Recommended reading on climate change

As you read this, the United Nations Climate Conference, COP21, is winding down in Paris. It began Nov. 30, finally bringing 190 countries together, after 20 years of negotiations, to sign a legally binding agreement for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
How fitting that this signing takes place on Hanukkah, because it symbolizes, at long last, a truly worldwide “rededication.”
A recent “Ten Minutes of Torah,” the daily email offering from the Union of Reform Judaism that’s often keyed to the week’s parashah, took up this topic soon after the conference began Nov. 15. Rabbi Joel Symonds, a program director at URJ’s Religious Action Center in Los Angeles, cleverly tied the matter of climate change to the Torah portion that begins by noting how our ancestor Jacob had settled into Canaan, the land of his father’s sojourning. That suggests, the rabbi says that Jacob hoped to live there in peace, “…without fear of having to uproot and wander like the prior generation. Yet we know,” he continues, “that this is mere hope, not reality. Soon we will read of a famine in the land, and the need, once again, to uproot and wander…”
This biblical connection was updated by Rabbi Symonds’ co-author, Zack Gold, currently a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA, who warned that “Paris is just the beginning. … The emission targets may have been set, but the future of our climate and our world remains uncertain. … The conference cannot be the last word in reducing global carbon emissions. … We need transparency and enforcement to ensure that every country is meeting its emission responsibilities, and equity to ensure that climate change does not disproportionately impact vulnerable communities.”
As matters for concern, he sites “displacements of millions of people from sea level rise…continued spread of deadly tropical diseases…the acidification of our oceans and collapse of major fisheries…extensive wildfires, loss of pristine forests and property … and severe bleaching of coral reefs which provide the only protein source for more than 1 billion people.”
(I’m afraid I don’t understand that coral-protein connection, but I dare not dispute a Ph.D. candidate who already has an honors degree in marine biology from Stanford!)
For earlier excellent reading that gives a broader look at our roles as human custodians of God’s green earth, let me recommend Sharing Eden: Green Teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims. Written by Natan Levy, David Shreeve and Harfiyah Haleem, it’s been on the market since early 2013, but is more relevant than ever today. And it’s still easily available: Amazon offers it both in the original paperback, with its gorgeous illustrations ($8.99) or for your Kindle ($1.99). It begins with “The Three Faiths’ Perspectives,” written separately by each of the three authors, then goes into six chapters on different aspects of “green,” including one specifically addressing climate change.
This small book makes few promises, but it has high hopes. Its introduction says, “Sharing Eden can only begin to describe what would take many volumes if we were to go into all the details and issues, but we hope it will supply some of the answers which many from the three faiths — other faiths — and indeed those of no faith — seek.” It also cites the too-little-known Lambeth Declaration of 2009, when the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a meeting of many faith-based organizations; there was agreement then that all participants must press their respective governments for action to promote sustainability of all resources.
Whether or not you read this book, I hope you’ll read and take to heart the opinions of the two men from our own faith who have put their concerns into words easily accessible on your own computer screen. Just use your browser of choice to find Ten Minutes of Torah, then specify the entry of Dec. 3, 2015, titled “How We All Can Help Protect the Land for Future Generations.”
Have a bright, thoughtful, and green Hanukkah!

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