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Opinion

Tikkun Olam: How Can We Repair Our Earth In 11 Years?

May 15, 2019
Yakirah Mitchel

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

On Friday, March 15th, I walked out of school at 11:11 AM, alongside millions of other high schoolers in hundreds of countries around the world. The time 11:11 was chosen due to the 11 years left we have to make a serious change, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In a CNN article, it was stated that the planet will reach a “crucial threshold” of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 if we don’t reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 45%. This is a dangerous temperature, and scientists warn that it will cause irreversible damage, as well as extreme natural disasters and famines.

The specific demands of the march varied depending on the location. According to the Youth Climate Strike’s website, the general demands included: a national embrace of the Green New Deal, an end to fossil fuel infrastructure projects, national emergency declaration on climate change, mandatory education on climate change and its effects starting in Kindergarten, clean water supply, preservation of public lands and wildlife, and all government decisions to be tied to scientific research.

The march I attended took place on the University of Michigan’s campus, in my home town of Ann Arbor. We heard from a variety of speakers such as 2018 Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate, Abdul El-Sayed; Michigan’s Democratic Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi, Former County Commissioner and current Chair to the Washtenaw Country Environmental Council Michelle Deatrick; and several middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. Each of their speeches was powerful in their own way. The demands specifically from my county were targeted at the University to embrace carbon neutrality, to divest in fossil fuel companies, and to switch to renewable energy across the campus.

The issue of climate change is truly something that, at this point, relies on the compliance and support from politicians and bigger industries. However, we can’t just sit back and wait for them to do something. If everyone switched to a more sustainable lifestyle, if accessible for them, and called onto those in more power, then true change can be made. So what does living sustainably mean? What can we do to make a difference? Is an individual changing something really going to make an impact?

Sustainability, in environmental terms, is the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance. It literally means living in a way that our planet can continue to sustain life as we know it: doing things that ensure future generations of people and all nature can enjoy a clean environment and a good quality of life. Currently, especially in the United States, we are not living very sustainably. Around the world for decades now, other areas have seen the harmful and extreme impacts of climate change, but just in the past few years have those in North America began to feel this sense of fear and urgency. If there is nothing done about it soon, those who come after us, and even in our generations, will suffer the most. So it is up to the youth to do something about it.

When thinking about this issue and what I, as a Jew, can do about it, I immediately think of Tikkun Olam.

I think of what a blessing it is to inhabit this planet and the beauty of nature. We were not given the earth to destroy it—we were given it to love and help flourish, along with all of its inhabitants. I think of planting trees on Tu’Bishvat when I was younger, of cleaning up my school on earth day. I think of how these seemingly basic, and fun, lessons I was taught as a child, need to be embraced on a much larger scale today, with the support of all of my peers and those in power.

While we continue to push for change on a larger scale, I try hard to remind myself of my obligation as a Jewish person to help take care of this world, to repair it, to stand up for climate justice in all aspects. Doing this looks different for everyone, but for me, it means sticking to my lifelong vegetarian diet, it means eating organic and local when I can, it means composting and reducing my consumption of things that can not be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way. It means reminding those around me to make these small changes when they can so that, in normalizing said changes, we can protect this planet for not only the next 11 years but forever.

Yakirah Mitchel is a BBG from Michigan Region. She is a founding member of her chapter and currently serves as its N'siah.

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