I recently returned from COP26 – the United Nations Conference on Climate Change – and it was an unforgettable experience. The number of people, events, issues, spaces…it was truly one of the most complex, multifaceted, and profound events I’ve ever seen. Leaders and activists from across the globe, dozens of languages, a beautiful tapestry of faith communities – negotiating, teaching, learning, and sharing – trying to turn the tide towards a sustainable future.
Throughout my journey, and since my return, I have been surprised to feel… hope. It started just before I left, when I saw this beautiful rainbow in the sky above Pearlstone. But hope is hard to come by these days. Leading up to the conference – and during the event and since its conclusion – we have been rightly frustrated that COP26 did not do nearly enough to confront the climate crisis.
The Glasgow Pact falls far short of our aspirations and expectations, and the implications are devastating: that even in the face of disastrous wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, rising seas, melting polar ice…still our global leaders will not do what needs to be done. Critical climate action still awaits passage in Congress. Please don’t give up! Work with Dayenu to call your member of Congress today.
President Obama spoke beautifully in Glasgow, and he said to the world’s youth:
“I want you to stay angry.”
None of us should feel content with this outcome. But we should also honor the progress made by all the leaders, negotiators, and activists who pushed so hard for so long to get this far – and that includes all the Hazon and Pearlstone staff, board members, donors, and participants, Adamah fellows and Teva educators, Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM) teens, Hazon Seal of Sustainability leaders, and so many others across the Jewish world and beyond who have helped build a cultural tidal wave that our elected officials and corporate leaders can no longer ignore.
COP26 featured the strongest global pledges ever made on a number of critical issues: Deforestation, Methane, Phasing Out/Down Coal and Fossil Fuels, US-China Climate Cooperation, Climate Finance, Zero-Emissions Vehicles, and NetZero pledges covering 90% of the global economy. And more than 450 banks and other firms collectively managing $130 trillion committed to use their funds to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
We must hold these actors accountable to the promises they’ve made, and we must demand much greater climate action and ambition moving forward. And if we can do that, I do believe we will have turned a corner in Glasgow, so that the question now is not one of denial but one of delay, not IF we should take this seriously but more HOW can we act to prevent the worst outcomes of our current trajectory? HOW do we change our economies, and HOW do we embody climate justice and ensure a just transition? HOW do we center indigenous peoples and the needs of all those on the front line of this crisis, and HOW do we center their leadership and women and youth leaders as well? The question now is not IF we will act, but HOW.
Imagine American leaders in early 1942: war had arrived, and they had to mobilize the full might of the American people and economy to confront the existential threat of Nazi Germany. They could no longer avoid the threat, they had to tackle the crisis and figure out HOW they were going to survive and win.
Perhaps for the first time in history, building upon many generations of hard work and catalyzed by COVID-19, humanity may now be in an equivalent moment – developing a global sense of shared threat, shared purpose, and shared commitment. We must make it so. We must apply our full ingenuity, adaptability, capacity, and spiritual audacity to face this crisis. And only together can we succeed.
This gives me hope. Hope as a choice. Hope as an ethic. Hope as a daily practice. And as we say in HaTikvah – the Israeli national anthem – “Our hope is not yet lost.”
After an amazing week at COP26, Hazon hosted Shabbat dinner at the stunning Garnett Hill Synagogue in Glasgow. Our wonderful hosts were thrilled to welcome such an unusual gathering that night, as a global Jewish network showed up to pray, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. After dinner we heard COP26 highlights from Scots & Brits, Americans & Israelis. There was a poignant feeling of Jewish peoplehood that night – a deep sense of connection, and a shared commitment to justice, peace, and sustainability.
Then, that Shabbat morning, we went out into the streets to march with hundreds of thousands of people – young and old, religious and secular, infinite, beautiful diversity. We marched for five hours in the cold, wind, and rain. We marched with drums and music, with song and dance, with smiles and laughter. And we also marched with anger, with demands, with righteous indignation. We were a mixed multitude, a torrent of emotions amongst and within each of us. I must have burst into tears 4-5 times that day, overcome with grief, with awe, with inspiration, with love. And with deep, prayerful hope for this global moment of reckoning.
“What wound did ever heal but by degrees?”
quoted President Obama from Shakespeare’s Othello. As I was walking home from the march, I saw yet another rainbow above the streets of Glasgow. I stopped, snapped a picture, and laughed at my own tears flowing yet again. These rainbows, these days in Glasgow, these leaders from all over the world – they give me hope.
And so do all of you reading this, along with every youth attending Farm & Forest School or Tiyul Adventure Camp, each Thrive Workshop participant, every inspired Teva student and inspirational educator, and all the Jewish leaders stepping up to implement the Hazon Seal of Sustainability, connecting the next generation to this miraculous planet we call Home.
You give me hope. Thank You.
Chief Executive Officer, Pearlstone-Hazon