We are facing an urgent moment around public health, climate change, and environmental justice. Pollutants such as soot, smog, carbon, and mercury contaminate our air and water, impacting the health and safety of our communities. These pollutants cause a range of health problems, including asthma, respiratory diseases, birth defects, and more. Communities of Color are disproportionately impacted, as Black Americans breathe air that is 38 percent more polluted than the air that white people breathe, and Black children are five times likelier to be hospitalized for asthma than white children.
These pollutants are also byproducts of burning fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming and cause sea level rise, fires, droughts, and extreme weather events. According to the latest UN climate report, we are less than one-half the degree of global warming away from the world changing as we know it. President Biden and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan are currently considering several standards to limit these pollutants. By advancing strong standards, they can stop these harmful chemicals from causing serious health issues today and avoid the worst devastation climate change could cause. In the face of efforts to slow down or weaken standards, it is up to us to call on them to act now.
In the Garden of Eden, God tells Adam and Eve, “Take care not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). This text speaks to the urgency of this moment, when swift action can save millions of lives from the devastation caused by climate pollution. In the Talmud, we learn that all people are descended from a single being so that no person can say, “my ancestor is greater than yours.” (Sanhedrin 37a). Systemic racial oppression is a sin that violates the sacred tenet of equality between people; this continued sin endures through legacies of environmental injustice and racism. As people of faith, we are obliged to stop this intersectional injustice and ensure a more equitable and moral future.
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