Monday, February 13, 2012

Fight Climate Change. TODAY!

I just received this message urging people to write to the U.S. Senate urging them to not unblock the XL-Keystone pipeline project.
When we started the Keystone fight there were just a few of us, and no one thought we had a chance.

But with hard work and lots of great organizing we scored an unlikely victory when the President eventually rejected the pipeline last month. However, the oil industry's representatives in Congress are eager to undo that, and it looks like a deal could be coming together in the Senate this week to sabotage that win. It's time for us to defend our victory.

Beginning at noon today, every environmental group in the nation, not to mention great allies like and CREDO Action, will come together for the most concentrated burst of environmental advocacy this millennium. We're aiming to send half a million messages to the Senate in the next 24 hours. And they'll all have the same message: back the President and make sure this pipeline doesn't get built.

This is what movements look like. And we need you to play a big part.

1-Send a message right now to the Senate: Click here:


2-Make sure that everyone else you know does the same thing. Forward them this Email.

The arguments by now are clear: This pipeline won't create jobs (that's why the biggest labor unions in the country support the President). It puts the heartland of the country at risk from spills -- the kind of leaks that devastated the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo Rivers in the year past. And after the year with the most weather disasters in the nation's history, and amidst this weird and out-of-kilter winter, the fight against climate change must start here.

The only argument for the pipeline comes from folks like the Koch Brothers-"we can make a lot of money." It's not a good argument, but that money buys votes in Congress, unless we stand up.

So: stand up.

Look, this is one battle in the long fight against climate change. There will be others-we'll doubtless have to call on you to go to jail again, to march and to sit in and to protest. And I have no doubt you'll be there when it's needed.

But today-today-the fight is at the keyboards. What you started has spread to become the greatest green fight in years. We've got to defend your victory, and we've got to do it now.

With deep thanks,

-Bill McKibben for
Below is a related statement from Rabbi David Saperstein. Rabbi Saperstein is the American Jewish community's "designated prophetic voice" in Washington, director of the Religious Action Center there.
Remarks at COEJL Energy Declaration Signing Ceremony,
February 6, 2012

Today represents a pivotal moment for our people and our world, and we stand today united as Jews to acknowledge our role in the struggle for environmental and climate justice. In signing the Jewish Environmental and Energy Covenant pledge, we rededicate ourselves to reducing our community's greenhouse gas emissions, for our health and the well-being of our environment, as well as for the survival of countless others who cannot speak for themselves in the face of climate crisis.

As Jews, we are taught "The Earth is the Eternal's and the fullness thereof." We Jews must be united by our care for this Earth for all the countless generations yet to be, in our desire to protect God's creation entrusted to our care. And we know full well God's call to us to protect the poor, the weak and the powerless.

Yet each day we bear witness to how the world's most vulnerable –- those who contribute least to climate change and are the least equipped to mitigate the deleterious impact of climate change and least able to adapt to the development and implementation of new energy sources and a green economy -- are the most severely impacted by climate-related disasters.

So too in terms of access to energy: In our own nation, too many poor must choose between fuel and other necessities of life, such as medicine, food and transportation. Around the world, in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Island nations and Bangladesh, farmers are already losing their crops because of warmer temperatures, making the scourge of world hunger and malnutrition even worse.

Indeed in the long-run, global climate change, with its risks of the spread of drought, erosion of arable land and disease – and attendant population shifts -- has enormous implications for world stability and U.S. strategic interests. At home, we are plagued by severe droughts, with forest fires increasingly rampant on the West Coast and access to drinking water compromised in areas of the South and the West. Many of our coastal regions have become more prone to flooding. The intimate relationship between poverty and climate disasters is only too clear.

No single weather event can be attributed solely to climate change. But we know from the havoc wreaked in places like New Orleans and communities along the Gulf Coast, places like Joplin, Missouri, that when disasters occur, it is the poorest in our nation who are unable to flee, losing their possessions, their homes and their lives. These events paint a vivid portrait of the vulnerability we all face when it comes to climate change.

Just this past week, a new California Public Health analysis of Los Angeles and Fresno counties affirmed that poor, urban and minority communities are most at risk for health problems and safety risks related to poor health quality, heat waves, flooding and wildfires.

Today, we make clear that our response to climate change is rooted in our compassion for humankind and reflects our religious understanding of God's call for us to protect the poor and the vulnerable. It is why the religious community, including the Jewish community, has played a lead role in ensuring strong adaptation and mitigation in U.S. legislation and at the various UN conferences shaping efforts at a new global treaty.

And it is why today -– on the cusp of Tu Bish'vat [the ReBirthDay of the Trees] -– the Jewish community embarks on a new chapter addressing the broader challenge of climate change by committing to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in the next two years and beyond.

