playbook as a messianic aspirer mobilizing the malevolent passions of isms and phobias, I tend to shy away from applying the label myself. I would agree with the Mussolini biographer and Oxford historian Richard Bosworth who argues that “fascism” has become a kind of “boo” word. It evokes the worst of horrors while precluding any substantive analysis of Trump and the present state of our nation. While I have no desire to engage in a full-blown debate over the term’s usage, there is one argument against its use that I find interesting because of its implications for how progressive Christians engage the Trump administration. (Read more.)


The Plastic Problem: A Growing Threat to Marine Life

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In teaching a group of curious middle schoolers this past summer at the Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, I asked the campers to guess the biodegradation time for the various marine debris that I had gathered.  I then revealed the following estimations: 10-20 years for a plastic bag, 50 years for a foam cup, 450 years for a plastic bottle, and 600 years for monofilament line. I explained that plastic debris never truly breaks down completely, but rather fragments into smaller and smaller pieces.  As I displayed plastic bags, a golf ball, plastic shards, and duct tape, I revealed that they were all found in the gut of a gray whale beached in Washington.  We discussed why the whale ingested these items.  We considered how many sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and how seabirds often select brightly covered plastic fragments and pellets and feed them to their chicks.  I explained that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other gyres collecting plastics are like a growing soup of marine debris, and while it’s nearly impossible to clean up, slowing our rate of plastic pollution is critical. (Read more.)


Contact Info

Brooks Berndt
Minister for Environmental Justice
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, OH 44135
216-736-3722
berndtb@ucc.org