Advance Reading: Members of the group should read all of the Introduction and Chapter One of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.
In the Introduction, Klein describes the insight that first led her to conceive the thesis of her book. She writes: “I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become a catalyzing force for positive change—how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had […] to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.”
- How do you feel about this idea? Does Klein’s thesis strike you as plausible?
- Do you think creative forces sometimes arise out of destructive ones? Why or why not?
- What other feelings did these chapters provoke for you?
Please have someone from the group read the following quotation, from the end of Chapter One:
[blockquote][T]he [climate change] deniers, and the ideological movement from which they sprang, won the battle over which values would govern our societies […. D]enigration of collective action and veneration of the profit motive have infiltrated […] our very souls. [… I]nside each of us dwells a belief in their central lie—that we are nothing but selfish, greedy, self-gratification machines. And if we are that, then what hope do we have of taking on the grand, often difficult, collective work that will be required to save ourselves in time? This, without a doubt, is neoliberalism’s single most damaging legacy: the realization of its bleak vision has isolated us enough from one another that it became possible to convince us that we are not just incapable of self-preservation but fundamentally not worth saving.”[/blockquote]
UU values seem to stand in stark contrast to this “most damaging legacy,” as Klein describes it.
- The Unitarian movement from the very beginning defined itself by its rejection of the Calvinist doctrine of human “depravity” – which we could rephrase in modern terms as the belief “that we are nothing but selfish, greedy, self-gratification machines.” The Unitarians maintained in contrast to this doctrine that human beings, while imperfect, are capable of doing good in the world.
- The Universalists insisted that salvation embraces all beings, rather than just a chosen few. They believed, in other words, that people fundamentally are worth saving.
- The legacy of these ideas is still embodied in our movement today, named in our first principle: The inherent worth and dignity of all people.
Drawing on the chapters you just read, please reflect together on the following questions:
- Does Unitarian Universalism provide a narrative of human capacity, human nature, and the human destiny different from the “most damaging legacy” Klein describes in this excerpt?
- In what specific ways do you think our UU values could be harnessed to inform our response to climate change?
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