The Public Witness at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (our annual international gathering) in Louisville, Kentucky, focused on Environmental Justice. Preceding our march to the Ohio River we gathered in a worship service lead by the Kentucky/West Virginia Ministers Coalition; featuring Wendell Berry, Tim DeChristopher, Rev Cynthia Cain, and Rev Mel Hoover.

We did this for Earth, our communities and our future generations. It is essential for us to know where the energy comes from when we turn on a light switch in own home and at the Fellowship. How we harness and use energy in this country causes our climate to change in ways that imperil our well- being. We are causing harm to our planet, our communities, our neighbors, and our future. “We need to stop the harmful effects of practices like mountaintop removal, hydraulic fracturing, mining, and drilling. They are hurting all of our communities, and most especially, communities of color, low- income neighborhoods, and rural towns. We can find new ways forward together. But in order to change how we get our energy, we must first use the energy within all of us to make a change,” it was said. This commitment is central to our faith, our theology, and our respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Walking with thousands of Unitarian Universalists to the river was simultaneously solemn and jubilant. We were joined in mind and spirit. This public witness and its call for change stopped traffic for blocks and blocks. Kids hung out the car windows, wondering what was going on. The drivers in rush hour traffic were puzzled at this cavalcade of people, some in wheel chairs, others in scooters, babies in back packs and strollers, kids, teenagers, young adults, the gray haired all ambling to the mighty Ohio. All of us in our own way making the journey, asking by our moving presence for others to join us in our call for environmental justice. This action made us a community that values the health of our brothers and sisters and all life.

Wendell Berry asked us to ponder the healthy connection between local and global. “The principles of neighborhood and subsistence will be disparaged by the globalists as ‘protectionism’ — and that is exactly what it is. It is a protectionism that is just and sound, because it protects local producers and is the best assurance of adequate supplies to local consumers. And the idea that local needs should be met first and only surpluses exported does not imply any prejudice against charity toward people in other places or trade with them.”

The principle of neighborhood at home always implies the principle of charity abroad. And the principle of subsistence is in fact the best guarantee of givable or marketable surpluses. This kind of protection is not “isolationism.” As we are asked to think about the source of our electricity, we are asked to know who grew our food and to buy what we can from local farmers. This is a primary step in achieving environmental and economic justice.

Let us be good neighbors and take good care of one another!

Michael and Charles

Reverend Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon recently attended the UUA General Assembly, held this year in Louisville, Kentucky. They continue their travels through the month of July as Michael takes some time for study.

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