‘This isn’t something a couple of kids can do. It’s something everybody needs to be taking action on.’
Young Unitarian Universalist climate justice activists Amelia Diehl, convener of UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, and Levi Draheim, the youngest plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government for inaction on climate change, light the flaming chalice at the start of the June 20, 2019, Service of the Living Tradition at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Spokane, Washington. (© 2019 John Benford/UUA)
Unitarian Universalists plan to join the Global Climate Strike on September 20, an international youth-led strike at which millions of young people and adults worldwide will walk out of schools, workplaces, and homes to demand immediate action for climate justice.
Unitarian Universalist Association President Susan Frederick-Gray will travel to New York City to participate in the strike there. “I hope you’ll join me in New York City or in solidarity wherever you are on September 20 as we strike for the climate and for a future for every one of us,” she posted on her Facebook page.
Frederick-Gray will take part in a worship service the day of the strike at Community Church of New York, whose senior minister, the Rev. Peggy Clarke, is a longtime activist for climate justice.
The UUA’s Side With Love campaign, which is helping organize UUs for the strike, is expecting large UU participation nationwide. Laura Wagner, executive director of UU Mass Action, and her climate team are organizing for the Massachusetts Climate Strike and hope to engage all 140 UU congregations in Massachusetts and their youth groups.
On September 15, the Sunday before the strike, many UU congregations will center their worship services around the upcoming strike. A packet of worship materials related to the strike has been prepared by Clarke and other UU clergy.
More than 460 strike actions have been registered in the United States, and more than 1,100 actions are planned globally, “so this will be the biggest action day on climate the world has ever seen,” said Maeve McBride, director for 350Vermont, during a September 5 webinar hosted by Side With Love.
The webinar featured three UU youth who are leaders in the climate justice movement. The strike, which is supported by a number of organizations, including 350.org, Extinction Rebellion, and many others, will take place three days before the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York City, at which Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg will be giving a speech on the need for immediate action to counter climate change.
“We need to strike on the 20th, and take action in our cities, and keep taking action until we are not ignored anymore,” said Sophia Geiger in the webinar. Geiger, 16, is a national organizer for FridaysForFuture, one of six youth-led groups organizing for the strike, and is a member of the UU Church of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Everette R. H. Thompson, campaign manager for Side With Love, emphasized that the strike is youth-led; he urged adults to participate and support the youth leadership.
Charlotte Stuart-Tilley, a 15-year-old member of the UU Church of Tallahassee, Florida, who was inspired by Thunberg to start hosting school strikes every other Friday last January, said in the webinar that “it’s kind of hurtful” when adults tell her that “your generation is going to change the world. . . . Having the pressure of saving the entire world, no matter how nicely and sweet you put it, is overwhelming.”
Levi Draheim, 12—one of twenty-one youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, a legal action launched in 2015 by Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians against the U.S. government over climate change—is a member of the UU Church of Brevard in West Melbourne, Florida. In the webinar, Draheim noted that many adults tell him that he and the other plaintiffs give them hope. “We don’t want you to be hopeful, we want you to take action,” Draheim said. “This isn’t something a couple of kids can do. It’s something everybody needs to be taking action on.”
Find and register for a strike near you. Clarke has assembled a Google Doc with additional information for Unitarian Universalists.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.
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