The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth is one of the "green churches," on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. It's a church with a long history of involvement with environmental issues. Many of the members are active in environmental groups, like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and many are biologists or government workers who work in the scientific centers in Woods Hole.
A year ago, it was easy to be green on Cape Cod, and on the nearby islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard. The region is beautiful and it has many defenders. However, the recession raises some difficult questions about environmental protection and social justice.In religious groups, individuals are starting to address these questions and a new understanding of "environmental justice" is starting to develop. The goal is to protect biodiversity and the natural environment while respecting human rights and human needs.
The cost of living is very high on Cape Cod and on the islands.Traditional industries, like commercial fishing and agriculture, have been declining for many decades and the region imports most of its food and fuel from the mainland. Many jobs on Cape Cod and the islands are seasonal or part-time, with few benefits. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism. The area has a large population of retired persons who are past the age of sixty-five.
In some respects, the situation on Cape Cod and on the nearby islands is similar to the situation that exists on resort islands in theCaribbean and in the Mediterranean. The region is attractive, and it receives thousands of visitors each year, but it's increasingly divided between the "haves" and the "have nots." Some of the nativescomplain about "gentrification" and "eco-apartheid." Wealthy visitors arrive on their yachts or on private jets. For a few weeks each year, the wealthy live in multi-million dollar mansions on the coast. Meanwhile, many of the people who make the economy work - the mechanics, the restaurant workers, the nurses and the teachers, and others - struggle to find affordable housing. Young adults leave the region, to search for better opportunities in other areas.
In the future, Cape Cod and the nearby islands may become an exclusive, very protected area, only accessible to a few wealthypeople and their servants. Some environmentalists may welcomethis possibility. However, it's a future that excludes many of thefamilies that now live on the coast of Massachusetts.
In religious groups, people ask, "What kind of future do we want for Cape Cod and for the Massachusetts islands?" Different people are sustained by different faith traditions. The Unitarian Universalist churches in the area are unusual, because they make a special effort to bring Jews and Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, nature mystics and skeptical scientists, and others, into an interfaith conversation about community life and environmental justice. At the Unitarian Universalist church in Falmouth, a picture of planet Earth is displayed in the foyer. The words on the picture say, "We're all in this together."
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