Progressively Speaking: Extinction Rebellion is doing a mitzvah for UK public
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Progressively Speaking: Extinction Rebellion is doing a mitzvah for UK public

Rabbi Danny Rich looks at a topical issue and applies a Liberal Jewish response

 Climate change is without doubt the challenge of our age. Scientific consensus concludes that, without an unprecedented reduction in carbon emissions, some regions of the earth will become uninhabitable and severe food shortages may result.

Extinction Rebellion – which includes a group of Extinction Rebellion Jews – has made headlines as it seeks to persuade the government, by non-violent action, to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to zero.

Some believe the goal of a reduction to zero in the short term is impractical, and point out the UK is doing relatively well. According to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK emissions were 43 percent below 1990 levels in 2017.

The first carbon budget (2008-12) has been met and the UK is on track to outperform the second (2013-17) and third (2018-22). However it is not on track to meet the fourth, which covers the period 2023-27.

I’m sure many readers will also have little sympathy for the inconvenience of disruption to public transport and the blocking of bridges and public spaces, which the Extinction Rebellion activities have caused.

Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly true that Extinction Rebellion is doing a Jewish and public good in asking each of us to contemplate the future of our planet and consider our particular responsibility.

Last week, as Pesach began, Liberal communities listened to this retelling of the 10 plagues from the Extinction Jews Rebellion Haggadah: The bloody Nile of the Exodus reminds us that 90 percent of the ocean is dangerously polluted; the proliferation of frogs recalls the danger of rising sea levels; the lice are symbolic of the toxicity of the air we breathe; the flies and livestock prompt us that, in the last decade, 41 percent of insect species have been lost – and many mammals too; the boils draw our attention to a World Health Organisation estimate that climate change is anticipated to cause an additional 250,000 deaths per annum between 2030 and 2050; the hail may well be repeated as a symptom of modern climate change; the locusts point to the potential inability to feed the world’s population; and the darkness and death of the first born may be a foretaste of
a modern world without international legally binding climate control.

As our own Pesach Haggadah reminds us: “You shall tell your child on that day…”

υ Rabbi Danny Rich is senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism

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