“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.”
— United Methodist Social Principles, ¶160
The General Board of Church and Society of the UMC is focusing on several environmental justice issues. One of them is climate justice.
Climate justice is about climate change, more specifically global warming. Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere that trap heat and cause the earth to get hotter. This is also called the greenhouse effect and the gases that cause heat to be trapped are called greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases mostly come from gas powered cars, and power plants and other industrial sources that burn fossil fuels (coal, crude oil, and natural gas).
Scientists agree that the earth’s rising temperatures are fueling more extreme weather and climate disasters. Wildfires are more extreme. Hurricanes, extreme heat, and droughts are more intense. There is more flooding due to increased precipitation and rising sea levels. In turn, these can affect water security, agriculture and farming, our homes and communities, our physical and emotional health, and our economy.
To address global warming, we need to move to clean renewable energy sources (like solar and wind) that do not produce greenhouse gases. And, we need to focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation.
President Biden has enacted executive orders for tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad, while creating jobs and an equitable clean energy future and restoring scientific integrity across the federal government. He rejoined the U.S. into the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris Climate Agreement is a legally binding international treaty that was adopted in 2015 by 196 parties that pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Pollution occurs when land, water, air or other parts of the environment become dirty and unsafe or unsuitable for use. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light.
With an estimated 2.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air every second, air pollution is at a record high and is a growing public health issue. Much of the research on air quality and public health reveals that low-income people of color are most likely to live near hazardous emission sources, despite producing the “least amount of air pollutants” themselves.
Quality air is essential in maintaining and protecting the public’s health, however, sadly, environmental injustice prevails on both a national and global scale. As discussed, minorities, especially minority women and children, are particularly vulnerable to such injustices, as they are the most likely to be located in densely populated areas with a significant amount of transportation and smog. Additionally, these communities are often sought out by industries who “pay to pollute” these areas with toxic waste and fumes. In order to counteract the disparate effects of air pollution, it is essential that energy-efficient practices are encouraged, and that the administration and states work together to establish environmental policies that aim to achieve clean air for all.
Clean and plentiful water is the cornerstone of a prosperous community. But as we make our way through the twenty-first century, industrial and population demands are increasing as well as changing climate patterns draining rivers and aquifers. Pollution threatens the quality of what remains.
The progress or lack of progress toward just and affordable distribution of clean water for all starts with a principled acknowledgment of water as a human right. This right to water needs to be coupled with strong political accountability that adequately monitors the just implementation of the right to water. This requires political will from communities and governments.
The world uses approximately 70 percent of Its water for irrigation, 20 percent for industry, and 10 percent for domestic use. Roughly 75 percent of all industrial water usage is for energy production. It is estimated that by 2030, humanity’s demand for water could outstrip sustainable supply by as much as 40 percent due to rising energy needs and continued population growth.
Industrial practices pollute water sources through chemical and toxic leaks, drainage, dumping, and runoff into rivers, lakes, and aquifers, which then require more sophisticated water sanitation facilities. The result is the privatization of water sanitation and distribution, as well as higher water prices. Ultimately, water becomes inaccessible to those who are impoverished.
In addition, climate change is exacerbating drought and flooding. Flooding further pollutes water sources. When water availability and sanitation practices are compromised, community safety and security are threatened.
Many of the 840 million individuals who lack adequate food live in water-scarce regions. Diarrhea is the world’s leading form of death affecting 2.5 million persons; 88 percent of those deaths are due to poor water quality. Without clean water and adequate sanitation, hygiene is compromised and overall health is affected. When water and sanitation are threatened, community safety and security are threatened. Many countries are already experiencing violent conflict because of water shortage.
The world’s cumulative pollution of aquifers, rivers, lakes, and the oceans disturb the quality of life. Biodiversity of fresh water ecosystems has been more degraded than any other ecosystem.
Land Pollution occurs when foreign and toxic substances are introduced to the land leading to undesirable changes to the environment and its inhabitants. The pollution is caused by agricultural practices heavily using chemicals, deforestation, and disposal of agricultural wastes. Industries discharge unfiltered chemical effluents into surrounding lands. Untreated human sewage runoff and dumping occurs in heavily populated urban areas. Mining, mineral and metal processing activities release harmful chemicals into the environment. Garbage dumps and landfills release toxins that accumulate and seep into the ground and run off during rains polluting areas far from the initial contamination site.
Not only is visible pollution ugly and destroys the beauty of our natural environments, it can kill animals and destroy their habitats. Invisible chemicals can cause animals and plants to die, disrupting the food chain. Even greater is the impact on human health. Some chemicals are carcinogenic, others cause congenital defects such as heart disease, and others cause birth defects, developmental issues, and impact intelligence. Dangerous chemicals can persist in the environment where they may harm people’s health for decades into the future.