Achieving this may prove challenging at times, but it will be central to our understanding of the meaning of our duty "to till and to tend" the Earth. Our commitment today represents a promise for tomorrow – a promise of an Earth with clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and environmental justice for all God's children.
H/T for info above to Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center.

The picture above is of a typical extraction plant in the tar sand.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tu B'Shvat Higgiah

Wednesday is Ti B'Shvat, the "New Year for Trees." What started out in the Talmud as simply the end of the fiscal year for tithing fruits, evolved over the centuries into a mystical marking of the spiritual within nature, a Zionist holiday of "upbuilding the Land of Israel" by planting trees, and most recently into a general environmental/ecological awareness day. Planting trees in Israel/Palestine, of course, is a way to do all three. Planting them yourself, would perhaps be the most spiritual, but for those with limited the time or energy donating money is a reasonable and effective proxy. (Did you know that planting trees is one of the most effective ways to offset carbon emissions, and mitigate global warming?)

So, if you can, go plant a tree in your back yard or a local park. But if not, consider contributing to have a few trees planted in Israel/Palestine. But, be careful who you donate to. I recommend you donate to Rabbis for Human Rights Tu B'Shvat tree planting campaign.

This year, Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel will plant more than 3000 olive trees in the Palestinian Territories; throughout the year, rabbis, rabbinical students, and lay people volunteer to plant trees, and to harvest olives side-by-side with Palestinian farmers.

Rabbis for Human Rights will also be leading a tree planting initiative in the Negev this Tu Bish'vat in support of Bedouin Israeli citizens whose homes are threatened with demolition. These citizens live in villages that pre-date the State of Israel, but that have never been recognized by the government. By helping these “unrecognized villages” plant trees, we help to create agricultural and environmental sustainability there.
Donate by clicking here.

This initiative was brought to my attention by my old friend Benjy, who also reminds us of why donating to the Jewish National Fund on Tu B'Shvat (or any other time!) is a bad idea: indeed it is completely unethical.
As progressive Jews, many of us have very warm associations with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). From its establishment in 1901 it has been an important link between world Jewry and the practical projects of the Zionist social movement. Many of us grew up with the blue-and-white collection boxes in our homes -- a symbol of popular participation in the Zionist movement. The JNF fostered the practical program of the socialist Zionists and made it possible for kibbutzim to emerge as a uniquely Jewish contribution to twentieth century socialism. Finally, the JNF is associated in many of our minds with the romantic stories of the early Zionist pioneers.

Like most Jews, few of us paid attention to the details of JNF policies and activities. We were in general sympathy with the goals of the JNF.

We can no longer ignore the particulars. To be honest with ourselves, we must admit that our vision of what Israeli society can and should be is not compatible with the policies and goals of the JNF.

In 1989 the Ethical Jewish Giving Project established two main criteria for "ethical giving" to groups in Israel: (1) the distribution of funds should not go to agencies or institutions that discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel, and (2) the money should not support Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The JNF fails on both counts.

The JNF discriminates against non-Jews. Practices (some of which made sense before the establishment of the state) are unacceptable in a society based upon democracy and equality. The JNF owns 17% of all "public" land in Israel and participates in the administration of over 90% of Israel's "public" lands. Once acquired by the JNF, land becomes an inalienable part of the Jewish national heritage -- that is, it may not be sold or leased to non-Jews.

The JNF has the right of first refusal when any public lands not owned by it outright are sold or transferred. The JNF has exclusive responsibility for land development. Non-Jews, regardless of their citizenship status, are not eligible for JNF services. This means they cannot lease or sublease JNF-owned lands or work on these lands. They are not eligible for development funds or services. Land development in the Palestinian sector of the economy must be privately financed whereas Jewish settlements receive large grants and loans as well as continuous technical assistance. Jews who have never lived in Israel have more of a claim on these "public" lands and development funds than do Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The JNF supports the occupation and helps to finance the illegal settlements in the territories. Since 1978 most JNF activities have been involved in acquiring and developing land for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The JNF has collaborated with the Israeli authorities in expropriating Palestinian lands, razing cultivated fields and bulldozing orchards, and denying equal access to water sources.

Jews who are committed to a prophetic vision of peace and social and economic justice must call upon our community to stop underwriting policies that are destroying the social and moral fabric of Israel. Our histories, traditions, values and sentiments have created a special bond between us and Israel. Israeli and North American Jews share a concern for each other's secure future and ethical character. Contributions to the JNF (and the UJA) jeopardize both by actively discriminating against Palestinians and by supporting the occupation.
So on Wednesday, plant a tree yourself, or donate some money to have one planted. And eat some fruits, to remind yourself of the bounty of trees - and all of nature - and of our dual duty: to protect the planet and to increase justice.