Why I do this work: a monthly feature

Why I do this Work:
A monthly feature

Our series called “Why I do this Work” which features a new Clean Energy Jobs campaign supporter each month. We want to hear personal stories to gain a clear perspective of why we are all working together to accomplish this goal.
This Month’s Clean Activist: Joelle Novey:

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care about climate change.

Through my work at Interfaith Power & Light <ipldmv.org>, I work directly with Maryland’s religious communities to respond faithfully to the challenge of climate change. Each time I speak in a local congregation, I try to put into words what keeps me going in this work, when it would be so much less difficult not to care.

What would I have to do to not care about climate change? First, I would have to not care about anybody who doesn’t live in the United States and is suffering the consequences of a warming climate now. I would also have to not care about any of those in younger generations — including my own two year-old — who may be harmed in the future. And then I’d have to not care about any other species of plants or animals, who might not be able to adapt fast enough to survive in a rapidly warming climate. At that point I don’t have to care about climate change, but I have made my world so small … and too lonely.

My Jewish communities teach me to honor every person as made in God’s image, that to save a single human life is saving a whole world. The Jewish communities in which I was raised cherish children, and made it the highest priority to transmit the tradition across the generations. (“The world endures,” taught the rabbis, “for the sake of the breath of schoolchildren.”) And, I was taught that there is inherent value to the other species we encounter in the natural world. One commentary on the Torah teaches that even creatures that might seem superfluous to us — “such as fleas, gnats and flies” — have a purpose and reason for being created. It’s not up to us to decide which species are expendable, to preside over what Bill McKibben calls “Genesis in reverse” — the massive extinctions occurring on our watch due to climate change.

In joining the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, I and my colleagues and so many Maryland congregations are taking the harder road: we care. We care because our traditions call us to see our connections with other people, and to feel a part of something that transcends generations and will last after we’re gone. Our traditions teach us to live in kinship with the natural world. That’s what I’ve realized; there’s nothing that goes more against my religious convictions than to make my world so small that I don’t have to care about this. When we come together across communities to address this problem together, it’s a beautiful sight … beautiful even when it’s difficult and the outcome uncertain.

So this July 4th, I invite you to join me in signing the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs resolution, as a way of declaring our interdependence. Caring is hard, but I’ve learned that joining with good folks to work together on climate solutions is a powerful way to stay whole, to stay interconnected, and to not be so lonely in the world. That’s the most hopeful thing we can offer each other this July: a community in which to address this problem together.