International Unitarian Universalism

To Counter Indifference

By Bruce Knotts

This post was originally sent out on April 30 via a monthly email message from Director Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations. Subscribe to the UU@UN email list.

What was it in Derek Chauvin’s face that was so disturbing as he had his knee on the neck of George Floyd? He didn’t look hateful. He didn’t seem angry. It was a look of profound indifference.

Perhaps one of the most powerful human rights documents ever written was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He wasn’t condemning the racists of his time. He was condemning the indifference of white liberal clergy to the continuing and horrible oppression of Black people.

Greta Thunberg recently confronted the U.S. Congress about their indifference, asking “How long do you think you’re going to get away with it?” as she urged lawmakers to end subsidies to fossil fuel companies or face catastrophe.

Colorful circles with an illustrated grain and text “All In for Climate Justice: Food Equity and Sustainability” “UU@UN Intergenerational Spring Seminar Online | April 9-11, 2021”

Find information and resources from the 2021 Intergenerational Seminar on our website.

The UU@UN Intergenerational Spring Seminar this month discussed the urgency of climate justice and how we must ensure food equity and sustainability.

Soul Fire Farm provided an inspirational keynote presentation which highlighted the long and terrible history of racial injustice and ties to environmental destruction. We learned that we must care for the land and support farmers – especially BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) farmers – who grow crops in sustainable organic ways.

Knowing what we know, why are we not making more progress on climate change? On something so crucial as food?

I believe it’s indifference. Liberals look at the facts, understand the problem, and mutter that it is a sad state of affairs and change the channel. This is not the time for arm-chair liberals. It is the time for radical actions such as those proposed by Soul Fire Farm in their Food Sovereignty Action toolkit.

We learned in the Seminar about changes we can make in our eating and behavior to address climate change. However, we also learned that individual actions won’t be enough. To ensure climate justice, food equity, and sustainability, we need significant funding and legislation on national and global levels.

We must learn from this pandemic that in every way possible, none of us is safe until we are all safe.

We need to live, work, produce and manufacture in ways that protect people and planet and work to restore and heal what we have damaged.

We need to ensure the wellbeing of everyone everywhere. This is what we work for at the UU@UN, and it is the core of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (which includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals). The preamble to the 2030 Agenda states:

We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.

Leave no one behind must be more than a slogan, we must make it a fact.

To do that, we cannot be indifferent.


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About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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