The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
With feet planted on the grass and hands held firm, a human chain of interfaith leaders prayed in devotion to the environment. The hot Louisiana sun shone on our shoulders as we sang songs from different cultures, united in fighting for the moral cause of climate change: the ethical fight to protect vulnerable communities from the ever-changing environment. As a participant in GreenFaith’s annual climate convergence, I was one of 50 interfaith leaders across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom who gathered in New Orleans to advocate for mitigating anthropomorphic climate change through a faith-based lens. We gathered to build connections and to learn about the environmental impacts of Hurricane Katrina and land erosion that are heavily impacting New Orleans and the Louisiana coastal region. We gathered to build an interfaith environmental activist community.
And, at the Convergence, I also built connections to the land on which we stood. We visited Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, an island quickly receding due to coastal erosion, and the first island to be evacuated by the U.S. government due to climate change. However, the residents stand strong. Some refuse to leave. This is their home. Upon entering the island we immediately were met with this handwritten sign:
We are not moving off this island. If some people want to move they can go. But leave us alone. The people have a right to live where they want not where people tell them to go and live. They say the island is fading away soon we will not have an island left. If the island is not good stay away. May God bless the island. Island is not for sale. If you don’t like the island stay off. Don’t give up fight for your rights. It’s worth saving.
Upon visiting this island and visiting the residents, I couldn’t resist drawing relations between people and the connection to their land. As a Jew, the connection to the environment and Zion is a big aspect of practicing our faith. I couldn’t help but think of a line in Tehilim Psalm Chapter 137, “If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.” The residents of Isle de Jean Charles will lose this connection. What are we to do about it?
Emily was a Jewish faith leader participant at Greenfaith’s 2016 Convergence in New Orleans. She is pursuing a master of public policy, focusing on environmental policy, and a master of business administration at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her interests and work lie in business sustainability, environmental advocacy, and Jewish connection to the environment.