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)

Climate Justice Initiatives

From Resilience to Restoration: Leveraging Houses of Faith to Move the Gulf South

UU Justice Florida is collaborating on this initiative, funded by a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine awarded to The People’s Justice Council in partnership with Alabama Interfaith Power and Light. This event will open with Rev. Michael Malcom, President of People’s Justice Council will speak to the vision of houses of faith serving a key role in the clean energy transition. The resources being developed to support houses of faith will be introduced, and two of the resilience hubs UUJF has been supporting will present the vision they have for their hubs and give virtual tours.

Register to Participate on Zoom
Please access the survey HERE
More information on From Resilience to Restoration: Leveraging Houses of Faith to Move the Gulf South is available HERE.

The initial goal of From Resilience to Restoration in Florida is the creation of 2 Florida From Resilience to Restoration resource centers: one in the panhandle and one in Central Florida. These Resource Centers will be developed to provide support to houses of faith that want to serve their communities as Resource to Restoration Hubs. The Resource Centers will be able to demonstrate the From Resilience to Restoration centralized, online database of resources geared toward adaptation and use by individual houses of faith in creating local From Resilience to Restoration plans in the most vulnerable communities. The initial stages of this work involve collaborative deliberation to determine the consensus elements of support that are valued and requested by houses of faith.

Resilience to Restoration Hub establishment will be overseen by Project Director Rev. Michael Malcom throughout the Gulf South and coordinated by Gulf Coast Creation Care. UUJF will be working to coordinate Florida houses of faith that have expressed an interest. Please respond to this questionnaire to express interest in participating in this initiative.

This webpage entry was supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine under award number  200013216.

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

Central Florida

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.

Youth Environmental Equity Ambassadors in the Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center

The Ms Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center distributed hurricane supplies to diverse neighborhoods on the West Side of Orlando. They distributed 18 pallets of water and assisted residents of Orlo Vista and Pine Hills, which experienced considerable flooding.

The Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center in the BIPOC community of Parramore, Orlando held its ribbon cutting ceremony this month. The building was donated by Ms. Betty Gelzer, an Early Childhood Education professional who provided early childhood education in Parramore for over 40 years and played an important role during the integration of Orlando schools. The Youth Environmental Equity Ambassador program (YEAA) will be housed in this building and run by Lawanna Gelzer, President of Coalition of 100 Black Women of Central Florida. The Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center will expose youth to solar energy technology and hydroponics. 

The Youth Environmental Equity Ambassador program (YEEA) is an environmental education and advocacy program established by Community Equity Project, Unitarian Universalist Justice Florida’s Climate Resilience Ministry and the Coalition of 100 Black Women. The program supports emerging young leaders in Central Florida by ensuring they have the skills and knowledge to play a leadership role in taking action on climate change.

Through the program, participants will develop projects designed to drive change within Central Florida in addition to gaining a diverse set of skills related to equity and climate action. Each ambassador is provided training in leadership, building networks, civic engagement, social media strategy, climate change and solutions, environmental sustainability, environmental advocacy and justice, resilience education and outreach. After training, each ambassador will make a presentation to an audience of their peers, passing along the knowledge they’ve gained by being mentored and acting as a catalyst, encouraging them to act within their communities. Another core component of the YEEA Leadership program is for youth to translate their new knowledge and skills into local climate action through community impact projects. The YEEA community impact projects are youth-created and youth-led and provide sustainable solutions to local problems that contribute to climate change. 

The UUJF Climate Resilience Ministry has provided program planning and grant writing assistance for the establishment of YEAA. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice provided $15,000 for two youth interns to provide youth leadership, participant stipends and tablets for their use. Gulf Coast for a Green New Deal has provided a $42,000 grant to launch the Ms. Betty Resilience Hub Learning Center.

Community Equity Project is a community based organization committed to advocating and addressing racism and inequities in environment, health, education,  public safety, economy and social justice for historically underserved communities. 

The Coalition of 100 Black Women of Central Florida is a diverse, multi-generational group committed to delivering programming that addresses systemic racism through activities and partnerships that focus on public Policy, health and wellness, economic empowerment, environmental equity, civic engagement, and education. Its mission is “To advocate on behalf of Black Women and Girls through national, state and local actions and strategic alliances that promote leadership development and gender equity in the areas of health, education, economic empowerment and social justice.” Its programs and projects include an EPA Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving grant, community climate action planning, distribution of COVID-Hurricane preparedness kits, COVID-19 resources, and supporting education policy. The coalition addresses health disparities and inequities relating to teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, COVID, the school to prison pipeline, and criminal justice reform.

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.

Sources of information related to the Being a Good Relative Project:

Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. 2014. An Indigenous Peoples’ History o the United States. Beacon Press. Press.Boston, MA.

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.