David Waskow, Director of the International Climate Initiative for the World Resources Institute, spoke at Kehila May 1 on “Responding to Climate Change: A Moral Agenda.” He started with quotes from Psalm 145 to indicate that Jewish writings have long respected and valued the environment, then summarized the Paris Climate Conference outcomes, which included Voluntary National Plans for making changes to protect the environment while still promoting development.
The discussion went on to contrast strategies for producing change by countries and individuals, essentially top-down vs. bottom-up approaches. Would it be more effective to influence political, business, and other leaders to seek changes that reduce consumption or should individual actions lead to grass roots movements that took responsibility for responding to climate change?
Mort Schwartz raised the economic approach of changing the metrics, for example shifting from traditional Gross National Product to metrics that emphasize health, happiness, environmental protection, etc. Others offered the agenda of social justice as a way of promoting moral approaches to environmental protection. Another suggestion was to lobby the FDA to shift from a beef-friendly agenda to one that did more to protect the environment. I described the challenges Jenny and I had in going car-free during the past 8 months, which we wrote up for the Washington Post (http://wapo.st/1mntEy5). Jorge Orencel mentioned the 50 years of effort for Earth Day and the Kehila's Green Committee projects, inviting members to participate.
Waskow closed by reading from Pope Francis's encyclical about climate change (http://ignatiansolidarity.net/papal-encyclical-on-ecology-2015/).