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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category



Eight Steps Obama Should Take Immediately

Dec7

by: Cat J. Zavis on December 7th, 2016 | No Comments »

Pensive Obama. President Obama swept into office eight years ago on a promise of hope and change founded on the importance of empathy, i.e., understanding the experience of the Other. Many people were inspired and deeply moved by his vision of hope, stated desire for change, and his seeming care for the well-being of all. And now many are deeply disappointed. We believe he has lost his way and has failed to stand for the values he articulated eight years ago. This is my call to President Obama to return to his highest values, values that are hard to hold when the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but values that we need even more now than we did eight years ago.

If what I share below resonates with you, please do two things: (1) copy it and send it to President Obama; (2) sign the Move-On petition I started here.

Dear President Obama,

You have less than two months in office and the incoming President-elect has, both through his statements and appointments thus far, indicated that many of the rights and issues you and those that elected support will very likely be dismantled in the next four years. In fact, the prospects for the next four years look rather bleak, if not downright terrifying.

You have an opportunity to show strong leadership and take decisive and immediate action on a number of significant issues.

I call upon you to take the following actions in your last month in office:


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If Life Wins There Will Be No Losers

Dec5

by: Martin Winiecki on December 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

The Dakota Access Pipeline approaching the lake.

A message of solidarity from Tamera Peace Research Center to Standing Rock:

In the name of humaneness, we express our gratitude to the courageous water and land protectors at Standing Rock. This camp of Sioux and many other First Nation people, accompanied by activists from across all camps is a true light of hope in a world that has lost any prospect for the future. They are not fighting against anyone; they are defending the sacred. They are protecting what needs to be protected for us to live. We call out to say thank you for your perseverance in spite of the brutal attacks; thank you for taking such a clear stand for life in this worldwide struggle between the powers of life and those of capital. Thank you as well to the spirits of the buffaloes and eagles for their visible support and presence. Through Tamera and the global Healing Biotopes Project, we seek to support this stance by all means.


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The Miracles of Christmukah!

Dec1

by: Dan Brook and Richard H. Schwartz on December 1st, 2016 | No Comments »

Small christmas tree and chanukah candles side by side.Christmas and Chanukah periodically coincide and do so again beginning on Christmas Eve 2016, the first night of Chanukah 5777. Some are calling it Christmukah. Some are calling it another miracle!

Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it’s always been an integral part of Jewish and Christian history, spirituality, and politics. Without hope, there wouldn’t be a Chanukah; without hope, there might not even be a Jewish community; without hope, there might not be democracy or America. That’s the power of radical hope!

Christmas has been celebrated for over 1600 years and Chanukah has been celebrated for 2181 years. The two holidays may be united in our gratitude for Light, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Latkes. We don’t know if Jesus ever ate latkes, but as a Jew, it is highly likely that he celebrated Chanukah.


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Witnessing Standing Rock: A Short Guide

Nov30

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on November 30th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Three women holding up a sign saying "water is life." I traveled to Standing Rock in order to help sustain the camp and be a witness. Here are some humble suggestions of what you might do if you travel to Standing Rock, and if you are in solidarity with indigenous struggles locally.

Work in the kitchen! Mounds of garlic are peeled daily to feed the thousands of people eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. There are five main kitchens throughout camp, so there are many opportunities to go into a nearby kitchen and ask when a good time to volunteer is. Working in a kitchen is a great way to contribute directly to the basic ongoing daily needs of the camp and to meet people!

Go to an early morning ceremony. Standing Rock is a prayer camp and attending an indigenous led ceremony is the best way to learn about the spirit of Standing Rock. Morning ceremonies start at 6 AM and may be led by women. The ceremony I attended by the sacred fires on Friday morning was led by a medicine woman named Blue Lightning, who I had the honor of getting to know while I was there. She asked me to be guardian of the east gate because she learned I was one of the first woman rabbis from young Jewish people from the Bay Area who contributed to building several tents for her family encampment. The morning ceremony was dedicated to “untangling” energies that need to come back into harmony. People were invited to dance in four concentric circles around a four directional altar created with crystals and shells. When the sun rose, about a hundred people walked down to the river for a pipe ceremony led by Lakota women who have greeted the dawn in this way by the shores of this river for hundreds and hundreds of years. This is their land.

