Wednesday, January 13, 2016 – Last night, President Obama gave his final State of the Union address to our country. Among other important issues, he highlighted his work on curbing climate change and protecting the environment.
2015 was an important year for international and domestic progress on climate change. On the international level, we saw the U.S.-China carbon emissions reduction agreement, the expansion of the clean energy industry, and the culmination of the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a strong international agreement in Paris. Domestically, we witnessed important regulations on clean water, methane emissions, and the Clean Power Plan. We appreciate the hard and steadfast work of President Obama and key members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.
This week in our Jewish tradition, we read the Torah portion Bo in the book of Exodus. In this portion, Moses returns one last time to Pharaoh before the final plagues of locusts, darkness, and death descend upon the Egyptians. After hearing repeatedly to what the people under his control need, the pharaoh still refuses to come to a compromise. In this portion, the Egyptians are then faced with the deep inertia brought on by an impenetrable, tangible darkness, as Rabbi Lawrence Englander writes in his commentary. In Exodus 10:23 we read of this particularly punishing darkness: “People could not see one another, and for three days no one could move about…”
It is fitting to study this Torah portion in the same week that we heard President Obama’s State of the Union address. Our elected officials have given us reason to hope in the past year. It is possible that we will work with other nations to keep global temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius mark. It is possible that we will reduce our own emissions through regulating power plants through the Clean Power Plan.
However, the White House and Congress have not done enough. Too often the flow of progress towards clean energy and sustainable future has been mired in darkness, ignorance, and political inertia.
As the President himself and others before him have said, “There is no planet B.” We cannot simply make an exodus from our land of Egypt decimated by plagues that result from our arrogance and greed. This year, in the last year of this presidency and the year after the Paris Agreement’s signing, we in the Jewish community hope for more emissions reduction, more renewable energy, and more cooperation and collaboration between our elected officials.
COEJL is an initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish partner to the National Religious Partnership on the Environment. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community and serves as the advisory body for the 16 national and 125 local Jewish community relations organizations.