Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Hello Rabbi,

I saw what you write about the Noahite laws.  Noah was an example of good behaviour to live up to. But I am concerned about the promise that God made to send a rainbow reminding us that there will never be another flood.  How do we reconcile this with the speed of climate change and the predictions of rising sea levels as the ice caps melt and huge numbers of populations, especially poverty-stricken ones like Egyptians in the Nile delta, will be drowned or driven from their homes?

Yours worriedly,


Rabbi Jonathan responds:

Thank you Geraldine.  This is perhaps the most important post so far as it is not only about Jews but about the world, and our responsibility to it - a responsibility shared by all humanity, but which in Jewish terms we call 'Tikkun Olam' (healing the world).   

I think there is a most important and pressing message for us in the Noah story.  Though we don't read these stories literally - we reject the idea that God picks of people to kill them, whether in this story, or in a car or air-crash, or in the Holocaust - never the less if you read Genesis carefully, you'll find at one point that the story-teller says that God promises never to bring another flood.'Never again will I doom the earth because of humanity... nor will I ever again destroy every living being...' Genesis 8:21.  The message for us (who have sought to overthrow God, as our Gates of Repentance prayer book states) is not that 'There will never be another flood', but that 'God will never again flood the earth' - leaving room for US to do so by rising sea levels if we continue on our path to catastrophic climate change!

The more I learn and read, the more scared I am - the climate is changing faster than ever before.  We see major changes in half our lifetimes!  Average temperatures are already up one degree C.  We need faith in God - but God needs us as partners in this challenge (or we and God need to work 'in partnership').  There is some hope to be found in the Paris agreement and the fact that most governments (perhaps even, dare we hope, our own Australian one) are beginning to realise the urgent importance to act, and the fact that the fossil fuel industry has been obfuscating (confusing and funding contrary research) the issues for years!  

I built a house in 2006 which uses a quarter the energy of an equivalent 'normal' Australian house (and used only one tenth the mains water).  Having driven hybrid cars for 13 years, I have just progressed to a plug in hybrid (2 years old) and drive 40 kms on green-powered batteries every day, which is usually all I need.  But if I do go on a longer journey, it switches to normal engine/hybrid.  

I don't say this to boast, but to inform.  If I can do this, and dramatically cut my emissions, then why are the government (and manufacturers) advertising that this can be done and indeed helping people to do it?  What a huge impact we could be having!

But there is something you can do with no expense, and with immediate and great effect.  Stop eating meat - or at least reduce your red meat consumption.  Emissions from cattle production are growing rapidly as we eat more meat, especially the developing middle classes of India and China - and you can help counter that trend.

You can do something else.  Join the Jewish Ecological Coalition, JECO.org.au
And the Australian religious Response to Climate Change ARRCC.org.au

Good luck - l'shalom

Rabbi Jonathan

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