Climate Change Beyond Diplomacy: Thinking Outside the Box

In a world where matters of faith seem so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space.” Rabbi Warren Stone UN Human Development Report, 2007 For God’s Sake Do Something Roman Krznaric The United Nations’ Kyoto and Bali agreements calling for worldwide reductions in CO2 emissions are a critical step in the world challenge to reduce our dependence on our diminishing world oil supplies. Yet according to current research, even if the nations of the world adopt the protocols, they alone will be insufficient to counter the growing impact of climate change in the current century. (Pew Foundation: Beyond Kyoto: Advancing the International Effort Against Climate Change) As we work on a diplomatic response, it is also time to start thinking outside the diplomatic box. With all due respect to the ongoing United Nations Protocols and their hopeful update in Copenhagen and ongoing development of the hoped-for policy change it would bring, it is time to challenge both our country, our world leadership community and world populations to take steps beyond legislation and diplomacy. The time has come to begin to transform our daily lives in ways that can impact this rise in CO2. I spoke at the British Embassy at a panel on Faith and Climate Change. It was part of a Washington, D.C. symposium on Climate Change and Security for all the US British consulates around the country. The British consulates sought voices from the faith community. Diplomats, scientists and environmentalists alone are not enough. Faith leaders can and must inspire and mobilize their communities on this urgent issue. People of faith on this planet number in the billions. Teaching people of faith and faith leaders basic environmental values and practices can have an immense impact. Our religious traditions all share a spiritual mandate for caring for creation. Indeed, responding to climate change has become the most significant moral and spiritual issue facing humanity today. In a world where matters of faith seem so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space. I experienced this common faith when I served as a UN delegate representing many Jewish organizations at the Kyoto talks in 1997. At that time I spoke along with other religious leaders at the largest Buddhist Temple in Kyoto as a part of the conference. We concurred that people of diverse faith traditions have a spiritual and moral responsibility to act now. As a religious leader involved in climate change issues now for many years I believe we need a gradual paradigm shift in our very way of life. In an article in The New York Times, “What’s Your Consumption Factor?” January 2, 2008, Jared Diamond pointed out that world consumption is growing at an unsustainable rate in the face of a growing world population, Our natural resources will not be able to sustain this demographic explosion. Perhaps we might be able to sustain 9 billion people but multiply that in our century and you can see we are facing a consumption doomsday. The ethic which continually encourages more growth, more cars, more computers and media tools is fostering a road leading to disaster. Not only are we using up the world’s diminishing resources, but we are also contributing to climate change and threatening the world’s species in a silent genocide. We are all imperiled by climate change — a rise in water-borne illness, the devastation of coastal lands, frequently inhabited by some of the neediest populations —with world refugees with no where to go. We must act now. We must listen to Hillel, who chastised: “If not now, when?” If diplomacy alone is not enough, what can we do and do now? • Let us begin by greening our world governments and their diverse institutions. Let the Capitol, the White House and Congress become green examples to the nation. So too, our state and local governments need to become actively engaged in greening. • Let the diverse government leadership of our world support bold initiatives for alternative energies and their rapid development to wean us from our fossil fuel dependency. • Let’s follow with schools and universities. Let the state, county and local fleets,buses and public transportation become hybrid or new fuel cell vehicles. Let’s encourage the private sector with financial incentives as well. • Let’s devote resources to public transportation and bicycle paths in all our cities. • Let all our country’s religious institutions become models of environmental possibilities with green architecture, use of solar and wind power, community recycling and gardening and a true application of the spiritual teachings and truths of the earth. • Let’s develop awards in environmental activism to architects, engineers, artists, statesmen and people of faith who set the highest and most outstanding standards.
Let’s encourage writers, artists, musicians to adopt this greening mandate and use their tools of music,
drama, art and poetry to further environmental vision and activism. • Let’s support a new world green foods movement which encourages a more vegetarian diet — not only healthier and more just, but far more sustainable for the people of our world. Paradigm shifts start from the grassroots up. The US civil rights movement, which gained momentum from the faith and labor communities, is an apt analogy to guide our response to today’s demands of world climate change. The civil rights movement gained momentum not via legislation but rather by a populist participation. Faith communities can now help support the kind of political change and bold action necessary to preserve and protect life. Let’s focus on the positive and the doable. We don’t want our children and future generations to inherit a sense of doom and gloom, but rather to feel in full measure the innate and infinite capacity of the human spirit to arise and overcome the most demanding challenges humanity may face. We want them to see all life, including their own, as a miracle worthy of celebration. We want them to see the preservation of life on our planet as a mission worthy of their greatest passions and energies and to feel the joy that comes from joining in common cause for greater good. Let me end with a prayer by a visionary poet, e.e. cummings: “ I thank God for this amazing day: for the leaping green spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”
Rabbi Stone represented the World Jewish community in 1997 at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto Japan

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About climaterabbi

Rabbi Warren Stone is known nationally for his leadership on Religion and the Environment. He serves as co-chair of the National Religion Coalition on Creation Care, the Global Advisory Committee for Earth Day Network and is the founding chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Committee on the Environment. Rabbi Stone represented many national organizations as a United Nations delegate at the UN Conference on Climate Change COP 5 in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 and at UN COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark where he blew the Shofar and led a number of interfaith programs and prayer vigils. His abstract, "Climate Change Beyond Diplomacy: Thinking Outside the Box," was presented at the International Congress of Scientists in Copenhagen. In 2010 he participated in the G20 World Religious Leaders Forum in Seoul sponsored by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. He also spoke in Rome at a Vatican and US State Department conference, "Building Interfaith Bridges of Hope: Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action."
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