Noah, Climate Change, and You!

As residents of the Pacific Northwest, we already have first-hand experience with the early effects of climate change... this summer we choked under the smoke of wildfires, and witnessed an orca mother grieve for her dead baby as their species faces an existential threat. As Jews, we have countless texts and stories that support the core notion that human beings have a role to play as stewards of the natural world. If we ruin our planet, we will suffer the consequences (teaches the second paragraph of Shema). If there is repair that needs to be done, the responsibility to do so sits squarely on our shoulders.

At a mincha (afternoon) bat mitzvah last Shabbat, 13-year-old Cora  taught about this week's Torah portion, Parashat Noach. She focused on the widespread corruption of Noah's generation, and drew a comparison to the widespread damage we humans have done to our planet in our generation. Reflecting on God's attempt in the Noah story to start over again in the creation of the world and God's promise not to destroy the earth again by flood, Cora argued that this time, it is our turn to acknowledge the role we've played in climate change and to try to re-set our course of our planet, through a range of actions from reducing our use of plastics to supporting environmental organizations and policies.

Cora's D'var Torah turned out to be prescient, in both content and timing. One day after her bat mitzvah, the United Nations scientific panel on climate change released a landmark report, offering a frightening projection of what our world might look like as soon as 2040 if we don't change course (engage in collective teshuva!) quickly.

As residents of the Pacific Northwest, we already have first-hand experience with the early effects of climate change... this summer we choked under the smoke of wildfires, and witnessed an orca mother grieve for her dead baby as their species faces an existential threat. As Jews, we have countless texts and stories that support the core notion that human beings have a role to play as stewards of the natural world. If we ruin our planet, we will suffer the consequences (teaches the second paragraph of Shema). If there is repair that needs to be done, the responsibility to do so sits squarely on our shoulders.

In the coming weeks, as Kavana continues to work on Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts, we will be cognizant not only of candidates, but also of the policies we have the ability to effect into action, with a carbon tax initiative (Initiative #1631) on the ballot in this November election. At this point, we know that no one change or policy will be enough to make the difference and turn the tide of this widespread challenge we humans have brought upon ourselves. But, in the famous words of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot: "Lo alecha hamelacha ligmor v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibatel mimena," which loosely translates to "Even if you feel like a problem is too big for you to solve it completely, you still have the responsibility to take the steps you can towards addressing it."  

Let's make it so!