For the Jewish community, being aware of climate change and its impact on our world connects to ancient Jewish beliefs, Hannah Fine says.

Taking care of ourselves — and the Earth — has become increasingly important as climate change begins to affect weather patterns and everyday life.

That’s why this year’s Hazon Seal of Sustainability Summit will take shape in the theme of “Climate Change and Mental Health: Building Resilience for Ourselves and Our Planet.”

The annual summit, held virtually on Oct. 21, is a conference designed to bring together active Hazon Seal sites, including Detroit. Hazon, a Jewish nonprofit that focuses on sustainability and building a greener Earth, has long put climate change at the forefront of its mission.

“We recognize that climate change is upon us and is going to continue and worsen,” says Hannah Fine, community organizer for climate justice at Hazon Detroit. “It’s important that we take care of ourselves as we do this work and as we take care of the Earth.”

Hannah Fine
Hannah Fine

To help people take charge of their mental health while learning how to address climate change from different angles, the summit features a variety of keynote speakers from Jewish communities across the country who specialize in environmental sustainability. 

Detroit-based speakers include Akello Karamoko, farmer at Keep Growing Detroit; Russ Bellant, retired licensed Detroit water plant operator; and Faye Wolf, third vice president at West Bloomfield’s Congregation Beth Ahm, among others.

For the Jewish community, being aware of climate change and its impact on our world connects to ancient Jewish beliefs, Fine says.

“In the very beginning of the Torah, we learn that the Earth is called Adamah,” she explains. “Once humanity is created, the first human and the word for human in Hebrew is Adam. We share a name with the Earth and the best translation is that we are of the Earth.”

Taking care of the Earth is a guiding principle in Judaism, Fine says. “It’s our responsibility as Jews to take care of the Earth and take care of one another.”

It’s one of many topics to be addressed at the virtual summit. Other topics included details about Jewish youth climate movements, how the sun can be used for energy, creating a more sustainable food system and the impact of flooding on public infrastructure.

Effects on Mental Health

Thinking about these issues, Fine says, can cause stress and anxiety for people. “The more we learn about and think deeply about climate change, the more it feels like this problem is just so big.” 

It’s a feeling of helplessness, she explains, that can cause mental health impacts for some.

Here in Metro Detroit, dealing with the impacts of recent flooding, especially over the summer, have caused these feelings for many. “People in Detroit and surrounding areas have had to empty out their basements from flooding four or five times just this summer,” Fine says. “That takes a toll.”

Building awareness, addressing consumption and waste, increasing education and encouraging elected officials to tackle climate change are all important steps toward building a greener world for future generations, Fine adds. 

“We remind people that it’s happening,” she says. “There are things we can and should do.” 

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