Be in service. While I was at Standing Rock, I remained in service to Blue Lightning’s intergenerational family, which consisted of elders, parents, and children. I was able to serve in this way due to my relationships with Bay Area Jewish young people in their 20′s and 30′s who contributed funds for and built several winterized tents, each one complete with insulation, a wood stove, lots of heaters, a porch, chairs, cots, blankets, rugs, tables, and a complete kitchen with shelves, cooking utensils, a stove, storage bins, and wash station for Blue Lightning’s family encampment. The kitchen was dedicated by Blue Lightning to be a meeting place for elders. It’s warm and welcoming. I spent time setting up the kitchen and attending to immediate needs of the elders.

Participate in an action that feels right to you. There is nonviolent direct action training at camp. There is also an ongoing conversation about whether or not a particular action is sanctioned by elders. I chose to attend a Thanksgiving Day silent vigil by the river organized by indigenous youth with the sanction of the elders. The action had several components: some people remained in silence on the camp side of the river while others crossed over the river on a plank to get to Turtle Island, which is sacred ground to the Lakota. There were indigenous men protecting the nonviolent nature of the action by not allowing anyone to climb up the hill to the ridge where dozens of militarized police stood in wait threatening them with violence over a bull horn while telling people they didn’t want a confrontation at the same time. People were still traumatized by Sunday’s attack, which injured 166 people. While I was there, the police installed bright floodlights by the river. They also placed barbed wire along the ridge of Turtle Island and the river’s edge. If you are planning to be part of a direct action, please check in with the legal tent on Facebook Hill to be trained and find out about arrest procedures before you participate.

Listen to stories. Being in camp with an indigenous family allowed me to hear lots of stories such as Blue Lightning’s family stories; Lakota, Shoshone, and Ute histories; tribal origin tales, creation tales, and teachings about prayer; the story of this particular Pipe Line; eminent domain, broken treaties, and Native sovereignty rights; and stories about Standing Rock itself. Jane Fonda’s appearance at camp over Thanksgiving started some conversations. The threat of police violence sparks rumors, so don’t believe every story. Dallas Goldtooth is a good source for staying in touch with what is actually happening. Indigenous news sources are the best way to stay informed.


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A Choice of Planets, a Choice of Oceans: Congress Goes All Out for Outer Space, Ditches Mother Earth

Nov22

by: Jon Swan on November 22nd, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Curve of the earth as seen from outer space.

During his second term in office, Pres. George W. Bush designated four large Pacific island areas as national monuments, thus protecting them from energy extraction and commercial fishing. The last three were created on January 6, 2009, two weeks before Bush left office, and at a White House ceremony commemorating the signing, he explained that the sanctuaries would benefit sea birds and marine life, open up new territory for scientists to explore, while, “for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty’s creation.”

The creation of the first of these sanctuaries, to be managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, was the result of an informal seminar set up by James Greenwood, a former Republican Pennsylvania congressman, and attended by Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Institute, oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau. A highlight of the evening was a screening of Cousteau’s documentary Voyage to Kure, which takes its name from a remote coral atoll at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian archipelago. The atoll is a nesting area for a wide species of birds, including nearly all of the world’s population of Laysan albatrosses. It also happens to lie in the path of a current that brings great tangles of fishing nets and tons of debris onto the beaches. Bush reportedly said over dinner that night that he got “a pretty good lecture about life” from Earle.

