Commit2Respond Day 27: Committing Is About Joy

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 27

Committing to climate justice has never been about sacrifice in my life.

In 2009, my friend Roseann and I created InterGenerate, a small, food-justice organization in the exurbs of New York City. InterGenerate starts community gardens for people across a variety of diversities to grow our own food. We have three gardens and a chicken co-op.

We hoped InterGenerate would create environmentally and socially sustainable communities. We didn’t know it would become a catalyst for transformation.

Children lie in the grass with the chickens, gardeners delicately nurse milkweed to secure food for butterflies, young women kneel for hours thinning beets, someone gleefully posts a picture online of her first strawberry. And they aren’t alone. A young couple report finally feeling at home in their town and a teen has taken his own plot so he can learn how to live gently and a widower tells us the garden saved his life. And as a result, I know the way we live, the way we connect with Earth and each other, is changing.

Committing to climate justice isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about being alive and connected to Earth and a multi-species community.

For me, the decision to grow the food my family eats and to source most of what we don’t grow from local farms wasn’t as huge as it seems. I started small. I started in our garden and at farmer’s markets, shifting our shopping habits slowly. I joined a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm share. I learned the art of canning and preserving. Slowly. With friends. And that circle grew and still grows as others want to live profoundly connected to Earth and each other.

Committing to climate justice has never been about sacrifice in my life. It is now, and has always been, about joy.

Rev. Peggy Clarke is the Minister at the First Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings, NY. She is also the Racial and Social Justice Consultant for the UUA Metro New York District and on the Steering Committees for the Green Sanctuary Program, UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory, and Commit2Respond, as well as the chair of Food Justice Ministry. She is also a Senior GreenFaith Fellow.

Today’s practice is to prepare the ground for yourself or a group you are a part of to make a new commitment to action that will GROW the climate justice movement. If you haven’t already, start a process of discernment about where your growing edge is and what your next step is to deepen your existing commitment. One suggested step of preparation is to learn more and educate others about the goals and framework of climate justice, as well as the intersections and shared ground between different struggles for justice.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the Green Sanctuary program. The Green Sanctuary program is a Unitarian Universalist certification program for congregations that strive to align their entire congregational culture with environmental sustainability and justice. The newest edition of the program emphasizes the role of social justice, and congregations that have gone through the program in the past are invited to re-engage and become re-accredited as part of Commit2Respond. Learn more about aligning Green Sanctuary work with Commit2Respond.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 26: Embodied Intimacy

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 26

Why should one seek outwardly for a treasure,
when the field of the body has its own bright jewel?
—Pao-chih

I have come to believe the change necessary to transform cultures and institutions for the good, both on the personal and on the systemic level, requires embodied intimacy.
This is especially true now when human and Earth systems are under catastrophic stress—due partly because the Earth is viewed as inert, as a commodity and an infinite resource, and because only certain “types” of bodies are viewed as valuable and worthy of admiration, respect, and, in fact, of life.

The change that is required of us, as we face into the storm of intersecting and complex problems sweeping across the planet, is that we must become intimate with our lives—that is, with our bodies and with the Earth—in ways that we never have before as a collective human species.

To succeed in providing sanctuary for life and resilient enclaves for our own thriving in the coming decades, we must commit to fully allow and encourage the natural rising of a sense of embodied intimacy.

May we discover/forge together the disciplines and communities of support to make it so.

Rev. Kurt Kuhwald is the Affiliated Community Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palo Alto, CA, and a member of the Steering Committee for the Unitarian Universalist Environmental Justice Collaboratory.

Today’s practice is to get rooted in GROW, the third pillar of Commit2Respond: growing the climate justice movement. Today, share one or more ways you have already worked to grow the movement and create ripple effects of engagement. It could be things you’ve done in the past or ongoing ways you are currently growing the movement. Share on Commit2Respond’s share forum, or share on social media using the hashtag #commit2respond.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the inspiring story of the Florida Interfaith Climate Conference “Bridging Spirituality, Healing and Action” that took place in Longwood, FL, last weekend, organized by the Florida Council of Churches in conjunction with UU Justice Florida (a Unitarian Universalist state action network). Eighty people crossed divides of faith, age, means, and more and deepened connections, gained grounding, and were inspired and empowered to create change. Find out more and share your story from growing the movement.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 25: Transformative Questions

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 25

Among the greatest blessings of my life has been the mentorship of the late geologian, Father Thomas Berry.
Of the many things he has left us are is his masterpiece The Great Work. Under this rubric, Thomas offers us three questions, three “koans” that we would work with over and over until they transform our way of seeing Earth, our living, communal body.

