Almost half of the world’s population live on coastal plains. We saw the drastic effects of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast and Hurricane Katrina on the people of New Orleans. If the oceans begin to rise, and even more important, if the temperatures of the oceans continues to rise, what we saw in these two hurricanes could become a frequent occurrence as these changes will bring ever more violent storms. Imagine the effect on health, infrastructure and economies everywhere, let alone the loss of life. The thought is truly frightening..
Yet there is something we can do. And that something I believe is a Torah imperative. To save a life is one of the most important Torah principles and here we are talking about not only saving lives but protecting the very basis of human existence. If governments everywhere would take immediate action to curtail environmentally dangerous industries and curtail the world-wide addiction to fossil fuels, there is reason to believe we may be able to stem the tide and reverse the momentum already in progress.
As a people we have experienced the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust only 70 years ago. In retrospect, it seems clear that the writing was on the wall and Nazi intentions were not hidden at all. As each horrible step unfolded, people still did not want to believe. Even in the midst of the madness when personal testimonies to the genocide reached governments and the media in the West, even then, people turned away in disbelief, pursuing their busy private lives. We cannot allow our planet to be drastically changed by our indifference and unwillingness to speak out or act.
Alternatives to fossil fuels exist right now!!! Industry and government know how to adapt right now!!! Personal life style choices do make a difference. Each and every one of us must use their influence in their own homes, communities, states and countries to encourage and force our governments to rise to the challenge and work together to save our planet. It is not too late. Make your voice heard by supporting initiatives, organizations and leaders who will face this world-wide crises head-on and avert this growing threat.
A well-known Midrash explicitly delineates humanities role as caretaker of the planet. When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden he showed him all the beauty in nature and told him that he must be very careful to protect the Garden for if he acted rashly and destroyed it there would be no one to repair it for him (Kohelet Rabbah 7:24). In fact, the Torah explicitly states this: “And God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15).
Let this Tu B’shvat be a time to express our appreciation for the beautiful world God has created and as an opportunity to commit ourselves to ensuring it stays that way.