Fast forward to November 2014, when Republican Congressman John Culberson was named chair of the House Commerce, Justice, and Science spending panel, whose jurisdiction includes both NASA and NOAA. Culberson, like Bush, was a Texan, and, like Bush, he invoked the Almighty, albeit under another name, to justify his spending priorities. In a January 2015 Science magazine article about Culberson, Bill Nye (“the Science Guy” who heads the non-profit Planetary Society) is quoted as saying of the Texas congressman: “He quotes the Bible and says he believes that a higher power has put life on other worlds. He wants to find it on his watch.” The place in space Culberson was confident he would find evidence of life was under the frozen crust of Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, considered by many scientists to be the most likely place in the solar system, apart from Earth, to harbor some form of life.

In June 2015, the House of Representatives passed HR 2578, the spending bill for NASA, NOAA, and other agencies that had been drawn up by Culberson’s nine-member spending panel. It awarded NASA’s planetary science division $1.63 billion – an increase of 13.4 percent, with a stipulation that the agency must not only apply $175 million to a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but that the mission must have a lander component. NOAA, for its part, received a mere $462 million for research related to both the atmosphere and the oceans, and $58 million for climate research, instead of the requested $89 million, and $10 million for ocean acidification research – a third of the requested amount. Furthermore, the spending bill cut funding for the oldest carbon dioxide observatories on the planet, thus disrupting the ability to track fossil fuel emissions in the U.S. Industry could hardly have asked for more.

With only minor changes, the bill became the law that was bundled into the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act designed to keep the federal government running until October 1 of this year, and then, to prevent a shutdown of Congress during an election year, extended to December and then, in all likelihood, punted into the new year for a new Congress to consider the implications of the discrepancy in funding for NASA and NOAA. Does the discrepancy mean that the United States is more interested in finding some sign of life in planetary space than in preserving life on planet Earth? Does it mean that America’s elected representatives have concluded that Earth’s problems are intractable and it is time to move on, letting the rest of the world fend for itself? Or is the explanation simpler: space research and development have a constituency – and a Hollywood-enhanced glamour – which research related to the atmosphere and the oceans’ depths lacks?

Meanwhile, it may be pertinent to point out that the Gulf of Mexico, which laps the south Texas shore, vies with the Baltic Sea for hosting the world’s largest “dead zones” – areas that cannot support marine life due to depleted oxygen levels. It also seems worth noting that three Texas congressmen who helped to assure the passage of the 2016-17 funding bill – John Culberson, of Houston; Bruce Babin, who served as chair of the House Space Subcommittee of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee during the 113th and 114th Congresses and whose Houston congressional district is dominated by the Johnson Space Center; and Lamar Smith, who has twice chaired the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – are all dismissive of claims that whatever warming there may be is caused by human activity (Smith’s position on the subject was summed up in a Washington Post headline last year: “Meet the House science chairman who’s trying to put global warming on ice”).

In a press release announcing his appointment as chair of the spending panel, Culberson said, “It will … be a source of great joy for me to help lift up NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to ensure that America will always lead the world in space exploration and scientific discoveries.” Culberson’s failure to mention NOAA would seem to be indicative of the congressman’s lack of interest in an agency that deals with merely earthly matters – a lack notable in Congress as a whole since 2012.

In that year, NOAA’s budget for its Undersea Research Program was cut to zero for the next fiscal year, beginning October 1. Thus, it was left to millionaire Canadian filmmaker James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, to explore the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, in the Marianas Trench Marine Monument created by George Bush three years earlier. Cameron made his solo descent on March 26, 2012, in a custom-designed submersible called Deepsea Challenger. According to New York Times science reporter William J. Broad, the submersible cost Cameron “roughly $10 million of his own money,” apart from whatever Rolex paid (A Rolex watch attached to an arm of the submersible functioned normally throughout the expedition). Ten million dollars is more than twice the amount NOAA’s Undersea Research Program received annually until October 1, 2012, when its funding dropped to zero.

