UU Climate Action Network

Tim DeChristopher giving first public Climate Action talk in Cambridge

Tim DeChristopher - Wikipedia photo CC by Chesapeake Climate

Climate change activist Tim DeChristopher is giving his first public talk after moving to Boston, MA to attend Harvard Divinity School in preparation for the Unitarian Universalist ministry.  Please join Tim DeChristopher for this movement building event on Sunday, September 29th at First Parish Cambridge in Harvard Square.  Ticket sales will support the legal fund for the Westborough 8.

Buy Tickets - Eventbite

Excerpt from event description:
“After two years in jail for disrupting an oil and gas auction, Tim DeChristopher (http://www.bidder70.org) has arrived in Boston.  On September 29th, Tim will host a fundraiser and movement-building event with the Westborough 8, eight youth who chained and superglued themselves earlier this year into the MA office of TransCanada to protest the company locking their generation into climate disaster by building the Keystone XL pipeline.”

In this clip from the film Bidder 70, Tim DeChristopher discusses the future of climate activism after being released from prison…

Tim DeChristopher on David Letterman

Tim DeChristopher on Bill Moyers

UCC and UUA recognized for their witness on climate change by PA Interfaith Power & Light


September 20, 2013
Denominations recognized for their witness on climate change.
Contact: Cricket Eccleston Hunter  at paipl.org

HARRISBURG, PA – The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations will be honored at the October 5 meeting of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light in Harrisburg. PA IPL annually presents a Visionary Award to a Pennsylvanian who has engaged in significant actions “to tend and sustain” the earth and all its creatures. The award recognizes those who have called us all to be more mindful of  the moral and ethical consequences of our actions, to protect Creation from the threat of climate change, and to preserve the earth for generations to come. This year, PA IPL will present awards to two church bodies that have demonstrated exemplary leadership by urging their members and others to act boldly to put their values into action.

On June 30, 2013, the national synod of the United Church of Christ passed a resolution calling all parts of the church body to take action on climate change. Grounded firmly in scripture, the “resolution urging divestment” exhorts the UCC church and its members to lead by example by moving away from fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; by engaging personally, in community, and through public witness and  advocacy to help make changes nationally; and by making shareholder engagement on climate change a top priority by seeking fossil-fuel free investments and by conducting a hearing at their 2015 national gathering (Synod 2015) to defend any remaining fossil fuel investments as “best in class.” Resolutions urging divestment, addressing the carbon neutrality of UCC church buildings, and addressing mountaintop removal coal mining can be read in full at UCC.org. These resolutions build on the already strong record of the United Church of Christ on climate change, especially its Pentecost 2013 challenge program called Mission 4/1 Earth, and its ongoing Green Justice work.

At its national assembly in July of this year, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations resolved that all delegates should “begin a denomination-wide conversation within their congregations about divesting from fossil fuels or exercising shareholder influence” and identified six areas in which that conversation might move forward. They specifically recommended that congregations discuss leading by example by investing in conservation and energy efficiency measures for congregational facilities, and widespread use of renewable energy. The resolution can be found in full [here]. The resolution builds on the Unitarian Universalists’ strong
Green Sanctuary Certification program.

PA IPL applauds these communities for their careful discernment and public recognition that addressing climate change is an important part of faithful witness, and that many challenging efforts will be necessary to slow emissions significantly.

The awards will be presented on October 5 to representatives of each denomination at PA IPL’s conference “One Creation, Many Faiths: A Call to Action on Climate Change” to be held at Colonial Park United Church of Christ in Harrisburg.

PA Interfaith Power & Light invites individuals and communities of all faiths to join the over 10,000 congregations in 40 state chapters of Interfaith Power & Light to move forward in action and hope to care for Creation and neighbors near and far.


For their careful discernment and public recognition that addressing climate change is an important part of faithful witness, and for their active and multi-faceted work to engage congregations and congregants on climate change: Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light presents its 2013 Visionary Award to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

The UUA created and supports the Green Sanctuary Certification Program, a program of congregations and congregants working together to restore Earth and renew Spirit; designed to “give roots and wings to the vision that, together, we can create a world in which all people make reverence, gratitude, and care for the living Earth that is central to our lives.” The program both provides the framework for congregations to begin specific projects and activities that can lead to Green Sanctuary accreditation, and invites congregations to embark on an exploration of what it means to live today within a religious community on an imperiled Earth.

