Environmental and Social Justice Blog

New Year’s Resolutions

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

Saturn and Jupiter as seen from Shenandoah National Park near Luray on Dec. 13 as they head towards a “great conjunction” on the Winter Solstice (NASA/Bill Ingalls photo)

New Year’s Resolutions

At the end of a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, protests and conflict over racism and social justice, and turmoil over the presidential election, we can find hope for the coming year in the vaccines now being distributed, efforts to reform policing, the election results being formalized, and the return of light as the winter darkness recedes.

Many of us make resolutions for the coming year, and we have a few suggestions in this month’s post. If you would like to share your resolutions, please use the comment section below.

  • Become educated on climate change and energy production
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
  • Help welcome refugees and create welcoming communities
  • Help protect native species

Energy Transformation

by Vernon Gras

Climate change will likely have a sudden and huge effect on U.S. politics under the new administration. Virginia, with passage of its Clean Energy Economy Act earlier this year, has already taken steps to transform energy production from fossil fuels to renewables.

For Environment and Social Justice Committee members, and for our readers, I recommend several sources for updates on energy news and transforming our economy:

1) Ivy Main’s blog Power for the People VA, which focuses on Virginia, especially the General Assembly in Richmond.

2) Les Grady and the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley ((climateactionallianceofthevalley.org) provide a weekly roundup of climate and energy news. Wider than a Virginia focus, it divides the U.S. and world energy news into Politics and Policy, Climate and Climate Science, Energy Potpourri, and a Closing Thought.

3) Timothy Whitcombe sends Climate Clips to a mailing list (search for va-climate-movement in Google Groups to be added to the list). The clips come primarily from newspapers and journals such as the Manchester Guardian (UK), the New York Times, NBC news, the BBC, Wired Journal, and others.

4) Three other sources nurturing and defending the need to stop climate change are the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Resources Defense Council, which is perhaps the longest and most effective defender of Earth and its people, plants, animals, and natural systems in the courts. These three groups have lawyers and take saving nature, life, and the planet itself from relentless greed with equally relentless opposition, and they usually win. But they need money for such work, so please help them with some cash.

I recommend that you link up with all of the above sources. Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic is much closer to our conception of personal danger. And, speaking personally, it is closer and more dangerous. But all of the plagues in history did not succeed in eliminating human life. Climate Change, as the ever-growing fires, floods, storms, droughts, produced by CO2 have already indicated, can do so. Other abundant life forms have already disappeared. So can we.

Vernon W. Gras is George Mason University Professor Emeritus of English and Cultural Studies and established the Vernon and Marguerite Gras Annual Lecture in the Humanities. More information is on his website at vwgras.com.

SimpliRural: Exercise and Minimalism

by Jay Allen
Jay Allen

This month we are looking at how exercise and Minimalism can coexist. We will start with an overview of a book called The Quick and the Dead, by Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor. His website is StrongFirst.com.

The author’s premise is that two or three weekly workouts of kettlebell exercises and power pushups can be a “stand alone,” total training regimen, leaving you with energy “to fight, work, play, and live.” I would think that kettlebell squats or other leg work would be needed.

The book gets technical about three different energy systems (creatine phosphate, glycolytic, and aerobic) and how reps of exercise should be strictly limited to periods of 5 to 30 seconds that ”beef up” the mitochondria. The latter grows muscle cells. There are charts and graphs that explain it all (though vaguely to my unscientific mind). The title of the book refers to the every-day drama of predator/prey engagement.

Wellness Specialist Lauren Parsons of New Zealand advocates we “Snack on Exercise”! Take a brisk walk or go up and down the stairs at the office. Do air squats at your child’s playground. Please check out her TED talk by that name here.

Best Regards, Jay

Refugee Dolls

The Refugee Doll Project

By Jeanne Trabulsi

A program in Portland, Maine, called I’m Your Neighbor, intended to create welcoming communities for immigrants, inspired me to begin the Refugee Doll Project in Virginia. As the project website explains: “Refugee dolls are educational tools to be used in schools, libraries, and multicultural events to foster awareness of and appreciation for refugees. The dolls represent school children from the Islamic World, Central America, and Africa because refugees from these areas are heavily represented in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The project uses standard 18-inch dolls, and the website has information and sewing patterns for simple, modest clothing. The dolls form one component of a traveling library with 34 award-winning picture books based on the immigrant experience. Used in conjunction with these books and with lesson plans, the dolls help children internalize concepts such as “What it’s like to be different?” What’s it’s like to be different and new?” and “How to be Welcoming.”

The goal is for the traveling library to visit schools and libraries in Virginia. In addition, the project is a model for others to replicate in their own communities by working with local libraries and schools, donating dolls and books to them, or giving the dolls directly to refugee families.

Bridget Harrison targeting garlic mustard

Habitat Defenders

By Bridget Harrison

Invasive plants are a growing problem in Shenandoah National Park, but there is hope for control thanks to the efforts of the Habitat Defenders, a volunteer group that assists Natural and Cultural Resources staff in their efforts to control targeted species in the Park. Invasive plants pose a real threat to native species, outcompeting native plants and degrading preferred forage and host species of certain fauna. Removal of target species usually includes garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), privet (Ligustrum sinensis, Ligustrum obtusifolium), bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and honeysuckle species (Lonicera morrowii, Lonicera maackii) by hand pulling or cutting and treating stumps.

