Happy Earth Day!
Today marks the 42nd annual Earth Day! From Capitol Hill to countless synagogues, churches, towns and cities, communities are coming together today in order to honor the world we live in and call for its protection. Tell us: how are you celebrating?
We at the RAC are scattered across the country this weekend — while some are manning the fort in Washington, D.C., others are in Sacramento, CA for our first-ever California L’Taken Social Justice Seminar. The rest of us are here in Detroit, MI, for the annual meeting of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. I love that Earth Day falls during this time; although we’re in different places and different ways, today our RAC family is united in calling for a more sustainable future. Earth Day similarly unites our global family of 7 billion people and billions more animal and plant species, who all share the same roots of one planet that must be protected l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.
This Earth Day, also marking two years after the devastating BP oil rig explosion and spill, we think first of the environment and those people and communities that are still suffering in the Gulf. Today, as the Commission on Social Action meets in Detroit, Chair Jennifer Kaufman issued the following statement:
On this Earth Day, we rededicate ourselves to healing the world around us – a process that must begin with confronting our nation’s failure to protect and heal the people and communities that have suffered from environmental degradation.
When the Commission on Social Action travelled to New Orleans in October 2010, we witnessed the tremendous destruction caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the far-reaching devastation caused by 5 million tons of oil gushing into the Gulf. Not only were 11 lives tragically lost in that explosion, but thousands more were directly impacted by the polluted waters, beaches, and sea life that remain central to the Gulf’s cultural and economic identity.
In Midrash we are told “Take care, lest you spoil and destroy my world, because if you do, there is no one after you to make it right again” (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13). The Reform Movement, called to care both for God’s creation and for people in need, was inspired to respond immediately to the disaster — and we called on our political leaders to do the same.
Today, the Commission on Social Action meets again. We are deeply saddened by Congress’ failure to pass legislation to comprehensively address these issues, despite sound recommendations put forth by the presidential panel on the oil spill. The RESTORE Act, a bill that would dedicate 80% of any future Clean Water Act penalties directly to Gulf restoration efforts, remains hostage to partisan gridlock while restoration efforts increasingly rise in cost. We are further disappointed by Congress’ failure to adopt vital regulatory reforms such as higher standards for rig safety and well design, leaving these voluntary improvements vulnerable to political whims or dismantling.
We welcome the safety and regulatory improvements for oil drilling that have been made, but progress in healing the contaminated land and water, poisoned plant and animal life, and struggling families of the Gulf has been too slow. This Earth Day, our government must take concrete and sensible steps to respond to the needs of those suffering and pave the way the way to a clean and sustainable future in the Gulf.