“A Call to Mothers: Time to be Up in Arms to Protect Your Children!” The EPA’s Clean Air Act Threatened by the U.S. Congress and Industry

Mothers: it is time to be up in arms.  The laws that protect the health of our children are under direct assault by industry.  Three insidious bills are now pending before a shamefully receptive Congress to gut the Clean Air Act and to sideline its vigilant enforcer, the Environmental Protection Agency.   How many more children are we willing to see suffer from asthma, cancer and other diseases through increased exposure of harmful air toxins?  Is this a cost we are willing to have our children and our children’s children bear?

One of these bills, the HR 2250, misleadingly named the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, would void standards for industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators and delay industry compliance for 3.5 years.  These delays have immediate and profound health consequences, allowing more lead, benzene, mercury and other cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere.  The expected impact?  According to Sustainable Business News, some 100,000 tons of toxic air pollution and up to 22,750 premature deaths, 143,000 more asthma attacks, and more than one million missed days of work or school

Another bill, the HR 2401, the TRAIN Act, (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation), would block the cross-state air pollution rule, which curbs power plant smog and soot pollution, and the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, which limit mercury and other air pollutants from power plants.

The third bill, H.R. 2681 the so-called Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, would void standards for cement plants and would give the industry freedom to pollute the air for years with high levels of mercury, soot and smog, acids and metals.

According to Pediatrician Dr. Cynthia Bearer, Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, children’s  biological sensitivity (the capacity to be easily harmed) “places them at special risk for harm from a toxic exposure. Because a child is a growing, developing organism, she is especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure. Her metabolic reactions-the body’s way of processing and excreting toxic substances-are not as developed as those of an adult.” According to a major symposium study by the Children’s  Environmental Health Network: “Children are not just “little adults.” Their biological sensitivity, exploratory behavior, and a diet very different from that of adults make children particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures.”

More broadly, the latter two bills seek to restrict the EPA’s regulatory authority.   They are part of an all-out assault on the agency’s mandate to enact regulations that protect the atmosphere and the air that all of us, including our most vulnerable, children, the most vulnerable among us – breathe.  There is enormous industry pressure and lobbying to try to overturn the 2007 Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to authorize our EPA to protect family health with the Clean Air Act.

US Religious Leaders Honor EPA's Lisa Jackson with Steward of Creation Award

United States religious leaders oppose this immoral attempt to undermine the health regulations that protect our families.  The Conference of Bishops, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Evangelical leadership, the United Church of Christ, as well as the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and the URJ Religious Action Center all concur on the critical importance of the Clean Air Act and have supported the moral vision and work of the Environmental Protection Agency, under the stewardship of Administrator Lisa Jackson, in upholding these protections.

The need is urgent now.   It is time for mothers, all concerned parents, and all who care for our children’s future, to call upon their representatives to speak out for the critical importance of clean air for their families and to ask them to vote against these bills.  Congress and industry should never underestimate the power of mothers to act to protect their children and the children of future generations.

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United States Religious Leaders Honor the Moral Ascendancy of the Environmental Protection Agency

Religious Leadership present Award to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Pictured from left to right: Rev. Owen Owens, Rabbi Warren Stone, Lisa P. Jackson, Biship Eugene Taylor Sutton, Fred Krueger, Carlos Agnesi

 National Religious Coalition on Creation Care Awards EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson “Steward of Creation Award” for progress on clean air, clean water and atmospheric pollution reduction in the midst of several attempts by congress to erode EPA authority.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) May 20, 2011

United States religious leaders, attending the annual meeting of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care in Washington, D.C., applauded the work of the EPA and its administrator Lisa P. Jackson. In a May event at the historic Willard Hotel, the NRCCC recognized Jackson with its “Steward of Creation Award,” for clean water and clean air initiatives and for having forcefully moved forward under the Clean Air Act to help regulate the atmospheric pollution of CO2 emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change.

