April Fuels Day Event at First UU Austin

Guest Authors -Beki and Richard Halpin, co-chairs, Green Sanctuary Committee, The First Unitarian Universalist Church (Austin)

Alternative Vehicle Fair Revs Up

Saving the green in a smarter, cooler machine is another gear shift in saving the planet.

More with less says it best, and The First Universalist Unitarian Church April Fuels Day Alternative Vehicle Fair had the best in green transportation on display. Nearly 200 attendees enjoyed the games and cool energy-saving car, bike and scooter showcase.

Our Green Sanctuary Committee worked like protons in an electric Prius with the sunroof open. Twenty church volunteers, several from the Chalice Circle community, formed the cando posse that helped make it all happen. People could climb around in the vehicles and see themselves riding down carbon foot-print-less highway in a sweet plug-in, natural gas coupe, bio-diesel beauty, or a hill toppin’ hybrid. Riders swooped around on recumbent bikes and hip electric scooters. Lots of questions were answered on smart auto energy, saving money, lower carbon footprints and cleaner air and water results.

Our Texas Health Credit Union neighbors came out with us, neighborly offering their parking lot to accommodate visitors. Visiting with them,we discovered more green news—our church members are eligible for the credit union’s no-cost checking and savings accounts.

The Dirigibles provided music that set all toes to tapping as the attendees envisioned themselves as future drivers of these fine vehicles. Quite a few likely imagined themselves driving into the sunset in the sweet silver Tesla convertible one generous owner brought to share.

After the event, some attendees stopped dreaming about owning one of these money-, fueland planet-saving vehicles and ended up buying one.

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!

How to form a Green Team

Amanda Yaira Robinson, Texas Interfaith Power & Light (TXIPL) Coordinator recently contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to lead a conference call for TXIPL on “How to form a Green Team in Your Congregation.”  Having worked with many  UU congregations through the Green Sanctuary Program, I was more than happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. Afterall, the point of my job is to help inspire and create a greener faith community and world.

Wednesday, January 25th I joined the TXIPL monthly conference call and shared some of the things I’ve learned over the last 4 years.  Take a look at the notes from the call for ideas on how to get a Green Team started in your house of worship! And if you want to know more listen to the call recording.

Thanks to Amanda for providing me with this opportunity to share UU experiences with environmental work to the greater faith community!

Totem Salmon – Book Review

Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species
by Freeman House
Published by Beacon Press

Because it was about salmon in the Pacific Northwest, this book was hard for me to read.  Periodically I found myself bored  But then I remembered something I’d told others about when I was running a book group:  boredom can be a sign of resistance, and if you dig deeper you might find something underneath that boredom that you really didn’t want to see.   What I found was a profound feeling of disconnection.  Disconnection from the food I eat, the products I buy, the consequences of those purchases.  This book is all about connection, but since I was (at the time of reading it) so vastly disconnected that I’d lost the ability to even recognize the problem.

If you have an interest in Native American ecological perspectives, or would like to read a detailed account of what a local grassroots environmental action looks like when it’s serious, this is the book for you.  It’s lyrical prose will lure you into a deep reflection on the state of food practices, an indeed life itself.  This book is deeply spiritual, and you may find yourself surprised with the depth of meaning you take away from its pages.

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.

The Great Turning – Film Review

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
David Korten (Actor), Robin Mallgren (Director) 2006

This movie provides a whirlwind overview of the multiple socio-political-economic strands feeding into the tangled knot of environmental destruction and looming oil crisis we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.  David Korten makes the case that largely the knot is tangled by the stories we tell about who we are as a species, how we do business, and what political structures best ensure our survival.  The most tragic part of these stories is that they may actually run counter to our survival as a species. By changing our stories we can change the way we approach each other and how we do business, which will ultimately increase our chances of survival.

As I approach the end of a master’s in sustainable communities, I can attest to the truth in Korten’s reasoning.  Because this is an overview, he doesn’t lay out in a way that will convince the unconverted.  However, the areas where he is less than convincing may entice viewers to conduct a bit of research on their own. I would suggest holding a discussion group after this movie so that you have an opportunity to assess the group for any frustrations with those limitations, and bring them around to a place of curiosity instead.

The extremely positive conclusion at the end is Korten’s focus on the solution, which again finds strong support in the world of sustainability: we must forge community where we are, and find common ground with our neighbors.  We cannot rely upon governmental bodies or corporate entities to make decisions that are in our best interest.  Instead, we must join together one relationship at a time to create a strong community that shares a vision of a more just and sustainable world.

I have yet to read his book, which I hear is fabulous.  I can envision this movie being the lure that sparks interest in forming a book group that delves deeper into the questions raised. If you’re interested in reading the book, which goes into greater detail, the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economy page can provide you with information on how to order a packet including the book, CD of David Korten’s slides from General Assembly 2006, and supplemental materials.

