What’s all this talk about food?

If you went to the UUA’s General Assembly in Charlotte, NC last year you may have been present for (or watched via live-streaming) the heart-felt debate and vote for the 2011 Statement on Conscious Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.

If you’re involved in Unitarian Universalist Association issues you may have been aware of th3 2008-2012 Congregational Study Action Issue: Ethical Eating.

If you’ve been in the market for food you may have seen an increase in “CSAs,” “farmers markets,” “organic gardens,” “community gardens,” “sustainable gardens” etc.

If you’ve been to a store you may have noticed the increase of “sustainable,” “organic,” “green,” “natural,” “GMO-free,” etc products.

Or maybe you’ve just recognized that people are talking about food a lot more today than they were say 10-20 years ago.  Saturday, the New York Times published the article “The Myth of Sustainable Meat.”

So the topic of food seems to be everywhere. Yes, we eat everyday, and I’d contend that most of people in the middle-to-upper class in the USA did little thinking about how the food they ate everyday affected others. Climate Change is impacting our planet’s ability to produce food and there are a whole other list of issues that are impacting the World’s Food Economy.

Rev. Peter Morales, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s President, has appointed a President’s Advisory Council on Ethical Eating.  This appointment demonstrates a commitment on the part of the UUA to follow-through with the SOC: Ethical Eating.  I highly encourage folks to check out the Ethical Eating website on UUA.org to learn more about the community the that is flowing from this creation and our continued dedication to this important subject.

If you’ve exhausted the resources on the Ethical Eating website and want to bring the subject back to your congregation you may want to investigate using one of the Nortwest Earth Institute‘s discussion courses: Hungry for Change and Menu for the Future.  While Hungry for Change is a newer curriculum, Menu for the Future has been used over the past several years by many UU congregations.  These curricula are helpful in educating people to thoughtfully about Ethical Eating.

This year Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22nd.  If your congregation is planning on celebrating Earth Day please consider reporting your community’s action to the UU Ministry for Earth


UUMFE 2012 Earth Day materials now online

By Cindy Davidson, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) board member

Looking for a way to bring the UUA’s focus on immigration to your Green Sanctuary work?  Or, conversely, a way to bring your Green Sanctuary team’s environmental justice concerns to the table?  Or, perhaps you’re wondering just how these issues are interconnected?  With this in mind, UUMFE has chosen to focus Earth Day materials this year on Environmental Justice and Immigration.

The Earth Day 2012 materials, now available, will help guide you in exploring ways your Green Sanctuary committee/team and your congregation might explore the link between EJ and immigration this Earth Day, April 22nd.  The collection of materials can help in planning worship services and other activities around Earth Day.  We’ve pulled together background information, resources, and suggested actions with a broad focus on links between environmental justice and immigration.  We’ll give you some ideas to consider, from the injustices of health care issues disproportionately affecting migrant populations to the environmental impact of border walls upon all species.  We look at climate change and the connection with forced migration and the disproportionate impact climate change extols on the most vulnerable. We look at environmental injustices hidden in anti-immigration legislation, including access to water. And, we even look at the anti-population growth and “immigrants are bad for our environment” arguments. We hope you find much food for thought!

As in past years, we include practical materials to use for worship services, including Order of Service covers and inserts about UUMFE.  We also encourage congregations to take advantage of Earth Day to honor and celebrate the contributions of an Eco-Hero in your midst; you’ll find a certificate you can use online, too.  Most importantly, we hope you will nominate your Eco-Hero for UUMFE’s Guardian of the Future award.  See full details online.

As you plan your Earth Day activities, please remember to register them on our website to share with others.  Your plans may just be the inspiration others need to take action in congregations near and far!  If this year’s theme is not a “good fit” for your current environmental focus, we encourage you to use the materials for prior Earth Days, especially Earth Day 2010: Food and Environmental Justice or Earth Day 2011: Sacred Waters. In fact, the 2010 and 2011 tables of Earth Day activities from registered congregations contain hundreds of inspirational ideas for you to try.

We look forward to hearing about how UU congregations across the country celebrate Earth Day 2012!

NWUUC partners with WAWA

by Beth Stokes Clinton, member North West Unitarian Universalist Congregation (NWUUC)

On Saturday, Oct. 29, seventeen members of  NWUUC carpooled down to West Atlanta to enjoy a 26-acre “urban forest” outing with other Atlanta environmentalists and neighborhood volunteers at the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) Fall Festival. WAWA is a nonprofit organization promoting environmental and social justice in historically marginalized Atlanta neighborhoods. As part of its mission WAWA oversees a 26-acre nature preserve near the tributaries of the Chattahoochee River, and has an active “green” education program for adults and children. WAWA is one of NWUUC’s Green Sanctuary collaborative partners, sponsored by the Earth Ministry.

NWUUC members preparing the winter demonstration garden bed - at the top of WAWA's 26-acre forest.