A natural disaster is a major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth; examples include floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and other geologic processes. A natural disaster can cause loss of life or damage property and typically leaves some economic damage in its wake, the severity of which depends on the affected population’s resilience and on the infrastructure available. Human choices such as architecture, resource management, and climate change play a role in the impact of a disaster and can cause consequences and leave lasting damage which can take years to repair.
Vulnerability to the impacts of natural disasters has increased as a consequence of urbanization, house design, land use, and climate change. Those suffering the most long-term impacts are also those suffering most deeply from socio-economic inequality, living in hazard prone areas, having fragile infrastructure lifelines, and subject to environmental change and development.
Responses to natural disasters vary widely depending on available infrastructure, leading to significant differences in impact of areas hit by the same disaster. People living in poverty are most vulnerable, as they live in the least safe areas.
Due to the social, political and cultural context of many places throughout the world, women are often disproportionately affected by disaster. In settings where women and children are likely to remain at home, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, can result in greater injury and deaths among women. During and after a natural disaster, women are increasingly vulnerable to sexual violence due to disrupted police enforcement, lax regulations, loss of home and safety.
Because of industrial extraction, production, and waste, some people’s lives are destroyed while others profit. This is harmful and is neither sustainable nor just.
— 2016 Book of Resolutions, #1032, “Principles for Just Sustainable Extraction and Production”
Reducing, reusing, and recycling can help you, our community, and the environment by saving money, energy, and natural resources. Every year, Americans throw away 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers. 85% of it ends up in landfills and dumps. There, as they decompose, they can release harmful chemicals into our air and soil. Landfills are a big source of all three types of pollution, air, land and water.
Reduce: This is simply using fewer resources in the first place. By reducing your waste production, you could bypass reuse and recycle all together and is the most effective. However, it might also be the most difficult because it takes extra thinking and planning and requires letting go of a lot of convenience. Plastic items are cheap, easy and extremely common. Nearly everything is made from plastic, and is impossible to completely avoid. But the comparative word is REDUCE. Basically, cutting back from where you are right now. Buy quality items you can reuse many times after their initial use, so that you are reducing your future consumption.
Reuse: Reuse anything as much as you can. By getting a little creative, you can find a use for just about anything. Instead of throwing away empty food containers, wash them and use them to save left overs in the fridge. An opened envelope can become a shopping list. Start a compost heap for your food scraps, you’ll be surprised what it can do to your garden. Glass jam jars can be turned into containers or even cups. Shopping bags are a biggie. A lot of people do not use the reusable shopping bags for whatever reason. So when you use the plastic bags, do not throw them away (unless they have a hole in them, then recycle them). They can be used as garbage can liners, carrying your work lunch, moving, and many other ways. It is actually surprising how versatile simple plastic shopping bags can be. Before you go to throw something away, especially something plastic, see if you can find another use for it.
This is the most common way most people dispose of their paper, plastic and other waste products. The reason for this is probably because it is by far the easiest way to reduce the amount of waste the ends up in landfills. All you have to do is place the recyclable items in a special bin and leave it with your trash. Recycling is just taking all of your plastic, paper, glass, and many other items, separating them and leaving them along with your trash. Sometimes you will have to physically take those items to a specific place like with batteries and glass.
The General Board of Church and Society of the UMC has created “Faith and Facts” cards for these and other environmental justice issues. Check them out!
Climate justice: https://www.umcjustice.org/documents/9
Clean water: https://www.umcjustice.org/documents/8
Food justice: https://www.umcjustice.org/documents/14
Climate • GBCS (umcjustice.org)
Global Warming 101 – Definition, Facts, Causes and Effects of Global Warming | NRDC
How Climate Change Is Fueling Extreme Weather | Earthjustice
Wait, Why Is Climate Change a Bad Thing? | Climate Reality (climaterealityproject.org)
Climate Change – Demand Action Today | NRDC
2020 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum at Second Lowest on Record – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (nasa.gov)
Pollution Facts & Types of Pollution | Live Science
Ocean pollution | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov)
Key Facts About Plastic Pollution – Greenpeace USA
United Methodist Women – Air Pollution and Public Health
Book of Resolutions: Protection of Water | The United Methodist Church (umc.org)
A Running List of Record-Breaking Natural Disasters in 2020 – Scientific American
Are Natural Disasters Increasing? | The Borgen Project
Natural Hazards Center || Dimensions of Vulnerability, Resilience, and Social Justice in a Low-Income Hispanic Neighborhood During Disaster Recovery (colorado.edu)
RECYCLING FACTS | recycleacrossamerica
Spirituality and Environmental Care | The United Methodist Church (umc.org)
In the News:
US officially rejoins Paris climate accord under Biden administration – ABC7 New York (abc7ny.com)
Climate policy: Biden puts Trump’s environmental rollbacks in his crosshairs – CNNPolitics
Even Low Levels of Air Pollution Harm Heart, Lungs | Health News | US News
Climate change: US emissions in 2020 in biggest fall since WWII – BBC News
Natural Disasters – News and Scientific Articles on Live Science
Natural Disasters | Reuters.com
High-Schoolers’ Winning Podcast Tackles Environmental Racism : NPR
Living Downstream : NPR
Reusable straws made of stainless steel, silicone, glass, and bamboo are becoming more widely available. Many come with their own carrying case and cleaning tool. Decline the plastic straw with your next drink purchase and pull out your own. You’ll be saving a bit of plastic and possibly the life of a marine animal.
