Using Sustaining All Life to Build Our Local RC Community

I am one of the volunteers with the Sustaining All Life delegation to Paris.1 I live in Michigan, in the Midwestern part of the United States, and am part of an RC Region with no organized Areas (local RC Communities). When I decided to volunteer with the Sustaining All Life delegation, I also decided I would use it as a chance to be visible with my work in RC, to help our local Communities grow, and to get closer to my Co-Counselors.

Some of us here have scheduled four RC introductory lectures in four cities—Detroit, Flint, and Ann Arbor (Michigan) and Toledo (Ohio)—in the month of November.

Detroit, Flint, and Toledo are called rust-belt or post-industrial cities. They have long histories tied closely to the car industry. Due to the collapse of this industry and historic (and current) racist policies, they have large populations of African Americans and are faced with significant environmental challenges. Water is undrinkable in Flint due to lead poisoning. In Detroit there are ongoing fights about water rights, and people have had their water cut off due to their inability to pay overly high water bills. Toledo has struggled with the poisoning of its water sources by agriculture and urban waste. Ann Arbor is a wealthier city, with a large university and many young adults interested in climate change.

I have relationships with environmental justice activists, environmental education teachers, and environmental scientists in all three Michigan cities. All four cities have an RC teacher in them who has relationships with people, mostly of the global majority, doing environmental work. Each introductory lecture will focus on the needs and issues of the particular community. For instance, in Detroit we will hold the introduction in an environmental justice organization that is welcoming to families. In Toledo we will hold it near a hospital in which RC leaders work and have been talking about waste-reduction strategies. They have also been working with the Catholic Diocese to put solar panels on low-income homes.

Most of us (teachers of RC) have been working in these communities for years but have struggled to connect that to our Co-Counseling work. I suspect this is due to individual early discouragement as well as the effects of racism on the communities in which we work. Also, most of us are white and have the patterns often carried by white people that can keep us feeling separate and on our own.2 To try to shift this, we have set up, before the introductions, weekly conference calls in which to discharge about our fears and discouragements.

We are also organizing some smaller projects and activities:

• We are doing listening projects on the university campus. We’ve tried one, and it was great fun. Two of us met, did a mini-session, and then listened to students for about forty-five minutes. Then we did another mini-session and went back to work.

• An RC teacher will be showing Disruption3 as a part of her RC class.

• In another class, a teacher used a recent Present Time article on the environment for a class discussion.

• Naomi Klein will be speaking at the university about her book This Changes Everything—Capitalism vs. The Climate, and a Co-Counselor is organizing mini-sessions before and after her lecture.

That’s what we are trying. We’ll let you know how it goes!

M’Lis Bartlett

Dexter, Michigan, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders in
the care of the environment

1 Sustaining All Life is a project of the RC Communities. From November 30 to December 4, 2015, a group of Sustaining All Life delegates and volunteers went to Paris, France, to bring RC ideas to the activists gathering there during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.
2 “On our own” means alone.
3 Disruption is a documentary film about climate change and the organizing of the September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, New York, USA.

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00