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Curriculum Goals

As you decide how to program this study in the life of your congregation and conduct outreach to attract participants, consider that the curriculum attempts to meet the following objectives:

  • Deepen your understanding of place – where your congregation fits geographically, ecologically, socially and economically in the complex set of interdependent relationships that comprise life on earth;
  • Explore and bring to a greater awareness your congregation's impact on your local community and beyond--how is your behaviour unwittingly affecting groups of people and entire communities as well as fragile ecosystems?
  • Develop a group consciousness and ethic around your congregation's relationships with disenfranchised populations; 
  • Reinforce your congregational identity by engaging in a discussion about what matters to you, what values you hold in common, and how you might be willing to act on those values;
  • Do serious justice work using lively and creative methods – have fun!


How does this curriculum relate to other courses and programs?

QUESTION: In many communities, organizations are already engaged in working on environmental justice. How will the curriculum encourage coalition-building?

The curriculum can help you accomplish this in two ways. 

First, an important part of the curriculum has participants researching what is going on in your community on some key themes (water, land, energy, toxics, etc.) and examining the kind of impact your congregation has in these thematic areas. Engaging in this researchIF it is done by talking with, if not more actively meeting and touring with, other groups to actually see things through their eyes will enable you to build or strengthen relationships with other groups.

Secondly, your congregation might consider inviting members of other groups/congregations to engage in this study with you as a way of building a stronger relationship. In fact, the minister of one of the smaller congregations that field tested our pilot module wants to offer it a second time to invite other neighboring congregations and local groups to do the study with them.

QUESTION: How does this curriculum compare to "Awakening the Dreamer"?

First, our curriculum is geared specifically for Unitarian Universalists; “Awakening the Dreamer” is not. “Awakening the Dreamer” presents a lot of information about the state of the planet, how we got to this place and what can be done about it personally and collectively. It touches on the inequities, but looks broadly and generally at the issues. The intent of our environmental justice curriculum is to help congregations identify specific environmental injustice in their own communities, with a focus on racism and economic privilege, in order to help congregations develop insight and strategies in order to collaborate with communities of color and other marginalized communities to effectively address priority concerns.

QUESTION: How does this program compare with the issues raised in the Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience and the UU Congregational Study/Action Issue process?

UUMFE’s environmental justice curriculum focuses on six issues, of which food and land are two.  Participants do research on your congregation’s place in the web of life in terms of the “upstream” and “downstream” impact of your use/consumption of these resources on people and ecosystems.  The mapping process also enables you to see the inter-connections of your impact in all the thematic areas along with climate change which is an over-arching lens.

The Ethical Eating study guide is not an actual curriculum per se. It provides some suggested questions for discussion and some short readings which offer an excellent general overview about where our food comes from and broad issues of justice and inequity within the food system. It offers a menu of ideas for practical actions. Some of the readings would be helpful complements to the “food” section of the EJ curriculum, or a Part 2 to our curriculum. They definitely do not cover the same ground.  

QUESTION: How does the curriculum address climate change?

Climate change has not been broken out as a singular issue. Instead, it emerges as a thread weaving throughout the analysis. We felt that as an introductory approach to environmental justice, the curriculum would be more effective if congregations studied their use of some key resources like energy, water, air, land, etc. and see how that connects them with people and ecosystems “upstream” and “downstream” in the web of life. We expect that climate change will enter the discussion as the group assesses the impact of congregational energy choices as well as local air quality, if not also in the water and food sections.

QUESTION: We have been working on some environmental justice projects, but would like to understand the concept better and learn about what other UUs are doing. How can the curriculum help with that?

Environmental justice (EJ) has many facets. The UUMFE “Green Papers” are a great resource for better understanding these facets and the evolution of EJ as a movement. The papers can be accessed through the introductory page on this webiste.

We recommend you read “Understanding Our Roots,” “How Shall We Name Our Work?” and “Identifying Issues, Becoming Partners.” These can be helpful background before beginning Session 3 of the curriculum. The curriculum is designed to help you see the connections between various environmental justice issues in your community and some of the systemic drivers of the problems, which hopefully, will enable you to address the root causes in a more sustained and systematic way in collaboration with others, rather than through one-off projects or events which may or may not address root causes. We also hope it will enable you to better see, articulate, and address the justice dimensions of what you may already be doing.

QUESTION: What EJ projects are other UUs doing?

The curriculum has some congregational examples embedded in it, but a more comprehensive set of examples can be found under Resources on this website and through the Green Sanctuary program pages on the UUA website.