Every year, as we approach Tu Bishvat, I feel my spirits lift as I smell the scent of winter box and daphne on the breeze and see the first snowdrops.
But this year my pleasure has been dampened by a persistent, uncomfortable thought: “How many of these rebirths will humanity witness before our planet becomes uninhabitable?”
Small wonder that we are seeing a growth in radical protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Whatever one thinks of the tactics of these activists, there can be little doubt about the sincerity and urgency of their message.
In my neighbourhood, Extinction Rebellion’s logo of a large X fashioned into a stylised hourglass usually accompanies the words, “Tell the Truth.”
I saw such a message recently while out walking with a friend, who impatiently muttered: “Which truth? And to whom? And to
what end?” While I generally subscribe to Oscar Wilde’s view that “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”, I had to take issue with my friend, because the answers are, in a sense, obvious.
Scientists overwhelmingly agree that time is running out to prevent
a climate catastrophe.
We need to tell the truth about that, not just to elected politicians and to multinational corporations, but frankly to ourselves.
It is not just others who need to change, it is we ourselves.
Our individual actions, and particularly our consumer choices, matter. There are many steps that each of us can take, most of which are perfectly well known.
We just have to decide that we care enough to forgo that flight to St Lucia, or to downsize our homes to fit our true needs, or to switch to more expensive but 100 percent renewable energy.
We need consciously to choose to drive less, to cycle and walk more and use public transport.
It isn’t convenient or pleasant to have to do this – but it is what is required of us.
We can’t abdicate our own responsibility, because someone else, somewhere else, is not doing their bit.
Our ancient ancestors believed that it was pleasing to God to offer sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple. Perhaps a different kind of sacrifice is required of us today?
- Rabbi Janet Burden serves Ealing Liberal Synagogue