The first koan to begin the slow, subtle, substantive transformation toward ecological consciousness is: “Is my next thought, word, or deed sustainable for Earth?” I ask it as I go about my day, as I reach for something to sustain me, nurture me, entertain me, benefit me…

The second: “Is my next thought, word, or deed an expression of greater intimacy with Earth?” I ask it as I go about my day in a highly technologized, computerized culture in which I need not leave proximity to a fridge or computer to survive a regular American day. I ask it as I take my own ecological inventory and assess how I am greening or graying my sensorium, my soul.

The last question intended to lead me more deeply into a green mind and heart: “How is my next thought, word, or deed a way of celebrating Earth?” How is it a way of entering into Earth’s marvelous festivals? How might I practice bringing myself to the Great Presence in all the life about me: all the eyes that see me, the ears that hear me, the breaths that breathe me, the great flow of energy that sustains me?

Simple, subtle, revolutionary questions: Thomas Berry’s gift to our ecological transformation. With gratitude and hope we turn them over again and again with each breath for our own conversion and for the life and grace of Earth.

Dr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, is a Professor of Religious Studies, founding director of the Iona Spirituality Institute, Senior GreenFaith Fellow ’08, and co-convener of the Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue.

Today’s practice is to prepare the ground for yourself or a group you are a part of to make a new commitment to action that will ADVANCE the human rights of people affected by the environmental crisis. If you haven’t already, start a process of discernment about where your growing edge is and what your next step is to deepen your existing commitment. One suggested step of preparation is to learn who is already acting to address suffering and advance rights in local and global communities, and explore how you can follow the leadership of people from frontline affected communities.

Today’s resource for deepening this message are the service learning trips offered by the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice. These experiential learning programs help people of faith and conscience cross boundaries, gain insight, and gain the tools they need to further justice and human rights in the world, in partnership with frontline community organizations. Learn about climate justice-related programs and make a commitment to serving and learning in an affected community.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 22: Roots

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 22

We are told that we were made in God’s image. Sometimes I think that means that we started out as trees.

We are told that God is nearer to us than our breath. Sometimes I think that means that God was the soil that cradled our roots and the rain that showered upon our leaves and the sun toward which we turned our branches.

As trees, we rested in the Earth’s embrace. We talked with God in great rustling sighs and soft raspy whispers and swayed in the wind and delighted together with her in the movement.

But one day, we longed to move more freely. Especially when the autumn came and our leaves began to fall and tumble away from us. We wanted nothing more than to go with them.

One of us figured it out first—that we could pull ourselves up, roots first, and move as we wished. One by one, those who would become human gently eased our roots from the soil. We delighted in walking and leaping and swimming and running and God delighted in watching us.

But when we rested, roots and tendrils would begin growing from our feet back down into the ground, and we would be afraid of getting stuck; afraid of watching our leaves drift away again year after year, unable to follow.

So we made shoes and carpets and cars and planes to shield us from the soil. We wandered the sky and the seas and the earth, as lonely as clouds. We forgot what it was to be held by the Earth, cradled in God’s embrace.

Only sometimes… babies remember, when they eat the dirt. Mourners remember, when they fall to hug the ground and sob. Lovers remember, when they lie on their backs in the grass and stare up at the stars.

Can you remember?

Rev. Molly Housh Gordon is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri.

Today’s practice is to get rooted in SHIFT, the first pillar of Commit2Respond: our collective shift to a low carbon future. Today, share one or more ways you have already worked to shift to a low carbon future, both small and large, individual and collective. It can be things you’ve done in the past or ongoing ways you are currently contributing to our low carbon future. Share on Commit2Respond’s share forum, or share on social media using the hashtag #commit2respond.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the inspiring story of First Parish Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, which voted in 2013 to divest its holdings in fossil fuel stocks over the next five years, and this week is participating in Harvard Heat Week, a week of actions calling on Harvard to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Starting yesterday, each day of the week includes an action training held at First Parish Cambridge. If you or your congregation has divested, share! If you or your congregation has investments and hasn’t divested, make the commitment.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 21: Commitment

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 21

Today it is time to get to work. Today we begin our fourth week together, after celebrating our Earth’s abundance in week one, grieving and reckoning with loss in week two, and reconnecting with the sources of joy and love that sustain us in week three.

