Just a few weeks ago, 400,000 people took to the streets, calling our leaders, our captains of industry and government, to hear the cry of the people, the demand for climate justice. More than 1500 Unitarian Universalists, nearly 1 percent of our entire membership, were on NYC streets that day. We stood alongside the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, between the Buddhists and the Quakers.
We could hear the Jews blowing their Shofars and the Pagans banging their drums and we all cheered and chanted, calling all of Earth's people to Wake Up! We are in a climate crisis, an almost incomprehensible emergency and it's time to wake up!
The rational that led to slavery and colonization and the deprivation of humans at various times in history is the same thought process leading to the destruction of earth. It is the framework that suggests everything is in service to the dominant class. If we fight racism, classism or sexism but don't extend the models of oppression to Earth, we are continuing the degradation of the planet. If we work for environmental sustainability but not socially sustainable models, we are supporting the paradigm which will ultimately terminate Earth's ability to maintain human life. The fight for justice is the fight for life in every form. The dismantling of the human power structure of dominance is the dismantling of the same structure that dominates Earth. (1)
Our current American paradigm allows one group to exploit another. The paradigmatic assumption is that women are in service to men, that the poor are in service to the rich, that people of color are in service to white people, that Earth and all her species are in service to humans. Privilege has been conferred on the dominant group and that dominance is maintained by our legal, cultural, religious, educational, economic, political, environmental and military institutions. It is this same assumption of dominance that created and supported slavery, that committed genocide on the indigenous people of this continent, that institutionalized the repression of women for centuries and that has also approached Earth with a power-over mentality.
When we took to the streets calling for climate justice, we were affirming the necessity of our instincts for social justice in the fight for planetary survival. We are redrawing the boundaries from the ones currently encircling the dominant class to include the people on the margins and stretching ever wider to include our Mother Earth and all of her many species and systems.
In response to the climate crisis, we are called to be both hospice chaplains and midwives, to allow the old ways to die and to help birth a new paradigm. The myth of individualism must end to make room for radical community to be developed. The idea that most of life is in service to a dominant class must be dismantled and a new awareness of our deep interconnectedness and mutual dependence must take shape. It is time we affirm the right of Earth to exist, to live and breathe and sustain life without interference.
We are members of a multi-species community, each serving and living alongside the other, each magnificent and necessary. We are members of a Beloved Community with the birds and the fish and the water and soil and trees. We are the life that formed over billions of years, the life that has been sustained by our powerful, mysterious and vulnerable planet Earth. And in our Beloved Community, we hold the potential for death or the continuation of life.
In light of this astounding crisis, thirty Unitarian Universalist leaders were brought together last spring with the task of raising the profile of environmental justice on the UU agenda. We were seeking ways to articulate the intersectionality of racism, classism and the environment. At the end of our time together, we wrote an open letter to our established institutions, calling them to join us in recognizing these intersections and the immediacy of action in the face of the climate crisis. Some were non-responsive, but our largest institutions (the Unitarian Universalist Association, UU Service Committee and UU Minister's Association) stepped up by creating a national campaign, declaring a religious response to climate change as a moral action. People of faith are needed in this movement, so together we have created Commit2Respond, a campaign designed to mobilize people of faith in the work of climate justice.
The task before us is large, but together we are strong. Dismantling paradigms isn't the work of one group, but the work of a generation. And during the People's Climate March, 400,000 of us took to the streets, calling everyone to wake up! It's time to change everything.
(1) James Cone. Whose Earth Is It Anyway. Cross Currents. Summer, 2000.