Hundreds of Unitarian Universalists join Global Climate Strike

Elaine McArdle,  UU World, 9/24/2019

Four million people around the world joined the youth-led Global Climate Strike on September 20, a historic event in which young people and their supporters demanded immediate action to slow global climate change and end the fossil-fuel era. With more than 6,100 strikes and marches in more than 185 countries, according to 350.org, one of the strike’s organizers, the strike is being described as the largest mass action for climate justice in history.

In the United States, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists participated in climate strikes in dozens of locations spanning the country. From Alabama to Iowa and Wyoming, from New Hampshire and Vermont to California, Oregon, and Washington, UUs of all ages carried signs, marched, and listened to the impassioned voices of youth climate leaders insisting that transformative action is urgently needed to save the planet.

In New York City, Unitarian Universalist Association President Susan Frederick-Gray took part in an interfaith worship service on 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. More than 250,000 people joined the New York City strike, including UUs from many area congregations.

In Boston, at least 200 UUs joined thousands in the action at City Hall Plaza, according to Tali Smookler of UU Mass Action.

In Seattle, the strike drew thousands of people, including many employees of Amazon who walked out of work to urge the tech giant to do more on climate justice. Thirty members of University Unitarian Church in Seattle, along with senior minister the Rev. Jon Luopa, joined the Seattle strike. Other UU congregations in the greater Seattle area were well represented, and UUs throughout Washington joined strikes in their areas, according to Bill McPherson, JUUstice Washington climate lead.

In Phoenix, Arizona, at least forty-one UUs from three area congregations joined the strike. In New Hampshire, at least 100 UUs took part in actions in Concord, Nashua, Portsmouth, and Milford. Strikes in Florida, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, and Orlando, also drew a large number of UUs from area congregations. About thirty UUs from the UU Church of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, marched with hundreds of students at the University of Illinois. In St. Paul, Minnesota, an estimated 100 UUs participated in the strike, said Karen Wills, acting executive director of Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance, with another fifty UUs joining strikes in other cities and towns in the state.

UUs also organized, led, or participated in a number of other actions related to the strike.

Levi Draheim, 12, who attends the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brevard in West Melbourne, Florida, traveled to Washington, D.C., where he appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives on September 18 along with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has inspired the youth-led climate actions that have sprung up in the past year. Draheim is the youngest plaintiff in a landmark federal caseJuliana v. United States, in which Draheim and twenty other Gen Z plaintiffs from across the country are asking the court to mandate that the U.S. government reduce carbon emissions to 350 parts per million by 2100. 

In the Washington, D.C., area, many UUs are involved in climate justice, including through Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. Three days before the strike, more than 300 people, including a number of UUs, gathered for the 2019 Virginia Climate Crisis Forum, sponsored by the Faith Alliance.