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Climate Justice: Session 2


Advance Reading

Members of the group should read the section from Chapter 3,  “Rebuilding, and Reinventing, the Public Sphere,” the section from Chapter 4, “Not an Issue, a Frame,” and all of Chapter Five of This Changes Everything.

Opening Words

“Web”, by Denise Levertov

Intricate and untraceable
weaving and interweaving,
dark strand with light:

designed, beyond
all spiderly contrivance,
to link, not to entrap:

elation, grief, joy, contrition, entwined;
shaking, changing, forever
forming, transforming:

All praise, all praise to the great


Invite the group to share any thoughts and feelings that came up for them after the previous session.


Climate change and other environmental justice issues are often discussed in the media as if they were separate from issues of class, race, and various kinds of domestic and global inequality.

  • In what ways does Klein challenge this idea in the sections we’ve read so far?
  • Are there other ways not mentioned by Klein in which climate change might relate to social inequality? Ways in which it may disproportionately affect certain communities and individuals?

The stories in Klein’s book so far feature people with very different levels of agency and social power – from major international corporations and wealthy governments to people trapped in New York’s public housing projects during Hurricane Sandy.

  • Are there ways in which you see yourself in the chapters we read for today?
  • Are there people or institutions to which you particularly relate in the stories told so far? How would you situate yourself, if at all, in the narrative Klein is building?

Please read aloud the following quotation from the end of Chapter Four:

“Contemporary capitalism has not just accelerated the behaviors that are changing the climate. This economic model has changed a great many of us as individuals, accelerated and uprooted and dematerialized us […]  leaving us at once everywhere and nowhere. These are the hand-wringing clichés of our time—What is Twitter doing to my attention span? What are screens doing to our relationships?—but the preoccupations have particular relevance to the way we relate to the climate challenge.

Because this is a crisis that is, by its nature, slow moving and intensely place based. In its early stages […] climate is about an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird—noticing these small changes requires the kind of communion that comes from knowing a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance [….] How many of us still live like that? […]

To understand how we got to this place of profound disconnection from our surroundings and one another, and to think about how we might build a politics based on reconnection, we will need to go back a good deal further than 1988. [….] Indeed the roots of the climate crisis date back to core civilizational myths on which post-Enlightenment Western culture is founded—myths about humanity’s duty to dominate a natural world that is believed to be at once limitless and entirely controllable. ”

How does this passage leave you feeling?

  • What parts of it, if any, resonate with your own experience as a modern person? Which, if any, do not?

What does this passage have to say to religious liberals and our communities in particular?

  • In what ways does our faith community help to alter the sense of alienation Klein is describing?
  • In what ways do we perhaps contribute to it?
  • In what new ways might we imagine our communities acting to reduce disconnection and alienation?

How did you feel after reading Klein’s account of the island nation of Nauru?

  • Was the history of this island’s destruction new to you? Have you heard similar stories?
  • How do you understand Klein’s concept of “sacrifice zones”?

Klein writes that there never can be a truly permanent “sacrifice zone”:  “[W]hat Nauru’s fate tells us is that there is no middle of nowhere, nowhere that doesn’t ‘count’—and that nothing ever truly disappears. On some level we all know this, that we are part of a swirling web of connections. Yet we are trapped in linear narratives that tell us the opposite.”

  • What connections can you see between this passage and UU theology? Do our seven principles and other values have anything to say about “sacrifice zones”?

Before offering the closing words, invite people to share a word or phrase that describes their feelings after today’s discussion of the book.

Closing Reading

“Prayer to Future Beings” By Joanna Macy [adapted]

You live inside us, beings of the future.
In the spiral ribbons of our cells, you are here….
It is you who drive our dogged labors to save what is left.
O you, who will walk this Earth when we are gone, stir us awake.
Behold through our eyes the beauty of this world.
Let us feel your breath in our lungs, your cry in our throat.
Let us see you in the poor, the homeless, the sick.
Haunt us with your hunger, hound us with your claims,
that we may honor the life that links us.
You have as yet no faces we can see, no names we can say.
But we need only hold you in our minds, and you teach us patience….
You reveal courage within us we had not suspected, love we had not owned.
O you, who come after, help us remember: we are your ancestors.
Fill us with gladness for the work that must be done.

Reading for Next Session

Members of the group should read Chapters Six and Eight (“Fruits Not Roots” and “Dimming the Sun”) of This Changes Everything.

Also, please visit this map, made available by Climate Central, which shows projected sea level rises in the United States as a result of climate change. You can click on your home state, if it is on the ocean, or search for your home city by zip code. You can see the projected sea level change and compare the before and after effects of climate change for where you live.

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