The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as:
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:
- The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and
- Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
The UUA defines environmental justice as:
UUA 1994 General Resolution: Environmental Justice
The Unitarian-Universalist Association is committed to environmental justice. In 1994, UUA adopted the following resolution:
BECAUSE we affirm justice and compassion in human relations, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence; and
BECAUSE we share the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and
WHEREAS waste and pollution, overconsumption by the world’s affluent few, and the pressures caused by poverty and burgeoning populations are inflicting harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment, and have endangered the future we wish for both humanity and the rest of nature;
WHEREAS the poor, the powerless, the landless, and the disinherited are often compelled to carry the major burdens of waste and pollution without representation in planning and decision-making processes;
WHEREAS the concept of environmental justice links the principles of liberal religion with the values of ecological awareness and racial and class justice;
WHEREAS the Unitarian Universalist Association has adopted separate resolutions on specific economic, political, and environmental issues, it also realizes that environmental justice requires an integrated, holistic approach; and
WHEREAS the Union of Concerned Scientists, the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (1991), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), and other assemblies and organizations are seeking to move environmental justice higher on the public policy agenda;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Unitarian Universalist Association shall act and urge its affiliates, member societies, and individual Unitarian Universalists to:
- promote programs for social, economic, and political empowerment so that all people may join together in one struggle for peace, justice, and sustainable development;
- support the development of democratic and ecologically responsible community organizations, labor unions, and business cooperatives;
- develop religious education and community action programs honoring cultural and religious diversity and connecting environmental issues to other social justice concerns;
- set time aside for seasonal celebrations to honor our interdependence and to deepen our commitment to natural and cultural diversity; and
- work with the Unitarian Universalist Seventh Principle Project, the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, and others to implement the recommendations of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Unitarian Universalist Association shall act and encourage its affiliates, member societies, and individual Unitarian Universalists to bear witness to the need for environmental justice by reducing their consumption of the earth’s resources, generating as little waste as possible, recycling, and making a commitment as producers, investors, and consumers to living in an ecologically balanced and responsible manner.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere reached 419 parts per million in May. These are the highest carbon dioxide levels in over four million years. The last time that the atmosphere held comparable levels of CO2 was during the Pliocene period, when the Earth looked completely different from what it does today. Sea levels were 78 feet higher, temperatures were 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and large forests covered parts of the Arctic tundra. What do these record CO2 emissions mean for climate change? The atmosphere acts as a heat-trapping blanket. Greenhouse gases, like CO2, keep temperatures on Earth comfortable for human survival. Read more here.
Governor Inslee signed several of the big environmental bills of the 2021 session on Monday, May 18 in Seattle at various locations. Bills included SB 5126 (the Climate Commitment Act), HB 1091 (Clean Fuels); and SB 5141 (HEAL Act). He vetoed provisions in 5126 and 1091 that would have made them contingent on passing a 5 cent per gallon gas tax.
The legislature passed HB 1287, the zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) bill, after it was amended to “establish a goal that all publicly and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later sold, purchased, or registered in Washington state be electric vehicles, contingent upon vehicle participation in a new road usage charge or equivalent tax or fee policy.” Note that is a “goal,” not a mandate, and it is contingent on a new road usage charge for electric vehicles (to fund transportation like the gas tax does). Because of this contingency, Governor Inslee vetoed provisions of the bill referring to the 2030 goal. Other provisions remain intact, including some that require the state to plan for increases in electric vehicle chargers.
Netse Mot: Support Lummi Nation and Xw’ullemy (the Salish Sea)
2nd Call for Support: Bring Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut Home!
Netse Mot 2021-Call to bring Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut Home2021 will focus on the return of Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) to the Pacific Northwest from Miami Seaquarim in Florida. In the 1970s Southern Resident Orca youth were forcibly and violently taken from their pods and shipped out to aquariums and parks all over the world. Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) was taken to Miami Seaquarium where she is the last surviving Orca youth taken. Lummi Nation has been trying for decades now to have her returned but Miami Seaquarim is refusing to release her. In 2019, two Lummi women, Squil-le-he-le and Mah Tahs working with Earth Law Center, invoked the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and announced their intent to sue Miami Seaquarium if the Seaquarium. To date (April 2021), Miami Seaquarim is still refusing to release Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut. Squil-le-he-le and Mah Tahs are calling upon us to respond as well.
