Climate Justice

Marginalized people, people of color, and the poor are disproportionately affected by the more intense hurricanes we are now experiencing in Florida. Upward revision of the Saffir-Simpson wind scale used to categorize hurricanes is being considered to accommodate the greater intensity of hurricanes we are now experiencing. Those who live in sub-standard and older housing are extremely vulnerable, as are the very young and very old; particularly the elderly, who may require a power source to run medical equipment.

Extreme precipitation overwhelms stormwater drainage systems. Old infrastructure, and poorly maintained infrastructure everywhere, but more commonly in blighted communities, and in low income communities, contributes to flooding. Undersized pipes, infrequently cleaned culverts, and stormwater drainage systems designed for a fraction of the current level of development contribute to flooding.

Homelessness is a justice issue exacerbated by climate change due to inadequate availability of temporary housing, and extremely limited affordable housing. Older homes were not built to today’s building codes. Roofs on homes built prior to 1992 are not likely to be tied into the foundations. Therefore, homes that appear to be strong, often lose their roofs in today’s more intense winds. Thus, those with older homes in need of repair are among the most vulnerable.

Low income communities of color have a disproportionate share of industrial polluters located near their homes. The motion of industrial pollutants in today’s more extensive flooding and high winds places residents in these communities at greater risk.

These and other environmental justice dimensions of Climate Change are referred to as Climate Justice. (Return to Environmental Justice)

UUJF Climate Resilience Ministry

Climate Justice Initiatives

Central Florida

EPA Environmental Justice Grant: Helping Low-Income Families Identify & Address Hazardous Air Pollutants that Impact Health EPA Grant  #01D15120

UUJF has joined together with the Coalition of 100 Black Women of Central Florida and these partners to address air pollution in 3 historic Black communities: Community Empowerment Partnership, Inc (CEP-community organization), Save the Wekiva River and Headwaters, Inc. (SWH-environmental non-profit), Bruce Antone (state government), and University of Central Florida Air Quality Faculty (UCF-academia). The main objective of the proposed project is to mitigate the negative health impacts of air pollution. It will promote Community Science and open dialogue and information sharing regarding air quality; with the goal of promoting a healthy environment. Activities will include: surveying regarding prevalence of asthma and symptoms of respiratory disease, monitoring temperature, humidity, and levels of PM2.5 ,PM10, NO2, O3, CO, SO2, NMHC, and VOC, mapping outdoor air quality and traffic volume, and providing education and outreach to empower residents not only to make personal decisions that will reduce the severity of asthma, the prevalence of symptoms of respiratory disease, and the exposure to air pollution in three low income historic African American communities, but also to promote civic engagement.

Southwest Florida

Being a Good Relative

Being a Good Relative will involve co-design of a Florida version of the UUSC Being a Good Relative curriculum. The project will acquaint 4 Unitarian Universalist Churches with the Miccosukee traditions of welcoming others and of being at one with each other and with nature. The effort is meant to bridge cultures so that together we may better support the immediate need for a more resorative, ecological, sustainable and economic transformation of the Southwest Florida Bioregion. Partners include: Indigenous leadership from Rev. Houston Cypress,  The SWFL RESET Center, UU Justice Florida (UUJF), the UU Service Committee (UUSC) and 4 UU congregations in SWFL.

Central Florida

Hurricane Maria Survivors

In a broad look at the trauma and resilience of climate displaced Puerto Ricans, we partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and the Episcopal Organization of Latino Assistance at Iglesia Episcopal de Jesu de Nazaret in Azalea Park, Orlando. The personal interviews with Hurricane Maria survivors in Spanish were captioned in English by our Language Justice partners at UUSC. Survivors depended on their family, their faith community and FEMA assistance as well as people and organizations that facilitated their transition into Central Florida.

Florida Panhandle

PhotoVoice #LifeAfterMichael

UU Justice Florida worked with LEAD Coalition of Bay County and the  UU Service Committee (UUSC) on a PhotoVoice Project in Panama City, Bay County, Florida one year after CAT 5 Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida central panhandle. The photos the students took were displayed at Rosenwald High School, at the Panama City Center for the Arts, in the rotunda of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, and in a Boston viewing at the UUSC. It was clear from the student photos and videos that family and school faculty were central to their personal recovery from the devastation in their community.


