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Earth Day
by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd
"The world is balanced between good and evil, and one good deed can tip the scales. The size of the deed does not matter, for if the balance is precise and delicate, then even the slightest change will weigh the balance completely to the side of good -- and bring our righteous Moshiach." 
 The Rebbe, Simchas Torah, 5746.p.lxiii. 
"We are headed for a billion commitments to do something green, and that doesn't mean think about it-it means do something."  
Kathleen Rogers, President of the Earth Day Network.
The economy is collapsing, society is falling apart, wars are raging, and in the midst of all this, an estimated billion people - yes that's a 'b' - just celebrated a day set aside for mankind united for a better world.

Earth day is a modern invention - the first celebration took place in 1970 - and on the surface of things, it's based on a modern premise: That the destiny of our precious planet is in our hands, that mankind has the ability to destroy or to save the world.

Only with modern technology have we really been able to conceive of global anything, be it world war, world peace, global economy, communications, travel, entertainment, you name it. We've even got high-speed internet on jet planes. It was less than 50 years ago that the visionary Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "global village" to describe the impact that electronic media would eventually have, and that eventuality is now.

But there's another element to Earth Day. It's not only about mass awareness and collective efforts. It's also about the significance of the individual. While the world's getting smaller, you are getting bigger.

With the world in a delicate ecological balance, not only do little stones make big ripples in water, but in fact, water can even ripple the stones.

New research points to a man-made cause of last year's devastating earthquake in southwest China that registered 8.0 on the Richter scale and killed over 80,000 people. The newly filled Zipingpu dam, about 5km from the epicenter of the quake, is located a mere 500 meters from the fault-line that weakened as the reservoir filled. Shortly before the deadly quake, immense quantities of water 'mysteriously' drained from behind the dam, evidently into the nearby fault. It now seems that the dam caused the 200-mile fault line to heave about 30 feet within about 2 minutes, causing tremors that reverberated throughout most of China and in a dozen surrounding countries.

On the other end of the scale, positive actions have their ripple effects too - waterways reclaimed, cities breathing easier, atmospheric ozone recovering, renewable energy advancing, and so on - all due to unprecedented numbers of individuals, communities, and countries committed to making a difference.

The "act local, think global" theme has spread from the environmentalist camp and has really become mainstream, and it's not just an American phenomenon. For example, 80% of Romanian consumers are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

This global optimism that little things will make a big difference makes Earth Day worth celebrating, and not just for environmental reasons.

This year Earth Day, April 22, fell out on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Nisan. For Chabad Chassidim, the date is significant because of the monumental address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on that date in 1991, when he declared that it's not up to him, but rather it's up to us to bring Moshiach and a world of good - individuals will have to take initiative and collaborate broadly to make it happen.

And the messages are kind of similar. Personal empowerment for a better world, act local think global, save the planet, world peace, international cooperation, sustainable solutions.

I remember 28 years ago, when a friend first told me that Judaism was a Messianic religion. Incredulous I said, "Just when I was starting to enjoy learning about my heritage, you have to go and spoil it with some puerile fantasy about some guy turning the world into a utopia?! You must be kidding."

He said, "Tell me, do you believe that do you believe that one evil person could destroy the world?"
"Sure," I said. "We came close enough to it in living memory."
"And do you believe that good and evil are just two sides of one moral coin?"
"Well, I guess they are," I had to concede.
"So it just stands to reason that one good person could save the world."

I must say, I wasn't sold, but my antipathy was dulled a bit. I guess it's not by accident that Holocaust rememberance day precedes the Rebbe's "Bring Moshiach" day.

The Rebbe taught his followers that Moshiach is a here and now reality. But he doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's people that have to create the conditions conducive for Moshiach's coming - a world of goodness and kindness.

Here too, as with sustainability, it's not only about mass awareness and collective efforts. It's also about the significance of the individual. As Maimonides taught, 800 years before Marshall McLuhan was even born, the world is hanging in the balance and one small deed can tip the scales - either way.

Earth Day - the 28th of Nisan - was yesterday. Today we pass it forward, just a little more, to unite mankind for a better world.


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