It is time to (re)commit to building a different way of being, with each other and with Mother Earth. It is time to (re)commit to co-creating the Beloved Community. Instead of “sacrifice zones” where people suffer so that the rest of us can have cheaper energy and goods, we will build communities where people share equally in both burdens and benefits. Instead of treating workers and animals alike as expendable resources to be used for profit, we will value all lives, and relate to each other, as Martin Buber taught us, as I and Thou.

In committing to building the Beloved Community, we’re not just talking about changing laws and policies, although changes in laws and policies are urgently needed. But changes in policies alone will not ultimately work unless we transform the dominant culture and way of being.

As people of faith, we are uniquely situated to help bring this about, by keeping our actions grounded in our principles and values, by a spiritual practice of reflecting on the effects of our actions, and by intentionally, faithfully looking to the voices and leadership of those marginalized by the current dominant paradigm.

So let us create the stories, songs, prayers, and rituals that inform our vision; and let us work in our communities to make it reality.

Your Commit2Respond Resource Team,

Rev. Sofía Betancourt
Rev. Peggy Clarke
Tim DeChristopher
Kat Liu
Jennifer Nordstrom

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 20: A Just and Vibrant Future

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 20

Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls on us to confront the crisis of climate change that plagues our world and narrows the possibilities for our collective future.

Our primary challenge isn’t convincing people of its devastating impacts. It’s helping people truly believe that we can win and create the profound changes necessary for a better world. As people of faith we have the responsibility and opportunity to bring forward our spiritual traditions, rituals, and practices to help people meet these times with courage.

We look to, learn from, and join forces with front line working class communities and communities of color in the United States and around the world confronting the worst of climate chaos. Climate chaos unleashed by economic systems that turn the earth and people into resources to exploit and commodities to sell and by political systems that concentrate wealth and power for the few at the expense of the majority.

We look to, learn from, and join forces with front line communities generating resilient community strategies for sustainability, cooperative economics for a new way of being with each other and the planet, and resistance movements that can bring about the systemic change we need.

Let us pray, sing, march, and take direct action; let us look into the face of oblivion and choose to believe that we can ensure a just and vibrant future. With the courage of our ancestors, the power of global solidarity, and the commitment and community of our faith, may it be so.

Chris Crass is a longtime social justice organizer and the author of Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy published by PM Press; learn more at www.chriscrass.org.

Today’s practice is to reflect on the resources—material, spiritual, relational—that you have at your disposal that can help you make change and deepen your impact, as we move toward the final week of Climate Justice Month, focused on grounded commitment. Where do you draw strength, what resources are available to you, and who are you connected to that can support you in making new commitments to action for climate justice? Make a list in writing, in a journal or elsewhere, of these vital resources.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the incredible Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, an Oakland-based group that inspires and engages in transformative action towards the liberation and restoration of land, labor, and culture. Movement Generation is rooted in vibrant social movements led by low-income communities and communities of color committed to a Just Transition away from profit and pollution and towards healthy, resilient and life-affirming local economies. Find out more about their work.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 19: Fighting for Air

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 19

In Denver, we talk a lot about air—mostly because there’s less of it here, up at a mile high. It’s a reality I confront during a long, exhausting ultimate frisbee game.

I think there’s value in feeling the fatigue, in really experiencing it. When I gasp for breath after chasing down a receiver or defending a pass, I feel acutely air’s vital importance. Each sprint renews my commitment to protecting this invaluable resource, for my lungs find themselves fighting for air.

A few weeks ago in New Orleans—a city with thick, humid air—a group of UUs in which I was a part committed to pursuing climate justice. I was reminded by brilliant fellow Unitarians and Universalists that climate justice connects with other forms of justice work. People are impacted disproportionately by the exponentially growing climate crisis based on region, economic status, location, and so much more.

With similar urgency to the feeling in my lungs after an intense game, people and other beings are fighting for air, fighting for our Earth, fighting for life. President John F. Kennedy said, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

May we feel the urgency to fight for our air and fight for our future—together.

Kenny Wiley, a UU World senior editor based in Denver, works for Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church as its director of religious education.

Today’s practice is to engage deeply with the disproportionate impacts of our environmental crisis, particularly along lines of class and race. Take time today to explore new learning and share with others.

