Going to jail for peacefully disrupting an oil and gas lease auction?

That may soon be the fate of Tim DeChristopher. By peacefully participating in civil disobedience, Tim DeChristopher now awaits his sentence.

Peaceful Uprising: Defending a Liveable Future Through Empowering Non-Violent Action is asking folks to Show your Support, Speak your Truth, and Take a Stand!

On July 26th 2011, climate activist Tim DeChristopher will be sentenced at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. On March 3rd, Tim was found guilty of two felony counts for participating in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. He could face up to ten years in federal prison, along with a $750,000 fine, for outbidding coal, gas, and oil companies as they attempted illegally purchase thousands of acres from the public.

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City is standing in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher as he awaits his sentence.  Through their outreach work, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, has engaged other UU congregations (including):
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, WI
Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA
Newark, New Jersey, Unitarian Universalists
UU Peace Fellowship in Raleigh, NC
Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tuscon, AZ
Prairie Circle Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Grayslake,IL
and Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (UUMFE, Facebook page)
in standing in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher.

Today, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) has shared information about this debacle through the use of UUA social media.

How is it that participating in the American tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, a historical tool for social change,  a crime?

Peaceful Uprising asks folks to stand in solidarity with Tim DeChristopher and send the message loud and clear that:
We will not be intimidatedWe will not sit idly by as our government uses Tim DeChristopher as an example to deter other activists. We will not compromise when it comes to defending our right to a healthy and just world.”



Important up-coming dates for environmental activists

It’s time to put on your organizing hat and mark your calendars!

The Fall offers multiple events for those concerned about the environment to rise their voices and be heard on a larger scale by joining with others nationally and internationally to draw attention to issues that are important to us!

Green Sanctuary congregations, Unitarian Universalist congregations, and other faith communities are called to witness as well as take action to slow down, if not reverse, the trend of climate change.  We know that there are things that we can do as individuals, as congregations, and as a faith community. Take the opportunity on these dates to organize and raise our collective voice to show the world that we care about the environment, the Earth, ourselves,  as well as each other.

Each event has lots of ideas and tools for organizing – use them!  And share with us what you plan to do to make a difference.

September 14th – 15th
The Climate Reality Project
24 Presenters. 24 Time Zones. 13 Languages. 1 Message. 24 Hours of Reality is a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis. It will consist of a new multimedia presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24 hours, in every time zone around the globe. Each hour people living with the reality of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the manmade pollution that is changing our climate. We will offer a round-the-clock, round-the-globe snapshot of the climate crisis in real time. The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.  The Climate Reality Project is founded by Al Gore.

September 24th
Moving Planet: A day to move beyond fossil fuels.
Moving Planet will be a day to put our demands for climate action into motion – marching, biking, skating – calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels.  This event is sponsored by 350.org.  If you participated in 350.org Day in 2010 you’ll want to make sure that you do something on this day (the past two years it has been in October…note: this year 2011 it is in September).

October 1st-15th
EcoChallenge: Change begins with you.
The EcoChallenge is an opportunity to change your life for good. For two weeks every October, we challenge you to change one habit for Earth. You choose your challenge, we connect you with other EcoChallengers, and collectively we prove that small actions create real change.  This is sponsored by our friends at the Northwest Earth Institute who have provided discussion courses that are popular amoung UU congregations including but not limited to: Choices for Sustainable Living, Menu for the Future, and Voluntary Simplicity.

October 16th
World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-round action to alleviate hunger.

October 24th
Food Day, a national event committed to:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.
  2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to be agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids.

 November 3rd-4th
Interfaith Action to Protect Creation.
This interfaith day seeks to “awaken our nation’s leaders to the urgent need for immediate and effective action to address climate change.  As a people of faith our common teachings proclaim us to be caretakers of the land which we have been charged to respect and care for, this blessing of earth, and we are also compelled by our faith to be a voice with members of our human family who are most vulnerable, who suffer the most from impacts of climate change.”

10 Things You Can Do Right Now!

Interfaith Power and Light – A Religious Response to Global Warming is one of the many organizations that the Green Sanctuary Program encourages congregations to become involved with.

They do impressive work and we are proud to support it.  Today I was looking on their webpage and found “10 Things You Can Do Right Now!“.  You can check it out for yourself – its what we’ve been encouraging all along.

Some notable “things” are:

  • conduct a home energy audit
  • be an Energy Star congregation
  • stay informed.