- For individuals, they are asking that we sign the petition established by Earth Law Center that is collecting signatures to go to Miami Seaquarim and its parent and affiliates—Palace Entertainment and Parques Reunidos Servicios Centrales SA.
- For groups and organizations, they are asking that we sign a request to Governor's Inslee (WA) and Brown (OR) and BC Premier John Horgan to sign a proclamation to support the efforts to bring her home. Please sign by 24 May 2021. We'd like to present it to the Governors in June during Orca Action Month.
- We are also being asked to reach out to other Indigenous connections we may have and invite them to sign the Indigenous Statement of Solidarity. The request also includes a video of ceremonies in solidarity. If you have connections with an Indigenous group, please ask them to contact Julie at email@example.com.
JUUstice WA has not made the Climate Commitment Act a priority because there is some opposition from frontline communities on equity issues (see the detailed hearings report, below). Some members have asked about the bill, so it is described here. It passed the legislature with amendments to meet some of the objections of frontline communities. The “Cap and Invest” program directs Department of Ecology to set a cap on emissions and set rules for compliance. Allowances are used to invest in clean energy projects. By 2022 Ecology must set caps and rules for allowances. Reductions begin in 2023 and are made more stringent during each period. The caps are set on a sliding scale according RCW 70.235 as follows:
- By 2030, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 45 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2040, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 70 percent below 1990 levels,
- By 2050, reduce overall emissions of GHGs in the state to 95 percent below 1990 levels,
For the past few weeks, UU Ministry for Earth and Elders Climate Action have been busy with the UU Project Drawdown Initiative 2021. UU DD 21 mobilizes teams or individuals to earn points for taking a variety of actions for climate and environmental justice. You can SIGN UP and take part in the challenge at any time until June, when the collective efforts will be compiled in a video to be shared and celebrated at UUA General Assembly. Get inspired with these highlights of progress so far.
Watch it by clicking here: SolutionaryRail.org/
(Move the scroll bar to start at the 6 minute mark to bypass the initial tech set up delay.)
Washington state has made significant commitments to and investments in the protection and recovery of these killer whales, their critical Salish Sea habitat, and their food web, which hinges on the availability of Chinook salmon. The terminal will threaten the progress made to date on recommendations of the Governor’s Orca Task Force and on state legislation that has ensued from its deliberations. Even ignoring the added risks of oil spills and ship strikes, there would still be a major increase in underwater noise levels from these massive container ships that will further limit the orcas’ ability to echolocate, communicate and hunt.
Over 40 organizations and nearly 100,000* individuals have asked Governor Inslee to oppose the Roberts Bank terminal project, signing a petition addressed to him. And they have asked that if the project is approved in spite of their strong objections, he should insist that robust risk-mitigation measures — such as an emergency tug strategically located along the vessels’ path — be required to protect the orcas, salmon and Washington state environment.
Read more here.
As currently planned, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) would be built in the sub-tidal waters of the Fraser River delta adjacent to the Westshore coal terminal, on 437 acres of critical habitat for salmon and migratory birds. Once in existence, it would significantly increase the Port’s capacity for larger container ships and also induce more container-ship traffic through the trans-boundary waters of the Salish Sea — by up to 520 transits per year.
The massive “Mega-Max” container ships that could call on this terminal typically carry 18 to 24 thousand containers. They can also carry much larger amounts of propulsion fuels, in some cases over 4 million gallons worth, which could dramatically increase the extent of an oil spill from a container-ship collision or grounding.
Read more here.
The maps, commissioned as part of InvestigateWest's yearlong reporting project, Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia, span Washington and Oregon and provide digital windows into vulnerabilities that are likely to worsen with climate change. Montana-based Headwaters Economicscreated the interactive visualizations using a pair of powerful mapping tools that the community planning firm launched last year.