Hear from Dr. Beverly Wright on growing up in “cancer alley” in Louisiana, and from Deirdre Smith of 350.org on the connections between Hurricane Katrina and Ferguson, environmental destruction and racial injustice—words that attain new power as the United States reels this week from yet another devastating shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in North Charleston, NC.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the powerful story of Kimberly Wasserman, a community organizer from a Mexican American neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago who successfully organized her community to fight for their air and get two aging, polluting coal-fired power plants shut down (see the 3-minute video).

For more resources, check out the “Air of Injustice” series on the disproportionate impacts of coal-fired power plants on African Americans and Latina/o and Hispanic Americans. You might also be interested in this comprehensive collection of environmental justice and environmental racism resources from the Energy Justice Network.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 18: Interconnectedness

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 18

nterconnectedness. A concept that unites us with one another and all that exists.
A concept that calls us to a deeper sense of ourselves.
What does it mean when our personal comfort and well-being
exists side-by-side
with environmental devastation, racial inequity, ever-increasing income gaps, persistent gender inequality, cruelty towards other species… and on and on…
…the list goes on, of all the ways in which we have separated ourselves from one another and the world around us.

In the midst of relative comfort
it’s easy
to get lost in our day-in, day-out worries:
no one’s life is perfect,
we each have “stuff” that we’re dealing with.
And, in dealing with our stuff,
we often forget
that we may be living blessed lives—our basic daily needs are met.
Perhaps more so, we may even have abundance.

The world can no longer wait
for us to find more time,
or be in a better space,
to engage in the issues that need us.
There will always be personal concerns to deal with;
there will always be good excuses that can be found.
Interconnectedness calls us to transcend
that part of ourselves that seeks to keep us small:
that voice
that tells us that we cannot make an impact,
that the problems before us are too large.

Despite inconvenience,
despite personal worries or concerns,
despite knowing with certainty what impact will be made,
there are those who try,
against great odds,
to make this world a better place.
Why not you? Why not me?

Be the change our planet needs.
The interconnectedness of our world rests in each of our hands.

Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti is Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ, and, along with Jennifer Nordstrom, co-editor of a forthcoming Skinner House book on environmental justice.

Today’s practice is to explore interconnectedness by tracing the origins of one or more elements of “relative comfort” in your life. Part of reducing separateness between ourselves and the world around us is knowing where our energy, water, clothing, food, phones, and other elements we depend on come from and whose lives they have impacted along the way. Start by tracing the origins of just one thing.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video that exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. You might also be interested in the book Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, in which author Fred Pearce tells the story of tracking down the sources of his stuff and the people touched by everyday items in his life.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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Commit2Respond Day 17: Experience Connection

In support of the 30 Days of Love/Commit2Respond – Climate Justice

Day 17

What does deep spirituality feel like to you? Spirituality is impossible to define and difficult to describe.

For me, it feels like connection—connection to myself, to others around me, to the earth and all of creation. Connection to myself feels like deep peace, awareness, calm, authenticity. Connection to others feels like compassion, community, acceptance, and enduring love.

Spirituality is not an idea; it is an experience.

When I experience connection, dividing lines disappear. Inner conflict gives way to integrity. The line that separates my individuality from others fades; we become one. I find connections with my deepest self in times of solitary practice and reflection. I find connection with others in community, often in worship. All the great spiritual traditions teach this.

Today the connection with creation, with the earth and the cosmos, may be the most difficult. We live in artificial, controlled environments that separate us from the natural world. More than humans in any other time, we live separated from the natural world, the world from which we emerged and that sustains our lives.

We so very much need to experience our world. We need to let go of controlling our world and allow ourselves to become one with it. We find ourselves when we lose our selves.

May we connect, really connect. When we do, it changes everything.

Rev. Peter Morales is the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Today’s practice is to experience connection. Connection to yourself, to others around you, to the earth and all of creation. How do you experience connection? Take time for it today. It might be a walk in the woods, or a visit to a waterfall. It might be lighting candles, praying, or visiting a sanctuary. It might be a yoga practice or a lovingkindness meditation. It might be being of service to a community organization. Experience connection in your own way.

Today’s resource for deepening this message is the movie I AM, a 2010 documentary by a filmmaker who set out to answer the question of what’s wrong with the world but ultimately ended up discovering what’s right—exploring the deep connections among all life by way of conversations with some of the world’s leading scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders, and philosophers, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Coleman Banks. Be inspired by this 7-minute clip of the film that talks about deep connections that defy logic.

Commit2Respond’s Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.

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