Rabbi Warren Stone, NRCCC co-chair stated: “The EPA under Lisa P. Jackson’s strong moral leadership is the most significant voice in our country acting in our interest to mitigate the devastation the atmospheric pollution of climate change and its impact on public health upon the families of our country and our world as well as all creation. We have been hit of late with so-called ‘Black Swan’ disasters — so described because of their magnitude but also because of our surprise when they occur. These recent unanticipated ‘Black Swan” disasters include the tsunami and related nuclear devastation and harmful radiation released from the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants rivaling Chernobyl to the major massive tornadoes destroying 1000’s of homes in Alabama and throughout the Southeast as well as the current historic flooding of the Mississippi impacting and uprooting tens of 1000’s of families. But with the onset of climate change, the severity and increased frequency of at least some of these events is predictable unlike the so-called ‘Black Swan’ devastation and in all cases, the environmental fallout is certain. These events point to our common future, a future in which climate challenges creating devastating food and water shortages will most likely challenge the public health and wellbeing of our all our country and throughout our global community.”

Against this backdrop, the EPA has adopted regulations under the Clean Air Act to put limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. Jackson has said that she and President Obama would have preferred that the limits come through legislation. But efforts to pass such a bill fell apart in the Senate last year several months after the House passed cap-and-trade legislation: “So now we’re left with the Clean Air Act. It’s not the ideal tool, but it is a tool, and according to the Supreme Court it is a tool,” Jackson said, referring to a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision holding that the EPA can regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act upon a finding that the emissions endanger public health and welfare (theHill.com, 4/26/11).

Jackson’s moves have come under sharp attack in Congress, with the coal industry particularly up in arms. In April, the House of Representatives passed a measure trying to prevent the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate the atmospheric pollution of climate change. The same bill failed in the Senate in a 50-50 vote. Aides to President Obama said they would recommend he veto the legislation if it passes. (theHill.com 4/26/11).

The EPA sees faith and neighborhood communities as key to these objectives, announcing in April: “In the history of this nation, faith communities and neighborhood groups have been instrumental in efforts to open new opportunities and improve the world we live in. We are initiating today an effort to connect the talent, energy and enthusiasm we see in faith groups and communities across the nation with the work we are doing at EPA.” At its May meeting and in related meetings with Congressional staffers, the NRCCC welcomed Jackson’s outreach to their communities and heralded her courage and vision.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, Episcopal Bishop of Maryland: “Lisa Jackson is the first African American to serve as the head of the national government’s agency charged with protecting our air, land and water resources for the benefit of everyone. She has made it a priority to focus on vulnerable groups including children, the elderly, and low-income communities that are particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats. In addressing these and other issues, she has promised all stakeholders a place at the decision-making table. Lisa Jackson is doing God’s work in the world. Her drive, energy and vision for a sustainable earth is a modern testament of the truth that everything is connected, and we all belong to each other.”


           Religious Leaders with EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at the Historic Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Warren Stone asserted: “Faith communities in the United States represent the voices of hundreds of millions of persons of faith. National faith leadership including the U.S. Conference of Bishops, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and The National Religious Partnership for the Environment and a broad array of Christian leadership have recognized the urgent need for bold action on clean air, clean water and climate change. The very health of children, families and elders will be impacted as well. Yet despite congressional testimony as early as 1988 from preeminent climate scientist James Hansen, recipient of last year’s NRCCC award, and urgent pleas from environmental and religious leaders to push forward on an issue of critical importance to humanity’s future, Congress has yet to pass meaningful climate legislation.”

Imam Nasim Mahdi: “We must not despair or give up our efforts to stop and turn back environmental damage despite how difficult the task may seem.”

Rabbi Fred Dobb, active board member of Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light: “People of faith have rich traditions which should place us among Creation’s most passionate defenders. Somehow, despite strong statements from religious leaders and much scholarship at the intersection of religion and ecology, the message hasn’t sufficiently gotten through. Let us care for Creation because Earth and all its inhabitants, human and non-human, today and in the future, deserve no less.”