The lively group from NWUUC helped till the ground for WAWA’s winter demonstration garden, lifting shovels, hefting hoes, pushing wheelbarrows, and raking the soil to prepare the garden plot, which is located near Oakland Avenue. They also hiked through the forest to the historic 1863 “Grandfather Beech Tree;”  learned the seven principles of responsible backpacking from a REI representative; and toured the Outdoor Activity Center’s bioponic farming demonstration, which uses fish waste in a closed system to produce vegetables.

Dave Zenner, Earth Ministry Team Leader, reported on the day’s events: “The great turnout from Northwest clearly demonstrated the depth of our commitment to partnering with WAWA in its important mission.  And we benefited from learning more about the ongoing needs of the nature preserve, as well as useful lessons in sustainable lifestyles.  We also began a discussion about the possibility of Northwest volunteers “adopting” a section of trail between the nature center and the Grandfather Beech. It was a fun, interesting and mutually beneficial outing.”

Water Hygiene Kits from Hopedale, MA

Annually Hopedale Unitarian Parish (HUP) and Union Evangelical United Church of Christ host a joint service.  In preparation for the service HUP holds a collection drive for items to be placed in hygiene kits including soap, band-aid, toothbrushes, washcloths, hand towels, combs, and nail clippers.  These are then assembled into hygiene kits that are sent to Church World Service, a non-profit interfaith group that then distributes the kits to people around the US or around the world who do not have access to adequate supplies of clear water due to war, natural disasters, and refugee status.

Congregants gather to assemble hygiene kits.

November 2010 35 kits were assembled by members of all ages of both churches.  These congregations came together to assemble these kits because “Access to water for washing and hygiene is a basic human need and right which is often inadequate for a variety of reasons such as environmental and natural disasters or war.  Most commonly, it is a problem of the poor and in developing countries without plentiful resources.”

This project has inspired another Green Team member to start a new annual effort and being a collection of soap to be sent to Haiti in response to the recent cholera outbreak there.  HUP finds the Water Hygiene kits “a nice way to come together with our neighboring church and strengthen our relationship to service in others.”

Bill McKibben on “Blowing the Whistle on Congress”

reposted from 350.org by Bill McKibben

Yesterday was one of the truly fun days in this whole wild year of organizing. We had hundreds of referees outside the Capitol, and we blew our whistles like crazy, and we threw penalty flags, and we had a hell of a good time.

My favorite scene, actually, was watching hundreds of people in ref shirts descending the escalators to the subway for the ride to the day’s final stop, the American Petroleum Institute. It was an endless line of black and white, a long human stripe of fair play!

Not only that, it was productive. Two great things happened: one, Senator Bernie Sanders announced at the demonstration that he’s introducing a bill to remove all the subsidies from the fossil fuel industry. And two, Barack Obama, eight hours later in his State of the Union address, joined us to demand that handouts to the world’s richest companies stop. The speech wasn’t perfect — he called for far too much new drilling — but this was an important bright spot.

Ending those handouts is absolutely crucial to our big fight against climate change. A new report from the International Energy Agency shows that ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry will cut half the carbon emissions we need to stop catastrophic climate change. And it’s partly because they take so much monety from the government that Big Oil can afford to spend millions lobbying for projects like Keystone XL.

It felt darned good to be on the offensive for once, not just trying to beat back disasters like Keystone, but taking the battle to Big Oil.

UUMFE launches Environmental Justice curriculum.

By Nancy King Smith, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) Co-President

Looking for a way to deepen your congregation’s commitment to the Seventh Principle?   Wondering how to link sustainability efforts with your congregation’s interest in anti-racism/anti-oppression education?  Want something fun and meaningful that engages teens and adults?  Would you like to help with Green Sanctuary action planning or taking that work to a new level?  Check out UU Ministry for Earth’s  new 5-session environmental justice curriculum: “Our Place in the Web of Life.”

The curriculum was developed in response to the fact that many congregations find the environmental justice activities to be the most challenging part of fulfilling the Green Sanctuary requirements. The curriculum provides both an introduction to EJ concepts, but also an interactive process to identify what the needs are in the community so that a worthwhile project can be developed. The curriculum emphasizes the importance of  relationships, especially in light of racial, ethnic and cultural differences.

The curriculum is available as a free download from the UUMFE website (uuministryforearth.org). We are asking that people register and consider a donation so that we can track usage and develop further modules as appropriate. Those interested in learning more are invited to join a free coaching webinar at 7 pm, Februay 6, led by curriculum designer and Meadville-Lombard faculty Mark Hicks. Register at uuministryfornearth.com.

