[AMENDED] Proposed AIW - World on Fire: Humanitarian Work and Climate Change

Ballot Result from General Session IV
This Action of Immediate Witness was Affirmed. It received more than 2/3 vote of support.

Action of Immediate Witness: World on Fire: Humanitarian Work and Climate Change

Option Votes
Affirm this Action of Immediate Witness 2312 (95.6%)
Do not affirm this Action of Immediate Witness 107 (4.4%)
Total 2545
Abstain 126 (5.0%)

Primary Proposer: Amelia Hanley of One Island Family in Key West, Florida
Additional Proposer: Rev. Robert Murphy of St. Petersburg, FL

• Immediate Concerns: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports
that the year 2023 was the hottest year in recorded history for planet Earth. Major storms, wildfires,
droughts, and other disasters were reported on all of the inhabited continents.

More floods, more heat waves, and more tornadoes have developed during recent days. NOAA and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipate intense storms because of climate
change, with increased food insecurity and an increase in illness caused by extreme temperatures.
People have lost their homes because of climate change. The European Court of Human Rights
ruled in April that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis.

Organized religion can be helpful before, during, and after community disasters. The impact of
climate change has arrived during an era of social division and conflict. Systems of power, privilege,
and oppression have contributed to the climate crisis and social injustice has made a bad situation
worse. Unitarian Universalists can reduce alienation and suffering by working with marginalized
groups to support community and labor organizing. Mutual aid and celebrations of liberation,
resistance, sustainability, and accountability are needed in every season.

• Theological Grounding: The Bylaws and Rules of our Unitarian Universalist Association identify
the purpose of our Association. “The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources
and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. The
primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize
new congregations, and extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its
principles.” (Article Two, UUA Bylaws.)

The principles of our Association affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human
relations and the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. Unitarian
Universalists respect the interdependent be of all existence of which we are a part.

“Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons with
particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories. Unitarian Universalists pledge to replace such
barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity, and compassion.” (Article Two, UUA Bylaws.)

• Immediate Actions: The General Assembly calls on the President of the United States to invoke
the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act to recognize that a public health emergency now
exists in the United States caused by climate change.

The impact of climate change brings Unitarian Universalists into a new era for religious,
educational, and humanitarian programs. The movie Cooked: Survival by Zip Code helps to explain
the situation. The General Assembly asks Unitarian Universalists to listen to the oppressed and to
respond in appropriate ways. Advocates for racial justice, houseless people, undocumented
immigrants, the very young and the very old, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups, can identify community needs and opportunities for cooperation. Cooling stations, emergency
transportation, and wellness checks will be needed in some places. Religious leaders will be asked
to visit detention centers, labor camps, prisons and other institutions, and camps for houseless
people, to support health care and legal services, and to assist with mass evacuations when

People who are houseless or living in inadequate housing are exposed to extreme weather. The
General Assembly is grateful for the religious and secular organizations that help people who need
housing assistance. Drinking water and energy assistance are often requested. The case of City of
Grants Pass v. Johnson is now before the United States Supreme Court. Regardless of the ruling, the
General Assembly will stay in solidarity with people who need essential services. The General
Assembly condemns the criminalization of the poor because of their poverty.

Climate change has created new problems for working people. All workers need adequate
protection, compensation, and representation. The General Assembly supports the organization of
democratic labor unions. At the end of each summer, workers should be honored. Congregations
are asked to celebrate the Labor Day weekend and harvest holidays with appropriate activities.

Individuals have been denied healthcare and social services because of their gender identity or
sexual orientation. The General Assembly supports amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to
prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI plus people. Federal money should be withheld from
emergency services programs and other programs that permit unlawful discrimination.

Update 6/14: The Proposer of this AIW agreed to some changes to the text received at the listening session. The text above has been altered to reflect any changes. Additionally you can view the revision history on any post by clicking on the pencil icon Screenshot 2023-06-12 at 12.29.36 PM found at the top right of the post.

Update 6/12: The Recording, Transcript, and Chat Transcript from the Feedback Session are available.


I am a member of the board of Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, which has endorsed this Action of Immediate Witness. It is in line with our “Organizing for Health Equity” AIW last year and on-demand workshop this year.


This is an Action of Immediate Witness about climate change that calls for immediate action for social justice. Human rights are mentioned. Several delegates are confused. The debates have started.

One critic asks, “Why a discussion about racism when we should be talking about climate change?” Another critics says that the UUA should leave humanitarian work “to other people.” Maybe he should review the purpose of the UUA as stated in the Association’s Bylaws. (Article Two.)

In some ways, the climate crisis is like the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re faced with a global public health disaster. Major problems in healthcare and in the economy have been exposed. It’s difficult for some religious groups to understand what’s happening. Immediate action is needed. Some churches will close
for the summer “because of the heat” and prosperous folks will retreat to protected places. :flamingo:


…because, like Covid, climate change affects different communities differently. For example, treeless areas of our cities get HOTTER than areas with tree canopies, often by 5 degrees or more. And these same treeless areas are where our most marginalized communities live


Thank you! I’m a citizen forester in Florida. Tree equity is one of our climate justice concerns.

Please speak in support of the “World on Fire” Action of Immediate Witness when it’s presented to this year’s General Assembly. Mention your concerns. Ask your congregation to be supportive.

“Right tree in the right place” is a tree equity concern in every region.

