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Arev Yom Kippur ... The eve of the Day of Atonement. After the period of reflection and engagement with others between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, this is a moment to turn to internal considerations and the relationship between the individual and G-d.

As part of the prayers for the Day of Atonement, the Vidui, the Al Cheyt or recital of sins, is perhaps the most important. (Modern Judaism being what it is, there are a myriad of translations and modern variations on the Vidui/Al Chet.) A key word: Ashamnu ... "we have sinned" is a recognition of individual and communal failures. The Al Cheyt is a recognition and statement about sins by ourselves (and our community) against others, against oneself, against G-d through action ... and inaction.

It is clear:

One can do wrong purposefully and explicitly ... and one can do wrong inadvertently and indirectly.

One can do wrong through action and words ... and one can do wrong through inaction and silence.

And, one can ... one should ... one must act to recognize the wrongs that we, all -- as individuals and communities, have done, seek to redress them, and work to avoid them into the future.

"Hummingbirds" Blogathon: September 9-September 13, 2013

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In May 2006, the late environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai addressed 7,000 international educators who had gathered in Montreal for the 58th annual conference of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA). Here is the story she shared with them.

One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest - a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire.  Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest.  As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless.  They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes.  Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.

This particular hummingbird decided it would do something.  It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire.  Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again.  All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, "Don't bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can't put out this fire."

And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, "What do you think you are doing?" And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said:

"I am doing what I can."
In this time of escalating climate change, this is our challenge.

To refuse to surrender to the apathy of denialism and fatalism.
To be fierce in our defense of the Earth.
To continue to fight in the face of overwhelming odds.
And always, always, to do what we can.

Because it is only by each of us doing what we can, every day, that we will save the Earth – for ourselves, and for the generations to come.  Like the hummingbird.

Our Daily Kos community organizers are Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, boatsie, rb137, JekyllnHyde, citisven, peregrine kate, John Crapper, Aji, and Kitsap River, with Meteor Blades serving as the group's adviser.  Photo credit and copyright: Kossack desertguy and Luma Photography.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

There is a silence that bears heavily on the heart at this time: the silence in our political leadership and among too many of us on the damage we are doing to the planetary system, the risks of climate change, and the urgent necessity for meaningful change to change our path toward something that enables sustainable prosperity for humanity.

From a Yom Kippur sermon leading into a Viddui recitation,

This is Yom Kippur.  

This is a night for confession.  

So let us be honest.  

If ever there was a time for candor, this is it.  

We humans are not good with limits.  

We are pushing the planet and its animal resources to the limit.  

We want what we want when we want it.  

We pretty much take, hunt, fish, and consume until someone or something stops us or until there is no more to be taken.

Do you remember the Viddui we will be reciting in a few minutes?  It’s the Confession prayer that lists our sins alphabetically.


We abuse.  We besmirch. We consume.  We destroy.  We excuse ourselves.  We forget the consequences of our actions.  We are greedy.

I could continue through the alphabet, and I should go on because, as the saying goes, although religion ought to comfort the afflicted, religion also needs to afflict the comfortable.  And we truly do need to be uncomfortable tonight.  Remember an alternate name for Yom Kippur is Yom Ha-Din…the Day of Judgment.  This night is meant to be a time for severity.

"a time of severity".  

We are living in a time of consequences, a time where humanity's future (and our own, unless you are on your deathbed, futures) require confronting Inconvenient Truth, and acting in this regard.

The individual matters and we need, for Yom Kippur, to judge ourselves with "severity" -- to push our own comfortable ways as to whether we 'sin' and damage and harm unknowingly or knowingly.

"I am doing what I can."

I (and my family) recycle ... I (and my family) walk and bike often where others are jumping in their cars ... I engage with others to educate about climate issues and energy smart practices/opportunities ... I have changed my career to work solely on clean energy / climate mitigation related opportunities ...

But, judging in severity, there is certainty that "I" can do more.

"I" can find more droplets to carry as part of a larger effort to douse the mounting flames of Climate Chaos.

"I am doing what I can."

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement as individual -- an individual's reckoning. Yet ... yet ... yet ... it is also communal, the individual is part of something larger.

We live within a society. And, while each of us has a voice and role in that society, there are leaders.  And, we expect leaders to show leadership.  Truthfully, there is no such thing as that perfect person (take a look and reflect on the Al Cheyt) nor is there such a thing as a perfect leader.  But, we should recognize our own faults and seek to change our patterns. And, we should look to our leaders' faults and seek to help them change for the better.

Most of all, we cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake. Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now.
Who said this? Senator Barack Obama in 2007.

Sadly, during the 2012 election, our political elite provided crickets ... true climate silence without discussion of climate in debates or speeches.

Earlier this year, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University -- an excellent, moving, thoughtful, inspiring speech which was accompanied by issuance of a plan (a troubled plan ... but ...)  

Amid our horrific political environment, where one political party is dominated and control by individuals and organizations suffering from an acute case of anti-science syndrome, real (political reality, not physical reality) barriers exist to the beneficial and cost-effective paths to mitigate Climate Chaos that should be at the centerpiece of national discussion and national investment.

What is a barrier to necessary action?

That too few leaders speak truthfully and forcefully on climate change.  (To be clear, there are important exceptions. For example, Senator Whitehouse a shining example to the White House and others about leaning forward to speak forcefully and thoughtfully on climate change.)

The President's speech was masterful and refreshing ... but ... but ...

We must encourage him ... and other leaders .. to move beyond political expediency to leadership, to truthful and forceful engagement to help move the Overton Window on climate change from delusional science denial and ridicule to realistic engagement with the risks and opportunities.

Climate Change

We sin ... we do wrong through action and words.  

We sin, we do wrong through inaction and silence.

"I am doing what I can."

We sin by not doing what we can ...

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 05:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, DK GreenRoots, Climate Hawks, and Elders of Zion.

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