Keystone XL Pipeline Update/Alert

A worker holds a glob of tar sands from a mine in Alberta, Canada. (photo: Lara Solt/Corbis)

Guy Quinlan, Member of the UU-UNO Climate Task Force


The payroll tax compromise signed on December 22 gives the President only 60 days to decide on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil produced from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf coast. He should disapprove the project, because it would be an environmental disaster:

  • Extremely high carbon content makes the tar sands possibly the dirtiest energy source on the planet.
  • The process of extracting oil from the tar sands produces two to four times as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emission as the production of conventional crude oil.
  • Exploitation of the tar sands would sabotage efforts to reduce GHG emissions and stabilize the global climate.
  • The pipeline would threaten to contaminate aquifers which are a key source of drinking water for the region.
  • Part of the pipeline would pass through active seismic areas which have experienced earthquakes as recently as 2002.
  • The project would not advance energy independence, since the greater part of the oil would probably be exported to Asia.
  • Although advocates of the pipeline are touting it as a source of jobs, it would produce many fewer jobs than alternative investments in renewable energy, and groundwater contamination from a pipeline leak could  cripple the economy of the Midwest.

Recommended action:  Contact the White House and leave a message urging the President to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Call 202-456-1111 and ask for the comment operator, or send an email by going to www.whitehouse.gov and click “Submit Questions and Comments.”

For more information, see the UU-UNO Climate Portal pages on the Keystone XL Pipeline

You can also sign a petition at NDRC

Environmental Justice & Sustainable Development Consultant on Keystone XL Pipeline

Guest Post by Pam Sparr
Environmental Justice & Sustainable Development Consultant

“I agree with Reverend Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who proclaims climate change and the struggle to prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built is our generation’s ‘lunch counter moment’. This is a racial justice issue.  It is an economic justice issue. It is an environmental justice issue.

Pam Sparr getting arrested for civil disobedience at the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day (08/29/11)

As a Unitarian Universalist, I recognize the Earth as a sacred gift. I believe we have a moral obligation to protect all life – human and otherwise, now and into the future. Unitarian Universalists have a great history of standing up for what is right. I wanted to help continue that tradition by being present at the rally.  I am putting my body on the line for the indigenous people who are already hurting because of climate change and those who will be harmed further if this pipeline goes through. I am putting my body on the line for those people living in poverty around the world who are already hurting because of climate change. I am putting my body on the line because of all the unemployed people who could be put to work retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. I am putting my body on the line for my godchildren, my niece, the children in my neighborhood and around the world. They are the ones who will really pay the price of the decisions our elected leaders make today.

This is one very large decision with a potentially very large, negative impact. It is in one person’s hands. It is important to show President Obama that we want him to live up to his campaign promises and to demonstrate the courage of his convictions. We waste too much energy in the U.S.  We live way out of proportion, with too little regard as to the cumulative impact of our country’s actions on the rest of the world. It is high time we move towards clean, renewable energy and creating jobs with a more life-affirming economic strategy.”

California Interfaith Power & Light’s 5th Annual Energy Oscars Recognizes Three UU Congregations

Three Unitarian Universalist congregations were recognized at this year’s California Interfaith Power & Light 5th Annual Energy Oscars.

Representatives of UU San Francisco (David Jones and Margaret Pearce, second and third from left), UU Santa Cruz County (Deborah Pembrook, second from right), UU Fresno - Mary McDonough (far left) and Connie Young (far right) at the Energy Oscars. Photo by Rick Johnson

This article was kindly submitted by Margaret Pearce on behalf of Don Williams.

Green Building Finalist, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco

California Interfaith Power and Light (CA IPL) listed First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (FUUSSF) as a Finalist in the Green Building category for the Society’s new 21.5 KW solar system, lighting retrofit, and innovative “Trash Talking” educational campaign on recycling and composting.  In addition FUUSSF’s Green Committee energetically move the congregation into strong advocacy for climate and energy policy, and participation in San Francisco’s Moving Planet Day of Climate and Action.  FUUSSF also is in final documentation process for Green Sanctuary status from the UUA because of the congregation’s hard work in the following areas:

  • worship and celebration
  • Religious Education
  • environmental justice
  • and sustainable living

Advocacy Oscar Finalist, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County

Advocacy Oscar finalists Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County (UUFSCC)  with leadership of UU Legislative Ministry installed solar, energy efficient lighting, used captive and stored rainwater and involved the wider community in the promotion of:

  • Energy and Climate Legislation
  • Desalinization Alternatives
  • Simple Living
  • Ethical Eating
  • Save Our Shores

Education Oscar Winner, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno

The Education classification winner, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno (UUCF), built a LEED-certified building, installed solar panels and hosted an Earth Day Celebration with the Fresno Earth Day Coalition to educate the whole community on environmental and climate stewardship.



No Fracking in Ohio – November 6th Protest

Ron Prosek, from FACT – FAith Communities Together (for Frac Awareness) contacted me today about this important fracking protest.

Wednesday, November 30th join www.NoFrackOhio.com and folks from Ohio, western PA and West Virginia for a day of protest, learning, and building relationships for action.

10:00 am or 3:00pm – Choose either time: “State of Fracking in Ohio and How to Get Involved at UUYO (First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown)

For more information check out the NoFrackingOhio PDF document.