The maps created for this project are an example of tools undegoing growing use in Cascadia, where equity advocates, academic researchers and governments are teaming up to create new data-driven methods to identify and address unequal environmental risks. A movement that began several years ago accelerated in 2020 as the skewed death tolls from COVID-19 laid bare systemic social and economic inequalities on both sides of the border, and surging outrage amidst police shootings spurred governments into action.
Read more here.
Washington’s salmon are “teetering on the brink of extinction,” according to a new report. It says the state must change how it’s responding to climate change and the growing number of people in Washington.
Washington’s State of Salmon in Watersheds report says time is running out for the Northwest’s iconic fish. The report shows a trend of warming waters and habitat degradation is causing trouble for its salmon runs. Ten of the 14 threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the state are not getting any better. Of those, five are “in crisis.”
Read more here.
Tom White, one of the lead authors of the Amtrak Cascades LRP, and Solutionary Rail Project Lead Bill Moyer, wrote this article about the future of rail in our State:
by Thomas White and Bill Moyer
Washington state has two potential tracks toward a 21st century rail future, with starkly different outcomes.
One provides higher speed, climate-friendly passenger service linking as many as 13 communities on the Cascadia corridor, with increased capacity for freight trains. It has been in development since 1991 and some elements have already been completed. It would provide clean, electrified Amtrak Cascades passenger service at up to 110mph along existing lines. The phased effort would rapidly create jobs, upgrade service and cut carbon pollution. It could be completed in a decade.
Tragically, this shovel-ready plan is being ignored while another flashy vision grabs the spotlight. That is the “ultra-high-speed rail” (UHSR) project proposed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s administration and developed by WSP, a giant engineering firm. It offers a maximum of five stops along the route. To facilitate speeds up to 220mph, it would require an entirely new passenger-only corridor acquired through costly land acquisitions and the controversial use of eminent domain, with many environmental challenges. While science tells us we need to dramatically cut carbon pollution this decade, UHSR would take many years before the first track is put on the ground and decades more to completion — if it happens at all.
@Washingtonians: there's still time to reach out to State Legislators & ask that the Amtrak Cascades LRP be funded.Please, if you haven't done so yet, contact your two state Representatives AND your state Senator, asking for:
- State funding to update the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan
- Legislators to work with WSDOT to request that Federal Railroad Administration grant programs be generously funded by the federal government.
Send this letter ("Legislative Sponsors Needed") by email:
- Click to download the suggested text
- Copy and paste the subject line and text
- Send today to each of your State legislators
Let's do this, Washington!
Have you ever wondered, Why were the minority neighborhoods in Texas the first to lose power during the recent power blackouts? Why are polluting industries and waste dumps always sited where Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) folks live? Why has the Covid pandemic been particularly devastating for the poor, marginalized BIPOC communities? And, yet, why have they been deprived of early vaccination? The list of injustices is never ending!
So, why do climate justice work in a UU church? Our faith calls us to build the Beloved Community that Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King dreamed of. We cannot build a Beloved Community when racism, oppression and discrimination is the custom of the land. Our principles call on us to uphold the inherent worth and dignity of all and to respect the interdependent web of all existence. And the proposed Eighth Principle calls us to accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions. Then, how can we not, as UUs, dedicate ourselves to finding justice for the most vulnerable who are least responsible for the continued destruction of our environment but are ignored time and time again. Indeed, the BIPOC are hardly ever at the table to represent their own interests!
In collaboration with the UU Ministry for Earth, we are privileged to the recent launch of a caucus for BIPOC UUs who are passionate about the intersections of racial, environmental and climate injustices.
Why a separate caucus for BIPOC? As we said above, we have long witnessed the disproportionate and disastrous impacts of climate change on communities of color. The BIPOC caucus will create a space for us to meet with others devoted to environmental and climate justice work, and also be a voice for us in the broader environmental and climate justice movement. It will allow us to form bonds with other BIPOC who fight not only racial and environmental injustices but are also the embodiment of living through a long history of injustice and cruelty.
Meetings of the group are open to everyone right now, irrespective of their racial identity, with time set aside for BIPOC and White caucusing. Starting this summer, the mutliracial group will meet approximately once a quarter, and the BIPOC caucus will meet roughly monthly.