Rev. Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good: “One tool in convincing Evangelicals to lobby for climate change — and Christian politicians to listen to them — is to encourage them to think about judgment day: that this is in their best interest, the best interest of the country, of the planet, and importantly the best interest of themselves eternally. Because we will be held accountable.”

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Eminent Environmental Leader, Lester Brown, Urges Religious Leaders to Act Now on Threats to Food, Water and Security

New Orleans, LA-April 6, 2011- Lester Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute and described by the Washington Post as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” has urged Rabbis, American Jews and the interfaith world community to take bold action now on issues of food, water, and family planning.  Speaking to a national gathering of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in New Orleans, Brown warned that climate change and population growth will mean widespread, worldwide food and water shortages. Urging the religious community to engage fully to help prevent widespread environmental and economic collapse, Brown asked: “if we continue business as usual, how much time do we have left before our global civilization unravels? And how do we save civilization?”

Religious Leaders at Mississippi Storm Run-Off

Brown’s visionary Plan 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization warns that the “perfect storm” or the ultimate recession” could come at any time: “It will likely be triggered by an unprecedented harvest shortfall, one caused by a combination of crop-withering heat waves and emerging water shortages as aquifers are depleted.” Calling for religious leaders to engage in world action on these issues, Brown pointed to the challenges faced by our country in preparing for the Second World War. Some eighty years ago, the United States mobilized Detroit and transformed the auto industry in order to prepare for World War Two, a three-year effort that enabled the country to build the planes and armaments that defeated the Nazis.  Evoking that heroic mobilization, Brown called for the urgent preparation needed to mitigate and adapt to the now inevitable impact of climate change.  Brown also noted the nuclear challenge at Fukushima and the new ban on rice planting in a significant agricultural area of Japan.

Rabbinical leaders on environmental issues, speaking at the Conference’s Forum on Judaism and Sustainability, concurred.

Remember Kiribati

Rabbi Warren Stone, Washington DC rabbi and noted leader on climate issues, who attended the UN climate talks in Kyoto and Copenhagen, contended: “Climate change has become the most significant moral and spiritual issue facing humanity. We have been hit of late with so-called ‘Black Swan’ disasters — from Katrina to Haiti and Japan — so described because of their magnitude but also because of our surprise when they occur.  But with the onset of climate change, the severity and increased frequency of at least some of these events is predictable and in all cases, the environmental fallout is certain. These events point to our common future, a future in which food and water shortages will most likely challenge the global community.”  Stone noted that the Micronesian nations are on the front lines of climate change; the islets of the tiny nation of Kiribati are already facing a grave food and water crisis, and its inhabitants are becoming the world’s first environmental refugees. We have been duly warned and now let us act boldly, with courage and due prescience to protect future generations.”

Rabbi Everett Gendler, a longtime environmental activist and organic farmer, who walked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Selma Voting Rights March, spoke about the spiritual wisdom gained from harvesting one’s food: “The seed represents life and death; we must learn its lessons. There is also a deep connection between soil and soul.” Rabbi Mike Comins, known as “the Wilderness Rabbi”, urged religious leaders to teach their communities about the spirituality of the natural world.  He urged them to bring their communities to wilderness areas in order to raise awareness of the spiritual imperative to protect them. Rabbi Stephen Pearce, a California environmental leader, urged religious communities to serve as models to the faith community through sustainable practices, awareness and action.  Congregation Emanu-El, the synagogue that Pearce serves, converted a parking lot to an urban farm.  He and his congregants bring their abundant produce to the homeless pantries of San Francisco. Rachel Cohen, coordinator of environmental activism and the sustainability blog on behalf of the Washington, D.C. URJ Religious Action Center, engaged the religious leaders in an environmental justice tour of New Orleans, which examined the ongoing impact of Katrina.

