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L'Shana Tova to all my Foolish friends.

Today was the first day of Rosh Hashanah. At each High Holidays service, my Rabbis come up with an introspective message to deliver for the sermon, intended to entice congregants to consider their life priorities and challenge them to make changes for the better in the year ahead. Generally, since a congregation is made up of members who tilt towards both parties, Rabbis avoid taking political stands or controversial subjects that have been largely politicized.

That was not the case with my synagogue or my Rabbi today. He delivered a message that left no equivocation as to where he stood on the subject of climate change, excuse me, The Climate Crisis. Opening with images of the fires in California to the Ida damage along the gulf coast and the flooding of the eastern seaboard, he connected the dots between extreme weather made more powerful due to The Climate Crisis from sea to shining sea, with the drought in the midwest thrown in, all current climate-enhanced crises that have not only a direct physical impact on communities, but also disrupts businesses and the economic recovery, and can lead to the spread of disease, impacting a public health system already stretched to the breaking point.

In preparation for his sermon, my Rabbi sent out about 25 surveys to congregants who he knew held a diversity of viewpoints. They were encouraged to send the survey to others who did not have to be connected to the synagogue or were Jewish, with the request to send responses to him. All told, he collected over 115 responses, and while that is certainly not a scientific sample, it was a pretty good amount of data collected over a couple of weeks.

The survey asked respondents to rate their concern about The Climate Crisis along a sliding scale from (my wording) an existential crisis down to an unsubstantiated faux crises. The good news is that 108 respondents described The Climate Crisis as at least a concern that needs to be addressed. Only one response described it as a completely fabricated crisis. The survey included the opportunity to provide comments, but this person's comment could not be repeated in a spiritual environment (or polite company).

However, the comments provided by the others led to some interesting insights and common trends. First, parents said that their views on the environment and The Climate Crisis are driven to a large extent by their kids, who recognize that the trash dump of a planet (their words) being left to them will be their responsibility to clean up. One respondent recalled a moment in the family car when he asked his son his views on climate change and the son replied (paraphrased), dryly, "Dad, it might be better if you didn't ask me this while we're sitting in the car, with the engine idling and the A/C running full blast."

Judaism has a concept of Tikkun Olam, a responsibility to repair the world, and I am sure most faiths have something similar. Practicing Tikkun Olam is to engage in activities that improve the world, bring it back to the the harmonious state for which it was created. The planet's climate, precious to human (and non-human) survival, is not in balance and it is our responsibility to bring balance back to God's creation.

But, as my Rabbi's survey reflected, many believe that the issue of The Climate Crisis is beyond their ability to have a meaningful impact. What possible benefit does picking up trash, conserving water, driving a hybrid or electric vehicle or making environmentally friendly home improvements have? Even the added up-front costs often cancel out the long term financial benefit. The Climate Crisis is something for community, state, national and global leaders to solve.

The Rabbi's message was that it is our responsibility to set an example for our leaders, just as our children are demanding we set an example for them. We can create the demand for energy efficient products, construction and investments that will spur businesses to integrate Tikkun Olam into their products and services, as well as their development and manufacturing processes. We can demand of our elected leaders that they understand the importance of Tikkun Olam to their constituents and rating their attentiveness to the issue at the ballot box.

And we can make Tikkun Olam part of our everyday conversation. When you achieve a success, such as Georgia Power recently telling me that with my new Ecobee thermostats and new high-seer heat pump installed last November, my home was more energy efficient than 46% of other homes in my zip code, share that with family and friends, and be sure to mention that your energy bill has gone down $132/yr. If your kids are involved in environmental issues, share your pride in their life priorities with other parents, just as you would brag on their sports or academic accomplishments.

Promote stories on The Climate Crisis on your social media platforms, not just hammering on the tragic consequences we see on the news but also celebrating the successes of those seeking to make a difference one step at a time. For those who agree with you, you'll just be preaching to the High Holiday Choir. For the ambivalent, you just may open some eyes and lead to changes in behavior.

And for those resistant or down right hostile to the idea of The Crisis, point out that even if you are wrong, which any responsible climate scientist says you are not, the benefits on addressing The Climate crisis through environmentally friendly regulation and personal practices will at the worst create new jobs, grow the economy, and create more healthy communities in which to raise your families. At the best, it can reduce the damage inflicted by natural disasters so that they are less disruptive on the economy, jobs, public health or an individual family's personal and financial state.

You do not have to be Jewish to practice Tikkun Olam. Anyone of any faith can plant a tree, reuse/reduce/Recycle, improve your home's energy efficiency, make fuel efficiency a key criteria in your next auto purchase, conserve water, pick up trash, buy products with environmentally friendly packaging, switching to LED lighting, installing smart thermostats and smart lighting, or just listening to your kids who tell you to turn off the car and open a window while sitting in the carpool line.

Tikkun Olam is a state of mind that we can make part of our everyday activities. Pretty soon, it becomes second nature. And that would bring a smile to Mother Nature.

Who wishes all Jewish Fools a sweet new year full of personal renewal...

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