Sustainability and Global Affairs

A primary root of the ecological crisis is an economic paradigm that focuses on short-term, inequitable profit over the well-being of ecosystems and their human residents. Connecting the global to the local, CEE works to enhance sustainability commitments here at Union Theological Seminary, and to connect with the international movement for a new development agenda and a just transition.

Sustainability and Global Affairs, links with the UN’s new development agenda, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals, and the international conversation in response to climate change.  It recognizes that an ecological society will require local, national, and international action to challenge economic paradigms that emphasize short-term profit over long-term health and communities. This program area examines how we measure these long term goals of health and sustainability while making present day economic decisions.  This summer we will covene a group of fellow travelers in Rome and Assisi, Italy on the pressing topic of Spirituality & Sustainability.

The Sustainability and Global Affairs Initiative includes our Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement program and the work of our Senior Fellow, Catherine Coleman Flowers.  Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, and an effective community organizer around issues of water and sanitation in Lowndes County, Alabama. Her story and work drive home the fact that the present economic paradigm results in uneven development both globally and within otherwise wealthy countries, often along racial and ethnic lines.

In September 2015, CEE hosted workshops at a one-day conference on climate change held in Lowndes County that drew nearly 100 people from across the state. One key workshop addressed the relevance of the Sustainable Development Goals and other UN activities to the situation in rural Alabama. While the development goals are laudable, it will take considerable engagement from civic society — including religious entities and with heavy reliance on people of faith — to enact them in a meaningful way.

Flash forward to 2017, we are engaging both urban and rural communities alike through participation in programs like Trinity Institute Dialogue -  Not Just Flint: Water Crises and Inequality in the United States, at Trinity Church, NYC and Creating a Climate of Change Climate Justice Training in Florence, South Carolina with CEE Adviser Rev. Leo Woodbury of Kingdom Living Temple.

In this area of engagement, CEE seeks to take the Center’s message and training techniques, beyond the walls of the Union campus through various media, direct delivery of service and witness to underserved populations.

At Union, CEE supports the Green Task Force, an effort launched out of CEE's Religions for the Earth conference in 2014 to develop strategies for integrating creation care into the culture and ethos of all aspects of theological education and community life. The task force focuses on five key areas: Education, Worship & Spirituality, Buildings & Grounds, Community Life, and Public Ministry.  

In 2014, Union Theological Seminary became the world’s first seminary to divest entirely from fossil fuels, joining a growing movement that now includes over 100 major religious institutions, universities, cities, counties, and other organizations that are committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies. Building on Union's example, CEE continues to advocate for divestment, both for individuals, and at other seminaries and religious institutions.

From Lowndes County, Alabama, to Paris, and from Assisi, to New York City and Union Theological Seminary: CEE's curriculum continues to be developed from our signature events and in an ever growing collaboration with Original Caretakers Program Fellows and Advisers.


Sustainability and Global Affairs Voices