United Church of Christ

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.

The Plastic Problem: A Growing Threat to Marine Life


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.)

Was 2016 the Year of Environmental Justice?

Rev. Berndt holding a \Was 2016 the year of environmental justice? Or, was it just the beginning? As an analysis by Media Matters points out, the Flint water crisis did not receive substantial coverage in the national mainstream media until the Governor of Michigan declared a State of Emergency for Flint on January 5, 2016. This event marked the beginning of a year in which environmental justice, with its central concern for race, has received national attention unlike in any previous year. For just one example, consider that two months after the State of Emergency was declared, a Democratic Presidential debate was held in Flint. The candidates competed to see who would be the greater environmental justice champion for a city devastated by lead poisoning. (Read more.)

Excerpt from God Is Green

God Is GreenPastor and theologian Robert Shore-Goss has just published a new book entitled God Is Green: An Eco-Spirituality of Incarnate Compassion. Check out this excerpt from it.

The Fierce Love of Standing Rock(s)

Rev. Rob MarkWhat follows is an excerpt from a longer reflection by the Rev. Rob Mark of Church of the Covenant in Boston. In this reflection, Mark speaks of his visit to the Oceti Sakowin camp in Standing Rock as part of an in which over 500 clergy arrived to join in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the allied Water Protectors who are opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Read more.)

Christmas Gift Book Recommendations

Last month I posed to readers of The Pollinator the following questions: If you were to give a book related to environmental justice as a Christmas present, which book would it be? What is the one creation-loving book that you would want others to read more than anything else?” In response, I received the following thoughtful and informative responses.

Gratitude & an update on Standing Rock

An update from Rev Brooks Berndt, United Church of Christ Minister for Environmental Justice, following the Obama Administration’s announcement that it will deny the final permit needed to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Read more.)

Transitions, Fast and Slow

SAWTELL.jpegThe election of Donald Trump was a shock -- even for many of his supporters and staff. But our disbelief now has to deal with new realities. In just over a week, Trump's transition team released names for several key positions in his pending administration. Many of those picks are quite controversial.

As I indicated previously, there is much to fear if, as expected, Trump moves quickly to implement key parts of his agenda. On many fronts, those of us who disagree with his policies of exclusion, extraction and exploitation will need to work hard and strategically to blunt or divert some of those initiatives.

There is a bit of good news, though. Political transitions are not instantaneous. Drawing on a familiar metaphor, it is like changing the course of an aircraft carrier at sea. Under the best of conditions, it is a slow process, and strong winds can make it even more difficult.

As we begin to sort out what the Trump administration can do quickly, and what will take more time, we can back off on some of our anxiety, and we can be more focused in developing effective action plans. (Read more.)

The Naked Truth: Climate Change and the Coming Trump Administration

You can cross-file it under “strange” and “prophetic ,” but the Bible tells us that the prophet Isaiah walked around “naked and barefoot for three years” to make a symbolic statement about the potential  future of Egyptians should a full-scale war develop. I thought of this scripture in the wake of the recent presidential election. Various assessments have been made about what the Trump administration will mean for efforts to address climate change. Some sound the alarm while others would seem to almost rationalize complacency with a list of reasons for why we should not be too worried. In this situation, I tend to favor the naked truth. (Read more.)

Making Global Connections: Water, Soda, Health and the Environment

MexicanCoke.jpgWhile sitting as a guest at many tables throughout South America, I was served a variety of foods: chicken and plantains, beans and rice, beef stew and mashed potatoes.  But there was one absolute on nearly every table: soda.  As an honored guest it would have been rude for me to decline hospitality, so I often indulged, drinking more sugar than I ever had stateside.  But in those same gatherings, people often asked me to pray for their sugar-related health concerns, like struggle with fatigue, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes diagnoses.  I began to ask a series of questions: why do so many consume soda as an alternative to water, why is soda consumption increasing in developing countries, and what, if anything, can be done to reduce soda consumption?  I additionally began to wonder about not only the health impacts of soda but also about what environmental justice concerns might be connected to soda manufacturing.

I did some research and here’s what I found.

With Standing Rock: Be the Church

Brooks-Berndt.jpgIn a church newsletter, my pastor recently cited a discussion she heard between the columnists E.J. Dionne and David Brooks. They were lamenting the loss of a mainline Christian voice in the public sphere, and Brooks declared that mainline Protestant churches are too weak today to assert such a voice. I will confess that I have had my own moments of similar lament. I have bemoaned out loud the lack of Jesus’ revolutionary spirit in churches today. I have decried the silence and timidity of pastors who are afraid of “controversy” in the church should they dare to speak of justice. Yet, my immediate visceral reaction to reading the comments of Dionne and Brooks was not at all along these lines. Instead, I thought about the overwhelming response to a recent statement by clergy who have called for action in solidarity with Standing Rock. (Read more.)