Archive for October, 2009

Shalom Climate of Change Readers,

In honor of this past week’s Blog Action Day, dedicated to the fight against climate change, we’d like to report to you on the Seven Year Jewish Climate Campaign.

We first mentioned the campaign following JCI’s Vayehi Or event in April. Since then and with help and ideas from many of you and fellow Jewish environmentalists and leaders from Israel and abroad, we have developed The Plan and are now gearing up to bring the campaign to the global Jewish community. The official launch date is this coming Monday, the 18th of October, in honor of Climate Healing Shabbat, November’s gathering at Windsor Castle, and the upcoming Copenhagen Conference in December.

The aim of the Jewish Climate Change Campaign is to engage the entire Jewish community towards taking action on climate change. In doing so we will be joining a global movement of 12 world faiths, each launching plans of their own. We invite you to head to http://JewishClimateCampaign.org/, to sign the pledge and join the campaign, and to offer any further suggestions as to the content of the plan and its recommendations.

The core of the campaign is as follows:

  • Making it clear that Jewish people care strongly about these issues. We will be presenting the campaign and the number of signatories at Windsor Castle, to the Secretary General of the United Nations, the British royal family and religious and environmental leaders from around the world;
  • Making changes in our own lives – and inviting our friends to do likewise.  The pledge commits you to learn, to speak-up, and to change at least one of your actions for good. It could be to eat more local food, or to use your bike or public transportation more, or insulate your home, or get a more fuel efficient car – but we hope you’ll make your own changes now and in 2010;
  • Creating a long-term process for serious change in Jewish institutions. We’re calling on every Jewish institution – school, synagogue, JCC, camp – to set up a Green Team, and start working on a multi-year plan to green itself. It’s good for the world, good for the institution and good for the Jews. If you’re the head of a Jewish institution, we invite you formally to have your organization become an organizational partner –  http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/joinUs.php – and if you know someone who heads a Jewish institution, please send this to them and invite them to sign as an individual, and have their institution become a Partner.
  • Introducing the Jewish world to a wide range of resources on the interface between Judaism, Climate Change and Sustainability. The website contains lots of information – and links to other Jewish environmental organizations that have further resources.

We look forward to continuing to work together in rising, as a People, to the challenge of climate change.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sinclair, Yannai and the JCI/Climate of Change Team

To sign the pledge and pass it on to your friends: http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/pledge.php
If you have any questions, email climate@hazon.org.
If you’re the head of a Jewish organization – or know someone who is – please ask them to become an Organizational Partner.
Info at http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/joinUs.php

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By Yannai Kranzler

How would you respond to sitting on an airplane, digging into the seat pocket in front of you, to discover that your complementary in-flight magazine was dedicated to caring for the environment?

Would you be thankful? Hopeful? Would you laugh? Would you sigh and say, “Well, I’m the one paying them to emit Carbon Dioxide- it’s very courteous of them to make an effort?” Or would you say, “This is, like, over-the-top obnoxious- is it possible to get more cynical than an airliner claiming to be a part of “The Eco-Movement?”

I ask because I found myself in this situation a few weeks ago, on my Continental flight from Pittsburgh to New York. Continental, it seems, has gone green, titling the September issue of Continental Magazine “True Green,” dedicating it to “People, Places and Products Driving the Eco-Movement,” including in it many references to Continental’s environmental accomplishments. I didn’t quite know how to react to this.

Now I didn’t say that I don’t believe Larry Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines when he lists the company’s “Commitment to environmental responsibility” as a reason to fly Continental, but… well would you believe him?

Here’s the fun thing: Even if we don’t believe him, even if we think the whole thing completely outrageous, there’s something subtle, but important going on:

If I learned one thing in Community Based Social Marketing class, it’s that the most assured way for people to change their attitudes is for them to change their behavior, even just a little bit, and to publicly commit to sustaining those changes. Whether Continental is wholeheartedly pursuing green measures for the betterment of the world or playing lip service to the trendiness of being green, the fact that they’ve publicly committed themselves to the cause will likely impact their decisions in the future.

