Update from the Environmental Justice Collaboratory

Over the past months, Commit2Respond and Climate Justice Month have been a major focus of the Environmental Justice Collaboratory, with Collaboratory members contributing vital leadership on the Steering Committee and many of the planning teams (learn more about the leadership of Commit2Respond).

One team that deserves serious recognition is the resource development team, which includes Collaboratory members Rev. Peggy Clarke, Kat Liu, and Jennifer Nordstrom. Additional team members were Rev. Sofía Betancourt and Tim DeChristopher. Together they collected, curated and wrote the reflections for Climate Justice Month’s daily emails. If you missed the reflections, which really are a wonderful resource, you can find all of them on the Commit2Respond blog.

Now that Climate Justice Month is over (it will be back next year!) the work continues in a variety of ways and Environmental Justice Collaboratory members continue to contribute: the creation of a Climate Activist Network Team, which is beginning to envision and develop an activist network; and a Religious Education Team, which is collecting/curating climate justice-focused religious education resources, particularly for children and youth, and developing resources where gaps exist.

While supporting Commit2Respond, the Collaboratory is also moving forward with our own work plan as well. Following are just a couple of highlights.

Climate Justice Course for Seminarians: One of the needs identified by the Collaboratory is for curricula at our seminaries that will prepare our future ministers to be leaders in the work of environmental/climate justice. This spring Michael Hogue, professor of Theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School and one of the organizers of the initial Collaboratory gathering, taught a
new class, “Cosmos and Ethos.”

In the class, students explored the climate crisis as a planetary reality, a moral phenomenon, a religious concern, a social justice tragedy, and a problem of political economy. Students also conducted research on climate change and climate justice in their home communities, which represented every region in the US and included rural, urban and suburban communities. The students then moved from identifying the problems to exploring solutions in post-capitalist alternatives such as the commons movement and forms of ecodemocracy and eco-socialism, and engaged with Religious Naturalism as a framework and praxis for living into these alternatives.

One of the students, Christina Hockman, articulated one of her profound learnings from the course: “Those of us who are blessed with not having to spend every waking moment trying to meet life’s most basic needs have a responsibility. The responsibility is to look after those who are vulnerable—vulnerable to all kinds of injustices, including climate change. It’s those who have the least who have the most to lose. The irony is that by saving the most vulnerable—our poor, our hungry, our climate—we can save the world.”

Environmental Justice Book: The Collaboratory also recognized the need for more in-depth reflections on the spiritual grounding for environmental justice and its practice from a UU perspective. That was the inspiration for the upcoming book Crossing Lines: Embodying our Environmental Justice Commitment. The book, co-edited by Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom and published by Skinner House Books, is still a work in progress—right now eighteen UU theologians, activists and organizers are contributing the reflections, which will make up the core of this vital work. It’s still several months out, but we can’t wait for it to be published.

Matthew McHale is a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry, a consultant for Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth, and on the Steering Committee for the UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory. He lives in Oakland, California. The UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory is one of the collaborating organizations of Commit2Respond.

This blog post originally appeared in the UUMFE spring newsletter. You can get more great stories like this in your inbox by subscribing to the UUMFE newsletter. 

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