By Danielle Fuller-Wimbush, Director of Partner Support and Grantmaking, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). Please see the original version of this blog post at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) website.
The recent release of the grave UN assessment detailing the impact of humans on the earth’s ecosystem is another reminder that, unless we change course, humans – along with one million other species – are speeding toward extinction. We need to find better ways of co-existing with nature that are based in regenerative practices, not extraction.
UUSC’s Climate Forced Displacement Initiative centers the voices of First and Indigenous Peoples, in part because they are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but also because we recognize their leadership in how to live in closer harmony with Mother Earth. For too long, those of us from Western countries have been part of a system that perpetuates violence towards people and the environment. It’s time we course correct and listen to the first stewards of the earth.
In this spirit, I recently participated in the International Funders of Indigenous People’s (IFIP’s) Learning Institute. Set in a tranquil retreat center in the forests of New Hampshire, a small group of us who fund or work alongside indigenous communities, met with a distinguished faculty of indigenous leaders from Ecuador, Kenya, and the United States, to listen and learn. Given the trauma of colonization and government and corporate policies and practices that harm indigenous people, we came together because we have a lot to learn to ensure that our relationships are not extractive, that we don’t in any way reinforce systems of oppression, and that we follow UUSC’s model of listening to those most affected and align our work to follow their lead.