This week’s Two Voices asks: what must we do to meet the challenges of climate change?

Two Voices

Rabbi Janet Burden says…

26 Rabbi Janet BurdenThe wonderful Anat Hoffman, of Israel’s Religious Action Centre (IRAC), recently observed that no one can wring their hands while they are rolling up their sleeves.

Although she was writing specifically about creating a more just society in Israel, her words can give us encouragement for tacking almost any social problem, including climate change.

Too many of us let ourselves off the hook by giving in to feelings of helplessness. We say it’s down to large companies, to industry or governments to prevent the world from sliding into environmental chaos.

If more of us go out of our way to support ethical, environmentally aware businesses, we can fight climate change. If we support environmental legislation instead of buying into a facile dismissal of so-called ‘red tape’, we can fight climate change.

We need to recognise that our personal choices matter. We can all drive less, certainly fly less and consume more thoughtfully. No one needs to fly to New York or Milan for shopping weekends. We can insulate our homes and community centres, turn down our thermostats in the winter and even eat a little less meat.
None of these changes have to be dramatic, and all of them will help. Wringing our hands doesn’t!

Janet Burden is rabbi at Ealing Liberal Synagogue

Sam Alston says…

Sam Alston

Sam Alston

The Lancet last week released an expert study suggesting climate change is the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. It is also perceived to be the greatest threat to poverty reduction (according to the World Bank), world finances (the Stern Review) and global security (the Pentagon).

A 2013 Carbon Tracker report said we’ve burned through about a third of our carbon budget for the next century, if we want to be reasonably certain to limit climate change to two degrees. This means we must keep around 80 percent of fossil fuels reserves in the ground.

In the 1990s, climate change action meant recycling and switching off devices on standby mode, then hoping that world governments would manage the rest. However, by 2013, fossil fuel investment stood at almost a trillion and there were advancing plans for expansion of shale, tar sands and arctic reserves. Now, billions are spent on looking for new sources of oil.

Much of the Jewish community is stuck in the 1990s. Where are the commitments to move money out of fossil fuels? Environmental issues are peripheral and recycling facilities are rare.

There is huge potential for a fully Jewish action and discourse on climate change. The Pope has highlighted that this issue can no longer be ignored.

Sam Alston is a leader in LJY-Netzer, Liberal Judaism’s youth movement