Tonight marks the beginning of Passover, or Pesach. At Seder tables across the globe, people are coming together to remember the Hebrews’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. Others use this time to promote freedom from modern oppression, or to celebrate the renewal of springtime. More than a few Seders this Passover season will focus on environmental responsibility.
The traditional Seder dinner symbolizes the meal eaten by Hebrew slaves the night that the Angel of Death took the lives of the Egyptian first-born, while passing over the homes of the faithful, whose doors had been marked with lamb’s blood. This was the final plague visited on Egypt by the God of Moses, and the last straw that convinced the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go.
(Of course, the Pharaoh’s soldiers later chased the Hebrews down in the desert, but that’s another story.)
I doubt there’s literally a Dark Angel of Climate Change, but we are being plagued by increasingly frequent and violent natural disasters, faster melting glaciers and ice caps, growing mounds of garbage and still having to figure out what to do with tons of toxic waste.* And there’s no “green” lamb’s blood with which to mark our doors; climate change is a global phenomenon from which no one is spared.
Some researchers say we’re already past the point of no return, that the worst-case scenarios of worldwide drought, famine, flooding and mass extinctions are now all but a certainty. Others say we’re close to that tipping point but not yet past it.
So what does this have to do with Passover?
Passover is about severing ties with the past. It’s about having the courage to step beyond previous restrictions and limitations to imagine and create a new reality. The effects of climate change are upon us, but we can and must clean up our own planet, essentially working toward liberating ourselves from our own mess.
This can start at the Seder table tonight. You can use only organic ingredients to make your Passover meal, or buy your wine from a sustainable vineyard. You can incorporate climate change solutions into your Passover story and discussion. You can donate funds from your tzedakah box to an eco-friendly charity. Huddler’s Green Home Community gives some great suggestions on how to make your Passover celebration more eco-friendly.
But it has to reach beyond holidays meals and dinner conversation. The Hebrews fled Egypt not only for themselves, but for their children, grandchildren and the generations to come. That’s the focus our environmental policies and green actions need to take now. The impact of what we do today — for good or ill — likely won’t be felt for many years to come. But our actions do still have a very real impact, even if we’ll never see it ourselves.
This Passover — and Pesach celebrations for years to come — can be about liberating ourselves from our own destructive behaviors, and liberating our children’s children from a planet destroyed.
* According to a 1995 report from the Reason Foundation, the United States disposes of 13 million tons of hazardous waste each year.