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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.