Laura Miller

There is nothing more Jewish than taking radical action

We cannot carry on as before in the face of climate change. Here's what our communities can do

July 05, 2019 14:46

It is a relief to hear leaders finally address our ecological crisis.

Extreme droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires and hurricanes, previously once-in-a-lifetime events now occur annually in some parts of the world.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the likely consequences of exceeding current ‘safe limits’ of global warming. Its prediction that we will overshoot made for worrying reading.

Since then, the British government has pledged to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050. While welcome, its proposed measures will not generate the necessary changes at the required speed.

In May 2019, a landmark global report warned that Earth’s support systems are in jeopardy due to the accelerating rate of plant and animal extinctions. It barely made the headlines.

In June, an assessment of the world’s flora suggested that the number of plant species extinct in the wild is more than double the number of lost birds, mammals and amphibians combined. Concern scarcely registered.

It is almost as though we forget that each time we breathe, our lungs fill with oxygen generated by diverse species that comprise the world’s forests and oceans.

Our oversight is the result of cognitive dissonance. 50 million hectares of forest — an area twice the size of the UK — has been destroyed in the past ten years. Over the last few decades, we have driven some of our apparently best-loved fellow species to the brink. Those who protect against and report on environmental abuses risk unprecedented levels of violence — possibly death.

Now nature has begun issuing warnings. We cannot carry on as we are. We need urgent social, political and infrastructural changes.

When young Israelis and Palestinians march together and say ‘this is bigger’, they are speaking the truth.

The facts are worrying, even in the UK where last year’s extreme weather saw some vegetable yields fall by 50 per cent. They are terrifying in parts of the world where crop failure is commonplace. They must be faced.

Environmental campaigners are turning to people of faith for assistance: it goes against the tenets of all religions to overlook our responsibility to neighbours, future generations and fellow species.

Today’s political leaders lack the moral integrity to challenge delusions and confirm fears — votes are not won that way — so they keep us praying to the golden calf of economic growth. Meanwhile the very fabric of life unravels.

The Jewish community is responding to the London Climate Week by encouraging shuls to take a number of simple actions, such as: 

  1. Informing others about the climate and ecological crisis by hosting an educational event in your community.
  2. Cutting waste and reducing your ecological impact with a green kiddush at your shul.
  3. Switching to a green energy supplier.
  4. Joining Eco Synagogue so that you can do more within your community and achieve greater collective impacts by working alongside others.

Jewish leaders are now considering what the community’s response should be to the ecological crisis, the greatest challenge of our time. It is up to all of us to ensure we get behind them and ask for their support in taking and demanding bold action.

Dr Laura Miller ran an international wildlife conservation organisation for six years. She now builds networks between refugee support organisations and advises donors and charities on environmental strategy. 

July 05, 2019 14:46

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