That program was an early model for many.

This year, they began to address institutional investment as well. At its national assembly in July, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations resolved that all delegates should “begin a denomination-wide conversation within their congregations about divesting from fossil fuels or exercising shareholder influence” and identified six areas in which that conversation might move forward. They specifically recommended that congregations discuss leading by example by investing in conservation and energy efficiency measures for congregational facilities, and widespread use of renewable energy. The Social Witness statement can be found in full [here].

PA IPL presents this award in recognition of the members and institutional bodies of the Unitarian Universalist Association that have made this reflective work and public witness possible, and to thank them for the work that is yet to come.

Thank you.

Bill Mckibben to UU’s: We need you to provide moral leadership

Bill Mckibben: A message to UUs

Last week First Parish Cambridge hung a banner challenging Harvard to divest.   Passers by aren’t the only ones to notice their bold action.  Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, shared it as his photo of the week.  McKibben  was in Cambridge yesterday promoting his new book Honey and Oil.  After I met with Bill and other local activists, he shared this video message to UUs:


This is Bill McKibben.  Look, First Parish Cambridge should be an inspiration to Unitarians everywhere.  Though I’m a Methodist, I got to say I love the UUs.  But one thing I’ve noticed is that Unitarians are really good at talking about things–and talking and talking and talking about them some more.  We’re at the point in climate change where we actually need some serious action.  Thank heaven we’ve got some real leadership from some individual parishes.  Now we need the whole lot of you to do the right thing and help provide the moral leadership that will get us where we need to go.  Divest now!  Thank you.

In this message McKibben challenges us to be moral leaders.  If climate change is the moral issue of our time,  how are you and your congregation called to respond?

Now, I have to tell you that the word on the street is, “Where are the UU’s?”   At least that’s what I heard at a rally in front of the MA  State House last Friday when I mentioned I was a Unitarian Universalist.  There was the Rev. Fred Small, members of First Parish Cambridge, and some other individual UUs, but not the presence I think some expected. At least given that  MA has the largest concentration of Unitarian Universalists in the United States (map by Scott Wells) and being next door to the UUA headquarters.  [Updated]

Okay, we should give the UUA staff a pass.  It probably isn’t comfortable to participate in a rally calling on the state to divest when the UUA hasn’t.   Which brings us back to McKibben’s message: DIVEST NOW!

In his message, McKibben says DIVEST NOW.  Actually, DIVEST NOW, THANK YOU!

Not sure what your take is, but friends,  I agree with him.  Not only would it show moral leadership, but it makes financial sense.

At the Divest Harvard rally we attended, a retired Harvard Business School professor said that divesting is smart because we’re now at the highest value fossil fuel stocks will ever have.  Public opinion is changing.  We have no choice, we have to prevent fossil fuel companies from using more than 1/5 of the fuel they have in reserves.  If we must prevent 4/5 of reserves from being used, that means the fossil fuel industry is a huge bubble waiting to burst.

Though we can talk about the math and we can talk about the science,  for me the rationale for the UUA to divest comes down to one thing:  Unitarian Universalists

We have a history of leading on the moral issues of our time.
We’re revolutionaries.   (At least we should be.)
A growing number of us are working to take down the fossil fuel industry.
That means the very members you are investing for are now at war with the industry you have investments in.
What more do you need to know?

Okay, okay.  We’re Unitarian Universalists.  We have a democratic process.  This is true.  In June the UUA’s General Assembly voted to study divestment.  According to  UU World coverage delegates voted overwhelmingly to adopt an Action of Immediate Witness to “Consider Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry,” and to “begin a denomination-wide conversation within their congregations about divesting from fossil fuels or exercising shareholder influence.”

Friends, we’re facing a global urgent moral issue that, if you take a look, transcends business as usual.   The vote to study divestment is exactly the kind of talk, talk, talk and talk some more that McKibben is calling us on.

We need immediate climate action and justice efforts.
We need moral leadership.
We need it now.

What does that look like for you?  Talking with colleagues, climate activists  and listening to Bill McKibben,  maybe  it is something like this:

The UUA President Peter Morales and new Board of Trustees saying, “We can’t wait for a lengthy process.  There is NO TIME.  We need to approve divestment THIS year.”  And getting it done at  General Assembly 2014.

