Like so many of the people I know who are deeply concerned with the rapidly multiplying environmental issues confronting our world, I recently became discouraged by the inability of our government to take meaningful action. This feeling slowly morphed into disgust, which turned into anger, which then changed into fear. I kept thinking, if our leaders cannot even address the big environmental issues that are occasionally covered by the media, such as climate change and alternative energy, then we are in real trouble when it comes to the hundreds of other environmental issues that are never discussed. Every day I read articles about ecological time bombs, such as ocean acidification, species extinction, coal ash pollution, and water shortages, all of which drastically impact our world. It feels as if nobody is listening and everybody is standing still.
I woke up this morning and read an article that restored a bit of my hope. I am not convinced that we can turn back the tide on all of these environmental problems, but I am certain that our elected officials in Washington D.C. are unwilling to take the necessary bold steps needed to tackle these issues. The article was discussing how the large environmental groups are scaling back their lobbying efforts in D.C. and instead are opting to focus their resources on local efforts in different states and municipalities. The message that popped into my head in flashing lights stated: GET BACK TO YOUR ROOTS. Too often we feel powerless. It is so easy to fall into a pit of despair and give up. It is so easy to say, “They aren’t doing anything about this,” and then shrug our shoulders and concede. However, as Jews we should know better than anyone that big things can happen when we take initiative. We cannot never “say uncle” and give up when it comes to protecting our natural resources and the people who will be harmed by its degradation. It is time for us to re-energize. It is time for us, both as environmentalists and Jews, to get back to our roots.
What does that mean? I think the answer will be different for every individual. For me, it means trying to take more of an interest in the issues facing my local community. I will continue to write letters and make phone calls to my elected officials in an attempt to hold them accountable. However, I will no longer let their inability to take meaningful action hold me hostage. It also means I need to get back to my spiritual roots. I do not want to be an environmentalist. I am a Jewish environmentalist and need to find more ways to intertwine these two strong aspects of my identity together. That is why I am so excited about Jewcology. It is an opportunity for us to learn from each other and trade ideas on what “getting back to our roots” can mean. It is also a place where we can find support on those days when despair is creeping into our heads and sorrow into our hearts. Reading about the work of others can help us find the light and strength we need to feel hope again.
The following passage is a Celtic prayer which has always spoken to me as a Jew: “Almighty Creator: the morning is yours, rising into fullness. The summer is yours, dipping into autumn. Eternity is yours, dipping into time. The vibrant grasses, the scent of flowers, the lichen on the rocks, the tang of seaweed. All is yours. Gladly we live in this garden of your creating.”