Alex Waskovich (15 years old, a 10th grader at Abington Heights High School) gave this speech to the staff of Senator Casey’s and Representative Marino’s office on March 7, as part of a teen social justice weekend organized by the Union of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center.
Hello. My name is Alex Waskovich, and I am from Temple Hesed in Scranton. I am here to talk about an issue that is currently troubling the entire world: climate change. Some may say this issue is not as urgent as others, but if it continues to progress, the world as we know it may change permanently, for worse.
In the 20th and 21st century, climate change has loomed over the world. The signs are clear. Flooding has been an imminent threat to poorer parts of costal regions. Warming has brought vector-borne diseases like Zika and Malaria because the mosquitoes can survive the winters that are warmer than average, and developing countries don’t have the proper infrastructure to combat them. Even though the US may be able to mitigate these effects in its own territory somewhat efficiently, we cannot ignore the fact that it is hurting us in a significant way. The effects of Hurricane Sandy show that the US is not immune to climate change. Places like south Florida, Costal Massachusetts, California, and more recently, New York and New Jersey are subject to rising sea levels, increasingly severe heat waves, and natural disasters. Not only that, but other climate related issues have been on the rise, such as smog pollution levels; heat waves; hurricanes; wildfires, infectious disease rates; and river flooding, which altogether have had an impact on health costs totaling $14 billion.
Not only is this a global problem, but this is an issue that concerns the Jewish community. We as Jews believe that we do not own the earth, but god has entrusted us with its care. Leviticus 25:23 states “The land should not be sold for ever, for the land is Mine; you are strangers and sojourners with me,” and in Genesis 2:15 “God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to till it and to tend it.” Our faith says that it is our duty to protect the earth.
This is not only important to me as a Jew, but to me as an individual. I am a gardener, and this makes me care deeply about nature and balance. I realize that environments cannot always survive with climate change. For instance, there needs to be a delicate balance between everything in an environment. As a fisherman, I like to use the example of a wild trout stream. If the temperature increases, the trout could go into shock and even die. If the chemical balance is thrown off, the macro-invertebrates will die, and that will affect the food chain upwards. I could go on about how different changes will harm the environment, but I think you get the point.
A key aspect of addressing global climate change is building the capacity of developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The green climate fund was established to do just this. The US has pledged $3 billion to the fund by 2020. Because of all these things we ask you to support President Obama’s budget Request of $750 million to the Green Climate Fund. Whatever your opinions about climate change and how to address, we all believe we must work together to create a better world.