In addition to removing invasive species, volunteers assist in the restoration process through revegetation. The Park has a native plant nursery, and volunteers help us collect seeds, transplant seedlings, and ultimately plant seedlings in areas where invasive plant treatments have been successful.

Volunteer opportunities average twice a month, usually from April through December. If you have an interest in helping with the Habitat Defenders program, please reach out to me via email at bridget_harrison@nps.gov, where I can sign you up for monthly email updates on volunteer activities. New volunteers are always welcome, and no experience is necessary.

Bridget Harrison is a Biological Science Technician and Habitat Defenders Volunteer Coordinator at Shenandoah National Park.

[Note: An interesting article from YaleEnvironment360, a publication of the Yale University School of the Environment, discusses: “How Non-Native Plants are Contributing to a Global Insect Decline”]

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

Simple Gifts

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

Simple Gifts

“Tree of Light” (1845 painting by Shaker artist Hannah Cohoon)


by Jay Allen
Jay Allen
Today we are looking at Simplicity through the perspective of the Shakers and laughter.

The Shakers began in England as an offspring of the Quakers and were first known as “Shaking Quakers.” Their name came from the practice of dancing and shaking wildly when caught up in the Spirit of God. Shakers believed in Original Sin, and practiced devout celibacy, even for marital couples. They had their zenith in the USA in the mid-19th century, but inhibiting the expression of emotional/sexual intimacy led to a declining census. The only remaining active Shaker community is at the Sabbathday Lake Village in Maine.

Beliefs of Shakers include gender equality, communal ownership of property, living separately from society, pacifism, and living off the land as simply and naturally as possible. Shaker furniture was valued for craftsmanship and plain design. In 1848, Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett wrote the now universally popular song “Simple Gifts.”

I wonder what a modern Shaker society would look like if spiritual, emotional, and sexual intimacy could have been integrated with one another. For more details, please refer to the book The Story of the Shakers, by Flo Morse and the website www.learnreligions.com/the-shakers-4693219. An interesting 2019 interview with Bother Arnold Hadd of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village (the only active community today) can be found here.

The Simple Act of Laughter Can Enhance the Quality of Life

According to a Mayo Clinic study, the physical act of laughing causes more air intake, invigorating your heart, lungs, and circulatory system, leading to muscle relaxation and the elevation of endorphins and dopamine. This is all due to laughter, not humor! (The “H” word is a worthy topic for another time.) Does laughter require any practice or skill? Nooo! You can/should laugh for no reason! If you laugh in public, do so without any eye contact, as people may think you are laughing at them! More about the important benefits of laughter may be found in the article “8 Ways to Laugh More” in Experience Life magazine, May 2020.

Until next time, don’t worry about your laugh intake at Thanksgiving!

—Jay Allen

Humboldt book

Progenitor of the Modern Environmental Movement

By Will Daniels

Is there another historical figure whose fame has diminished quite as much as Alexander von Humboldt’s? The 19th Century Prussian scientist, naturalist, humanitarian, and prolific writer was once second in recognition only to Napoleon, according to author Andrea Wulf in her 2015 biography The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World. Von Humboldt epitomized the ideal—less possible in an age of specialization—of the unity of knowledge and the identity of the scientific and the esthetic.

Wulf’s book, one of the New York Times “Ten Best” of 2015, restores some of von Humboldt’s prominence. Another high-profile treatment of the great man is an exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, titled “Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture.” The exhibit title and the sponsorship by the art museum, not Natural History, indicates the reach of his influence across 19th-century society. Although he spent only six weeks in the U.S. in 1804, his impact was deep, especially with President Thomas Jefferson.

Although the Smithsonian museums are now closed due to COVID-19, an excellent 35-minute preview of the exhibit by chief curator Eleanor Jones Harvey and other resources are available online here.

“Green Machine” Updates

Winterizing Amissville Garden

Winterizing Amissville Garden (Photo by Ellie Clark)

Rappahannock County

* The lovely fenced Amissville garden donated to ESJ by a friend for the benefit of the Rappahannock Food Pantry is producing beautiful fall crops. Two deliveries of fresh greens to the Pantry have included leaf lettuce, spinach, chard, and collards, and are much enjoyed by local families. A neighbor near the garden has been assisting with tending the beds of plants.

We also donated two large boxes of children’s books. Pantry volunteers are sorting them by age and distributing them to the families with children. It’s wonderful for children to own several books just for themselves, when the needs for even basic necessities in their families during this pandemic year are so great.

* Road Cleanup: On Monday, November 9, members of the ESJ Committee met at my home in Washington, Virginia, to do our autumn roadside trash pickup on the 2.3 mile length of Tiger Valley Road. This is the third time we have gathered to do this. It was a gorgeous day!

We hope soon VDOT will erect a permanent sign indicating that Tiger Valley Road has been adopted by UUs of the Blue Ridge and Friends, because some neighbors who live on the road are interested in helping us.

— Ellie Clark

Left to right: Marilyn Zimmann, Carolyn McDowell, Sue and Will Daniels, Rev. Russ Savage, and Jay Allen
(Photo by Ellie Clark)

The Community Garden in Page County, sponsored by Valley Health, the Page Alliance for Community Action (PACA), and the Town of Stanley, Virginia, has been winterized. Several hundred pounds of produce (far surpassing the goal of 200 pounds) were harvested for the Page One food pantry, Page County Schools, and local residents. UUBridge members Will Daniels, Lisa McQuail, and Bridget Harrison were among the volunteers working on this project.
— Sue Daniels

Giant radishes from Stanley Community Garden (Photo by Megan Gordon, PACA)

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

Cooperative Efforts

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

Nonviolent Protests in the Disinformation Age

Social Justice

“Nonviolent Protests in the Disinformation Age”: This online event is being hosted by the Page County Public Forum at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday October 28. Information on logging into Zoom for the forum can be found here. The Front Royal Chapter of Coming to the Table, which several of our members belong to, has designated the forum as its virtual meeting for this month.

