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Charity to Solidarity in the Green Sanctuary Program
Climate & Environmental Justice, Green Sanctuary Program, Social Justice

Doing environmental work guided by the defining elements of environmental justice shifts us beyond providing assistance, to thinking and working with negatively impacted communities. Some Unitarian Universalists (UUs) refer to this as a culture shift from “charity to solidarity.”

Environmental issues are inextricably linked to the crises of racism, classism and other forms of oppression. Generously supporting ‘less fortunate’ people is critical, yet charity can exacerbate the very oppressions we hope to redress. To broaden understanding and effort, environmentalists need cross- boundary partnerships to analyze, strategize and lead well-informed and just environmental work.

One way to think about this is a move from "charity to solidarity". For many this will be equivalent to a "culture shift," intentionally seeking multicultural partnerships. For some, it will be a new experience to take the lead from, and create Beloved Community with people most profoundly impacted by environmental injustices.

With environmental justice, there is no less insistence that the planet and its extraordinary diversity be honored, supported and restored; but environmental work must be grounded in the realities and in collaboration with those people most marginalized in our cultures.

People who identify as part of a marginalized community may be part of your congregation. If so, and they are willing, your projects will be enriched through a multicultural lense and leadership. Still, it is essential that the team reach out into the larger community across cultural boundaries to seek multiple perspectives experienced in the larger community, and to benefit from the wisdom and energies of those beyond the congregation.

Integrating Environmental Justice Into Your Action Plan

Because of its foundational orientation, environmental justice work should be integrated into your entire Green Sanctuary Action Plan, so it is important to be aware of its implications early on in the process.

It is important for your Green Sanctuary team to think holistically and synergistically when conducting your preliminary analysis/audit and preparing your proposed Green Sanctuary Action Plan.  We strongly recommend that you think expansively and see how environmental justice can be integrated into all the aspects of the plan, not simply put into the community action section.  We encourage you to think creatively about how you might review worship, religious education, building plans and policies, and various existing community ministries with an eye to how they might connect with and contribute to the environmental justice action component.

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