As Cohen noted: “The most vulnerable and poorest of New Orleans and our global community are on the front lines of climate change, but we’re all on the line. With the one-year anniversary of the oil spill and Earth Day just around the corner, now is the time to act to build more sustainable and environmentally just communities, working with our rabbis and all of our community leaders. We have the tools for action and the leaders inspired to act. Now let’s get to work!” Sybil Sanchez, Director of COEJL, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life echoed: “religious voices need to speak out now in local communities, throughout the world, to mobilize to protect coming generations.”

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Spirituality, the Arts and Consciousness: Seek Contemplative Time

Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

Winter serves as a magnificent time to look through a deeper, more contemplative lens and delve into the inner meanings of our lives.  The work world quiets a bit and the undercurrents of life surface. The cold, the snow, the bleak cycle of nature’s demise help us raise the existential questions: Why am I here? Does my life have a larger purpose? Why this universe, this time and place? We all need some sense of deeper meaning to sustain our lives. Deep down we all ask these questions no matter what our faith presupposes.  Contemplative time in our lives gives us a chance to reflect upon the larger meaning of our life journeys, so often taken up with mundane lists of things to do.

Artist, Harold Tovish

The writers, poets, theologians and artists I have enjoyed have all accessed this inner life. The writer, Robert Walser wrote: “Upon the edge of the rock he sits and lets his soul fly out and down through the shining holy silent.” It takes the time of reflection to get to that deeper place — or as Walser calls it, “the shining holy silent.” One way to start developing a contemplative practice would be through reading writers who delve into these larger questions.  They teach us to see anew, how to reach our own cores. Stephen Hawkings tells us: “It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.”  Anais Nin teaches us: “I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.”

Another path to contemplative time is finding a daily spiritual practice anything as simple as a walk through the forest my own practice to time for meditation, reflection, yoga, tai chi or a jog.  Robinson Jeffers summons us into such meditation and connection with the physical world: “ Love your eyes that you can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.”  And one of my great spiritual teachers, Abraham Joshua Heschel also celebrates a spiritual practice which hinges on seeing: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Sunset, Washington, D.C.

 

There are other “ways in” to a contemplative moment.  Pablo Picasso tells us: “ The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  Take a very slow, reflective walk at a Museum Gallery and allow the great artists El Greco, Goya, Matisse, Renoir, Kandinsky, and Gauguin to tap your soul. Great artists have always delved deep and used their color, vision and own artistic intuition for reflection.

Karl Zerbe, Woman in a Paisley Dress 1945

Diverse theaters also tap the soul. Most cities offer engaging performances of everything from Ibsen to Sondheim.  Playwrights reach into our souls in provocative ways and stir things up for deeper reflection.   If you enjoy music as much as I do, perhaps you will take time to reflect on a Bach cello etude or a mystic Scriabin prelude, jazz fusion or an evening of modern dance performances, symphony or a chamber performance. If you play an instrument, take time to use it as a vehicle for renewal. While we are listening our deeper psyche takes us to places beyond our knowing.  Such is contemplation. The deepest places of our life needs to be nurtured in the same way that our extraordinary dreams gives us sustenance within our daily ordinary lives.

Rabbi Warren Stone, Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

 

Daily spiritual practice and the arts help us to tap our souls, give us hope in the human spirit and connects us with the human family and all creation. Most of all the arts and spiritual life help us connect with ourselves as we continue our life journey, hopefully with an open face and a sense of well-being deep within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G20 World Religious Leaders’ Statement on A Sustainable World Economy and Economic Prosperity

GLOBAL PEACE INITIATIVE OF WOMEN

Concluding Statement:

G20 World Forum of Religious and Spiritual Leaders

Seoul, South Korea,

December 2010

We, a group of religious and spiritual leaders from around the world, representing the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Shinto faiths and philosophies, have gathered here in Seoul during the G20 Summit to help re-envision prosperity in response to the extreme dangers facing the world community in all its forms of life.

