By Moema Salgado

Under the initiative of Faith in the Climate, and as a result of a partnership between the Israeli Religious Association (ARI), ISER, and the Institute for Climate and Society (iCS), the first debate “Judaism and the Environment” was held on May 27, 2019, at the headquarters of ARI, attracting an audience of over 50 people.

The guest speakers – Ana Carolina Szklo (director of Institutional Development of the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development) and Ilan Cuperstein (deputy director for Latin America of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group) -, in dialogue with Rabbi Dario Bialer, addressed the need to rethink the relationship of society with the environment, in view of the urgency of climate change.

Ana Carolina presented the scenario of Brazil, its role in the fight for sustainability and the challenges/responsibilities of companies and individuals to change their forms of production and consumption. She also addressed the global context, the growing mobilization of adolescents, through climate strikes initiated by the teenager Greta Thunberg (“Fridays for Future”). She highlighted that “Last week, The Guardian newspaper assured that it would no longer treat the issue as climate change, but as a climate crisis,” which gives the subject the seriousness and urgency it deserves.

In turn, Ilan presented statistics and results of scientific research that demonstrated where the climate crisis comes from, how it has accelerated in recent decades, and what are the perspectives for the coming years, depending on individual attitudes and policies that may be implemented or not. Ilan warned, in particular, that the effects of climate change will be felt most harshly by the poorest populations, exacerbating the already dramatic situation of social inequalities in the world. However, he brought some hope by quoting a phrase from Barack Obama. “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last to be able to do something about it.”

Turning the subject to religious reading, Rabbi Dario mentioned a contrast in the text of Genesis about the relationship between the human being and the environment: “The text of Genesis brings two paradigms about the place of the human being on the planet. One model – from chapter 1 – has to do with the man and the woman as kings, owners, as an image and likeness of the divine and, in this regard, everything that exists on this planet is to be enjoyed, to be taken advantage of, and to be consumed. In chapter 2 – which is more organic and coherent – there is a different view. Man is created first, and then he is here to serve, to take care, and to preserve. In this regard, it is understood that the human being is a fragment of nature, that we are part of this land and that there is integration between the human being and the environment.”

When the meeting was opened to debate, the audience participated actively, questioning the speakers and reflecting together about the climate crisis and the possibilities of action and of changes in society. These changes are many and deep, ranging from individual consumption habits, to the monitoring and pressurizing of the policy areas, through the pursuit and diffusion of qualified information. In this context, it was highlighted that Faith in the Climate is an initiative that seeks to spread scientific data precisely and to mobilize religious communities of different persuasions on the theme of climate change.

In honor of the date of May 27, the Day of the Atlantic Rainforest, the event ended in a symbolic gesture with the donation of seedlings from native plants to the audience.

The video can be seen on the ISER channel on YouTube .

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