To Heal The World

To Heal the World Audio from Northeast Public Radio

Dr. Steven A. Leibo is a professor of International History & Politics at the Sage Colleges

What an interesting week in the history of the world, a single week bookmarked at both ends by the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. One holiday, Rosh Hashanah that deals with the New Year, on the Jewish calendar 5770 and the other the Day of Atonement; the day Jews confront their sins of the previous year.

Oh sure by the standards of modern scholarship the moment of creation, the big bang as they say was considerably longer ago than the approximately six thousand years of the Jewish calendar. Though the date is not terribly far off if we think of it as the date from which the earth, especially the level of the seas and oceans began to become familiar with their recognizable array of coast lines along side which we’ve built our cities and harbors.

And as for Yom Kippur: It’s the day in Jewish tradition that calls for changing one’s behavior seeking forgiveness for wrongs done against God and human beings. Sure the Jewish high holidays come every year. But this particular set should have special meaning— a more global meaning. Especially if we recall one of the most common ideas found in Judaism, the ever so familiar idea of tikkun olam. That is “To heal the world” an idea that has certainly had many applications over the years but this time it is considerably more literal than in the past. Coming at a time when through the power of humanity’s ingenuity. We have actually arrived at a point when we have the power not only to deeply damage the world but to heal it depending in large measure on the choices we make in the next few months. A moment made most graphic because only a few days after the start of the Jewish New Year the secretary general of the UN convened an unprecedented meeting of the world’s leaders. — Or as Ban Ki-moon said:

“I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: Climate change is the preeminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments. The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.”

And of course most importantly the two countries most responsible for our climate crisis were there, the United States which has historically emitted the most green houses gasses that are threatening human civilization. A reality which is profoundly important fact given the more than one hundred years that CO2 stays in the atmosphere. And China which if it is not the cumulative winner in this infamous race has emerged as the world’s current largest emitter. And not merely representatives but President Obama himself, representing an America whose leadership has finally begun to responsibly confront the climate crisis and Hu Jintao, the president of the People’s Republic of China, who in his first ever address on the climate change spoke of China’s own ambitious commitment to embracing cleaner energy sources.
Oh sure, the pundits keep telling us nothing substantial will come out of the international climate talks at Copenhagen – that Obama’s too busy with health care to move forward on this extraordinary planetary challenge to convert to cleaner energy sources. And Hu Jintao was too vague about how real China’s own commitment is to avoiding the worst of challenges of climate change. As if any nation on the eve of international negotiations would be likely to reveal its full bargaining position.

No, from the perspective of this commentator, it seems that with enough public pressure, especially on the US Senate for America to play its part in healing the world. And we do indeed still need that public pressure we may very well be on the verge of a truly international effort to pull us back from the brink of climate change disaster.

About Steven Leibo

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This entry was posted in American Politics, China, Human Rights, The Climate Crisis, US Foreign Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

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