In honor of Tu Bishvat – A Call to Action

This is a guest post by Margaret Levin, State Director, Sierra Club North Star Chapter.
Tu Bishvat, the “holiday of trees” is a day to reflect each year on the care of our natural environment, and to consider how we can increase ecological awareness in our communities, congregations, and families. The need for such awareness has never been more dire – but we are also experiencing an age of unprecedented opportunity for change.
The past year has been a critical time for the environmental movement in the U.S. After almost a decade of anti-environment rollbacks at the federal level, we inaugurated a pro-environment President and a new administration, lauding cabinet appointments such as Nobel prize-winner Stephen Chu, and Lisa Jackson, the first African-American to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
There are tangible results to celebrate:

  • Early in the year, the EPA announced that it would take the historic step of regulating greenhouse gas pollution.
  • Major climate change legislation, establishing strong targets and a framework for reduce global warming emissions, was introduced and passed in the House.
  • President Obama released a proposal for new federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements for cars, which will match the strongest standards in any state.

At the same time, scientists revealed grave news about the deteriorating health of our planet. The melting of arctic sea ice was found to be accelerating faster than expected, and could be mostly gone in 30 years. Changes in weather brought forest fires, drought, and floods.
We have much work to do. And it is urgent.
Our culture has long considered the ways in which the beauty and balance of our natural world are imperiled by human impacts – I think of my trip to Glacier National Park two summers ago, where the Park’s namesake glaciers are now hard to see, and could disappear by 2020. In Minnesota, the character of wilderness like the Boundary Waters and our northern forests is threatened as native species and wildlife struggle to adapt to a changing climate. Many of us feel a spiritual connection to these special places.
As Jews, we should also feel an immediate call to act for social justice, in accordance with the concept of Tikkun Olam.
Throughout our global history, native communities and communities of color have been burdened with the worst costs of dirty power, pollution, and extractive industries. They will also bear the greatest burden if the worst effects of climate change are not averted. Because of race, class, and geography, those with the fewest opportunities are also usually the most vulnerable to environmental degradation.
While they can seem overwhelming, these challenges can be addressed if, to paraphrase community organizer Saul Alinsky’s words, we have the courage to see the world as it is, and the determination to fight for the world as it should be.
The solutions are at hand:

  • Repowering our economy with green energy and technologies will drive new investments in the creation of good jobs while lowering our carbon emissions. A recent study found that climate bill passed in the House would create 1.7 million net new clean energy jobs. That includes 30,263 just in Minnesota.
  • Passing strong climate change legislation in the Senate will solidify our commitment to a clean, renewable energy future.
  • Individual action builds momentum for institutional change. Start thinking about your daily impact on the Earth. Buy organic and locally. Use less impactful modes of transportation like transit and biking. Reduce your energy use.

Now is the time to get involved! Take action in honor of Tu Bishvat:

  1. Join the Sierra Club North Star Chapter and volunteer your time as a citizen activist. Attend our New Volunteer Orientation on Tuesday, February 9th at 6:00pm. Follow us on Twitter to stay updated!
  2. Jewish Community Action works on issues of environment and food justice from a Jewish perspective. Contact Melissa at [email protected] to get involved.
  3. Take two minutes *today* to make a difference ;– Send an email to your Senators supporting clean air and public policies that protect our health

Share what YOU are doing for our environment to celebrate Tu Bishvat!