Do you have other things that you would add to a list of “Things You Can Do Right Now”?

The End of a Long Summer – Book Review

The End of the Long Summer
by Diane Dumanoski

Dumanoski artfully demonstrates both the nature and cause of or environmental problems and suggests an alternative mindset that may help us see our way through the pending climate crisis.  She fully believes that although we are headed toward a time of uncertainty, likely brought about by the impact of human behavior on the environment, humans have evolved over millennia of similar uncertainty and we are made of the stuff with which to adapt—but only if we become more flexible, holistic and realistic in our collective worldview.

She illustrates self-perpetuating processes, such as the chemical interaction of chlorine with ozone, wherein each individual molecule of chlorine can cause the destruction of multiple molecules of ozone, having a disproportionate impact on the ozone layer.  This hole in the ozone further triggers a self-perpetuating cycle of planetary warming, because as the polar ice caps melt, there is less ice to reflect sunlight, causing further warming.  Additionally, increased water is available to absorb the solar rays, and decreased ice is available to deflect them, resulting in even more warming.  In short, small events can have disproportionately disruptive—and unpredictable—impact.  Because of the unpredictable nature of the these massive systems, she recommends humility in our actions.

In order to rectify the situation, which at best means our species might survive the pending planetary changes coming our way, we must adopt a new perspective of not only the world but our place in it.  We must recognize the earth as a living organism, with an intricate balance struck between many systems. We must recognize the limitations to our knowledge.  And lastly, we must reverse the trends of globalization and develop local food, water, and healthcare systems that can meet the needs of the local population without excessive dependence on foreign goods since these may become unavailable as weather systems become unpredictable and oil supplies dwindle.

While I would not categorize this book as uplifting, I would categorize it as a must-read for anyone seriously interested in the work of sustainability.  You will come away with a better understanding of the science involved and a deeper commitment to activism on a local level—both of which will fuel your passion for the Green Sanctuaries projects you’re working on!

Chalice Lighting “Going Green Beyond Belief”

written by Robin Nelson and Rowan Van Ness

“Going Green Beyond Belief Chalice Lighting”

We call upon
the sacred of the everyday,
the mystery of life,
God, Holy One,
The Divine,
Spirit of Life,
Spirit of Love,
Creator of the Sun and Moon,
Gaia, Gracious God,

All around us faith communities are beacons of light, moving hearts and spirit.

Our people are transforming lawns into community gardens.
Our people are searching for truth about how our individual and collective actions affect us all. Our people are finding meaning in caring for the Earth.
Our people are standing up and witnessing what we believe in, and what is right and just.
Our people are working collaboratively to build the sustainable world we dream about.

In any one place, we may feel alone, unable to see the light of others.  When we step back and look into the night sky, may we see the brightness of the stars and think about our connections to a larger movement.

We know that even in hard moments, when the sky is dark, the stars are bright, guiding us toward the vision of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

We Unitarians and Universalists and Unitarian Universalists are part of a larger world community.  Let us see the light and feel moved to join people who are guiding the way.

For our blue boat home,
For our planet home,
For our Mother Earth,
For Gaia.

You can also watch the Chalice Lighting.

“Going Green Beyond Belief”

At General Assembly on Sunday, June 26th UUA President Peter Morales presented an short oral response to the 2011 Green Revolution in Religion Business Resolution.

Attendees were given bookmarks.  The front had the “Going Green Beyond Belief” logo and this quote about Environmental Justice:
“Despite the diversity of backgrounds and approaches, the environmental justice movement united around three ideas:

  • environmental problems are intimately entwined with social problems;
  • the current environmental framework exacerbates both environmental and social problems;
  • and the environmental establishment has neglected these relationships, in part, because of their elitism and exclusive practices.”                                                                                                                                        — Eileen McGurty

The back directed folks to go read the full report

“Going Green Beyond Belief”
The UUA President’s report
in response to the 2010
Green Revolution in
Religion Business Resolution

I encourage you read the full report.

Earl the Earthworm Digs for His Life – Book Review

By Tim Magner
Illustration by Lindsay Knapp

This coming of age tale details the developmental trajectory of Earl the earthworm, from the moment he hatches from his tiny cocoon until he realizes his important Earthy destiny.  Children will relate to Earl’s process of self-discovery as he encounters other species.  He sees that the ants are much stronger than he, the trees much larger, and the bees have the power of flight.  But only through following his inner wisdom does he come to recognize his own special gifts and his important role in sustaining the lives around him.  At the bottom of each page are factoids about earthworms and other microbial soil-dwelling organisms.  The glossy, richly colored illustrations engage the reader’s focus on this lowliest of creatures, whom, as we learn from one footnote, “Charles Darwin declared the most important animal in the history of the world.”  This book makes an excellent companion to the Compost Stew book, as both books mention the importance of worms in the creation of compost.