No, we don’t include palm trees with our citizen forestry concerns in Florida. Palm trees are popular with tourists and newcomers but Florida natives are usually interested in shade trees, food forests, and trees that help with coastal protection. Mangrove trees are popular. :flamingo:


At some time within the next five years, we will exceed the 1.5 C degree of temperature increase (probably in temporary spikes). We don’t know how this will develop because systems are undergoing multiple forces. It is a climate emergency and with our dysfunctional congress we need the executive declaration.

The UU Climate Justice Revival is a resource for action.


My support for this AIW is conditional upon inclusion of language as suggested above:
“Hamas is a terrorist organization whose acts are reprehensible, which operates from and within the Palestinian population of Gaza. I am not in solidarity with all Palestinians.”
along with a demand for:
The immediate, unconditional return of all hostages (living or dead) taken by the Palestinian terrorists on October 7th.

You may be commenting on a different AIW. World on Fire: Humanitarian Aid and Climate Change is a statement about the immediate response to climate change. The climate crisis is a global crisis but the statement doesn’t focus special attention on the Middle East.


Andrew, you should go to the main link for the Proposed AIW on Solidarity with Palestinians: Proposed AIW - Solidarity with Palestinians Then on the right side of your screen, click the reply arrow to submit your comment.


This seems to me like at least two AIWs, maybe three. It would be improved if it focused more clearly on the climate crisis, with specific related actions. even though the other justice issues mentioned are important, calling for humanitarian assistance and equity for persons of all genders and identities distracts from the call for declaring a climate crises, and make it hard to develop an actual action plan that goes beyond declaring our wish that everyone should be treated fairly. When you chase two rabbits, or three, you’re apt to not catch any. (metaphorically speaking; of course, I am not advocating any harassment of rabbits.)


I do believe that this AIW is two marginally-linked AIWs, both of which are quite valid. Thanks!

What is gained politically by emphasizing climate crisis as an affliction of marginalized populations? Climate change ultimately affects all of us. And, for what it is worth, in my community, the homes without trees are the many new houses built on recent farm fields. To my knowledge, the houses are owned mainly be wealthy white people. The area with the greatest concentration of low-income and minority group residents is rich with trees. I realize conditions are different elsewhere, but sweeping statements about which people live away from cooling trees undercut our credibility.

Climate change affects everything–If human beings do not act now to slow and reduce human accelerated warming of the planet caused by greenhouse gas emissions, not only is our civilization and our species doomed, but most life on the planet including non-human species who have not contributed to the problem.

Many people do not understand the science behind climate change. Therefore, we must educate ourselves. For UU congregations, celebrating Earth Day once a year is not enough. We must make an effort to make sure that everyone in our congregations, adult, young people and children, understands what is happening, why it is happening, and what is at stake.

Taking action involves changing our own lives in ways that may be inconvenient, but it also involves supporting large scale climate activism. If governments and large fossil fuel corporations do not take immediate action to reduce carbon emissions, our sacrifices won’t matter. We know that Big Energy has been lying to us for decades–we must expose their lies.

The world’s poor and humble people have not created this problem–affluent people in affluent countries are responsible–yet they are suffering first and most. It is up to us to recognize this injustice and call it out.

If we do not act on climate change, nothing else matters.


On average poorer neighborhoods have less green space and fewer trees than wealthier neighborhoods. That’s not the case in every neighborhood; but exceptions don’t disprove the trend. Here’s one resource about this correlation between green space/trees and neighborhood wealth: Tree Equity Score - American Forests


I don’t dispute the correlation, just the rhetoric. Thanks.

That is really interesting; where do you live? Here in suburban N.J., I understand about the MacMansions that are going up to replace smaller single-family homes, with trees generally taken down—our farmland lost back in the mid20th century to suburban development. Poorer neighborhoods are more urban, fewer trees and less open space. I suspect that your area is an anomaly.

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Fort Wayne, Indiana, and from my travels, I don’t think we are an anomaly. My guess is the connection between wealth and trees might be strongest in arid regions, where money can buy access to water and trees, both of which are abundant in the Midwest.

This is the comment to which I was responding:

And, for what it is worth, in my community, the homes without trees are the many new houses built on recent farm fields. To my knowledge, the houses are owned mainly be wealthy white people. The area with the greatest concentration of low-income and minority group residents is rich with trees.

In our area, farms have been gone for generations; suburban MacMansions owned by wealthy white folks have baby trees to replace the large ones killed when the houses were built. Urban neighborhoods have more people with lower incomes, and fewer trees. My experience matches the source you cited; the comment above seems to be in conflict.

I don’t recall citing a source. I also don’t know how to use this software to retrace the thread. Anyway, come to Fort Wayne, a city of more than a quarter million, and you will see what I mean.

I am happy to see an AIW on the issue of climate change. However, this one is severely limited. It is my understanding that resolutions on the same topic (i.e. climate change) cannot be introduced more than once every three years. Will this be our last word on the issue for three years? This AIW is like putting a bandaid on a spurting artery. Of course we, as individuals and congregations, should step in to aid victims of climate crises and other disasters. Haven’t we always done so? It is our human duty as well as our religious duty. But that doesn’t solve the problem of the ongoing destruction of our planet due to an uncontrolled use of fossil fuels. Nor will celebrating Labor Day help us in this crisis. Let’s work toward a meaningful goal, such as zero or even negative carbon emissions.