As an environmental activist, human being, and as a Jew I have worked to mitigate the effects of climate change. I have planted gardens, taught classes, composted my own trash, as well as the trash of my neighbors, relatives, and friends. However, the more time I spend thinking about climate change and reading scientific articles pertaining to climate change, the more I realize that there is nothing we can do to stop it. Climate change is a reality. The Earth’s temperature is rising. Sea level is rising. Endangered species are disappearing. Habitat is being irrevocably lost. And cultures are fading.
It is a sobering realization, but it is not paralyzing. In fact, in a sense I find it liberating. I know longer have to concern myself with convincing other people that Climate change is real. Summers are getting hotter. Extreme weather events are increasing. Our outdated economic systems are failing. In light of these observable (and fairly obvious) facts, persuasion becomes a mute point. Either we all get on the bandwagon or we bust.
The real challenge now is figuring out effective strategies for dealing with uncertainty in an unpredictable world. Some questions that I grapple with include: How do we create transportation networks that take in to account dwindling fuel supplies? What is the most efficient way to produce food without polluting fresh water supplies or relying on chemical fertilizers? How can communities protect their most vulnerable members when climate catastrophes occur? Will the human race find a way to coexist with other plant and animal species on this planet?
I think the answer to many of these questions may rely on embracing dynamism. By embedding change in our strategies we can begin to take in to account the forces that shape the world we live in. Instead of thinking technology will somehow shield us from the winds of change, we need to find a way to harness those winds (both literally and figuratively). Despite what we have been told nothing stays the same for very long. The good times never last forever. If we don’t start acknowledging the difficult times ahead they are going to be here before we have a chance to make any contingency plans. The sooner we get to local, regional, national, and international adaptation strategies the closer we will all be to survival.
The picture I’m painting may seem bleak, however, there is plenty of good news. Architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, and even policy makers are beginning to work together to create “what if” scenarios. London’s climate change adaptation plan is a great example of forward thinking. New York City and Chicago have been at the forefront in the US. And in Israel grassroots activists are starting to gain traction on the municipal and national scale.
Over the coming weeks/months, I will outline some of these plans in detail to see how we as a Jewish community can learn from these inspiring examples. If we can translate and apply the strategies laid out in these documents, we may be able to weather the coming storm. Better yet, we may find our personal and communal lives enriched and enlivened by the excitement of engagement and the joys of discovery that accompany the unknown.