Jewish envrionmental heart

The “10 Human Plagues” on Our Environment

Each year on Passover, we recall the pleas of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh demanding, “Let my people go!” And when Pharaoh refuses, Moses warns that God will smite Egypt with a series of plagues: water turns to blood, frogs overrun the land, lice infest the people and animals, wild beasts storm the cities, pestilence kills the domestic animals, painful boils afflict the Egyptians, hail descends from the sky, locust devour crops and greenery, darkness envelops the land and finally, the firstborn children of the all of the Egyptians are slain. How do we understand these 10 plagues in the context of our modern world? What “plagues” us now? More intensely over the last few years, there have been extreme weather events and natural disasters at the hand of climate change. These are perhaps the most devastating “plagues” of our time. If we do not act now to protect our environment, we will see the modern plagues of climate disruption.

Consider these “10 Human Plagues” on our environment:

  1. Climate Change: Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, raising our global temperature, increasing the risk of coastal flooding and threatening nearly every part of our lives. To combat the severe effects of climate change, support the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards to limit CO2 emissions from power plants!
  2. Deforestation: Trees are our most important natural resource, yet a forest area the size of Panama is lost each and every year.
  3. Water Pollution: The United States dumps billions of tons of chemicals into our water every single day, causing health problems for millions of Americans. In fact, an average of 250 million people worldwide succumb to diseases related to water pollution.
  4. Lead Poisoning: Lead enters our ecosystem through industrial air pollution, corroded piping and faulty irrigation practices. Without intervention, lead can cause kidney problems and developmental disorders in children and can lead to stillbirths and miscarriages in pregnant women.
  5. Habitat Destruction: The leading threats to the diversity of species in the United States are habitat destruction and degradation. In fact, the amount of land lost to development in the U.S. has more than doubled in the three decades between 1960 and 1990, despite the population increasing less than 50%. Development and population have adverse effects on the wildlife who inhabit these areas.
  6. Mountaintop Removal: Mountaintop removal strip mining is the practice of blasting off the tops of mountains in order to mine coal deposits underneath. When it rains the residue from these mountains form sludge causing huge mudslides in West Virginia and polluting drinking water.
  7. Radiation Poisoning: Each year countless numbers of Americans are exposed to higher than normal levels of radiation due to nuclear waste and improper x-ray technology. Even small levels of exposure can cause cancer and immune system malfunctions.
  8. Factory Farms: The total number of livestock on the largest factory farms rose by more than one-fifth between 2002 and 2007. Additionally, factory farms do not treat God’s creatures with the respect that Judaism demands that they receive.
  9. Overfishing: Our current fishing practices are decimating fish populations, throwing off natural food chains and allowing evasive species like algae to bloom. In fact recent studies have shown that if current fishing practices continue all fish stocks could collapse by the year 2048.
  10. Acid Rain: Acid rain is caused when human chemicals like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) mix with water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere and return as precipitation, thereby destroying forests, poisoning wildlife, and affecting human health.

Check out more Passover inserts on the 10 Plagues!

Picture Courtesy of the Jew & the Carrot

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Sophie Golomb

About Sophie Golomb

Sophie Golomb is a 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2013 from Brandeis University and is originally from Brooklyn, NY where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.


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