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

Cross-posted from Beacon Broadside

Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis
BARNETT-BlueRevolutionAmericans see water as abundant and cheap: we turn on the faucet and out it gushes, for less than a penny a gallon. We use more water than any other culture in the world, much to quench what’s now our largest crop-the lawn. Yet most Americans cannot name the river or aquifer that flows to our taps, irrigates our food, and produces our electricity. And most don’t realize these freshwater sources are in deep trouble.

Blue Revolution exposes the truth about the water crisis-driven not as much by lawn sprinklers as by a tradition that has encouraged everyone, from homeowners to farmers to utilities, to tap more and more. But the book also offers much reason for hope. Award-winning journalist Cynthia Barnett argues that the best solution is also the simplest and least expensive: a water ethic for America. Just as the green movement helped build awareness about energy and sustainability, so a blue movement will reconnect Americans to their water, helping us value and conserve our most life-giving resource. Avoiding past mistakes, living within our water means, and turning to “local water” as we do local foods are all part of this new, blue revolution.

Reporting from across the country and around the globe, Barnett shows how people, businesses, and governments have come together to dramatically reduce water use and reverse the water crisis. Entire metro areas, such as San Antonio, Texas, have halved per capita water use. Singapore’s “closed water loop” recycles every drop. New technologies can slash agricultural irrigation in half: businesses can save a lot of water-and a lot of money-with designs as simple as recycling air-conditioning condensate.

The first book to call for a national water ethic, Blue Revolution is also a powerful meditation on water and community in America.

Listen to Cynthia Barnett on the Joy Cardin Show.

Read an excerpt of Blue Revolution on Scribd.

Purchase a copy of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis

How you can support the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day!

Last week, Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, UUA Witness Ministries Director, and Barbara Ford, UUMFE member and past-President, asked UUs to join them in non-violent civil disobedience on the Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day .

Since then, a number of UUs have contacted Robin Nelson, UUA Environmental Stewardship Manager, to indicate that they will join Craig and Barbara in risking arrest. We are so excited to see the momentum for this movement building and encourage others to join and support us in whatever ways they can.

The Tar Sands Action started on August 20th and will continue until September 3rd.  On Saturday, August 20th 75 people were arrested and 50 of those were held over the weekend awaiting arraignment on Monday.  Bill McKibben, author, educator, environmentalist, and one of the driving forces behind the Tar Sands Action, passed along a statement from the central cell block where he was held since Saturday through Monday saying “Hello everyone! We don’t need sympathy, we need company. It’s clear to us that police were hoping to deter this action, and it’s equally clear to us the opposite will be the result.”

Terry Tempest Williams said this about Tar Sands: “The act of civil disobedience is the act of taking our anger and turning it into sacred rage. It is a personal and collective gesture of resistance and insistence….We can travel to Washington, D.C. mentally, create an image of support to those who can be there on the front lines physically…. We can participate in building this climate change movement, each in our own way, each in our own time with the gifts that are ours. We can become the fire of hopeful action that burns through corruption and complacency. We can be the river of concern that cools our sweltering planet. And we will be the voice of resistance that says yes to a more compassionate way of being in the world and face those who say no with the force of our steady gaze.”

Ways in which you can support Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day and the UUs who are participating:

  • Attend All Souls DC service at 10:15am on Sunday, August 28th where Tar Sands Action participants will be recognized.
  • Join Tar Sands Action folks for lunch after the service to show your support.
  • Attend the rally at Lafayette Park on Monday, August 29th around 9:45am to show support for those risking arrest.
  • Risk arrest by participating in non-violent civil disobedience on Monday, August 29th – a required interfaith gathering and training and legal briefing for our witness will take place on Sunday, August 28th from 4-9 p.m.
  • Sign the Stop the Tar Sands Petition. The petition will be delivered to President Obama during the Tar Sands Action.
  • Sign the Religious Tar Sands Petition.
  • Write an oped to  your local news editor. (Check out the editorial in Monday’s New York Times.)
  • Talk with your friends, neighbors, colleagues, congregation members, etc. about the Key Stone XL Pipeline and how it is a danger to our environment and get them to take action.
  • Make use of the End Big Oil subsides tool kit.
  • Make a donation to the UUMFE or become a member.  The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) is a non-profit organization whose supporters envision a world in which reverence, gratitude, and care for the living Earth is central to the lives of all people.

 For Earth,

UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) Board
UUA Environmental Stewardship
UUA Witness Ministries

Nancy King Smith, Co-Chair UUMFE
Irene Keim, Co-Chair UUMFE
Barbara Ford, UUMFE member and past President
Terry Wiggins, Former UUMFE Treasurer
Pamela Sparr, Environmental Justice Consultant to UUMFE
Robin Nelson, UUA Environmental Stewardship Manager
Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, UUA Witness Ministries Director
Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
Rev. Terry Ellen, Executive Director of UUs for Social Justice
Jo Ann Bachar, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee
Linda S. Cooper, First UU Society in Burlington, VT
Lynn Dash
Wes Ernsberger, UU Congregation of Binghamton, NY
Celeste McCollough Howard, Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Washington County, Hillsboro OR
Vincent Pawlowski, UU Congregation of North West Tucson, AZ