(because when the truth gets inconvenient, the Jews … respond with menschlich integrity?)
Step it Up is going to be the largest citizen action focused on global warming in American history. People who have seen An Inconvenient Truth, who took the lessons of Katrina to heart, who are tired of driving cars with shitty mileage and who are frightened of the kind of world their children and grandchildren are growing into, are organizing locally. Communities have come forward to hold more than a thousand actions in all fifty states. Every action will be saying the same thing: “Step It Up, Congress! Cut Carbon 80% or more by 2050.” These actions are planned for all over. If you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Boston, DC, Philly, New Haven, Baltimore, Albany, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco or just about anywhere else in the USA, there’s a Step it Up action on Shabbat Shmini in your neighborhood.
But why should we as Jews turn out for this on a Shabbes afternoon? What do our Jewish commitments and values have to say in the face of the climate crisis? For me, Judaism is a way of being fully human. And when fully human people make a big mess that will foul things up for everyone, fully human people stay and clean up. We’ve been spewing tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and it’s now clear that dire refugee situations, food scarcity, and disease will result down the road if we let these emissions irrevocably alter the climate. Naturally, a fully human people would conclude, we’ll have to work together and make big changes together to curb the crisis.
But for years now, that’s not what America’s leaders have been doing. They didn’t respond the way you’d expect human people to, and here’s one reason why: The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published a 63 page report: Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science. ExxonMobil has made the biggest profits in the history of corporations making money. They’ve made billions of dollars annually selling us fuel, and according to UCS, they spent a little chunk of it to:
“* raise doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence
* fund an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings
* attempt to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for “sound science” rather than business self-interest
* use its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming.”
The folks at ExxonMobil worked hard to delay the day when we would understand the climate problem or be able to respond. We have a brief ten year window to prevent the worst. This report documents how we lost precious time while this corporation, and others, contradicted science and spread confusion.
And here’s what gets me: every single ExxonMobil employee is a person. People work there. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every single ExxonMobil employee is a person who lives on Earth. A fully human person does not sink the ship he and everyone else is riding in. But somehow, people – people whose bread comes min haaretz (from the Earth) and whose children and grandchildren will probably also have to live here – acted to hasten a global disaster. And all that I can imagine is that people who do this must be acting from a very narrow place. I imagine that when they went to work and obscurred the risks we’re all facing, they did so by leaving most of themselves at home.
For me, Jewish life is about taking your whole self to work and home again, about affirming that spiritual truths are the truest, and that the prospect of human suffering isn’t just sad – it cries out to us, and makes demands of us. That’s why, in the week after Pesach, no matter what we do in our day jobs, we are called to get out of that Mitzrayim, that narrow place where somehow this isn’t our problem. If you’re a person who cultivates your humanity in Jewish community, look up a Step It Up action; get some folks together after shul; and join in. In honor of all that is sacred about people and the way that nature has worked up until now, I’m going to be marching on April 14, in the DC “Jew-tingent,” side-by-side with my neigbhors. The fully human way to respond to global warming is for a national movement of real people to demand that Congress take the kinds of large-scale action that can really address the problem.
How are Jewish communities participating in Step It Up?
Â§ Here in DC, we’re gathering for a Shabbat picnic before heading over together to the DC Step it Up Rally in front of the Capitol.
Â§ At Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York, they’ll be davening a “climate-protection-infused” shabbat service before walking together to a major rally in Battery Park.
Â§ In New Hartford, Connecticut, a kid named Nat Bedford has announced that his bar mitzvah is a Step It Up action.
Â§ The Shalom Center sent around a suggestion that, as Shabbat Shmini is the day we read the Biblical rules of kashrut, congregations could re-commit to “eco-kashrut” in honor of Step It Up.
Any more info? Please post news of additional Jewish community participation in Step it Up in the comments.