The failure to address climate change should be a priority on the Vidui list of confessions this Yom Kippur. This past year has been marked by the threat multiplier of global warming and all of our acts have been reactions to these global processes. Discerning what we should have done but left undone is a harder admission than asking forgiveness for sins committed. Year after year, we have left climate change unaddressed in our pews, on our pulpits and in our meeting rooms. What are you waiting for?
Today’s pandemic exploded because of wholesale destruction of ecologies, the fuel of rising temperatures, and human greed. Not only did the climate models predict the rise of more lethal pandemics, they continue to predict more of them. The pandemic continues to ravage our country because the bonds of community and the obligations of citizenship have been riven. We have been complicit with our silence.
Climate Change is on full display at this moment as wildfires ravage countries around the world and another hurricane rips the Gulf coast. Despite the images and mainstream media presentations that bluntly state, “of course this is climate change,” speaking of climate change in public is as difficult as it has ever been. Distrust of “the other” has been a potent and common weapon of late, promoting our reticence to speak. Again, we are complicit with our silence.
Our tradition insists that our vidui is acceptable only if we have attended to the wrongs we have committed. When will we break our silence on the facts of climate change? When will we support our clergy as they as teach and goad us to respond to climate change from the pulpit and the classroom? When will we stop giving lip service to the cause? When will we stop choosing passivity and apathy?
As Amos said to the Jews of Samaria with great sarcasm,
“Present your sacrifices the next morning
And your tithes on the third day;
And burn a thank offering of leavened bread;
And proclaim freewill offerings loudly.
For you love that sort of thing, O Israelites – declares my Lord God.
Thus Amos warns, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
If we do not accept our obligations and address climate change, I can assure you with all the facts of science, that our prayers will be in vain. The pandemics will continue, the natural disasters will escalate, and the temperatures will continue to rise.
As the prophet might say, “Confess, O Israel but first, make good on your obligations.”