We recognize the competing national interests that make it difficult for the G20 leaders to come to agreement. Still, at an hour of great peril facing humanity and the Earth, these matters remain to be faced decisively:

  • More inclusive economic policies benefiting all levels of society and all nations of the world;
  • Concrete steps to respect and protect nature while guiding economic development; and,
  • Recognition in economic policies that “on a limited Earth there cannot be unlimited growth,” and work toward a more considered form of growth with greater concern for the long term, many-generational future.

We are committed to work together with leaders and communities to foster a new model of development, one that honors the beauty of our planet, protects its life-sustaining forces and understands its interdependence and its fragility. We are committed to a new vision of prosperity, one that embodies the spiritual qualities of sharing and mindful consumption, a prosperity that is shared and inclusive, and not resulting in exploitation of people and planet.

This new prosperity must be applied to all communities of life on the planet – plant, animal and human – and be measured by the fair sharing of the resources across these communities, by the health of our forests and mountains, the purity of our water, soil, and air and the wellbeing of our social fabric, including such aspects as the availability and quality of education, health, and gender equity. We believe that a culture of sharing, mutuality, and service will enable humanity and the Earth to recover and thrive. We believe that seeking a balance of material and spiritual growth, outer and inner development, is essential to the effective pursuit of happiness.

We sincerely believe that humanity has the spiritual strength and moral courage to take the bold decisions necessary to resolve this crisis in a positive and life affirming way and honoring the next generations.  We ask that the world community respond with substance and in time to avert the looming prospect of great suffering and destruction, and we call upon all leaders and all people to take responsibility for this crisis and take urgent steps towards its resolution.

We believe that the new prosperity and a new economic and social framework underlying it should incorporate the following universal principles:

  • Cooperation, Interdependence, Sharing, Mutuality, Oneness
  • Service, Respect, Equality, Compassion
  • Beauty, Harmony
  • Wisdom, Foresight

In light of our deep concerns for the wellbeing of humanity, the Earth and all life on it, we respectfully ask the leaders of the G20 nations to take the following actions:

  • To exert moral leadership, acting boldly, with courage, and in light of universal principles
  • To balance national self-interest with the needs of the global community
  • In this time of limited resources, to begin to redirect money from military use and weapons purchases to human services such as education and health, particularly preventative health care, and to restoration of the Earth’s ecosystem.
  • To balance a globalized economy with a new commitment to localization of economic activity, the encouragement of local entrepreneurship and the development of local sustainable agriculture, including organic food
  • To actively encourage the sharing and use of appropriate and non-polluting technologies, which save energy and water
  • To prohibit the practices of charging interest on interest, the issuing of irresponsible financial instruments, speculative investments and speculative currency practices
  • To expand the measures used to assess the nation’s wellbeing – to add to economic measures other measures of individual, social and environmental wellbeing
  • To work to strengthen the bonds of family and community

In light of our deep concerns for the wellbeing of humanity, the Earth and all life on it, we respectfully ask all people, especially members of religious and spiritual communities, to take the following actions:

  • To pursue contemplative practices such as meditation and prayer for the awakening of their highest potential and for the healing of the world crisis
  • To seek to find their highest purpose in life
  • To practice mindful consumption, using the following guidelines:  to take only as you need, to give more than you take, to offer service, and to consider others’ needs; to learn to recognize and resist impulsive desires
  • To reduce consumption of meat and fish due to the negative effects on the environment
  • To support local entrepreneurship, choose local products and select items with less packaging
  • To speak up to governments and other bodies in order to encourage ethical, egalitarian and sustainable practices
  • To choose intentional simplicity in lifestyle in order to help the Earth and all its communities, including the human community, to recover from this crisis
  • To nurture and deepen family and community bonds

We understand that these changes will take time and effort. However, the Earth’s systems and the economic and social systems do not have much time before more extensive destruction sets in. Therefore, we know that we must begin right away with decisive, collaborative, compassionate and responsible action.