In Jewish tradition, we believe that Acharei Hapeulot, Nimshechot Halevavot, that “Our hearts follow our actions.” If I’m not feeling close to my community, my tradition tells me to go out and do something for the community. If I don’t care for the poor, I’m to give to the poor. We’re even commanded to help our enemies with the heavy loads they carry on their backs.

Our whole religious system, in fact, is based on action, or Halakhot. I’m not asked to fervently believe until I taste being immersed in action. As CBSM contends, I’m likely to feel connected to my community, compassionate on the poor, and to favor reconciliation with foes, when I pursue actions that connect me with them. Could there be a better way to make peace than to help my enemy carry his load?

Ultimately, it won’t make a difference if Mr. Kellner is an environmentalist stuck in the wrong business or a good businessman in a world of environmentalists. Save actually going green, which in Mr. Kellner’s business might mean finding another job, publicly committing to the environment is probably the greenest thing he could have done.

All we need to do is to hold him to his commitment.

In all fairness to Continental, it seems they have made real efforts to maximize their fleets’ fuel economy, and now run planes that are 35% more fuel efficient than the ones they used in 1997. For more on Continental’s environmental policy, see http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/company/globalcitizenship/environment.aspx

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By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Sukkot has a special connection to rain. The Talmud (Rosh Hoshanah 16a) says that on Sukkot, we are judged for the rainfall we will receive in the coming year. On Shemini Atzeret, the final day of the holiday, we begin to say Mashiv Ha’Ruach u’morid Hagashem, in the Amidah prayer, invoking God as the One who brings rainfall, at the start of the wet season in the Land of Israel.

It can seem strange to be saying these words outside Israel, in climates where we are not so aware of the shift into a rainy season. In many regions it rains year round. Why do we connect ourselves to the climate rhythms of the Land of Israel thousands of miles away?

There are many places in the world today that do not have the luxury of being able to debate whether climate change is a mere theory or a proven fact. For Inuit Eskimos, subsistence farmers in Mali, or peasants in the Himalayas, climate change is not a scientific hypothesis but their everyday lived experience. They see their habitats disappearing, experience longer and more severe droughts and see with their own eyes how much the glaciers have receded.

To these groups we should now add inhabitants of the Land of Israel. In Israel people have always been acutely aware of rainfall. It is a necessity of life. Over each of the past five years rainfall in Israel has been significantly below average. In the past two years it was 30-35% below average, resulting in a severe and worsening water crisis. It is becoming clear that this is not a blip but a trend. It is a trend in line with climate change scientific predictions for the Middle East.

Sukkot is a holiday of trust in the seasons. We live outside in booths, in celebration of the fall harvest and in touch with the beauty of the natural world. The sukkah is a temporary dwelling, exposed to the elements. It is fragile—at any moment the natural world could turn on us and knock our it down. But this is also a source of joy. The very fragility of the Sukkah causes us to turn to God in gratitude for the embracing protection of the regular, natural order of things.

It is on Sukkot, as we leave our homes and put our trust the weather, that we are likely to see the effects of climate change around us. Are there plants growing in your neighborhood that you have never seen before? Did you get more rain than you expected, or none at all?  When you compliment the unseasonably warm weather, does it click in the back of your mind that perhaps it should have started to turn to fall now?

For most of our lives we are not sufficiently tuned in to our surroundings to notice these subtle changes.  Our solid suburban homes shield us from much awareness of the nuances of nature.  But on Sukkot, we may be able to notice the signs that are pointing to a changing planet and arouse ourselves to play our role in addressing the problem. ((with thanks to Rachel Kahn Troster for her formulation of this thought.)

In America the most of the urban and suburban Jewish community are not yet feeling the effects of climate change. Our brothers and sisters in Israel probably are. When we say Mashiv Haruach, we align our existence with their’s. We acknowledge the critical importance of rain for life there. We sensitize ourselves to the life-threatening consequences of upsetting the planet’s delicate climate balance. And we may be aroused to joy, love and action to help protect this fragile miracle.

Hag Sameakh!

Sign the Pledge: The Jewish Climate Campaign

Sign the Pledge: The Jewish Climate Campaign

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