Ten years ago, I visited Australia. Along with the usual breathtaking vistas were some extraordinary experiences.

I held a shy, young Koala bear, visited with some young kangaroos and even bottle-fed a joey. A nocturnal observation of bats introduced me to flying foxes, a.k.a. fruit bats, essential to Australia’s ecology as they pollinate and spread seeds of native species.

Now, ten years later, those sweet memories are fading, replaced by heartbreaking images of Australia’s inferno. In flames since September due to extreme drought and high temperatures, Australia may be giving us a glimpse of the future on a global scale.

The guesstimate of animal deaths is over one billion mammals, birds and reptiles, and twenty five humans. Videos confirm the toll on sheep, cattle, wombats and wallabies, kangaroos, koala bears and show bulldozers removing mounds of dead bats.

But there are other photos—amazing photographs of volunteers swaddling and bottle feeding infant flying foxes. There are pictures of rescued baby kangaroos, wrapped in blankets. Compassionate Australians are searching the pouches of dead kangaroo mothers and rescuing their tiny, young joeys who now hang from fabric “pouches” and are being bottle fed. There are videos of crafters, world-wide, engaged in making fabric bat wraps, joey pouches, bird nests, possum boxes, koala mittens and a variety of snuggly homes for the orphaned and wounded.

With three months left in fire season, the bushfires continue to burn, consuming natural habitats, ranches, homes, communities.

It would take pages to enumerate the many psychological and social reasons why some resist the idea of man-made climate change, or worse, resist “human behavior change.” However, when average temperatures reach 107 degrees, as happened in Australia in December, or 120 degrees, as it did the first week in January, the time has passed for arguments on climate change and it is time for action, and soon!

Thankfully, people of faith are waking up to their role as custodians of God’s creations; not only the earth, sea and air, but those who stand to suffer the most from ecological challenges and disasters.

Many congregations are actively working for change. As of December 2019, at least 770 houses of worship in the United States have installed rooftop solar panels to power their buildings, according to data from the organization Interfaith Power & Light. These congregations have chosen to lead by example. Solar installations lower the cost of maintaining their buildings, and set a good example in the community. There are “special programs” and loans for houses of faith going solar, or you can go the traditional “bake sale” fundraising path, by getting local businesses, organizations and congregants to “donate” individual solar tiles.

Please let the events in Australia motivate you to act, and in the hope that you will be an agent for change in your faith community, I’d like to leave you with a slight “embellishment” on the Story of Creation.

“And Adam and Eve stood in the Garden of Eden, and a voice said, “Go and pick that piece of fruit from that tree…. What did you kids name it? The apple tree? Now take a bite!” Adam and Eve each took a bite out of the round fruit that was red on the outside, and found it completely white and delicious on the inside! And the voice asked them “What do you see?” They answered, “there is only a thin red skin protecting the white fruit inside!” And the voice continued, “You got it, Buckaroos, and just like that thin skin protects the fruit and keeps it edible, the thin skin of atmosphere with which I surrounded the earth is what keeps IT and YOU protected!” Adam and Eve looked at the sky, then down to the apple and up again. “Eve,” said Adam, “are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Eve responded, “I think so, however I don’t completely understand the science behind it yet!”

And there was evening and there was morning, another day.

Rose Lyn Jacob is rabbi for a five-county area in the Virginia Piedmont, including

Culpeper County.

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