The encyclical by Pope Francis makes a compelling case as to why, as the pope stated, “climate change is a global problem with grave implications” and “one of the principal challenges facing humanity today.”
Many of the themes noted by the pope are resonant not only to the Catholic faith, but to other faiths as well. A core tenet of Judaism is that the Earth is a gift from G-d and human beings are stewards and protectors of G-d’s creation. As Jews we learn that we are not to destroy G-d’s world, “for there is no one to repair it after you.”
Another theme common to the encyclical and Judaism is that we have a duty to address the needs of the poor. Just as Pope Francis connected the fragility of the Earth and its devastating effect on the poor, so we as Jews view repairing the Earth as connected to helping those in low-income communities, communities that often bear the worst consequences of pollution and environmental degradation.
We hope people of all faiths will heed the pope’s words to recognize we all have a moral imperative to love and care for creation. This should compel us to take bold steps to address climate change, including drastically reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and expanding our development of clean, renewable energy. We must change our behaviors as individuals, organizations and citizens of the planet for the good of humankind.
Susan Mlynarczyk • Creve Coeur
Chair, St. Louis Jewish Environmental Initiative, a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
Gail Wechsler • Creve Coeur
Director of domestic issues/social justice, Jewish Community Relations Council