We are grateful for the UUMFE for giving us a home as we begin this journey, and for offering time, energy and support. And, we thank all those who joined us for our first meeting and hope to see more folks attend the second session, on Thursday, March 18 at 5pm PT / 8pm EDT - you can find more information below in this newsletter. We pray that they keep coming back, that the caucus grows, and that we can engage in meaningful and spiritually fulfilling work. Amen.
In faith and solidarity,
Bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut Home!A sacred request from Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) and Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley) "Our Lhaq'temish [Lummi] people have had a special relationship with our killer whales since time immemorial. We know them as qwe’lhol’mechen, which means “people under the water.” Our stories tell of intermarriage and kinship between our Lhaq'temish people and a local qwe’lhol’mechen clan we know as Sk’aliCh’elh. Fifty years ago, as our own children were being stolen and sent to boarding schools, one of the Sk’aliCh’elh children was stolen and sold to the Miami Seaquarium. We call this orca whale “Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut,” which means daughter of Sk’aliCh’elh. She is our Lhaq'temish daughter, too. She has been held in a small concrete tank and forced to perform for her food since 1970. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People recognizes and uphold our rights to our culture, our spirituality, our families. In order for our Lhaq'temish culture, spirituality, and family to be whole, we must bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut home. We are working with the world’s top scientists and experts on how to do this responsibly. We have a plan, but we do not yet have Miami Seaquarium’s agreement to release her into our care. We are asking all individuals to sign our Petition, as put forth by our partners at the Earth Law Center." Hy’shqe, Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley) Enrolled members of Lummi Nation Please pass this onto family, friends, allies and partners. Ask them to sign the petition. It is believed that an overwhelming show of support, Miami Seaquarium’s parent companies might do the right thing and allow the Lhaq'temish people to bring their relation home to the Salish Sea, where they and her orca family await her. For more information, check the links below: Links:
- Ceremonies for Ska’liCh’elh-tenaut Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Ceremonies-for-Skalichelh-tenaut-111624844000057
- SacredSea.org Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut page: https://sacredsea.org/skalichelhtenaut/
- Petition link: https://www.change.org/p/miami-seaquarium-free-endangered-orca-held-captive-at-miami-seaquarium-for-50-years
- SacredSea YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0qWShmGWtn3HPU-cpWj81Q
This year, state legislatures will redraw the electoral map. The GOP controls most state legislatures, and they are expected to draw congressional districts to favor Republicans, which will make it easier for them to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, even if they fail to win the most votes overall. This dynamic will influence policymaking on a number of issues, including the environment. Recent events in North Carolina give some idea of what to expect.
In North Carolina, coal-fired plants historically dealt with the leftover ash by mixing it with wastewater and dumping it into an open pit nearby. Because coal generators need a lot of water, power plants and coal ash ponds usually sit next to a lake or river.
Read more here.
While SB 5373 is not one of the environmental priorities identified at the Justice Summit, a number of people have expressed interest in the bill. The bill appears to be dead for the session, but there is some possibility of its revival in the budget negotiations. Information below provides some background and notes on a hearing on March 4, 2021. Provisions of the bill:
- It imposes a carbon pollution tax beginning January 1, 2022, equal to $25 per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the sale or use of all fossil fuel within the state of Washington, except for the sale or use of electricity in Washington generated using fossil fuels.
- It increases the tax rate annually by inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, plus 5 percent beginning July 1, 2023.
- It establishes a ten-year climate finance program using carbon tax revenue and a bond program to reduce GHG emissions and increase the resilience of Washington's natural resources to the impacts of climate change
At this point in the legislative session, it would be a good idea to meet with your legislators to discuss pending legislation. Most legislators are scheduling town halls online, and you can find out when at the Washington Conservation Voter website. Some will let you ask questions beforehand, which is a good opportunity to discuss our legislative priorities. Here are some of the priorities we discussed in the Justice Summit.
- Environmental priorities: Fluorinated Gases, Clean Fuels, Growth Management Act, Building Electrification.
- Racial Justice priorities: Insurance fairness act, Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) act.
- Criminal Justice priorities: Legal Financial Obligations.