Becoming an Environmental Activist By Natalie Pien, UU Church of Loudoun, VA


Natalie Pien, left, UU Church of Loudoun (VA), explains her “Interfaith Prayer Flags for Climate Action” project to Chris Graham, Cedar Lane UU Church (MD), at the March 5 UUSJ Green Activists meeting. As Natalie describes the project, “Prayer flags are simple devices that, coupled with the natural energy of the wind, quietly harmonize the environment, impartially increasing happiness and good fortune among all living things.”

The path that led me to become the 2015 UUSJ Environmental Award recipient began many decades ago. While in high school, I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. It had a profound effect on me. I was awakened to the negative impact man can have on nature. I felt it was so wrong and I wanted to do something, but did not know what. Instead, I did the typical things people do in life. I went to college, travelled, earned 2 master’s degrees, raised a family, and worked, all the while keeping Rachel Carson’s awareness carefully tucked away inside me. It was not until nearly 40 years after reading Silent Spring did I address the environmental activist inside me.

After attending a couple different churches in Leesburg, VA, I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun. Reading through the Order of Service, I was amazed to read the 7th Principle boldly stated in plain view. It was so exhilarating to see a scientific truth embodied in statements of belief! Having earned degrees in biology and environmental sciences, the 7th Principle reverberated through and through me. Here was something to which I could relate through my head and my heart. I felt validated. I found a place where I could feel understood.

Attending UUCL, I learned that members of the congregation were activists for various social issues. So, taking a stand and advocating for it was not unusual. That made it easier for me to act on my convictions. My first foray into activism was over a local water quality issue. I was well supported by other UU’s at a Board of Supervisor’s public input session.

Currently, I am a Climate Change activist and it all began with hosting a film by Bill McKibben at UUCL. McKibben’s message in the film “Do the Math” was so powerful that a local chapter of his international was formed that evening at UUCL, 350 Loudoun. Attending UUCL gave me the spiritual support and community to become the person I am today, an environmental activist. I now have a broader sense of purpose in my life. I feel more connected to our Earth by advocating for it and sharing my advocacy. Unitarian Universalism has allowed the environmental activist that was buried deep within me emerge and flourish! I am deeply grateful.