Black Lives Matter Vigil: Several members of the congregation continue to participate in these vigils on Saturday mornings at Courthouse Square Plaza in Warrenton, beginning at 10:00 a.m. This weekly event will continue at least through the Presidential election. Russ Savage, our minister, has been a faithful volunteer—and sometime speaker—at these vigils. 

“The White Ally Toolkit”: The ESJ Committee highly recommends this and other communication methods originated by David Campt. He breaks down Civil Discourse in a clear and practical way with simple exercises that we can all integrate into our attempted communications with those who disagree with us: www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=inauthor:%22David+Campt%22&safe=active.

Promoting Regional Cooperation

Local businesses, community members, and government officials from Shenandoah, Page, and Rappahannock Counties are participating in cooperative efforts to promote tourism and workforce development. Lisa McQuail, who chairs the UUBRidge Environment and Social Justice Committee, has organized and participated in meetings and conversations related to these efforts.

On October 16, Jay Grant, Deputy Director of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD) (www.dhcd.virginia.gov) spoke to interested parties about Virginia Block Grants, which are administered through planning districts. COVID-19 emergency funding through the CARES Act and “Go Virginia” (govirginia.org) has provided the grants. Future funding will need to come from the next COVID-19 federal funding bill and funds allocated by the Virginia Assembly.

Grants for workforce development, housing, energy development, broadband, food security, entrepreneurship, and small business resiliency—could positively impact our counties and region.

Before COVID-19, Lisa had participated in discussions on possible regional grants and on developing a regional African-American History Trail and driving tours. A result of the October 16 meeting is a proposed “Route 211 Corridor” tourism project. If Fauquier County joined the effort, the corridor could extend from Warrenton, in Fauquier County, through Amissville, Washington, and Sperryville in Rappahannock County, on through Luray in Page County, and then through New Market and Timberville in Shenandoah County. 

Two COVID-19 safe tours (using walkie-talkies for people driving their own vehicles) also have been proposed:

  • An African American History tour could begin in Culpeper and traverse Rappahannock County, Shenandoah National Park, and Page County, ending at the Shenandoah Valley African American History Center in Shenandoah County.

  • Community Garden Driving Tours could feature gardens in Rappahannock, Page and Shenandoah Counties that provide produce to food pantries, such as Waterpenny Farm, which regularly donates to the Rappahannock Food Pantry and in Fairfax County, and the Stanley Community Garden in Page County sponsored by Valley Health.

Food security and community gardening funding will be on the agenda for the regional group’s next meeting. Other regional projects are anticipated in 2021 and, perhaps, monthly tourism projects could be developed in the future if there is interest.

Refugee from Afghanistan making jewelry

A refugee from Aghanistan making jewelry.

Workforce Development: Cottage Industries in Jewelry and Sewing

Workforce Development is another category of Covid-19 funding available through the VDHCD. Sewing (masks and other projects) and jewelry-making efforts are underway and could be advanced through regional grant funding.

Current participants include five refugee women (one of whom is disabled), and a woman displaced by COVID-19 who is living in a hotel with small children and no daycare available. Three sewing machines have been distributed. Another refugee family has been advised on the purchase of a sewing machine. The goal is to formalize a business for these women and then market their items online or in local markets in time for the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwaanza buying seasons. Susan Rocke of Shenandoah Moon in Luray has been teaching Lisa jewelry-making skills so that they can train low-income women.

Funding through the proposed regional group would at first go to the purchase and distribution of materials or for producing virtual ZOOM lessons, and—post-COVID-19 pandemic—perhaps to pay rent on a training space and on transportation to a central training facility. The grant could allow for trainers in jewelry-making, sewing, and needlecraft from the participating counties to be hired, with ESJ and other community members volunteering with the program.

—Lisa McQuail

Lisa McQuail with volunteer gardeners

Cabbage seedlings

More Gardening for Food

In late September, a generous Amissville resident graciously donated an established, raised-bed vegetable garden for a team willing to manage the garden and deliver the produce to the Rappahannock Food Pantry. The existing plants provided some zucchini, chard, and kale, which were welcomed by the pantry.

Several Afghan refugees now living in the Shenandoah Valley joined ESJ members Lisa McQuail and me to plant seedlings of lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. With rain and a little watering, the vegetables grew well, and it was soon time to protect the plants from danger of frost. Waterpenny Farm provided ground-cover cloth, and now the garden has been tucked in for the winter. We would welcome more gardeners to join our team, perhaps some folks from the Amissville area.

— Ellie Clark

Enjoy the beautiful fall scenery — and don’t forget to vote! By mail or in person!

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

The Fifth Principle

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

(Image by Ellen Rockett, from UUA website)

Election Day – November 3, 2020

The 5th Principle of Unitarian Universalism is the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

The election this year will decide the presidential contest between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Virginia voters also will choose between U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner and challenger Daniel M. Gade. Seats in the House of Representatives are being contested, among them District 5, which includes Rappahannock and Madison Counties, and District 6, which includes Page County.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, registered voters in Virginia have several voting options this year. Information on voter registration (including registering online), locations of polling places and absentee balloting can be found at: www.elections.virginia.gov or by contacting your county registrar’s office. No reason is needed to vote an absentee ballot by mail or in person in 2020.

