Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rabbi Soetendorp’s letter to climate strikers

February 16, 2019

Dear young allies,

With admiration I watched your actions. Your moral uprising comes at a crucial moment.

The growing awareness that environmental disasters threaten the future of life on earth through our irresponsible actions has led to the Paris agreement. Governments have made binding agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve other sustainable targets by 2030.

We already knew at the time that the obligations were far from sufficient, but hoped against better knowledge that in the course of doing so they would realize that more drastic measures could not [then] be taken.

We are now faced with the harsh reality – more than three years later: even these minimal, insufficient targets will not be met. Because the urgency is still not felt. Because national governments are still not aware of the fact that measures have to be taken that seem to be in the short term against national self-interest, but in the long term are literally vital to the general interest of a healthy planet for secure future generations.

Your authentic voice gives us all hope. Everyone, even the biggest skeptic, must recognize that you have the first right to speak. You and your children and grandchildren, the still unborn, will have to pay our bitter, irresponsibly high bill.

Let us therefore conclude an alliance of generations. We elderly people who have often come to action slowly and late, and you who have taken the lead.

I am convinced that your vision of the righteous future and our hard lessons from the past will be united, the tide will turn. Let us continue to derive strength from each other.

Stay strong and courageous!

In solidarity,


How we can contribute to #ExtinctionRebellion

November 17, 2018

Dear friends,

In the Exodus story, the night before the children of Israel set off on their immense journey is one of wakefulness. Tomorrow is Nov 17th and I am unable to sleep.

At the Brazilian Embassy demo, roads all around were blocked and traffic diverted yet there was no attempt to communicate with all those inconvenienced, who had not the slightest idea what was happening. They knew nothing about the Rain Forest, the election of a Brazilian Fascist dictator, or even #ExtinctionRebellion.

Surely, we must do better.

Tomorrow, there will be disruption on a wide scale. Our first objective must be to make the Three Demands widely known.

But even this is certainly not enough. Each of us must do all we can to bring about the aims we ardently desire for the sake of humanity, life and future generations. Should we therefore ensure that we are arrested?

For many of us, this – at this time – is certainly not the best possible use of ourselves -our bodies, our minds, our hearts or our spirits.

We may even echo doubts about the whole campaign, well expressed here:

But #ExtinctionRebellion is very clear that the purpose of the campaign is NOT that we should be arrested. Rather we should use our talents – our knowledge, experience, gifts – in the best possible way, collaborating to achieve the results we desire.

I am writing as a rabbi and my best contribution may be in writing and speaking, especially perhaps to the Jewish community, perhaps also as one representative of it. On Shabbat there will be an InterFaith gathering at the doors of Westminster Abbey at 4.00 pm, which I hope to join.

At this time I do not wish to be arrested, partly because I am sure it will not enable me to be ‘heard’ by the Jewish community, partly because ExtinctionRebellion, like Occupy before it and the Climate Camps before that, is heading for deliberate and inevitable confrontation with the State which the State will win and unless we counter-balance this in some way and most of all, prepare for it, there will be widespread disillusionment and disappointment.

There is much to do and little time to do it. We must act and think fast. Holacracy

the guiding principle of the campaign makes clear that there are no leaders but devolved responsibility.

It is up to us, as individuals and even more as self-organising groups, contributing to the success of the whole.

We agree about the urgent needs.

We need to develop many ways and opportunities to meet and work together, to clarify our ideas and achieve our urgent objectives. As Rob Hopkins of Transition writes:


What am I reading?

August 24, 2018

I’m hoping I can post a link here: Maybe it will work!

Jews, Climate Change and the SDGs

July 4, 2017

I have recently come across and am sufficiently excited by it that I keep returning. Please, someone, somewhere, come and help me! It is an app which links both Earth Charter and SDGs and enables photos and text to be developed. But I do not yet see how to research it, to make contact with others involved, to see what contributions have been added.

It is, however, particularly exciting to me at this moment because I am looking to work with others on Jews, Climate Change and the SDGs and this seems an ideal tool. Help!





June 20, 2017

Jewish Action on Climate Change
Job Description: Project Coordinator


Job outline:
A unique opportunity to help support and develop the UK Jewish Community response to climate change, environmental issues and social and economic justice.

On June 29th there will be a key meeting in Central London. This flexible short term post (with the possibility of an extension for flexible pro rata working over the following six months) will need good social media knowledge and IT skills (especially Excel), combined with concern for and perhaps prior involvement in the issues. Would suit graduate.

