By Rabbi Dan Moskovitz
Last fall during the Jewish High Holy Days, in what feels like an alternative reality from our COVID times, when the sanctuary of my synagogue was filled with a capacity crowd of congregants sitting shoulder to shoulder, greeting each other with handshakes and hugs and wishes for a sweet New Year, I delivered a sermon about our collective moral obligation to address the climate crisis.
I am not the only clergy person to speak to this issue. Our moral and spiritual obligation to be guardians of the earth is at the core of most faith traditions. Indeed, in a world where there's so much disharmony amongst peoples, care for our planet may be the one issue that unites all faiths.
It was with that understanding and sense of purpose that I joined with dozens of other faith leaders in the City of Vancouver to urge Vancouver city council to adopt the Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) that’s been in development for a year and a half.
My colleagues in faith and I have sent letters to each councillor; we have spoken at public engagement events; we have preached from our virtual pulpits; but as of today we have not yet convinced all of them of the urgency of the moment, of their moral obligation to safeguard our city in the face of the climate crisis.
So we turn to you, those who sit in our pews and pray in our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. If our city councillors won’t hear our voice, perhaps they will listen to all of our voices joined together: a choir of choirs calling for moral action on climate.
The CEAP is a framework, grounded in equity, that lays out the significant changes our city and its residents must take if we’re to have a chance to mitigate the effects of a climate we have changed with our own actions for generations. Passing the plan is an opportunity for our city to lead so that other cities and nations may follow.
COVID-19 has unexpectedly taught us how interconnected the world is. We have learned yet again (because we so often forget) that the very health and future of humanity depends on our ability to act together not only with respect to pandemics but also in protecting our global ecosystem.
If leaders of so many faith traditions can come together on addressing the climate crisis, surely our city councillors can do the same. Our faiths teach us that our planet is lent to us on trust only and that we are accountable for how we treat it. We are urgently and inescapably responsible for it, not just before God but to our own children and the very future of humanity.
This unique moment calls upon each of us to learn the lessons of these two concurrent crises. To recognize that we are all connected to one another and to the earth. That we have a shared responsibility, a moral obligation, to do all we can to care for one another and the home we share.
We have not acted strongly enough to prevent climate change. The actions we must take now to prevent catastrophe may be expensive or inconvenient, but we must take them. Our budgets will not be able to cover the inevitable cost of not taking these actions, and our hearts, minds and souls will not be able to bear the weight of inaction.
We therefore encourage you to reach out to our elected leaders of our beautiful city in the name of all of our faith traditions and out of our collective responsibility to be guardians of the earth and to urge them to approve the Climate Emergency Action Plan and to continue Vancouver’s commitment to, and leadership in, addressing the climate crisis and restoring balance to our global ecosystem and our communities.