From Fighting Climate Change to Fighting for Climate Justice

March 17, 2015
We often talk about climate change and environmental initiatives to combat the human-made disruption of our earth’s systems and exhaustion of its resources. However, while climate change is a threat that affects us all as sea levels rise and we experience more frequent extreme weather events, people of color and low-income people across the United States and the world will be disproportionately burdened by the most damaging impacts of a changing and less habitable climate. Less economically stable communities are unable to bounce back from the devastation to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Similarly, communities of color are significantly more likely to live near toxic waste facilities and to unequally come into contact with polluted air and water. As Jews, we know that we have an obligation to our earth, to “till and tend” it as God told humankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). But environmentalism is about more than just tilling and tending the earth so that our children and our children’s children can inherit a habitable planet. When we think about climate change and the effects scientists have predicted in the coming years, we should also be thinking about communities that are affected today and the injustice of unequal access to clean air and clean water and unequal vulnerability to rising sea levels, increased hunger from decreased crop availability and extreme weather events. In Proverbs 31:9 we are told: “Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Passover is a holiday about redemption and liberation, throwing off the shackles of oppression and beginning the journey to the Promised Land. As Passover approaches, we must take the time to consider what it means to care about justice. How do we, as Jews today, continue with our Passover tradition the spirit and energy of liberation? How do we remember our own struggles and work to end the oppression of others? Climate justice, then, is a specifically Jewish issue and one especially pertinent during Passover. The climate justice framework is a place where the intersection between our care for the earth and our care for the poor and vulnerable among us come together. Working towards environmental initiatives, whether that means performing an energy audit in your congregation or talking about climate change at your family’s Seder, is essential work, both in its own right to protect our earth, and also as we keep in mind the injustices integral to climate change. You can check out other ways to incorporate social justice issues into your Passover here. Chag sameach!

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