The much-publicized descent into the abyss did not yield much in the way of scientific discovery. As Cameron said, “I didn’t feel like I got to a place where I could take interesting geology samples or found [sic] anything interesting biologically.” He also said, “I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating.” And, “I really feel like in one day I’ve been to another planet and come back.”

Not another planet, of course. Our planet. An as-yet-unexplored part – the deepest – of our planet. According to the text of a special National Geographic issue devoted to Cameron’s expedition, “Scientists are particularly interested in microorganisms living in the trenches, which they say could lead to breakthroughs in biomedicine and biotechnology. The Mariana Trench’s microscopic inhabitants might even shed light on the emergence of life on Earth. Some researchers, such as Patricia Fryer et al at University of Hawaii, have speculated that serpentine mud volcanoes located near ocean trenches might have provided the right conditions for our planet’s first life-forms.”

It is undeniably more thrilling to imagine finding life – even if it is only a speck of bacteria – deep within the frozen ocean of a distant planet, which Congress has directed NASA to do in its Europa mission, the centerpiece of its Ocean Worlds Exploration Program, than to look for the origins of life in the depths of the Earth’s ocean. Easier, too, than trying to heal a wounded planet, whose oceans are steadily rising and becoming increasingly acidic, and thus hostile to marine life. And it is more thrilling yet to imagine establishing human colonies in space, as billionaire Elon Musk plans to do on Mars, as do even such respected scientists as Freeman Dyson and Stephen Hawking, who, in his latest book, writes, “I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”

There can be little doubt that the human race will have no future on the planet that gave birth to us if we turn away from the reality within which we live and focus our hopes and dreams – and spend our treasure – on starting a new life in outer space. Before year’s end, Congress must decide, in the form of its appropriations, which comes first – the preservation of Earth and its oceans or exploring other planets for signs of life and with an eye to relocation of our self-destructive species. Given the results of the recent election, it is not hard to predict what the choice will be.

 

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Jon Swan is a poet, translator, and freelance journalist whose reporting on environmental issues has appeared in Smithsonian, Orion, OnEarth, and World Rivers Review. He lives in Yarmouth, Maine.

I Stand with Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Palestine: A Brief Essay on White Privilege

Nov2

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on November 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

The author with a sign urging to end police militarization.

Within the mountains of conversations that comprise the Babylonian Talmud, I have been drawn to a single practice: strive not to benefit or profit from the fruits of violence. As a white, elderly Jewish woman of mixed Ashkenazi descent and the sixth generation of my family to live on this continent, I am part of the group of European settlers who arrived here and built their houses on land stolen by military force from indigenous people. Turtle Island, the name for this continent for 20,000 years before colonialism, was and is home to great civilizations and hundreds of sovereign nations that excelled and continue to excel in agriculture, astronomy, medicine, and the arts. On this continent, my Jewish relatives who arrived here in the 1840s were not targeted for genocide or slavery by state or society. In my eyes, there is no way I can avoid profiting and benefiting from the fruits of colonial violence that targeted indigenous people for genocide and slavery. We are all embedded in the ever-evolving colonial system, which, even after 500 years, continues to target indigenous people for mass incarceration, land confiscation, and military occupation. The same context is true for Jewish people living in Israel. Jews in Israel live on land stolen from Palestinians and continue to rely upon unjust apartheid laws that privilege them over Palestinians in all things solely based on differences in human identity. This is racism at its core and it is shameful, regardless of our spiritual or historical connection to the land.


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The King is the Field – Chabad Insights on the Divinity of Creation

Sep29

by: David Seidenberg on September 29th, 2016 | Comments Off

During the High Holidays, we strive to fashion our heart to become a dwelling place for God in the physical, earthly realm – a dirah batachtonim. However, the earliest aggadic (storytelling) midrash, Genesis Rabbah (fourth or fifth century), taught that “the root/essence of God’s presence was in the lower creatures /`iqar Shekhinah batachtonim haytah.” (19:7)

If the Shekhinah, the indwelling presence of God, was essentially in all creatures, how did we arrive at the idea that the primary dwelling place of God was within the human heart? This is the journey I would like to share below.