As much as 3 million pounds of plastics straws are used in the United States each day. Because of their light weight, small size, and improper disposal, plastic straws have found their way to beaches where they are often ingested by marine animals. Environmentalists have shown that the death of many marine animals is attributed to complications caused by ingesting non-biodegradable plastic straws.
New Paltz Reuse Center The Town of New Paltz’s Reuse and Recycling Center provides consumers with the option of purchasing used items in order to divert reusable materials from the waste stream back
into the home of the consumer. Home Décor materials: lamps, lighting fixtures, sinks, vanities, materials to create your own unique decorations. Also available are art supplies, office supplies (binders, folders, labels), fabrics, card stock, lithographs, and much more. Materials and quantities change frequently, so stop by often and check out what’s available. For more information call (845) 255-8456 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Paltz Reuse and Recycling Center | New Paltz “Zero Waste Program”
3 Clearwater Road, New Paltz, NY
Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers. The items they sell are available to the public and similar to what you may see in other home good stores, such as a brand new box of tile you’ve been needing for your bathroom project or a vintage treasure you won’t find anywhere else. However, Habitat ReStores are more than just resell stores.
The purpose of Habitat ReStores is to contribute to the work of Habitat for Humanity. When you support your local ReStore by shopping, donating or volunteering, you are not only supporting your local community, you’re also helping the mission to provide decent shelter to everyone around the world.
Ulster County: » ReStore (ulsterhabitat.org)
406 State Route 28, Kingston, NY 12401
Newburgh <check first – closed for renovations>: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh : ReStore
38 S. Plank Road, Newburgh, NY
Dutchess County: ReStore (habitatdutchess.org)
1822 South Road, Wappingers Falls, NY
Sustainable Hudson Valley’s mission is to speed up, scale up, jazz up and leverage progress against climate change, creating communities where people and nature thrive.
At the Repair Café, people bring their beloved but broken objects, and – with help from volunteer Repair Coaches who are also their neighbors – fix them.
With the passing of our beloved John Wackman, Sustainable Hudson Valley is seeking to hire an intern to continue John’s work with Repair Café across the Hudson Valley. Your donations can help make this happen and honor John’s legacy.
To donate, visit the website:
Sustainable Hudson Valley: Visioning, Protecting our Communities from Climate Impacts (sustainhv.org)
Other local actionable items for Environmental Justice:
Volunteer at the New Paltz Reuse and Recycling Center | New Paltz “Zero Waste Program”
Protest the Danskammer gas fueled power plant that will affect the air quality of Newburgh residents (comment period is open now)
Danskammer: NY is leaving dirty energy behind (lohud.com)
Activists stage protest at Danskammer office | My Hudson Valley (timeshudsonvalley.com)
Danskammer incorporates green hydrogen into proposal; activists fire back (recordonline.com)
Danskammer still in ‘purgatory’ with state’s Article 10 process (recordonline.com)
Volunteer to help keep the New Paltz Repair Café going
What can we do to live sustainably?
Here are six practices (you are probably already familiar with three):
1. First, REFUSE. If you don’t need it don’t buy it. If you don’t need it don’t take it. This includes food.
2. Second, if you can’t REFUSE then REDUCE. Reduce the amount you need.
3. Third, if you can’t REFUSE or REDUCE then REUSE.
4. Fourth, if you can’t REFUSE, REDUCE, or REUSE then RECYCLE. Recycling is probably the most popular, but recycling is energy intensive. Think about the transportation, energy and water involved in the process.
5. Fifth, if you can’t REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE or RECYCLE then ROT. That’s just an R word for compost.
6. Sixth is pretty special: REST. This one is not dependent upon the others. Every week practice REST. When we rest, we’re not driving or engaging in commerce. We’re probably going to enjoy some time outside.
Special thanks to Brenda Beane for researching this social justice issue
Each station was researched by one or more members of our church community to help provide the detailed information that has been presented. Are you interested in this social justice issue? Do you have additional information or action items that you would like to share? If so, email us at email@example.com. These web pages are a dynamic, active work in progress, just like the people of our community!