Two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution are also on the ballot. Details can be found here: www.elections.virginia.gov/proposed-constitutional-amendment-2020

1. Redistricting Commission: Allows creation of a 16-member commission tasked with redrawing election district boundaries and details the selection process for commission members.

2. Motor Vehicle Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans: Permits one automobile or pickup truck to be free from state and local taxation, provided that is owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the U.S. armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who meets specific disability criteria,

Important Dates

October 13: Deadline to register in Virginia or to update voter registration information.

September 18 through October 30: In-person, absentee voting is already underway at county registrar’s offices. Those votes will be included in the total count on Election Day.

Absentee voting by mail:

October 23: Deadline to request absentee ballot to be mailed to you.

October 31: Deadline for in-person absentee voting at registrar’s office.

Mail-in ballots: Must be postmarked by November 3 and received by noon on November 6 at the local registrar’s office

November 3: In-person voting at assigned polling locations. The polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Absentee ballots may be dropped off at polling place until 7:00 p.m.

Sue Daniels

Jay Allen

SimpliRural: How Simplicity Supports Healthy Parenting

By Jay Allen

Starting from the belief that each of us uniquely possesses a special gift to use in living our life, the decision to be or not to be a parent can be corrupted by societal pressure to procreate. For most of us, it is much easier to become a parent than it is to be an intentional, knowledgeable one.

Constructs of Simplicity help us to value experience over materialism. The opportunity to “raise a child” provides an impetus for personal growth so our evolving maturity will inform us to be the “good enough” parent that our child needs us to be. As a new parent realizes that ordinary stuff that now involves a child becomes time-consuming in ways they could never could have imagined, the notion of multi-tasking is relegated to the irrational. Seeing and experiencing a toddler’s delight in using food as a gravity experiment rather than a source of nourishment leaves a parent in awe!

New parents quickly learn how intensely their child interacts with the environment that we find ho-hum. Day after day of this onslaught leaves parents fatigued. So we find ourselves needing to take better care of our physical needs.

Please refer to the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed., with Lisa M. Ross for more insights.

Informingly Yours,

What about Nukes

What About Nukes?

Last month, we touched on systemic approaches to tackling the warming of our planet—carbon taxing or pricing, removing carbon from the atmosphere, and reflecting sunlight back into space (also known as geoengineering). These approaches reflect the truth that we have not yet reduced annual carbon emissions worldwide, and business as usual will not enable us to meet the warming limit of the Paris Agreement (2.7 degrees F).

A nuclear plant emits no carbon while in operation—could it be another answer to carbon pollution? While not a popular option with the public or most environmentalists, some in the environmental community have grudgingly admitted that it will be very difficult to limit the damage of global warming without nuclear’s large contribution—20 percent of all power generated in the U.S. comes from 96 reactors in 58 plants.

Although only two of those reactors have come on-line since 1996, two more are under construction. The age of most reactors means that many are nearing decommission. Without new replacements, the power generated by the plants will have to come from natural gas, a relatively dirty fuel, or renewable sources that have yet to be built out.

States are struggling over whether to get maximum life from nuclear plants, or to let them be shut down. In 2018, New Jersey passed legislation authorizing a 300-million-dollar per year subsidy for three aging nuclear plants, reasoning that the power was necessary as a ramp to clean energy, which, if successful, may take a couple of decades.

Nuclear power provides nearly one-third of the energy used in Virginia. The Virginia Clean Economy Act mandates 100 percent renewable electric energy by 2050, but according to Carbon Zero Virginia, that goal is unrealistic. It will not be met unless an exception is made for clean, but not renewable, nuclear power.

Some energy experts—and a few environmentalists—see nuclear power retaining its current share into the foreseeable future, and even expanding that share. They say that the new generation of reactors alleviate the safety concerns of the type of reactor involved in the Fukushima, Japan, disaster. The waste problem remains, but they consider it less dire than the global effects of warming.

However, a challenge to nuclear power advocates emerges from studies that cast doubt on the central benefit claimed for nuclear power—that it is a carbon-free energy source. While that claim is true while the plant is in operation, the carbon footprint of any energy technology has to include the entire life cycle of a facility. Carbon emissions mount when construction, uranium mining and refining, decommissioning, and other operations are considered, making nuclear power unattractive compared to solar, wind, and hydroelectric, according to some of these complex studies.

In the shorter term, electricity from nuclear power will be with us. It will continue to be reflected in individual states’ reports of the percentage of energy coming from clean sources. Whether, in the longer term, nuclear power maintains or even grows its slice in the energy pie-chart, is unknown at this point.

[Note: UUA has passed resolutions and statements expressing concerns over the dangers of nuclear energy—including potential radiation exposure, disposal of nuclear waste, and terrorism. The UUA website also has links to UUA-International blog posts such as “We Can Save Earth” expressing other viewpoints.]

Will Daniels

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

Complexity and Harmony

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

Racial Healing

“I believe this is a time when healing can actually take place.” Rev. Audre King

On August 26, the Page County Public Forum presented an online webinar “Racial Healing—Making our Community Stronger through Racial Harmony.” Moderated by Clyde Humphrey, it attracted 55 people, including other UUBRidge members.

The deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police, demonstrations for racial justice nationwide and locally, the fate of civil war monuments, and other issues, including a racially offensive social media post by the mayor of Luray, have shown the need for honest reflection, dialogue, and action on the issues of racism and social justice.

The forum provided a starting point for that work. Speakers included Rev. Audre King of the West Luray Recreation Center, other ministers, young activists, former leaders of the Warren–Page County and Fairfax County NAACP chapters, and representatives of Coming to the Table and the Fairfax Communities of Trust—a citizens’ group working to build and strengthen relationships between public safety agencies and the communities they serve.

Speakers and participants discussed how to move forward. We need to overcome ignorance and defensiveness, be willing to learn from those whose lives are impacted, listen and encourage dialogue among those with different viewpoints, teach that Black history is American history, provide education and diversity training for government officials, law enforcement, and citizens, and support Black communities and individuals according to their expressed needs.

A recording of the forum can be viewed at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Ai8W4N9wTMHcik_OKAgyILMvRrQ0?e=w4fa5l

—Sue Daniels

Anti-Racism and White Allyship

Transforming Our LegacyFor those interested in learning how to help overcome racism, online courses, such as the one depicted here from the White Ally Toolkit website, are available. “Transforming Our Legacy,” begins September 1, but the website also offers other courses, books and some free materials as well.

Coming to the Table and the Racial Equality Resource Guide also provide resources for workshops, webinars, and materials.

The ESJ committee appreciates recommendations to share on this blog. You can use the comment field below.

Jay Allen


By Jay Allen

Do you ever wonder why the pace of life feels like a blur sometimes?

Here are two “factoids” from the forward of The Joy of Simple Living by Jeff Davidson:

As of 2000, the state of Connecticut had a greater population than the entire world of 200 B.C.; and, also in 2000, 85 percent of all scientists who have ever lived were alive!

The press of information, complexity, choice and features feels relentless. I fear most of us readily spend time thinking how to cover everything that our roles demand of us, rather than making choices that are in harmony with our values.

Temporarily (or permanently!) sacrificing one hour of television watching weekly will provide planning time to make inroads towards a simpler, more meaningful week.

Mr. Davidson provides tips involving time organization for errand running (Monday or Thursday evening will work better than weekends), a reminder that a sleep routine will help you take better care of yourself, and how to purchase items thoughtfully.

Until next time, remember that simplifying your life does not make you a “simpleton!”

A Systemic Response to Climate Change

According to an international climate assessment funded by NASA and the European Space Agency, ice losses from Antarctica have tripled since 2012, causing sea levels to rise faster than at any time in the past 25 years. (June 2018 article, NASA images)

As I looked some time ago at recycling in the U.S., I realized that, while citizens are urged to take responsible actions to lessen waste, the producers take on little responsibility for reusing or recycling their products. The plastics industry formulated the famous, or infamous, numbering system on plastic containers, and then left the actual recycling to an underfinanced and overburdened partnership between cities and private recycling businesses, many of them overseas.

The same inequality of responsibility is evident regarding the complex issue of climate change. As individuals, we are urged to change our habits, perhaps installing rooftop solar panels, making our next vehicle a hybrid or electric, or foregoing private vehicles altogether and taking public transportation where possible. These are desirable actions—but they will not enable us to limit global warming to an average of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over preindustrial temperatures, the target determined by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Even that seemingly small increase would greatly challenge our ability to adapt to the results of rising temperatures. Meeting that goal will require large-scale, systemic solutions, both regulatory and technical in nature. Sorting out which approaches are most feasible politically, philosophically, environmentally, and technically is difficult.

At least three systemic solutions to the problem of a warming climate are being studied:

1. Taxing (or pricing) carbon is a regulatory approach that has been talked about for two decades. The idea is that emitters of carbon pollution would be taxed on their emissions, the proceeds being used to defray the environmental costs of the pollution. Producers would be incentivized to reduce emissions in order to avoid paying higher fees. The approach has been backed by both conservatives and liberals as a market-oriented, self-administering solution. Recently, though its effectiveness in getting us away from hydrocarbons has been questioned. 

2. Carbon removal. The IPCC now says that in order not to exceed 2.7 degrees F, we must remove carbon from the atmosphere. Reducing emissions alone will not, at this point, enable us to meet the target. Some people worry that carbon removal means that we can continue to pollute without worry, because we can “vacuum” carbon from the atmosphere. But in reality, carbon removal is an expensive process, feasible only if we strictly limit the additional carbon we put into the atmosphere. The two processes go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, there are no proven ways to rapidly remove carbon on a large scale and affordably. 

3. Geoengineering (or climate engineering), the third systems approach, is also technical—and controversial. The growing urgency of the climate problem and the dearth of progress has led more scientists and policy makers to consider this as at least a stop-gap to give us time to decarbonize the economy. Peter Wadhams, a prominent researcher of Arctic warming and author of A Farewell to Ice, advocates further research into ways of directly cooling the planet through solar radiation management. Reducing the intensity of the sun’s rays by reflecting more of their heat back into space, is the aim. Theoretically, clouds could be sprayed with water vapor in order to brighten them. Or, tiny particles in aerosol form could be injected into the stratosphere, intercepting sunlight higher in the sky and returning enough of it into space to offset the warming from our CO2 emissions.
Geoengineering might be surprisingly cost-effective. The idea is probably as unpopular, though, with climate change activists as it is with climate change deniers. Its relatively few advocates say that resistance by the former group shows a lack of awareness of how bad things really are.

