Why Environmental Justice?

Joy Throm and Stan Sattinger, members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Team, reflect on their reasonings for partaking in environmental justice work at the First Universalist:


"I worked on environmental justice in the Pittsburg area. Probably the most significant thing I did was co-founded a citizens group that has created a 50 mile recreational rail trail for bikers and walkers. It does about a semi-circle around the greater Pittsburg area. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to rescue this abandoned coal-hauling railroad that had been torn up and the right of way was still intact in most places. There were something like 30 bridges over highways, and we went to do battle with our public utility commission whose mandate was to get those structures torn down. We said, ‘No, we need that for the safety of our future.’ It was a ten year battle."1


“When I was in high school, we lived in Turkey for 2.5 years. We lived in a beautiful city, Izmir, on the Aegean sea, where the water was so dirty we couldn’t swim. We had an apartment with a lovely back patio that nobody used because it smelled bad, and we couldn’t really sit or swim there.... When we came back, I lived with my brother in Los Angelos in my junior year of high school, and there were days in my Orange County high school where we could not have gym class because the smog level was so high. We couldn’t even have it inside.

 Then I married my first husband, a man I met in Turkey just before my senior year of high school, and we moved to western Pennsylvania coal country. Getting off the plane for the first time and driving into Pittsburgh, which was still a steel and coal town, I kept thinking, ‘Maybe I just sent myself to hell.’ I was shocked at the amount of litter and waste and all those houses junked up with cars and stuff.

All of these things really awakened me. My grandfather, who I wish I could have adult conversations with, probably in spirit was a Universalist. He didn’t attend the Presybyterian church with my grandmother. When I was very young, I would ask, ‘Why don’t you come to church with me and grandma on Sundays? He said, 'Joy, I go to God’s church.’ He was off hiking and in nature on Sunday mornings. So he had a powerful and beautiful connection with nature, as did my father. My mother, probably not so strongly, certainly appreciated nature, but did not have a spiritual connection. But I think the spiritual connection got passed on to me. So I think it’s always kind of been there. I’ve seen the really bad stuff, and I know we can make a difference, and I strongly believe the case isn’t written out with climate change right now.”2


  1. Stan Sattinger, Interview by Natalie Jacobson, April 17, 2016.

  1. Joy Throm, Interview by Natalie Jacobson, May 15th, 2016.