Saving the Places We Love is a Jewish Act
“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?” asked Christopher Robin.
“Well, said Pooh, what I like best—” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
I discovered A.A. Milne’s magical creations late in life. But with great stories like this, it is never too late. Christopher Robin’s question got me thinking about what it is that I like doing best. One of them was spending time at Chata, a rustic cabin in the woods near Brno, Czechoslovakia, where I grew up. You had to hike in and when you got there the smells were all pine and fir tree sap, spring flowers, the charcoaly smell of the fire pit where we baked potatoes, trout my father caught and those delicious wild strawberries.
And it was quiet in that deep forest kind of way with wind through the trees birds singing, the stream rushing over rocks.
When our children were born I wanted them to have a Chata experience, so we found some land in British Colombia which awakened those memories. While it’s not an hour’s drive like in Brno—knowing this new Chata exists—that makes living sweeter.
We bought our land in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, with a stream and lakes and lots of trees—aspens, spruce, fir and pine. When we first arrived our land had a stand of perhaps 40 trees. Five years ago the pine beetles spread and killed most of our trees along with much of the forest along the entire west coast up into Alaska.
The proliferation of the pests is partly due to warmer winter temperatures allowing the bugs to live through the milder winters.
Then came the fires and drought–all symptoms of a warming climate. Faced by disappointments like this, I look for spiritual help.
When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” –Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13.
My wife Judy and I totally agreed with this text and joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby in 2009. The mission and strategy is simple. It relies on what feels like the second most powerful force next to God—the free market economy: put a price on carbon emissions (which we don’t want) and return the money to all citizens equally to spur investment and innovation (which we do want). This economic solution seemed at once practical, elegant in its simplicity and effective. And, helping the US to move from oil to renewable sources of energy will help Israel since we’ll stop buying oil from her enemies.
But we can’t do this alone. Changing energy policy—changing anything in Washington—is really difficult. We need your help. Stopping global warming is a daunting task, but doing nothing is not Jewish. As Pirkei Avot directs in quintessentially pragmatic Judaism: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”
Let us join together and help protect God’s creation so we have our Chata—or wherever your place of the heart resides—to return to.
Dadla Ponizil is a Czech-born electrical engineer. He spends his time making things for his wife and kids, taking his dog Tevvy sledding and helping people green up their homes.