Start date: Immediate start until 7th July 2017, potential for extension up to six months
Hours: 8-10 hours per week, flexible, must be available 29th June 2017
Project fee: £500.00
Location: Homeworking, meetings in North & Central London

To apply:
Send your CV to Rabbi Jeffrey Newman at
For further details, phone 07866 546 673

Greece, Corbyn: Economic & Political Reality

August 15, 2015

With sympathetic WordPress technology, it may be possible for me to move beyond twitter and become a blogger! This demands much more including a willingness for self-revelation (though for anyone reading behind the tweets, nothing could be more revelatory) and connected thinking!
About what? If it’s not ‘thinking about thinking’ (guided by Heidegger and Arendt), it’s likely to be ontology, reality and Being.
So why the ‘obsession’ with Greece? 
The psychological fear is that I’ve not had enough to do or think about, which may be true!
However, the strength of my intuition about the potential implosion not only in Greece but also within the EU would not leave me. It took me to Greece and led me to Adam Nicholson’s wonderful “The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters”. 
Now it seems as if imminent catastrophe may have been avoided: was it not J.M.Keynes who observed: ‘in the end, we are all dead’? Perhaps political sense will prevail and people will turn out to be seen as more important even than economic ‘realities’.
Which nearly takes me back to ‘reality’. 
In UK presently, we are swept up in a most unexpected question: will Jeremy Corbyn become the entirely unlikely new leader of the Labour Party? He has none of Tsipras’ charisma, not even youth. He’s a ‘backbencher’ – one of those MPs who never sought and was never rewarded with ‘office’, unsurprising given over 500 rebellions against the ‘whips’, the authority of the party or its leadership.
But what of his economics? 95% (a conservative estimate) of the population understands nothing of economics or money, so votes are on ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’. Surely a left-wing agenda is discredited, implausible, unelectable? 
The political tectonic plates are shifting. We are – despite the last election – likely to be entering the era of coalitions. Paul Mason’s ‘Post-Capitalism’ underlines the technological changes that the Information Age brings with it.
‘Reality’? Who knows? Certainly I cannot bear too much of it.

Visiting Greece: from tweets to a blog

August 5, 2015

I’m an inveterate tweeter!
Occasionally, someone follows through and looks at my blog, which is blotchy: bits and pieces, incoherent, poorly edited. I am not proud of it – almost ashamed, in fact, which may be why, for two years or so, nothing has appeared.
I need to work at my editing capacity, for sure. I should like to make my blog look more attractive. 
But equally important is the content. What do I want to say?
I have just been in Greece. or several weeks my tweets were dominated – obsessively (and I am not yet entirely sure why) with the economic and political situation between Greece and Europe and my journey (the first time I had ever been) was to learn more as well as to enjoy a little of what Greece has to offer.
But since I knew so little I wanted a Guide Book. Not exactly the usual travel guide and I certainly could not manage a History of Greece. Where, also, did the legends fit in, the myths of the Gods? I needed something that would help bring it together.
And ‘miracle of miracles’ (as Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ would say) I came across Adam Nicholson’s ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’, just out in paperback, which was exactly what I needed. It is personally based, beginning on a boat trip that Nicholson made from Falmouth to Scotland while reading the Odyssey. Suddenly, gradually, he began to understand and more and more Homer’s two books not only provoked a search into who Homer was and why he mattered but also began to become a life-guide for the journey we all have to make between birth and death.
But why all the bloodshed, the gory detail, the obsession with violence and the hero? What of the role of the gods? When were the books written? Nicholson’s writing transports us into such questions in a poetic prose which, though it may occasionally be over-written, is far from a dry academic research, though drawing upon it. 
Over these next few weeks, I hope to blog more, even much more. The content is there and perhaps I will also learn to edit – and add pictures!

Going on…a personal response to climate change doom

August 5, 2015

Initially, I was both shocked and admiring: you were saying explicitly something that maybe I thought I believed.But I also noticed, as I read, your time-frame: humanity will be wiped out after thirty more generations, that is, 2500 AD and ‘there is no key’ which will enable people to ‘wake up’. I agree with your second point to the extent that there are many, many keys – maybe as many as there are individuals: each of us needs to find our own? After all, there is a paradoxical craziness (I’m sure you’ll agree) in the vigour with which you are pushing your (brilliant) creative #CliFi idea and your conclusion that we are all doomed anyway. In any case, those of us working to break the intransigence of those who pay no heed to our plight need to collaborate. The thing is: we’re not ‘doomed’. On the whole, though I did not much enjoy Daniel Quinn’s Ishamel (the Wikipedia article is quite good, it was worth reading for the conclusion: the apes need human beings in order to survive! One of the most important influences on me has been Hannah Arendt. I believe she lived through, fully faced and articulated the horrors of WW2 and, in particular, the almost unbelievable deliberate destruction of millions of human beings that we call the holocaust. The destruction of millions upon millions more human beings (some of this is already happening) in the chaos of climate change is, it seems to me, the terrifying repetition that future generations will live through. Some, however, – I think James Lovelock estimates it at one billion – will survive (the story of ‘the remnant’ is basic in the Bible). I think that. What will they have learnt? Will they know and understand more than we do about the meaning and purpose of life? What sort of ‘civilization’ with what sort of animals, birds, fishes, insects, machines? Maybe that is not my/our concern, though I believe it is one that science fiction may deal with (‘Canticle for Leibowitz’?) I also believe that much current learning, e.g. bio-mimicry, is of life-changing importance. Hannah Arendt’s conclusion, messianic according to a superb recent book, was ‘We must go on’ and the book concludes that W.H.Auden saw things similarly.