These discussions can be hard to join for nonspecialists like me, but there are resources that provide a wealth of information on climate science, energy, and policy for interested citizens. Two of them are listed in the right hand column of this page. The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, based in Harrisonburg, puts out a bimonthly newsletter chock full of news on climate and climate science, energy, and policy, with links to articles on these subjects. Another great source is Power for the People, a blog by Ivy Main of the Sierra Club, which focuses on Virginia.

— Will Daniels

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

Crises and Inspiration

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

Amid Twin Crises, Two Milestones for Clean Energy and Climate Justice

In the midst of both health and social crises, how might we assess our progress toward greater climate justice and a clean energy economy? We have needed to make the fast-moving pandemic and the urgency of justice reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s murder our top priorities, and we as a country have focused less on the climate crisis even in the middle of a presidential campaign.

One direct, negative result on climate action has been the hit absorbed by the solar industry in Virginia and across the nation. The industry relies on close personal contact between homeowners and others upgrading for energy efficiency and is exactly the kind of business activity and employment that has been most impacted by the pandemic.

A positive result for the climate is an anticipated reduction of around eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions this year. This silver lining is not so bright, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels still will edge upward, and a rebounding economy will again set us on a path of increasing emissions unless quick action is taken to decarbonize the economy.

The news is not all bad. At least two developments have been very promising. We can be proud that the General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) in April. The VCEA will set energy standards designed to make the state independent of fossil fuels by 2050. And, the abandonment of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy was announced on July 5. The most compelling reason these energy giants quit the project after spending 3.5 billion dollars on it, is likely the opposition by a coalition of diverse groups whose quality of life would have suffered from construction and operation of the natural gas pipeline: Dominion and Duke found it too costly to battle legal challenges. Another reason is that markets for the natural gas that the pipeline would carry have not materialized. And—tying in with the VCEA—Dominion came to believe its bottom line would benefit more from investment in the clean energy mandated by that major piece of legislation than from investment in gas transmission.

The ACP illustrates the ways in which small communities, in this case rural ones with little wealth or political influence, are often asked to bear the brunt of energy projects that benefit distant cities and large corporations. The small town of Union Hill, Virginia, a majority African American community, was designated as the site of a large compressor station. The community came together to oppose the injustice of forcing it to accept a facility it did not want. Indigenous people along the proposed route also worked to defeat the project, and opposition came from white communities as well.

Among faith organizations, the Unitarian Universalist Association has been a leader in working for climate justice. The pipeline battle illustrates that adverse environmental effects from energy projects frequently fall disproportionately on the less affluent and powerful among us. The disparity is apparent globally when we consider that wealthy, developed nations that have contributed the most to global warming often deny that we have the major responsibility to combat it.

— Will Daniels

Reflections on the General Assembly

When Russ told us about the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) a few months ago, I had no idea how busy my world was going to become! I had heard great things about the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute and how much fun it has been, so I signed up. I knew being a delegate would be a real learning experience. 

The virtual General Assembly ran from June 24 to June 28. The theme of the long weekend was “Rooted, Inspired, and Ready!” The Zoom events I attended were interesting and thought provoking. I felt as though I would have enjoyed chatting with others about the classes. It was difficult to choose which of the offered sessions to attend—they all sounded intriguing! I learned terms like “UU the vote” and “vote love, not hatred” in a preview of how UUA may approach the coming November elections.

Author and ESPN senior writer and NPR correspondent Howard Bryant discussed ideas from his book Full Dissidence—Notes from an Uneven Playing Field. This brilliant man spoke from his heart about the racial inequities in daily American life. I was impressed by two retiring assembly co-moderators who discussed how difficult and unprecedented a year 2019–2020 had been for them as leaders.

For Friday fun night, I chose to watch a hilarious show of drag queens and cross dressing, and each act was funnier than the last. Their skits and clothing and special effects were outrageously extravagant entertaining!

On Saturday, I enjoyed a morning worship service with wonderful music and speakers. The main speaker that evening was journalist and author Naomi Klein, the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers. She has written No is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need and more recently On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.  Her words inspired my climate activist soul.

Sunday morning brought a beautiful worship service with music that had me madly writing down the names and words to the songs to bring home to our Singers and Players. The speaker Rev. Joan Javier-Duval asked us “How do we ready ourselves for what is being asked of us? How do we keep moving even when we don’t feel ready?” Both were timely questions amidst the pandemic and Black Lives Matter.

I learned that parts of some of the services can be obtained on video, as well as all of the various classes I missed. Perhaps Russ and I will be able to bring you parts of the weekend we found most inspiring. I was so pleased to see the diversity of cultures, lifestyles, and respect for each living being that our denomination is known for, and why I am a member of UUBRidge.

— Ellie Clark

Nan Butler

Gathering for Peace and Justice Organizer Nan Butler

Know Justice, Know Peace

On June 28, a crowd estimated at 500 gathered at Eldon Farm in Rappahannock County to support peace and justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. UUBRidge was well-represented in the audience, and Rev. Russ Savage and Rachel Bynum, who serves on the Rappahannock School Board, were among the many inspirational activists and speakers, who included clergy members, students, political office holders and candidates, and others.

Russ spoke of injustice past and present and recited the names of some of the African-Americans killed by police in recent years. Rachel talked of working on the land and thinking of those unnamed, enslaved people who had lived and worked there. Nan Butler Roberts provided insight into a chant commonly spoken during recent demonstrations for racial justice: “No Justice, No Peace” becomes “Know Justice, Know Peace.”

