On Hate and Climate Change
October environmental column in Chai Notes, the monthly newsletter of Congregation Shir Shalom of Buffalo
I’m writing this column a week after the Charlottesville debacle, and shortly after attending our Friday night healing service. I obviously don’t know at this point what has happened in the intervening weeks, but I would still like to add my thoughts to the community-wide discussion. What happened in Charlottesville was frightening, as were the reactions of some of our leaders. As Jews, we are sensitized to what happened in Germany, and how the Nazis were allowed to rise because of a weak government reaction and lack of opposition from the German people. African-Americans must have had flashbacks, not only to the sixties and the civil rights movement, but further back into the world of Jim Crow.
Against this backdrop, the threat posed by human-induced climate change must seem distant and remote, something that can be pushed off until this nearer-term threat is dealt with. And, yet, nothing has changed. Global warming still represents the greatest threat to our country, our civilization, and our world. The issues surrounding these hate groups don’t reduce the threat to our descendants from global warming. The immediacy of the moral and physical challenges presented by hate and racism to our society doesn’t erase the fact that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point in temperature rise and climate change where many of the climate changes that are just beginning now will accelerate and become irreversible. The costs to adapt to those changes will far outstrip the costs to convert to clean energy and thereby mitigate some of their impact.
In light of current government policies toward climate change, we can’t afford to let up. We can’t allow those who oppose countering climate change to use the threats of hate groups as a distraction while they move to further weaken the EPA and our fight against environmental destruction. It’s ironic that many of those who oppose global warming are the same ones who provided inadequate responses to the events in Charlottesville while attempting to cloud the issue with specious arguments about the Civil War.
Until we can change government policies, it still comes down to things that we, as individuals, can do to fight climate change. Last month I wrote about how we can purchase renewable energy for our homes and apartments through our utilities. Janeen and I did just that, signing up for 100% wind-generated electricity with Arcadia Power, a company that also offers an option to purchase power credits from solar cell projects it’s constructing. The Shir Shalom Green Team will continue working to improve our building’s electrical efficiency and to decrease its carbon footprint.
We are faced with two difficult moral struggles that will define the world we leave to our kids and grandkids. I remind you of Rabbi Jill Jacobs’ explanation that Tikkun Olam supplies Judaism’s imperative to fix the world both morally and physically. That means we can’t stop either effort. Most importantly, through all of these times of crisis, we should never lose sight of our faith as a source of strength by providing us with a moral courage that spans thousands of years of human history.