Unit 3 Destination Discussion: Hurricane Sandy

Advance Reading: Members of the group should read the section, “Not an Issue, a Frame” in Chapter 4, and all of Chapter Five of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein.


Climate change and other environmental justice issues are often treated 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 read for today? Do your own experiences or insights align with her claims or do they lead you to disagree with her?
  • Are there other ways not mentioned by Klein in which climate justice connects with other social justice issues?

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

[blockquote]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.” [/blockquote]

  • How does this passage and others from the reading for this week leave you feeling?
  • What parts of it, if any, resonate with your own experience as a person living in modern society? Which, if any, do not?
  • What does this passage have to say to religious liberals and the kinds of communities we try to form?
  • In what ways can we help to alter the sense of alienation Klein is describing?

In what ways do we perhaps contribute to it?

  • What feelings are evoked by Klein’s thesis that most of the structures of society we take for granted are rooted in extractivism?

Klein writes that there never can be a truly permanent “sacrifice zone,” writing: “[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 your understanding of our Unitarian Universalist theology? Do our seven principles and other values have anything to tell us about “sacrifice zones”?

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