World as Lover, World as Self – Book Review

World as Lover, World as Self:  Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal
Written by Joanna Macy, PhD
Parallax Press

World as Lover, World as Self, written by Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar, eco-philosopher and spiritual activist, counters the standard notion that true enlightenment leads to withdrawal from all worldly concerns.  To the contrary, says Macy, it leads to the fortitude necessary to address them. Three themes emerge from this reading relevant to the very important work involved in your congregational Green Sanctuaries projects: the dynamic tension between despair and hope, the need to develop a larger sense of self in order to address global problems, and the benefits of spiritual practice in sustaining one’s commitment to creating social change.

Macy rightly devotes an entire chapter to the necessity of despair work in order to move forward to create solutions for these massive problems, stating “of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear warfare, none is so great as the deadening of our response.” We cannot heal what we cannot feel.  Once we begin to heal, we develop a profound sense of what our role in what the UU Seventh Principle says is “the interconnected web of existence of which we are all a part.”

Development of this larger sense of self hinges on the theory of co-arising.  Not only that, the Buddhist theory of co-arising “frees us from having to have it all figured out ahead of time, for the solutions arise as we walk the path and meet each other on the road.”  It allows for the possibility that although previous attempts have resulted in failure, solutions may yet arise, provided we persist in moving toward them.

Most importantly, Macy beautifully articulates the vital link between spiritual practice and faith. Joanna Macy states that “it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenge ahead becomes nearly impossible.”

I strongly recommend this book for anyone seeking to participate in their Green Sanctuaries Program as an enriching spiritual practice, rather than another thing on your to-do list.

Easing into Green

I’m pretty excited about my Green Sanctuaries Internship, so naturally I talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I’m a student at Andover Newton Theological School, with an audience of future ministers so I am of course hoping that this is good PR for the program, too, and not just idle conversation.  The other day a friend said she thought it was unlikely her church would ever participate because it was too hard: “Don’t you have to be carbon neutral and get solar panels and things like that?”

As it turns out, that’s not the case at all.  If you’re interested in the Green Sanctuaries program, please know that this program can work for you whether your church has yet to begin recycling or whether your congregation is the epitome of sustainability.  All you have to do is take a few steps toward sustainability, a few carefully planned and implemented steps.

This project, like any other effort at behavior change, will work best if you aim for a change that feels significant, but isn’t so large as to feel out of reach.  Below are some ideas of beginning and intermediate level projects to get your creative juices flowing:

Examples of possible Worship and Celebration projects: (Two required)

  • Any increase in environmentally themed services. Some churches are not doing any, so they begin by adding an Earth Day service.  Others already have 1-2, and commit to doing 6.
  • Earth Day celebration with booths educating people about environmentally sound practices.
  • Committing to one environmentally-themed reading or hymn during service every month.
  • Any increase counts!


Missed the EnergyStar webinar? Watch it on your own time.

On Monday, May 16, 2011 the UUA and EnergyStar hosted a webinar specifically for UU congregations called “Green Sanctuaries and Portfolio Manager for Congregations.”

The training introduced congregations to the EnergyStar for Congregations Portfolio Manager.  The UUA is encouraging all congregations, especially Green Sanctuary involved congregations, to join EnergyStar for Congregations.

The webinar focused on one of the most useful tools that they have the Portfolio Manager.  It can benefit your congregation in many ways including:
*Managing of Energy and Water Consumption for All Buildings
*Rating Your Building’s Energy Performance (versus other similar buildings)
*Estimating Your Carbon Footprint
*Setting Investment Priorities
*Verifying and Tracking Progress of Improvement Projects
*Gaining EPA Recognition (like the UU Congregation of Atlanta and First Parish in Needham)

To watch the recorded session of the UUA and EnergyStar webinar go to https://energystar.webex.com/energystar/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=TC&rID=48233262&rKey=41c4df31afe679bc&act=pb

The Data Collection Worksheet and the Quick Reference Guide mentioned in the recorded session are useful tools for getting started with the Portfolio Manager.