Theology and Climate Justice

Climate Justice: Hurricane Sandy Recovery, Brooklyn, NY

This special service learning journey for seminarians combines study and theological reflection on climate change, with a vivid, hands-on experience of the justice issues that arise as our climate warms.

The program has been designed to complement the course offering at Meadville Lombard Theological School, “Cosmos and Ethos: Religious Naturalism and the Climate Crisis.” Students from other seminaries are also welcome! You may register for this journey as a stand-alone experience, or you may also register for the full course through Meadville Lombard here.

Service-Learning Description

Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States on October 29, 2012. It was the second most costly hurricane in U.S. history and affected a total of 24 states, but the New York area was particularly hard hit. Many thousands of housing units were damaged or destroyed along with hundreds of small businesses that formed the backbone of their communities. Roads, subway systems, parks, and other public infrastructure were also severely damaged. As we move into 2015, thousands of homes remain uninhabitable, hundreds of small business owners cannot yet reopen the sources of their livelihoods, and those who were already the most vulnerable have found themselves even more marginalized.

Working and learning in the aftermath of Sandy is one way to build our capacity to speak out and act on the most critical issue of our times, climate justice. During the program, participants will receive training in basic demolition and rebuilding skills, and the bulk of several days will be spent on urgently needed recovery work. We will also meet with leaders from immigrant  and tenants’ rights organizations and will gain insight into how our own religious leadership can include solidarity with those most marginalized —  both before and in the wake of disasters like Sandy.

Date: February 21 – 28, 2014, register by December 21, 2014

Cost: $450 per person, which includes $100/person for urgently needed building supplies. Cost does not include transportation to and from Brooklyn. Financial assistance is available by application for those with financial need, contingent on the availability of funding; grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will the work be like? CSJ’s primary partner in Brooklyn is Resurrection Brooklyn, a small network of Presbyterian churches and outreach/service programs. Resurrection Brooklyn’s disaster recovery efforts in the wake of Sandy have focused on the most marginalized communities in coastal South Brooklyn neighborhoods. The recovery work is evolving every month as projects are completed and new plateaus are reached. Current work projects focus on non-structural repairs to homes or businesses damaged by Hurricane Sandy, such as subfloor, insulation, drywall, mudding/taping/sanding, painting, finished floor work and so on.

While a great deal of mold remediation has been completed, persons with serious respiratory illnesses should probably not participate in this program. Protective equipment and training will be provided as needed.

What else will we be doing besides recovery work? The focus of this CSJ program is faith-based climate justice. So in addition to the physical work of Sandy recovery, the program includes daily reflection, worship and journaling; a visit to one or more faith communities during the week; and meetings with representatives from several justice organizations, who will help us understand the ways that the most marginalized communities are impacted by climate events like Sandy.

Where will we be housed? We will stay in Resurrection Brooklyn’s Volunteer Team House, located at 2802 Batchelder Street in Brooklyn. This single-family house has been converted into two apartments; each apartment has a kitchen, bath and bunkroom with three triple-decker bunks in each. We will be responsible for basic clean-up of the house at the end of our program.

What kinds of meals should we expect? Volunteer teams are responsible for their own cooking and food. UUCSJ will provide all food supplies, and program participants in small teams will rotate in preparing and serving simple dinners each evening. Breakfast and lunch supplies will be available to meet individual preferences; generally we will make our lunches and eat at the work site. On days when we are engaged in other activities, some meals will be eaten in restaurants (all costs are included in the original program fees).

How will we get around during the program? Most of the time we will be on public transit (bus and subway). This is both a practical and ethical choice: rental and parking for cars or vans is very expensive. In  addition, public transportation helps us reduce our own carbon footprints, and gives us insight into what life is like in New York for the many people dependent on public transit as their only option.

Will there be any time to explore New York City? Yes. Though recreational time will be limited, we will do our best to schedule in some time for participants to explore a few of the interesting neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Resources

Participants in all UUCSJ journeys are asked to engage in study and reflection before traveling with us, including our Study Guide for Cross-Cultural Engagement, available on our website. We have selected a few additional resources in order to help you deepen your understanding of the many justice issues involved in climate change, seen through the lens of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Course Description

“Cosmos and Ethos: Religious Naturalism and the Climate Crisis”

This class explores how religious naturalism can help us to understand religious and moral life in new ways while also enabling us to respond to social justice challenges more wisely and creatively, focusing specifically on the climate crisis and climate justice. Through local community engagement as well as through readings, films, lectures, and discussion, the course will explore the climate crisis as a geophysical and planetary reality, a moral phenomenon, a religious concern, a social justice tragedy, and a problem of political economy.

In addition to analysis and critique, however, the course will consider the climate crisis as an historical rupture that creates opportunities for positive change. In particular, we will engage religious naturalism as an emergent religious option that can expand our theological imagination, deepen our moral empathy, and facilitate the new forms of solidarity that are necessary to responding to the climate crisis with greater justice and compassion. Click here for the course syllabus.

Date: March 23-27 at Meadville Lombard in Chicago

Registration

Please note that there are two separate registration requirements:

  1. Register here for the service learning program, “Hurricane Sandy Recovery.” The service learning program takes place February 21-28 in Brooklyn, NY. Note: Because of the collaboration between UUCSJ and Meadville Lombard, students enrolled in the course “Cosmos and Ethos” will be given first priority through November 14, at which point all enrollment is on a first come-first serve basis.
  2. Register here for the course “Cosmos and Ethos” through Meadville Lombard Theological School (course description below). Registration opens November 1.

Students who participate in the CSJ service learning project (above) may register for additional Meadville Lombard course credit.