According to Genesis Rabbah, even though the Shekhinah was interwoven with the physical world from the beginning, human sin drove the presence of God further and further away from the world. This alienation was “put into practice,” so to speak, in later midrashic texts. Midrash Y’lamdeinu, in opposition to Genesis Rabbah, taught in the sixth or seventh century that humanity was supposed to be the locus of God’s presence in this world, and that this is what it means for us to be “rulers batachtonim.” (Batey Midrashot 1, B’reishit 9) If Genesis Rabbah describes how sin generated the flight of Shekhinah from a world that was once full of God’s presence, Y’lamdeinu describes instead a world which was never the home of Shekhinah.


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Bal Taschit: What’s Wrong With the Jewish Law Against Destruction and Waste — and How to Fix It

Sep8

by: David Seidenberg on September 8th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

[Managing Editor's note: The spirit of David Seidenberg's insightful Torah commentary (below) is directly related to The Environmental & Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a call by The Network of Spiritual Progressives for a radical change in policy about how corporations interact with the environment. Join us at www.spiritualprogressives.org.]

Commentary on this week’s Torah portion – Shoftim

In Deuteronomy, we encounter one of the deepest principles in Jewish law: “When you lead a siege against a city many days … you may not destroy any tree of hers, to hew an ax against it, for from it you will eat, and you may not cut it off! Is the tree of the field a person, to come before you in the siege? Only a tree that you know is not a tree for food, that one you may destroy and cut off, and build siegeworks …” (20:19-20)

For the rabbis and later codes, the rule not to destroy fruit trees in war became an overarching principle, “do not destroy,” bal tashchit. If even in a time of war one could not destroy fruit trees, all the more should one not destroy or waste anything under normal circumstances.

Mainstream Jewish environmentalism in the early days began and ended as a paean to bal tashchit, the prohibition against destroying anything. How far have we come in Jewish environmentalism and ecotheology in the past forty-plus years? How we interpret the prohibition of bal tashchit is a good litmus test. Here’s why:


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Tikkun’s Interview with Dr. Jill Stein

Sep7

by: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Ari Bloomekatz on September 7th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Conducted by Tikkun Editor Rabbi Michael Lerner and Tikkun Managing Editor Ari Bloomekatz in August, 2016.

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JILL STEIN

I’m feeling so much appreciation for your work here as I look over some of your website and some of the really important things you’ve been talking about forever.

 

RABBI LERNER

Thank you, Jill. As you know, Tikkun is a 501-c-3 nonprofit, and contributions to make Tikkun able to continue to function are tax-deductible. So we are not allowed by IRS rules to endorse a candidate or be identified with a candidate or, a political party. So we will continue to seek to interview other major candidates and have requested interviews with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Could you help our readers differentiate what you stand for from what Bernie Sanders stands for? And if there isn’t a difference, why don’t you run in the Democratic Party where your voice might have much greater impact because of their access to the media?

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Upcoming Event: Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice

Jul20

by: Tikkun Staff on July 20th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

August 9th will mark the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki. Activists and concerned citizens will stand with survivors of nuclear weapons and all those harmed by nuclear technology by gathering at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, in conjunction with Chain Reaction: a global action for nuclear disarmament, a nonviolent global movement encouraging nuclear disarmament actions by governments and the United Nations.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a branch of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Although managed by the University of California, the lab is under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and has outgrown its status as branch laboratory to become a national resource in nuclear weapons development.

The participants in the Livermore event, called Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice, are scheduled to meet on August 9th at the Livermore lab and demand that the lab cease developing new nuclear weapons for the U.S. arsenal and instead divert funds from their nuclear weapons budget (which makes up 86% of their total funding).

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