What Kind of Moral Leadership?

I’ve been reminded that shareholder advocacy is a form of moral leadership, and that the UUA has been leading in this way for years.  There is no doubt of this.  The question I ask myself these days is what KIND of leadership is needed today. If you agree with the strategy of making it no longer socially acceptable to own fossil fuel stock, to do everything we can to shape public opinion, then divestment makes sense.  That’s the strategy 350.org and McKibben is focusing on.  I can understand those who’ve been doing shareholder advocacy being hurt my McKibben’s call for moral leadership has it doesn’t acknowledge what you’ve done.  But I’d have you look at our situation today.  Is your advocacy dismantling the fossil fuel industry?  That’s the goal.  That’s where we need more leadership, and moral leadership.   What do you think?

Update: One of our readers shared this link to information on the UUA’s socially responsible investing.

More Media

Bill McKibben’s tweet with First Parish Cambridge’s banner:

Close up of banner:

First Parish Divest Harvard Banner


Connect with our growing network of UU climate leaders and tell us what you think and what you’re doing.


“Changing a light bulb is good. Changing a senator is better.” by the Rev. Fred Small

“1st Parish Cambridge lifts banner: “We divested from fossil fuels. Your turn, Harvard.”

As a minister, I believe in the power of spiritual practice.  I practice voluntary simplicity because it changes me, not because I expect it to change the world.  Indeed, if a mass voluntary simplicity movement actually succeeded in reducing demand for resources, their price would drop and less enlightened consumers and manufacturers would gladly snap them up.

50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth was published in 1989, the same year as The End of Nature.  In the quarter-century since, if environmentally concerned Americans had spent as much time organizing and lobbying for an end to fossil fuels as they spent calculating their personal carbon footprint, researching the life-cycle costs of every product they purchased, studying the labels of consumer goods, and rinsing plastic food-storage bags for reuse, I suspect we’d have made a lot more progress against global warming.

No matter how much we exhort people to reduce, reuse, and recycle, not much will change until we get accurate price signals at the cash register and gas pump.  And that requires political action.  By placing the burden and responsibility on the individual, “Reduce, reuse, recycle” diverts attention from corporations and governments–which suits them just fine.

So I walk and bicycle and take the train whenever I can, but I also drive and fly when I need to.  Every time I buy gas for my car, I note what I paid and send the same amount to 350.org.  (It’s my personal carbon tax.)  I’m using a computer to write these words even though I haven’t examined whether a handwritten letter might or might not use less energy.

I don’t feel guilty because I live in the society I do.  I just work like hell to change it.

Changing a light bulb is good. Changing a senator is better.

A former folksinger and environmental lawyer, Rev. Fred Small is Senior Minister of First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Unitarian Universalist), and co-chair of Religious Witness for the Earth, a national interfaith environmental network. Follow Rev. Fred Small on Twitter at @RevFredSmall.  Originally posted on Facebook, reprinted with permission.

Rev. Fred Small speaks at MA bill S.1225 rally

The Rev. Fred Small speaks at the 350Mass September 10, 2013 rally on bill S.1225 in front of MA State House.  Rev. Fred Small is senior minister of First Parish in Cambridge, MA.

UUCAN on Twitter

The UU Climate Action Network has a new Twitter account that we’ll be using to collect and amplify your news.  If you’re looking to share news, Twitter is the perfect medium so good to be moving toward a Twitter account if you haven’t already.

We’ll be collecting news to share via automated web searches and by following your Twitter accounts. But the best way to share your news is to tag our new account when you share a related message.

Here’s how that works.

If you are on Twitter, if you tweet something related to climate action you’d like shared, just include @UUClimateAction in your message.  That will result in an instant or nearly instant notice to our account. We can then retweet it .  While this account is building its audience within the UUA, with climate action partners, and the media, we will be giving tweets a boost via Peter Bowden’s @uuplanet and @UUTV accounts depending on the nature of the tweet.

So, if you want your UU Climate Action and Justice news shared, add @UUClimateAction to the end of your tweet.

Note, addition to sharing your tweets we’ll also work to include relevant hashtags like #ClimateChange and #divest to give your tweets more reach in case you forgot to.

