A Plea to Heed Our Environmental Prophets

Charlotte woke up at 5:45am SMT (Standard Martian Time). She put on her kippah, and thetallitshe inherited from her great-grandfather. She carefully wrapped her tefillinand opened her siddurentitled, Sha’arei HaShamayyim, “The Gates of the Heavens.” She was ready by 6:00am SMT to daven shacharit. She had lived on Mars since she was in middle school, and she became more interested in Jewish ritual in college. As a Martian rabbi, she will spend the day preparing her d’var Torahto deliver that evening for Shabbat services. Many at Kehillat Beth Shalom Ma’dim, “Congregation House of Peace of Mars” remember when there was a chance to live on Earth. If only people had listened to the prophets of their age.

My rabbinical thesis pictures a time when humanity will need to find a new home off-planet. Currently, Elon Musk plans to build a million-person colony on Mars and die of old age on the planet himself,[1]while NASA and Russia are teaming up for a permanent lunar base.[2]This futuristic scenario is not actually as far off as some may think. I believe all streams of Judaism need to begin the conversation about how Judaism might flourish off-planet and how those visions could become reality. Why? Because we are not heeding our contemporary prophets.

Daniel once lamented, וְלֹ֤א שָׁמַ֙עְנוּ֙ אֶל־עֲבָדֶ֣יךָ הַנְּבִיאִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֤ר דִּבְּרוּ֙ בְּשִׁמְך“We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in Your name” (Daniel 9:6). The prophet Jeremiah also cried out, וָאֶשְׁלַ֤ח אֲלֵיכֶם֙ אֶת־כָּל־עֲבָדַ֣י הַנְּבִיאִ֔ים הַשְׁכֵּ֥ים וְשָׁלֹ֖חַ לֵאמֹ֑ר אַל־נָ֣א תַעֲשׂ֗וּ אֵ֛ת דְּבַֽר־הַתֹּעֵבָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׂנֵֽאתִי׃”,“Yet I sent you all My servants the prophets, again and again, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abominable thing which I hate’” (Jeremiah 44:5). Even God decried, via the prophet Isaiah, יַ֤עַן קָרָ֙אתִי֙ וְלֹ֣א עֲנִיתֶ֔ם דִּבַּ֖רְתִּי וְלֹ֣א שְׁמַעְתֶּ֑ם“When I called, you did not answer, When I spoke, you would not listen.” (Isaiah 65:12).These visionaries tried again and again to warn the people of Israel of impending doom, yet their words were not heeded.

Today, we have prophets who are warning humanity of the dire situation ahead of us that is being created by global climate change. An overwhelming percentage of scientists from a wide range of fields suggest scary scenarios in our future.[3]Some world leaders have taken up the mantle to call for strong and swift change to environmental policies. French President Emmanuel Macron recently held a climate summit in which he declared, “We’re losing the battle… We’re not moving quickly enough. We all need to act.”[4]Last June, when the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, Macron began a new campaign called “Make Our Planet Great Again.” He put out the call to scientists around the world, saying, “I call on [scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and responsible citizens], come and work here with us to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you France will not give up the fight.”[5]

The good news is that, through Macron’s efforts, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, AXA, “announced further reductions of coal investments by an additional 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion),” the World Bank pledged to “stop financing projects involving upstream oil and gas beginning in 2019,” and the Hewlett Foundation “pledged $600 million over five years to nonprofits working on climate change issues.”[6]

The people of Israel did not heed their prophets warning them of what is to come. Like our biblical prophets who communicated a dark scenario, Macron warns, “And if we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world. It is not a future we want for ourselves. It is not a future we want for our children. It is not a future we want for our world.”[7]His warning for future generations echoes the story of a man in the Talmud who planted carob trees although he would never eat their fruit. When the sage Honi the Circle Maker asked why he would do such a thing, he responded, “My ancestors ensured a bountiful world for me, and I must do so for my children.”[8]

We still have time to ensure a bountiful Earth for future generations. If the governments of the world change their ways quickly and drastically, we can avoid a potential apocalypse.[9]Although the United States remains the only nation to have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord,[10]the rest of the world seems to have received the call to action.

I pray that my hypothetical great-granddaughter (surprise!) will be able to remain on the Earth as a rabbi if she so chooses. I pray that humanity and Judaism will survive the environmental challenges ahead. And I pray that all nations, including our own, continue to heed the warnings of our modern environmental prophets so that God will allow humanity to “live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5–7).

Adam Bellows

[1]Mike Wall, Space com Senior Writer | June 14, and 2017 04:26pm ET, “SpaceX’s Mars Colony Plan: How Elon Musk Plans to Build a Million-Person Martian City,” Space.com, accessed December 13, 2017, https://www.space.com/37200-read-elon-musk-spacex-mars-colony-plan.html.

[2]“Russia and the US Will Work Together to Build a Moon Base,” Engadget, accessed December 13, 2017, https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/27/russia-us-cooperate-on-lunar-base/.

[3]“Global Warming Petition Project,” accessed December 13, 2017, http://www.petitionproject.org/.

[4]James McAuley, “France’s Macron Takes Lead in Climate Change Battle, with the U.S. Absent,” Washington Post, December 12, 2017, sec. Europe, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/frances-macron-takes-lead-in-climate-change-battle-with-the-us-absent/2017/12/12/2da019aa-de88-11e7-b2e9-8c636f076c76_story.html.

[5]“Full Text of French President Macron’s ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ Speech – The Internet Patrol,” accessed December 13, 2017, https://www.theinternetpatrol.com/full-text-of-french-president-macrons-make-our-planet-great-again-speech/.

[6]McAuley, “France’s Macron Takes Lead in Climate Change Battle, with the U.S. Absent.”

[7]“Full Text of French President Macron’s ‘Make Our Planet Great Again’ Speech – The Internet Patrol.”

[8]Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 23a

[9]Chris Mooney, “The Most Accurate Climate Change Models Predict the Most Alarming Consequences, Study Finds,” Washington Post, December 6, 2017, sec. Energy and Environment, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/12/06/the-most-accurate-climate-change-models-predict-the-most-alarming-consequences-study-claims/.

[10]Lisa Friedman, “Syria Joins Paris Climate Accord, Leaving Only U.S. Opposed,” The New York Times, November 7, 2017, sec. Climate, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/climate/syria-joins-paris-agreement.html.

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