By Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center, member of the steering committee of Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.
One of the most ancient biblical Names of God is Yahhhh –– a Breath. It enters English through the word Halleluyah, which is really taken from two words in Hebrew: “Hallelu-Yah — Let us praise Yah, the Breath of all life. “
Where does our breath come from and where does it go?
We breathe in oxygen that the trees breathe out.
The trees breathe in carbon dioxide that we breathe out.
We breathe each other into Life.
This Interbreathing of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide is what makes life possible on Planet Earth.
This Interbreathing is now in deep disorder, for some powerful human institutions – we call them the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs — insist on burning fossil fuels and thereby mechanically breathing out more CO2 into our air than the trees and grasses can breathe in and transmute into oxygen. This surplus CO2 traps heat upon our planet. And so our Mother Earth – including human communities — begins to choke, to scorch, to burn.
We call these institutions “Carbon Pharaohs” because they are bringing Plagues upon the Earth as well as oppressing human beings. In the same way, the ancient Pharaoh in the story of the Exodus enslaved workers and through his arrogance and cruelty brought undrinkable water, overwhelming swarms of frogs and locusts, mad cow disease, unprecedented hailstorms — all ecological disasters — upon his own society.
In the ancient story, even when Pharaoh’s own experts and advisers told him that his policies were ruining his own county, he would not stop. Today, some of the Carbon Pharaohs’ own hired scientists warned their bosses 40 years ago that their business plan was endangering Earth, our common home. Instead of changing direction, their bosses lied to the public so as to blur and confuse any effort to cure the deadly disease.
Justice for human beings and sustainability for all the interbreathing eco-systems of our planet are themselves intertwined. It is eco-social justice that we must pursue.
From this religious, spiritual, ethical, and ecological perspective, what we call the climate crisis is a crisis in the Name of God, the Interbreathing of all life..
So there are two complementary actions we need to take:
We need to challenge and dissolve the power of the Carbon Pharaohs, and we must begin birthing a new economy, a new culture, a new society that is rooted in renewable and sustainable energy and in eco-social justice.
That is why we gather for the March for a Climate Energy Revolution. To demand that all our political leaders act, and to spur ourselves to act: creating our own neighborhood wind and solar co-ops, birthing in the fierce urgency of Now the sustainable world that we imagine for the future.
We draw on the Interbreath of Life to breathe new energy into our words — words that can persuade, words that can challenge, words that can sing, words that can love.
We draw on the Interbreath of Life to breathe new energy into our hands, our legs, so that we may touch each other in community, so that we may march together with vigor to protect all life. On July 24 and no doubt again and again.