Have questions? You may ask via comments below.

Facebook Group

Are you a Unitarian Universalist interested in networking with other UU climate action and justice leaders?

Join the UU Climate Action Network Facebook group!

Once added to the group, please introduce yourself. We’ve been doing this from day 1. Please include UU congregation, organizational affiliations.  Also review posting guidelines below.

This Facebook group has been created to serve as a networking, learning and organizing space for Unitarian Universalist climate and justice leaders primarily within the Unitarian Universalist Association.  This group is being managed by Peter Bowden, with leaders from UUCAN partner organizations the UU Ministry for Earth and the UU United Nations Office serving as official liaisons to the group.

NOT ON FACEBOOK? We have an easy solution!  Join Facebook! You can’t be a leader and activist if you aren’t willing to organize where the people are.  And UU’s are very much on Facebook. (Peter’s opinion)

Version 1  – Published September 9, 2013
By Peter Bowden, group community manager

YES — Every post should have an explicit connection to Unitarian Universalism and climate action & justice.  Posts where the connection is not obvious will be deleted on sight, so be explicit.  Make sure we know why this is of relevance to this community.
NO — This is NOT a space for debating science, politics and/or posting the weather of the day unless you are explicitly sharing it in the context of UU climate action and justice!

BE POSITIVE — We can’t change the world if we can’t get along. If you disagree with something and are annoyed, go meditate, write in your journal, and then write a response. It is fine to disagree, but be respectful, be helpful, be positive.

WATCH YOUR TONE, CRANKY PANTS — We want to learn from one another, support our collective work and ministry, and take our climate action and justice efforts to the next level.  The value of this community hinges on developing a positive and productive space.  No matter how much you disagree with something or how wrong someone may be (in your opinion),  responding in a harsh, insulting or disrespectful tone is not welcome. When annoyed beyond belief, think to yourself, how would a mentor act?

GONE, GONE, GONE — Posts that clearly do not follow these guidelines will be deleted with a comment noting the reason attached to a running house cleaning post.  People who repeatedly post content or act in ways counter to the goals of this space will be informed publicly of this within the group.

GROUP FOCUS AND POSTING MODES — At various times the group may be kicked from an “everyone may post” mode to only admins posting.  This will be done periodically to have the entire communities energy be focused on specific posts, such as if we had Bill McKibben, Al Gore or UUA President Peter Morales join us and offer to do a question and answer session.

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT — This Facebook group space is being created, held, and managed by me, Peter Bowden, with the support of UUCAN partner organization leaders.  Changing group posting guidelines, removing people from the group, and other group management actions are my responsibility and ultimately at my discretion.  Before taking action impacting our community and this space I will check in with the group.


First Parish Cambridge lifts banner: “We divested from fossil fuels. Your turn, Harvard.”

Today the Rev. Fred Small of First Parish In Cambridge, MA shared this tweet sharing their banner facing Harvard.  The banner Facing Harvard University reads, “”We divested from fossil fuels. Your turn, Harvard.”  In the photograph are members and friends of the congregation, representatives from Divest Harvard.

Read Fred Smalls recent article in the UU World Magazine,  Fossil fuel divestment is moral, strategic. Money is an instrument of moral choice.  6.3.13

Announcing launch of the UU Climate Action Network

UU Climate Action Network


Sept 8, 2013 — A new Unitarian Universalist climate action and justice network has been formed in partnership with the UU Ministry for Earth, the UU United Nations Office and Peter Bowden.

The UU Climate Action Network (UUCAN) is an effort to connect, strengthen and grow the Unitarian Universalists climate action and justice community. The initial focus will be on harnessing the power of social media to connect leaders, share information and strategies, and increase Unitarian Universalist leadership in addressing climate change, what many consider the moral issue of our time.

UUCAN  projects are being  coordinated by Peter Bowden in collaboration with leadership from UUCAN partner organizations.

Initial projects include the uucan.org website, @UUClimateAction Twitter account, and a Facebook networking, learning and organizaing group for UU climate leaders.

Fore more information:

Peter Bowden,  (617) 852-9863
UUCAN project coordinator
UU PLANET Ministry & Media

Partner Organizations:

UU Ministry for Earth

UU United Nations Office