Is that not what the three of us, and Aubrey, are doing, as best we can? But Peter begins with reference to my time in Greece, which was truly life-changing, because to help me there, I happened upon a book, which only came out in 2014, by Adam Nicholson called ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’. Who was Homer? Did he exist? The book, though well referenced, is alive, based mainly on sailing and on our own individual journey from life to death. It spans many more lifetimes and generations than merely 500 years as it moves from the Bronze Age and across continents. If, I think, we want to have a sense of the future, we need a deep understanding of the past. All that, Dan, was stimulated by your response to Peter. Thank you for provoking it. I’m cc to Aubrey, who knows all this better than I and illustrates it beautifully in music and words at the Eden Project Eden which has just won an award for Britain’s 21st Century landmark ( – some strange questions about that, but never mind). The Golden Mean: Pythagoras – watch & listen, spell-bound Earth Venus Tango round the Sun

Barclays responds to criticism on financing ‘mountain top removal’

May 20, 2014

Dear Stakeholder

Thank you for your email to Antony Jenkins raising concerns about Barclays’ reported financing of companies that practise mountain top removal coal mining. We are in the process of establishing the background to these allegations and the details of the transactions involved – which were not made clear in the reports provided.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight that Barclays has a longstanding commitment to understanding the environmental and social risks associated with our lending activities: these are supported by stringent environmental and social impact assessment policies and practices together with risk escalation procedures.

These standards are applied across the business and are an integral component for decisions with potential for material social and environmental impacts. We always aim to take a responsible approach and give careful consideration to such impacts before decisions are approved. When we are asked to finance a specific development project, we apply the Equator Principles – detailed environmental and social criteria applicable to project finance transactions covering issues including local community consultation, the impact on indigenous peoples and cultural heritage sites, relocation of communities and related compensation. This approach to responsible lending applies equally to clients in the coal mining sector as to other industrial sectors.

We will continue to investigate this matter thoroughly and address appropriately should we find that Barclays has not acted in accordance with these standards.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Philippa Birtwell
Group Citizenship


Contraction and Convergence

January 26, 2014

See Earth Charter Principles 4, 4a; 5, 5a; 6, 6a, 6b, 6c; 7; 8, 8a, 8c; 10a; 13a; 14, 14c; 16a, 16b. These selected Principles and sub-principles are only indicative; those highlighted are clearly especially relevant. Discussion on this selection would be entirely relevant and helpful.

Since 1995, Aubrey Meyer, a musician and mathematician, has promoted a scientifically based policy approach, Contraction and Convergence. A very helpful series of intros can be found on Laurie Barlow’s

It is now (January 2014) clear that, as the short and powerful video, (published by IPCC & UNFCC ‘Climate Change: The State of the Science’ that the State of Climate Science) shows current estimates of the remaining Carbon Budget are far too optimistic if we are to avoid irreversible or runaway climate change.

The purpose of this discussion forum, one amongst many, is to strengthen those of us who believe that this issue is the most urgent facing the planet and that Contraction and Convergence provides the only credible and equitable way forward.

We are not alone. There is overwhelming support for Aubrey’s proposal of a per capita Carbon Budget for every individual based upon the scientific assessment of what is available [currently between 194gT, 250gT and the UK Climate Committee at 395gT – a gigaT=1billion tonnes of Carbon. There are other related gases and issues of feedback but for most of us, this is already becoming too complex!]

It is worth glancing through the (approximately 500 illustrated pages) from Ban Ki Moon, and UN agencies 2000 – 2014,, from the Vatican, Rowan Williams and extensive inter-faith supporting the C&C principle of ‘Climate Justice without Vengeance’ (this principle is in opposition to those, mainly NGOs, who unrealistically maintain that the developed world has historically ’caused’ the problems and should be ‘punished’). There are 250 pages of political support from the UK, and extensive support from Medical Professionals around the world:

Aubrey has won numerous awards and been nominated for a Nobel Prize – but still there has been no breakthrough, though many believe C&C is ‘the only game in town’.

To conclude more personally, I became involved when, as a Jew – and a rabbi, that is, a teacher – I realised that 6 million of my people had been deliberately killed in World War Two and we Jews were, rightly, deeply critical of those who stood by, knowing what was happening. They were criticised as bystanders, though acting would have taken great moral courage.

What is our excuse as we see increasing extreme weather conditions condemning millions, or even ‘hundreds of millions’ (Lord Stern) of families to hardship or death?

What can we do? I believe that those who take part in this discussion are doing much but that we can all do more, by knowing of one another’s projects, by supporting one another and by publicising as widely as possible C&C. Our mission is to think, discuss, reflect and ACT.

Recently I wrote an article on Bystanders, which stimulated Aubrey’s imagination, particularly one part, based upon a quote:

Susan Neiman looks at why Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem caused such a furore and shows that without directly invoking God, Arendt’s phrase that ‘in a world that produced the death camps, the impossible came true’, effectively put the world itself on trial. The world could no longer be accepted as it had been, and this effectively indicts Creation itself.

Aubrey sees clearly how evidently we are still ‘on trial’, though we may believe, more or less, ‘that we have never had it so good’ (Harold Macmillan 1957)