Progressively Speaking: Have we lost the climate change battle?

Progressively Speaking: Have we lost the climate change battle?

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers gives a progressive Jewish view on a topical issue

Coal fired power station, Ferrybridge, UK
Coal fired power station, Ferrybridge, UK

Leading climate change campaigners claim that unless carbon emissions peak in the next three years and then fall steeply, we will have lost the battle against climate change, or at least of keeping global warming below 2°C.

So it would seem that there is hope; the battle is not lost – yet it needs warriors urgently.

Are we sleepwalking through our comfortable lives, with too many excuses to make real changes? If we are to make change, we most certainly need to work collaboratively as individuals, families and communities, as well as organisations and businesses.

This also applies across denominations. Excitingly, synagogues from across the movements, including Alyth, Finchley Progressive Synagogue, Finchley Reform Synagogue, New North London Synagogue and Muswell Hill United, are pioneering an Eco-Synagogue programme with green teams in each community.

This echoes the Eco-Church project, and the UK’s first purpose-built eco-mosque in Cambridge. In this way, we may begin to see faith communities leading the way in making changes as a community.

Jewish Action on Climate Change is right behind Eco-Synagogue and
works hard to develop a network of Jewish activists with clear and achievable targets, as well as alongside Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Sustainable Development Commission.

Arguably, we spend our time fighting to keep nature out of our homes and cities and, when we vanish, nature happily reclaims that which we fought to establish. We need the world more than it needs us. But is this really a Jewish issue?

Whether you turn to Torah or the rabbinic commentators Midrash or Talmud, Judaism expects us to look after our world and its resources.

While Genesis suggests in this week’s portion that we are to rule the earth, it also uses the language
of ‘tending’ the earth.

Midrash expands on the Torah, insisting in Kohelet Rabbah: “See to
it that you don’t spoil and destroy God’s world, for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”

We have a very short window open to us. It is absolutely up to us to
make sure we turn things around and work to sustain our world and our time on it.

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers is Reform Judaism’s community educator

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