Environmental Justice Tours Show Us Who, Where, and Why

UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) believes that on-the-ground environmental justice (EJ) tours are a powerful way to connect UUs to the meaning of EJ. When taken locally they can help congregations learn about issues directly impacting people in their communities and to begin the process of building relationships that will lead to meaningful change.

The process of developing an EJ tour will vary with the community concerns and location. In some cases, there may be a local organization that offers tours, e.g. Tim Darst of the Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky, who regularly gives EJ tours and made them available for UUA General Assembly 2013 attendees.

In other communities there may be organizations that have EJ as their focus, who can serve as a resource for identifying people and sites that could be included on an EJ tour.  Other UU groups also offer different types of tours including the UU College of Social Justice (www.uucsj.org ) whose tours are often service trips to places where UUSC is doing work, e.g. Haiti and New Orleans.

When organizing an environmental justice tour, here are some considerations for an engaging and energizing tour.

  • Identify issues of congregational concern.
  • Facilitate “Our Place in the Web of Life” curriculum from UUMFE if clarity is needed.
  • Determine participant commitment to participate.
  • Choose the tour focus.
  • Consider cost of tour and fundraising.
  • Include people who are or have been impacted.
  • Decide length of tour.
  • Choose transportation. Traveling together by bus or van is best.
  • Offer honoraria or contributions to the organizations helping with the tour.
  • Give an EJ overview and tour highlights before starting.
  • Provide an opportunity after the tour to process the experience.
  • Include a meal and invite those who have provided expertise on the tour.
  • Offer ways that people can stay in touch after the tour.
  • Follow-up immediately with action plans for “doing with” not “doing for.”