We will support this work and the courageous leaders, individuals and communities who undertake it with our deepest inner and outer action. Let us open our hearts and minds to a new vision of prosperity for the good of all beings.

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Rabbi Warren Stone participates at G20 World Religious Leaders Forum at Seoul Buddhist Temple

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Spirituality, Sustainability and A Global Consciousness

One of my late teachers, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, once said:  “The modern person behaves as if the sole purpose of the universe were to satisfy their needs.”  His challenge:  “we must not give in to that reality, but rather transcend it by sacrificing one’s own interests for the sake of the holy.”

Heschel pointed to a fundamental truth about economics. Underlying all economics are basic core principles and values.  To the extent that ever-increasing consumption is our primary value, that strategy is doomed to failure. Our world economies and world resources cannot sustain endless growth and consumption without destroying life as we know it on this Earth.  The world’s population, which was 6 billion in 1960, has grown to an astonishing 9 billion just 50 years later. The upward spiral continues.  We lead the Western World in using up more resources than we can sustain, while the developing worlds of China and India and other parts of Asia are rapidly growing both in population and new consumption.

I recently spoke at a world conference of religious leaders in Seoul, South Korea.  This was a different Seoul than the one I visited in 1997, when by all appearances; South Korea was a developing country.  Today, Seoul has become a state-of-the-art bustling city of great of wealth.  I counted three Apple stores on a main street.

I went to Seoul to participate in a World Forum called the G20 World Religious Leaders Forum, sponsored by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. Our conference was concurrent with the G20 Economic Summit of leaders from the 20 leading developed nations. Twenty religious leaders, representing the world’s religions from around the world, gave talks at Buddhist Temples and forums for four days on issues of economics, sustainability and spirituality.  Particularly, we spoke about the need for a sustainable world economy, rather than an approach to the economy based on growing consumerism.

One day, our session ended at 2 pm, and we had to take a bus to lunch.  The driver became lost and our host said; “You must be very hungry.  Now we won’t eat lunch until 4 pm, but I have plenty of cookies.” She offered the bus a carton of cookies. Later, a Buddhist Monk fashioned a parable from our cookie experience.  As he put it:   “We were very hungry, and I needed one cookie since I was getting faint. I wanted two since I was still hungry and I even desired having three or more. But one cookie was all I needed to satisfy my hunger. I wanted two cookies, and there was enough so that I could satisfy that want. But the third cookie was more than my need and more than my want.  It was a desire, which represented luxury and over-abundance.  I chose not to take more than two.”

So it is with the world. Everyone needs enough so they won’t be hungry. Many want more, and for many, more is available.  Beyond that, there is the desire for luxury, where we desire more and more of things we do not really need. We were hungry because we missed lunch, but many of our brothers and sisters in our world are hungry always.  We need to remind ourselves that we are connected to the global family and rethink our own attitudes toward economics and consumption.  We, too, need to think about sustainability in our own lives.  What do we use up?  What can we conserve?

If we look around, we see staggering statistics. In 1980, 800 million people lived in poverty and daily hunger, today that number is well over one billion. Failed states from Haiti to the sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia account for much of this need. Many who suffer from hunger also live in areas of the world where water is scarce, food prices are rising and malnutrition and disease are rampant. A wise Jewish sage, Maimonides once wrote, “If a brother (or sister) does not have compassion upon a brother (sister), who will have compassion upon him? (her)” (Mishna Torah) We are a global family and our family is suffering. It is time for us to act with boldness and moral courage to alleviate this suffering. It is past time for the developing and developed world to think seriously about economic sustainability and, as a primary priority, to deal with this growing hunger and world poverty.

Where does change begin?  Heschel points to holiness in daily life, which can lead one to a life of inner meaning, a sense of justice and the bringing of a deep sense of equity to the world. Another great spiritual teacher: Mahatma Gandhi said it quite clearly: “We must become the change we want to see in the world.”

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