A video of the live-streamed event can be found here.

Rev. Russell Savage

Rev. Russ Savage

Rachel Bynum

Rachel Bynum

Peace and Justice Gathering photos courtesy of Raymond Boc

— Sue Daniels

To our readers: we invite you to use the comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

Social Justice

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

The ESJ Committee salutes longtime UUBRidge member Ira Chaleff for his years of leadership in community healing and racial reconciliation as co-chair of the Northern Shenandoah Chapter of Coming to the Table (CTTT), located in a region of Virginia that has been a tinderbox of racial strife for more than 250 years. Especially as we reexamine the role of race in our society after a series of high-profile deaths of African-Americans in law-enforcement custody, we would like to highlight this organization.

The Coming to the Table vision for the United States is of a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past, from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned. CTTT provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that are rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. The CTTT leadership model consists of both a white and an African-American leader. Ira’s partner is Dr. Judith James.

Ira and Judith’s goals are to serve and forge partnerships between and among organizations focused on healing racial hatred and discrimination by bringing African Americans, white Americans, and others to the table of love, forgiveness, compassion, transformation, and reconciliation. Ira has inspired many UUBRidge members to join—and even lead—in those efforts.

We recommend that you visit the CTTT website at: comingtothetable.org/about-us, where you will find many ideas on what you can do to equip yourself to be an ally in racial reconciliation in your own community and in the workplace. The local chapter is based in Front Royal and meets on the last Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m., currently via Zoom. Find out more on Facebook: Coming to the Table Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter.

UUBridge Member Ellie Clark has stepped up to care for the chapter’s rapidly growing membership list and newsletters. If anyone with membership list skills is interested in helping, email: CTTTFrontRoyal@gmail.com.

Nan Butler Roberts and Social Justice

The June 18 issue of Rappahannock News has an interview with Nan Butler Roberts, Rappahannock resident and historian. She explains Juneteenth, and the significant African-American history of the local area. She also relates Virginia history to the current revolution of people of color rising to insist on equal rights, fair treatment, and equal justice for all people. Ms. Roberts suggests people come out of their comfort zone and learn more about the treatment of the earliest enslaved Africans who were brought to Virginia. She is an eloquent spokesperson for Black Lives Matter, and is leading the planning for a peaceful gathering in Rappahannock County on June 28. The article also suggests books by black authors, upcoming TV presentations about racism, and visits to nearby historical sites.


By Jay Allen

With Covid 19 lurking like an unseen rip current, can Simplicity offer us a clear pathway to helping ourselves and others? Ms. Janet Luhrs, the founder and editor of the Simple Living book and blog, might well say our current health challenges require intentionality (wash, mask, and space ourselves intentionally!), just as Simple Living does.

Let’s look at this time of the year, with educational graduations clarifying where/how our lives will move along. Many of us leave college/graduate school with a potential “significant other” in our lives. This social status can enhance or complicate efforts to embrace Simplicity. Having a compatible “significant other” can provide emotional stability that allows a joint minimalist attitude to apply to Simplicity. I would contend that the fewer “significant other” relationships one has, the sooner a clear pathway to your version of a “simple life” will appear.

Being newly retired, reading has resumed its role in stimulating my thinking. I heartily recommend Architecture of a Technodemocracy by Jason M. Hanania. It is a most interesting proposal for resuscitating our ailing democracy by empowering the 99% of Americans while curtailing the current control by the 1%.

Lastly, the magazine Experience Life is well worth your time and support. An article entitled “Turn the Tide” in the June 2020 issue provides tips about how to better care for our home Earth. One tip is to request an e-mail receipt that would avoid store ones that often are coated in BPA and BPS chemicals.

Until next time, remember to keep it simple!

— Jay

Green Sanctuary Projects and Other Updates


Planting Seedlings

Lisa McQuail and Will Daniels (2nd and 3rd from left) are ready to plant seedlings

Planter at Page Food Pantry Luray

Planter at Page Food Pantry in Luray, donated by ESJ member Ellie Clark

Our Green Machine Team is celebrating the end of the sprouting and seedling season and the beginning of direct sowing of garden crops in the ground. During the sprouting and seedling season, we made a commitment to supply seeds and seedlings to the Page One and Rappahannock Food Pantry clients so that they could have the joy of self-determination in at least some of their food-getting.

Our committee and our congregation have a long history of guarding and building food security in our communities, and here in farm country encouraging highly nutritious home-growing of foods is a natural. When our soil reaches 70 degrees up here in the mountains, we are safe to sow cucumbers, squash, corn, beans, eggplant, okra, watermelon and other summer crops.

We are now in Phase Two of Virginia’s COVID-19 reopening plan, which means that volunteers may work in very small socially distanced groups in community gardens. Green Machine members are volunteering with the Page Alliance for Community Action (PACA) in Stanley, Virginia—a partnership with PACA, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Page County Virginia Tech Agricultural Extension office. We are thrilled to start the next part of our 2020 Green Sanctuary Community Garden Project!

Climate Change, Energy, Sustainability

Photovoltaic systemPage County’s Comprehensive Plan, approved in April, has the regional distinction of including climate change and renewable energy in its vision and goals for the future. None of the other six contiguous counties can make that claim. Clyde Humphrey has been a key member of the advisory committee working with the county planning commission on the plan and on developing a solar energy ordinance to implement its goals.

