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Climate Change: What’s the Jewish Take?

Shabbat. The day of rest. We refrain from acting on the world, so as to take pleasure in it. We thank the Holy One for the world in which we live.

But it seems that we never stop acting on the world. And often in very detrimental ways.

Once again Thomas Friedman (NYTimes, 8/5/08) poignantly and articulately sounds the alarm (speaks the truth) about the effects of Climate Change on our world. Writing from Greenland he notes:

And my trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day. We’ve charged their future on our Visa cards. …
That’s how I learned a new language here: “Climate-Speak.” It’s easy to learn. There are only three phrases. The first is: “Just a few years ago …” Just a few years ago you could dogsled in winter from Greenland, across a 40-mile ice bank, to Disko Island. But for the past few years, the rising winter temperatures in Greenland have melted that link. Now Disko is cut off. Put away the dogsled. There has been a 30 percent increase in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet between 1979 and 2007, and in 2007, the melt was 10 percent bigger than in any previous year, said Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, which monitors the ice. Greenland is now losing 200 cubic kilometers of ice per year — from melt and ice sliding into the ocean from outlet glaciers along its edges — which far exceeds the volume of all the ice in the European Alps, he added. “Everything is happening faster than anticipated.”

It occurred to me that scientists have made clear that Global Warming and Climate Change are facts (not theory). Businesses and some politicians are starting to see the light. What about Jews? What is the Jewish take on Climate Change?

Head over to the Jewish Climate Initiative to read their blog and check out their website. Dedicated to illuminating the Jewish ethical and philosophical response to Climate Change, they write about a Jewish theology of climate change, Midrashic narratives, and a thoughtful article on Halakha and Climate Change: Because the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. Clearly Jewish thought and teaching makes clear that we are responsible in big and little ways to protect the earth, a gift from God.

Head over to Shma Magazine and read its August 2008 issue. The issue focuses on environmental issues from a Jewish perspective. Or check out COEJL (Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life), which is chock full of articles on Jewish values as it relates to climate change.

It is Shabbat. Today, up here during our jaunt in Northern California, I shall refrain from acting on our world and just schepp nachas (share the joy) at the beauty that surrounds me. Nonetheless, I shall be thinking about what we are doing – on non-Shabbat days – l’takein haolam, to fix this broken world.

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