On Saturday, President Obama announced that the United States would contribute $3 billion towards the international Green Climate Fund, intended to help poorer nations address the devastating effects of climate disruption. The pledge, made in advance of the 2014 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru next month, places the U.S. as a leader in the global move towards mitigation of climate change and concurrent adaptation.
Today, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission for Social Action of Reform Judaism and the Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, gave comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to expand the definition of “Waters of the U.S.”:
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of Americans Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2000 Reform rabbis, I write in support of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ Proposed Definition of the “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act (Docket ID No. EPA‐HQ‐OW‐2011‐0880).
Yesterday, President Obama came to an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to curb greenhouse gas emissions in both countries. This agreement comes in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, next month.
In response to the announcement of the U.S.-China climate agreement, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action, said in a statement:
“Though far from perfect, this week’s agreement between the U.S. and China, the world’s two most carbon emitting nations, is a positive step toward addressing the crisis of climate change… We are reminded of the words of Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, that it is not our responsibility to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. The U.S–China deal is a recognition by leaders of both nations that they have a responsibility to current and future generations to respond to the challenge of climate change. We will continue to work to ensure that this plan is not the end of the process of addressing climate change, but one step toward a healthier future for our earth and all its inhabitants.”
Monarch butterflies are dying. Specifically, over the past 20 years, as global temperatures rise due to climate disruption, and milkweed — the monarch butterfly’s primary source of food – is killed by ever-stronger herbicide sprays, the worldwide population has declined 90 percent. It is for this reason that the butterflies, known for their spectacular migration from Mexico to Canada and back (and their recognizably symmetrical wings), need to be added to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, the butterflies will become one more of the 50,000 species that become extinct worldwide each year.
Jewish tradition teaches us to care for our Earth — to preserve that which God has created. The rabbis developed the principle of bal Tashchit (do not destroy), which forbids needless destruction. Rather, we are encouraged “l’vadah ul’shamrah,” to till and to tend, to become the Earth’s stewards. In Genesis after the great flood (9:9), God declares that the Covenant established is one between God and all the creatures on the planet. These principles, among many others, highlight the Jewish concern toward creation and our mandate to preserve it, for our own sake and for the sake of the Covenant. Read more…
Welcome to the month of Cheshvan! As the leaves turn and November winds begin to bluster, let’s keep in mind small ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint and act as stewards of the environment.
This November, as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center and a recent college graduate, I am having the both freeing and somewhat overwhelming experience of living in an apartment where I can actually control our energy usage far more than I could in a college dorm room. While I’m not quite ready to petition my building management to install solar panels, I am looking for ways to minimize my impact on the environment. There are some small things that I think I – and you – can do in 5775 to contribute to the project of environmental stewardship. This blog post is the second in a monthly series of changes that I am going to make my life a little greener this year, which I challenge you try with me throughout the year.
In the month of Cheshvan, I am going to turn down my thermostat when I leave the apartment. This is a very small change that will easily become a habit for me, but it has a huge impact in reducing my energy usage. Not only is this an energy efficient challenge, it also saves money. According to Energy.gov, “By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill.” By turning down our thermostats, we can minimize the damage done to our earth when we use unnecessary energy to heat our homes and uphold our Jewish obligation not to destroy our earth and not to waste its resources, bal taslich (Deuteronomy 20:19).
If you’re interested in doing more for energy efficiency, talk to your congregation about enrolling for GreenFaith’s Energy Efficiency Certification or register for the GreenFaith Energy Stewardship webinar series. You can also check out my Green Tishrei Challenge to stop using plastic bags and take action by signing on to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan Proposal.
With the High Holiday season now officially over, we’ve tasted sweet apples on Rosh Hashanah and thrown bread into the ocean on Yom Kippur; we’ve talked about food justice in the sukkah and prayed for rain on Shemini Atzeret; we’ve rolled our Torah scrolls back and begun again at B’reishit, reminded of our obligation to “till and tend” the earth.
Lech Lecha is this week’s Torah portion, in which God tells Abraham to leave his family and start anew and so do we go forward into the new Jewish year. What will we do this year differently than the last? How can we go forward both to improve congregations and Jewish communities and to engage more deeply as Jews in the world around us?
Tomorrow, October 24, is Food Day, a nationwide celebration of the movement for sustainable, healthy, affordable food. Food Day envisions food that is healthy, affordable, produced with care for environmental sustainability, farm animals and the farmers and laborers who grow, harvest, and serve our food. Food Day’s themes also touch on public health, food education and economic inequality.
In B’reishit, this week’s Torah portion (parashah), we read the epitomic Jewish environmental verses: “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to till and tend it” (Genesis 2:15). For both Jewish and Christian communities, this line is the basis of our obligation as stewards of the environment.