In Page County, as well as in many other areas, leadership is needed to increase citizen awareness of the need for solar utilities. Citizens often endorse rooftop solar while opposing larger-scale installations. If there is any hope of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement (though currently vacated by the U.S.), thousands of solar utilities are needed in this country alone. Attracting clean industries is an additional plus for localities.

The plan states, “The warming climate is threatening local streams, the diversity of plant and animal life in the forest, and the sustainability of agriculture in the fields,” and that the County “is working on policies to provide efficient development of renewable energy through combinations of site planning, landscaping, building design, construction practices and decommission of facilities.”

The Page County Public Forum on Climate Change was held on Zoom on May 26. Hosted by forum co-chair Clyde Humphrey, four experts gave their perspectives on the climate crisis. Participants, including UUBRidge members, learned about the scientific, social, health, and spiritual dimensions of climate change. The event was recorded and can be viewed at: tinyurl.com/y8fwnsa. The password is: 4M&d8%Cf

One new takeaway from the forum: the 3 Rs of sustainability have been expanded to five. Can you pick out the new ones? These are in order of priority:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose
  • Recycle


To our readers: we invite you to use the Comments section below not only to give your thoughts on what you read here, but to recommend things to read, watch, or listen to related to environment and social justice. Also of interest are your own activities or accomplishments in the environment/social justice realm.

The Green Machine

Environmental and Social Justice Blog

The Green Machine


Climate Action Lobby Day in Richmond

Lobby Day participants on steps of the state capitol in Richmond

The UUBRidge Environment and Social Justice committee (ESJ for short) is launching this web page and blog to focus on what we can do about climate change and social injustice. Through our worship services, celebrations, religious education, and our day-to-day activities, all of us working together can be the “Green Machine!”

One of the goals of UUBRidge is to be accredited by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a Green Sanctuary Congregation (www.uua.org/environment/sanctuary). This page will provide updates on progress toward that goal — working with people impacted by climate change and injustice, providing updates on issues and legislation related to energy and the environment, and providing information from organizations working toward climate justice, social justice, and sustainability. We also plan future blog posts on simplicity, green living, and other topics.


Unitarian Universalist Association

UUA Climate and Environmental Justice

UUA Justice and Inclusion

UUA Ministry for Earth

Power for the People VA blog by Ivy Main of the Sierra Club https://powerforthepeopleva.com/author/ivymain/

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley https://climateactionallianceofthevalley.org/category/weekly-climate-news-roundup/

The Sierra Club



Recent Comments

Current ESJ Projects and Other Updates

Addressing Food Insecurity
While restrictions due to the coronavirus have complicated in-person efforts, work on food security continues. ESJ members are growing vegetable plants for container gardens and produce to distribute at local food pantries, adding local capacity to the fresh produce currently trucked to Page and Rappahannock Counties from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Winchester. The first plants and seeds were delivered in May. Your help is welcome! Contact Ellie Clark, Lisa McQuail, or Will Daniels for information.

Container Gardens Donated to Food Pantry

Donated container gardens and watering cans at Page Food Pantry (Photo by Lisa McQuail)

Earlier this year, a greenhouse donated by Lisa McQuail was dedicated at the West Luray Recreation Center, with Rev. Russ Savage and other UUBRidge members in attendance. A planning meeting was also held, after which children helped plant seeds in starter packs to take home. In a separate project, ESJ members have been involved in planning a community garden, working with Valley Health and other groups to benefit underserved people in Page County.

Making Our Voices Heard
In January, Vernon Gras participated in Lobby Day in Richmond, supporting legislation for clean energy and environmental justice. He met with staff of the Speaker of the House and of the state senator from Fairfax City. For updates on energy and climate issues and what is happening at the state and federal levels, we recommend subscribing to the Power for the People VA blog by Ivy Main.

Lobby Day in Richmond

Lobby Day in Richmond (Photos by Vernon Gras)

UUBridge Board member Clyde Humphrey volunteered on an advisory committee to update the Page County Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in April. It includes language on the need for energy management and renewable energy, and also on policies regarding those needs. Clyde continues to work with the Planning Commission regarding a solar ordinance.

In March, more than 100 people attended a public meeting in Page County on renewing an application for a wastewater discharge permit that allowed up to one million gallons of treated wastewater a day to be released into the Shenandoah River. The permit originally was granted to a poultry-processing plant on the site. The property is now a recycling business. The current owner, although not discharging wastewater, had continued to renew the permit. Under a legal nutrient exchange program, he had sold the discharge rights to a poultry processor located in another county. Clyde Humphrey was one of many who spoke passionately about pollution concerns and not increasing the nutrient load in the river. The owner withdrew the application within days of the meeting.

Adopt- A-Highway in Rappahannock and Page Counties

Ellie Clark has adopted Tiger Valley Road in Rappahannock County, and she and Jay Allen cleaned up trash there in February. They were joined on a cleanup effort in April by several UUBRidge members and friends. The following week, the “Green Machine” team cleaned Will and Sue Daniels’ road section in Page County. Aluminum and metal cans, plastic containers, and glass bottles were removed from the waste stream for recycling.

Tiger Valley Road Cleanup

The Green Machine on Tiger Valley Road (Photo by Ellie Clark)

The COVID-19 pandemic, with the need to stay at home and away from others as much as possible, has put many activities on hold. Despite physical distancing, we can keep in touch with others, learn about issues, contact legislators, and do our best to stay healthy and active. We have provided several links in this issue that we hope will be of interest. Your comments and suggestions are welcome. Let’s keep each other posted!