Environmental Justice

Currently on the UUA website, if one goes to the page under visitors/justice&diversity/environmental justice, one finds a nicely written blurb that isn't about environmental justice at all, but rather environmentalism and eco-spirituality.

The page will be changed and soon, but it gives me the opportunity to talk about what the UUA is now versus what we can be. We are a mostly white, mostly middle-to-upper-middle class group of folk. Most of us love "nature" and are pro-conservation, and a fair number of us incorporate at least some amount of eco-spirituality into our practice. We are well-intentioned folk but we often see things only through our own mostly white, mostly middle-to-upper-middle class perspective. And this is where much of the environmentalist movement is right now, not just UUs.

Environmental justice requires a broader perspective. Environmental justice recognizes race and class dimensions to environmental concerns. It recognizes that people of color and the poor most often bear the brunt of environmental degradation while less often benefiting from the use of our shared resources. Katrina is a stark example of environmental INjustice.

The difference between environmentalism and environmental justice is the difference between caring about the "environment" as an abstract concept and caring about the environment in reality, which includes people and their needs. One need only look to the "Spotted Owl" controversy of the late 80s/early 90s to realize the short-comings of the earlier environmentalist movement.

I have great hope for Unitarian Universalism however. As a whole, UUs try to look at things from a broader perspective than their own. We try to recognize systemic racism and (to a lesser extent) classism where they exist. Because of this, we are in a unique position to potentially become spiritual leaders in the environmental justice movement.

May it be so.

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