This morning during Theological Reflection, we focused in on the problem of environmental (in)justice, the source of the problem, solutions, and sources of those solutions. Our separation from the natural world on which we depend can make it really challenging to truly understand our impact on the planet and the people involved. When eating a bowl of cereal, how many people really think about the people who planted and harvested the ingredients, who made those specific varieties, who stored them, who built the storage facilities, who made the trucks and roads, machinery and cars, all the way down to the person who stocked the shelves of the supermarket before they bought the box of cereal? Not to mention the environmental impacts of the particular kinds of grains grown and the growing methods, the kinds of fuel used to make all of this happen, and their impacts on the environment as well as the people living and working in those communities. And we haven’t even gotten to the milk, the bowl, or the spoon! Our ability to eat a bowl of cereal only comes to light with the hard work of people all over–we are not entitled to even such everyday things.

Is it enough to act in the right direction, to recycle and compost, to turn off the lights and take shorter showers, even if that would still mean our planet couldn’t support everyone living that way? What is our responsibility to ourselves, to our ancestors, and to future generations? We must align ourselves with hope, and act accordingly. According to Vaclav Havel,

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out… It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.”

Environmental and environmental justice issues surround us, and the scale and complexity of these problems is only magnified with globalization. Every person in this tale of cereal, and all the un-named folks as well, have the same inherent worth and dignity, and our future is tightly interwoven. We need to hold ourselves accountable for working towards environmental justice.

One thing we can do is to follow through with the actions to which we commit. At the 2009 UUA General Assembly, delegates voted to Support America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act as an Action of Immediate Witness. For ideas and assistance in taking action to see this through, visit the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance website.

About the Author
Rowan Van Ness

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