In 2019, UUJF provided scholarships for leaders from low income  communities of color to attend UUJF’s Legislative Days, to speak with their representatives, and to speak at a press conference.            

UUJF Legislative Days 2019 Press Event Video

Southeast Florida

Rising Together Projects UUJF’s Rising Together: Temperature, Water, Health and Strength climate resilience ministry has helped congregations, and their partners in vulnerable communities, open dialogue with municipal and county governments to address the public health impacts of climate change in their communities. 

View the video “We Can Adapt Together” about these efforts. The outreach materials and methods used in Rising Together projects were developed at the UU Fellowship of Boca Raton with funding from an EPA Environmental Justice Small Project grant. Rising Together projects pairing UU congregations with leadership in vulnerable communities have been completed in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Naples and Ft. Myers. A Rising Together project in partnership with Quakers was also completed in Shorecrest, Miami.

Southwest Florida

Youth Resilience Corps  There are Hurricane Response Inequities that leave communities without adequate emergency shelters, and place low income communities of color in the lowest priority to get power restored after disasters. There is also a need for positive initiatives for youth in these communities.

All Faiths Unitarian Congregation of Ft. Myers, UU Church of Ft. Myers and local partner Community Forum Foundation, Inc. worked with UUJF to secure a grant from the UU Fund for Social Responsibility to support the development of a Youth Resilience Corps by training Youth to lead hurricane preparedness and response efforts in Dunbar, Ft. Myers, FL. In the photograph above, youth learn about Climate Change and how it is affecting Florida. In the photograph on the right, youth learn First Aid skills as part of their preparedness training. Visit the Youth Resilience Corps Photo Gallery

Florida Panhandle

Emergency Shelter for Climate Displaced People: Phase One of the Responsive Shelter Initiative is focused on exploring urgent opportunities for fast-deployment of shelters to eliminate the need for disaster survivors to live in fragile tents, vehicles, make-shift shacks or in the open while waiting for traditional disaster housing. It is also designed to assist small businesses to engage in quick re-start of commerce to support hard-hit communities following extreme weather conditions.

 Better Shelter temporary emergency housing keeps families together and provides dignity for Florida’s hurricane homeless. We are working with many partners to bring these shelters to Bay County, where 5,000 children were still homeless 7 months after Hurricane Michael made landfall there as a CAT 5 storm with 20 ft of storm surge. Collaborators include Better, UU Fellowship of Bay County, Rebuild Bay, and Doorways of NW FL.

Press: Rebuild Bay County Showcases New Temporary Housing Option Sweden-based Humanitarian Project Could Help Victims of Hurricane Michael Housing Crisis

Florida Panhandle

There are toxic homes after Hurricane Michael in Bay County. The mold from untreated water damage, out-gassing of formaldehyde from wet drywall, and other results of hurricane damage. The photo below is a home in Lynn Haven, Bay County, Florida 8 months after Hurricane Michael.

UUJF has offered technical support to submit an EPA Environmental Justice Small Project Grant Application with LEAD Coalition of Bay County, Inc. and the Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative for the Glenwood and Millville low income Black communities to engage in a community deliberative process to examine the toxins in these homes, and to collaborate with public health experts to support human health.

Statewide: Florida Interfaith Climate Actions NetworkVisit the Florida Interfaith Climate Actions Network‘s website. UUJF, the Florida Council of Churches, and a variety of secular partners formed Florida Interfaith Climate Actions Network in 2015. Visit the archive of our past annual Convenings, and watch the Coming Event post to register for upcoming Convenings. Below, LEAD Coalition, Inc. Executive Director Janice Lucas speaks about Panama City’s Hurricane Michael recovery at the 2019 FL-iCAN! Assembly.

Southeast and Central Florida

The Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative

Above, Lawanna Gelzer facilitates a Community Forum mapping exercise in Paramore, Orlando. 

Community-based deliberative planning process, Survey, and Community Dashboards to support advocacy. Collaborators: Local partners in each community, Health Initiatives Foundation, Inc.’s Florida Disaster Resilience Initiative with funding from The Miami Foundation.