Our Grandchildren Call Us: Join the Climate Strike!
On Friday, September 20, there will be a world-wide Strike for Climate Action. To see where and when in your own town there will be a gathering in support of the strike, you can click to https://globalclimatestrike.net/ and plug in your town or zip code.
If you join in the Climate Strike, feel free to use the graphic and the slogan just above.
The Climate Strike began with young people in Europe, then with the Sunrise Movement in the US, then with groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and groups rooted in faith and in the Spirit -– carrying out the call of the last of the ancient Hebrew Prophets (Malachi 3 ) that the hearts of the parents and children must turn to each other to prevent the utter destruction of Earth.
What is the goal of the strike? Most broadly, to have the Climate Crisis formally recognized as a national crisis by every government. Beyond that, various groups will have varied intentions. For me, the goal is enactment of some version of the Green New Deal. That approach comes closest to the biblical commitment to connect social justice with eco-sanity. You can read the Congressional GND resolution sponsored by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman AOC, at
I’ve been asked for advice about how Jews and other religious folk can join in these events while making publicly clear the spiritual, religious, and /or ethical covenant/ commitment that for many of us is at the heart of our passionate insistence on healing Earth from the climate crisis.
My suggestions: First, most obvious, especially for Jews, the Shofar (the ram’s horn, an earthy sacred instrument for calling out sorrow, alarm, and transformation). During Elul, the Jewish month before Rosh Hashanah, the tradition teaches us to blow the Shofar every day except on Shabbat, to reawaken us to the need for transforming our lives. September 20 this year will be the 20th of Elul, and Jewish groups taking part in the Strike could make a point of publicly blowing the Shofar to remind us of our obligation to love Mother Earth and heal her.
Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other communities could also carry posters or banners that use the graphic at the top of this letter, or this one -- slightly more grown-up-- with the text above or this text beneath:
The text could read: “JEWS [or Xxxx] JOIN NOAH TO SAVE ALL LIFE ON EARTH ”
or whatever your own heart or group desires.
The weekend that begins on September 20 will have at least two notable Jewish experiences that bear on the Climate Crisis. One is the reading of a passage of Torah that begins (Deut. 26: 1-3) by celebrating the first fruits of abundance that come from Earth’s bounty, God’s bounty, the bounty that in scientific fact as well as spiritual insight comes to us through the Interbreathing of all life -- whether you name the Interbreathing “YHWH,” or the interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen that makes life possible upon this planet. .
Later in the portion (Deut 28: 20-24), the Torah recites the consequences of not following the teachings of YHWH, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, about the ways of loving and respecting Earth.
Those consequences --“scorching heat,” drought” – sound very much like the consequences that climate scientists have been warning about for the future and have now become real in the present.
Notice I said “consequences,” not “punishments.” The nature of the Interbreathing that all life shares is that each act has consequences. A very different theology from one that understands God as King, Lord, Judge Who rewards and punishes.
In my view, we humans will not be able to heal Earth and ourselves so long as we insist on a hierarchical worldview. We will come out of this crisis fully alive only if we grow to affirm an ecological worldview in which all the differences and uniquenesses of life and society are crucial because, like the unique pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, they fit together into a magnificent Whole, a ONE.
For this reason, I think –- but it is certainly not necessary to do this in order to join in supporting the Climate Strike -- that it is time for us to drop the “King, Lord, Judge” metaphor for God, to stop substituting the words “Adonai, Lord, “ for YHWH and instead to “pronounce” it truthfully, without vowels -- – just by breathing ”YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh.” Or to translate it truthfully as “Breath of Life.”
The second special aspect of the weekend September 20-22 is that on that Saturday night, traditionally, Jews gather for Slichot – beginning the process of “Forgiveness” that is a crucial part of the oncoming High Holy Days.
One “ceremony” or “spiritual exercise” that has in some communities become a mark of Slichot: The community gathers around a large bowl of clear water, Each person receives a piece of paper and a pen with water-soluble ink. After some songs and prayers, each person writes a misdeed they have done on the paper and slowly, as the community watches, one by one its members plunge the paper into the water and watch the words dissolve.
Without knowing what each person’s misdeeds are, the community deeply understands that each person has taken the first steps of recognizing their own misdeeds, and the community as a whole can take the first steps of forgiveness.
Not till the recognition of misdeed has taken root can each person do tshuvah, “turning” – action to repair the damage already done and to stop mis-doing the misdeed.
What does this have to do with the Climate Strike? The Strike should be not only a demand that large institutions change but also a “strike” of one’s own – taking steps to stop what we ourselves are doing that brings on Earth-wide disaster, just as in a labor strike the workers stop contributing their own labor to their own oppression.
Those who take part in Slichot can encourage each other to think this way.
This will not happen all at once. People who say that almost all of us are "oiloholics" -- addicts of Carbon Burning – are right. Kicking the habit is not easy,, because it takes social change as well as individual change. . But nicotine addicts joined with others in challenging the Tobacco Drug Lords – and won legal and policy changes that have reduced the level of addiction. The Climate Strike offers the same opportunity, even to oiloholics, to challenge the Carbon Drug Lords and force them to change. Slichot can help at the individual level, as the Strike does at the whole-society level.
Our outlook on the Climate Strike is like our approach to all aspects of the Great Turning tht Earth and Humanity need today: The “spiritual” and the “political” cannot be severed from each other. A new politics of planetary survival must be rooted in an “old” spirituality of love – made new.
The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on these thoughts, and your reports and suggestions on what you think Jews and other religious communities can do in relation to the Climate Strike on September 20. Please write us! (Climate@theshalomcenter.org) If you are willing, we’ll circulate your ideas to our broad readership and membership.
May this crisis bring forth blessings of moving toward shalom, salaam, paz, peace, among all Humanity and with all Earth -- Arthur