Environmental Justice 101

"Environmental justice" isn't just a new way to say "environmentalism"—it's an entirely different approach. 

Environmentalism generally looks only at a single piece of the puzzle at once, like the piece about conserving natural places or the piece about not filling landfills with materials that could be recycled. Consequently, it results in solutions that only address one piece at a time without questioning the larger system.

Environmental justice, on the other hand, attempts to look at all of the pieces and seek out the injustices within the entire system, ultimately questioning the system itself when it results in things like destruction of natural places and filling landfills with recyclable materials. Consequently, it leads to solutions that work to dismantle unjust and immoral systems, recognizing that all injustice is interrelated.

Commit2Respond is grounded in environmental justice. Find out more from Alex Kapitan, one of the organizers of Commit2Respond, who shares why justice provides the grounding for our religious and moral call to action. You can also learn more here.


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  • commented 2015-12-11 00:25:50 -0500
    What have I been doing during the last five months? First: I moved to Florida to develop a Gulf Coast ministry for environmental justice…. Second: I got involved with a CSAI proposal that’s called “Climate Change” and Environmental Justice." It’s moving towards the 2016 General Assembly… This CSAI received a lot of inspiration from Alex Kapitan’s statements.
  • commented 2015-07-05 19:00:30 -0400
    Some visions, systems of ethics, etc., develop from “the top down.” Example: I’m very grateful for Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical. It’s a wonderful document that will do a lot of good in many places. Still, I know that, once again, an authoritarian figure in a large bureaucracy has developed a big statement for consumers to accept….. With the Unitarian Universalists, the seven principles represent something that’s very different in the environmental justice discussion….. The principles have developed, over a period of years, through a decision-making process that’s very open and very democratic. The principles can be amended. They can be questioned and debated, without fear of a heresy trial or excommunication….. Congregations are especially important in the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Our congregations are democratic, and self-governing, and they select (and dismiss) their own leaders. Women are accepted as leaders. The rights of gay people – and other minorities – are defended….. There are many ways to address the climate change problem. Which model works best for promoting environmental justice?
  • commented 2015-07-05 18:26:26 -0400
    We need to look at the UUA’s seven principles in new ways…. First: We need to understand that the seventh principle is a statement about reality. In effect, we say, “This is how the universe works. Maybe there’s a Great Creator – then again, maybe not – but we leave that question to individuals to decide. For Unitarian Universalists, what’s important is the concept of the interdependent web of all existence.” That’s the starting place…. Well, that’s nice…. However, even a social Darwinist or a racist can agree that “the environment is important.” In order to move towards environmental justice, you need the other six principles. All of the principles are important.
  • commented 2015-07-05 18:04:10 -0400
    What do Unitarian Universalists mean when they talk about “environmental justice”? The oldest statement – and perhaps the best – may be the statement called “Environmental Justice” that was approved by the General Assembly in 1994…. However: Another way to look at the situation is to look at all of the UUA’s seven principles in combination. One principle says, in effect, “We recognize an interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.” This is the foundation for much of our thinking. Still, this isn’t the only point that helps us to explain “environmental justice.” Because we have other principles – equally important – that support things like “the use of the democratic process” and “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Our first principle is very important in the environmental justice package. However, all of the principles together, in one vision, are essential for environmental justice…. If you’re working for some of the principles, while ignoring the others, you may be working for something, but, clearly, you’re not working for environmental justice. Bring everything together.

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