By Nigel Savage
We're proud that the Jewish environmental movement has grown and flourished so dramatically in scale and in impact in the last few years - not only our own work at Hazon but also that of so many of our friends and partners. It's clear that Jewish environmental education - including bike rides and CSAs, farm programs, school programs, retreats, scholarly work, a whole slew of different initiatives - is renewing Jewish life, and enabling and encouraging Jewish people to make a difference in the world. (Just two weeks ago we were delighted at the approval for restricted bike lanes in New York's Upper West Side and the key role that we and the Jewish community played in getting that decision.)
But one key question challenges us all: How can any of us truly make a difference, in response to issues that we know are important, but which seem inherently to be so overwhelming?
At Hazon we've been thinking about this question for many years. A year ago, we were formally invited by ARC (the Alliance for Religions & Conservation, in the UK), together with the UN Development Program, not only to think about this but to take a key role in developing a Jewish contribution to "Faith Commitments for the Environment" - a campaign in which all of the world's leading religions are committing to plans that are intended to play a serious role in protecting the planet literally for generations.
We're launching this work - which has now become the Jewish Climate Campaign - at the UN tomorrow. (There's information on the left, and if you're in New York you're warmly invited to join us.)
The Campaign fundamentally has two goals:
First, this December is the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. In the leadup to this important meeting of world leaders, we aim to gather thousands of people in the Jewish community to sign the campaign pledge and to pass it on to others. In doing so people commit to make a difference in their own lives; they make plain that they - we - care about these issues; and they challenge and encourage our leaders and our institutions (both within and beyond the Jewish community) to make a greater commitment to transformation over the next few years;
Second, the Campaign seeks to break down an overwhelming task into manageable elements. We're inviting every Jewish institution - every synagogue, school, JCC, camp, every Jewish organization, every Jewish-owned business, every Hillel, every youth group - to set up a Green Team. And once you've set it up: a) start to figure out a longer-term vision and b) start now with practical small steps.
The overall goal is that by September 2015 (at the end of the next Shmita [sabbatical] cycle in Jewish life,) we'll genuinely have transformed our communities: changing how we use buildings, how we travel, how we use energy, how we source food, how we integrate environmental education into all that we do. In doing so we'll create a Jewish community in which our young people grow up simply taking for granted that to be Jewish is to engage with the most challenging and important issue of our time; and in which other faith communities see the Jewish people playing a leading role in making a better world for all.
So - right now -
- please go to http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/pledge.php and sign the pledge;
- please send it out to others and ask them to do so;
- if you're leading a Jewish institution, please become an Organizational Partner (http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/partners.php) of the Campaign: that means that you send the Campaign to your members; set up a Green Team; and support the Campaign. (Although we're only announcing the Campaign today, in fact a dozen Jewish institutions have already signed-up, and we hope hundreds will join them).
- if you're on Facebook - please go to www.facebook.com/jewishclimatecampaign and become a fan of the campaign - and use the toolbar on the left to invite your FB friends to become a fan and to support the Campaign;
- tomorrow Hazon and Teva are kicking off a national tour (sponsored by Masa: and we have opportunities for other organizations to join us as sponsors) to support the Campaign. We're driving Ben & Jerry's original Topsy Turvy Bus (a yellow schoolbus - with a second one, glued on its roof, upside down...) across the country, to symbolize the topsy turvy world we're living in - and how together we hope to make a difference. Click here (http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/busTour.php) if you're interested in having the bus come to your community
- this weekend there are activities happening all over the world - go to www.350.org to find one near you. For info on activities in the Jewish community, and to write your Senator about the Climate Bill, go to www.theshalomcenter.org
- more information on the Windsor Conference (http://www.windsor2009.org/) and to see some of the other faith initiatives go here. (http://www.arcworld.org/projects.asp?projectID=497)
- students can join our Campus Challenge at http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/campus.php
There's lots more we'll tell you about in the next few weeks - including campus initiatives, details on the tour, and details from the Windsor Conference itself.
But for now, I simply wanted to let you know that this is happening and to invite you to play your own personal and distinct role in effecting change.
Two last things. The first is that it's Parshat Noach this Shabbat. The Noah story is important not just because he built the original ark, but because he was an equivocal hero. The word "noach" means comfortable, and he was perhaps a little too comfortable. Building an ark was the ultimate form of adaptation - wouldn't it have been better if, like Avraham, he had argued with G!d and sought not merely to save his family but to save the whole world? (There's more on this in a piece that Jessica Haller and I wrote in this week's Jewish Week (there's a link on the left.)
Second, the Torah teaches that we're meant to be "a light unto the nations" - but what does that mean in the 21st century? One thing I'm happy to report is that the leadership of the world Sikh community so liked the work that we've done on this Campaign that - even before we formally launch it tomorrow - they've adopted key elements of it for the Sikh climate change campaign - and they've credited Hazon and the Jewish community for the work we've done. We think that's pretty cool. After you've signed the Jewish campaign, go here to see the Sikh one (http://ecosikh.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/EcoSikhGridandPledge1.pdf) - and read the footnote at the foot of the page.
I hope that by the time we present this campaign to Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, at Windsor in two weeks time, that several thousand people will have signed this. And I hope that by early next year - after the Copenhagen Conference - we'll be advancing the serious and steady work of transforming all of our communities for good.
Please now join us and sign the Jewish Climate Change Campaign Pledge (http://jewishclimatecampaign.org/pledge.php). Small actions lead to big change - and together, we can make a difference.