10 Ways to Respond to Climate Change, as well as Violent Conflict and Other Global and Local Terrors

This posting by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen comes, with permission, from her "Ma'yan Tikvah's Divrei Earth" site. The thoughts were first shared at the Climate Mobilization Teach-in and Public Gathering in Boston on Sunday, July 10, 2016.

Stop. Stop everything. Totally change your life. Drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Do everything you can to increase carbon sequestration.

This is what climate change demands of us.

But the vast majority of us are not doing it.

Changing our physical impact on the planet is the What about how we respond to climate change. People have many, many, many different opinions about the best way to try to ensure the survival of human life on this planet, and few of us are in a position to intelligently judge them.

But in addition to the What, and no matter which way the future leads us, there is also the How.

How we go forward, in whatever we do, is as important, if not more important, than What we do. Here are 10 Ways to Respond to Climate Change - and to all the painful things that happen in the world - in terms of the How.

Each and every day, may we respond to the world around us with:

  1. Compassion - RachamimWe speak of God as El Malei Rachamaim, God full of compassion. To strive to maintain compassion is to strive to walk in God's ways. In the face of violence, hatred and environmental degradation, may we respond to people and situations around us with compassion.
  2. Love - Ahavah. Our liturgy reminds us daily of God's love for us: "Ahavah rabbah ahavtanu, With great love You have loved us," and we are commanded to love God "b'chol l'vavcha, uv'chol nafshecha, uv'chol me'odecha, With all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5) Let us love all of God's creation, every bit of it, from every person to the most distant star to the tiniest bacterium, let us keep on loving, without end.
  3. Kindness - Chesed. Judaism teaches us to engage in acts of loving kindness - gimilut chasadim, and to do them without expecting anything in return. Let us respond to those around us with kindness, even when our desired response might be something harsher, and may we do so without the expectation of being repaid but rather because it is the right thing to do.
  4. Faith - Emunah. I invite you to consider faith as a state of being rather than in terms of having faith in something. We may have faith in God, and this faith may give us the ability to live in a state of faith, but living is such a state doesn't require faith in anything in particular. Rather, it is about trusting in our hearts that no matter what happens, somehow, we will - from a spiritual standpoint - be OK. May we maintain our faith in the face of the deepest challenges to that faith.
  5. Wisdom - Chochmah. In the Book of Job we read, “Where shall wisdom be found? Humans do not know the way to it. It is hidden from the eyes of all living things, God understands the way to it.” (Job 28:12, 21, 23) Wisdom ma be beyond our reach, but the search for deep wisdom is incumbent upon us as a constant in our lives. May we constantly endeavor to access our deepest possible wisdom
  6. Courage - Ometz. In the face of the news and the events around us, fear, despair, anger, grief, and dread can easily envelope us. Courage is required only when we are afraid or otherwise feeling immobilized or unable to act positively. When we are unafraid, we do not need courage - acts are easy to do. May we find the courage to move forward with positive energy, even when confronted with sheer terror or disabling grief.
  7. Strength - Koach. Strength may be physical, but it can also be spiritual, and in times of trouble we need to reach deep within our souls to find our untapped sources of spiritual power. It would be more pleasant not to have to be strong, but our world today cries out to us to find strength we don't realize we have. May we discover new depths of strength whenever we need to do so
  8. Respect - Kavod. The turning point between commandments related to God and commandments related people in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, is #5: "Honor (Respect) your father and your mother." (Ex. 20:12). Our parents are stand-ins for God in the physical world. Respecting our parents relates to respecting God, and respecting God means respecting all of God's handiwork, no matter what we think of other people or different ideas. Let us respond to the people and ideas around us with the understanding that they, too, are part of God's holy Creation, and worthy of our respect
  9. Humility - Anavah. It is so easy for us humans to think that we know better than someone else, or perhaps even than everyone else. But we are each an infinitesimally tiny spec in the expanse of the Universe. "What are we, that you are mindful of us?" (Ps. 8:4) the Psalmist asks, and it is a question for each of us to ask ourselves as well. May we remember that our knowledge is as limited as our physicality, and may we approach all that we do with humility
  10. Integrity - Osher. Day in and day out, if we maintain our personal integrity, all of the other nine ways of responding will fall into place so much more easily. Our centeredness, our ability to stay grounded, these help us to maintain our sense of faith and well-being. May our feet and our hearts remain planted firmly on the ground, no matter how high we may fly or how low we may sink.

All of these ten ways of responding come down in the end to just one thing, keeping our hearts open, letting our hearts open wider all the time, and strengthening our connection to the Mystery of the Universe, to all of humankind, and to all the amazing Creation of living and nonliving things with which we share this amazing planet.

May you go from strength to strength. May you keep your heart safe and open. May you find your best way to be in this world.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a hospice chaplain at CareGroup Parmenter Hospice. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005.