Much of the Middle East is now slated to essentially turn to desert over the coming decades and centuries owing to climate change, and exacerbated by poor human judgment and short-sighted activities.
It bears remembering that much of what is now the Middle East and the Mediterranean was before the human population expansion of the last few thousand years humid and heavily forested, with incredible fertile soils — the reason that the region is the diminished shell that it now is follows from massive deforestation, the strip-mining of the soil for agriculture, and animal husbandry (over-grazing).
Even as recently as ~2000 years ago much of North Africa was home to very fertile soils — to the point that the Roman Empire relied on the colonized region for much of its food, owing to the depleted state of the soil back home — before agriculture and over-grazing turned it to what it is now.
With all of that in mind, the recent news that the head of Israel’s Agriculture Ministry, Uri Ariel — a man who has a large ability to shape the country’s approach to water use and conservation — was leading prayers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall calling for rain is worth considering.
Praying for rain…while one essentially ensures that rain will become less and less common over the coming decades owing to the other activities that you are also pursuing.
I’m in no way an anti-religious person, and I’m not opposed to the practice of prayer (though traditional approaches to prayer make far more sense to me than the modern “me, me, me” approach), but shouldn’t one take responsibility for one’s own behaviors first?
If you know that you are causing or exacerbating a problem, shouldn’t you address your own actions first, and pursue all your options for addressing the problem before asking a reportedly omnipotent being to aid your own particular, local, temporary, biases?
While Uri Ariel, an Orthodox Jew, arguably is claiming to do just that, I’m skeptical that the actions taken by Israel to date are at all serious as regarding climate change and water conservation.
So, while Ariel stated: “We significantly lowered the cost of water, we are carrying out many studies on how to save water in different crops, but prayer can certainly help,” I can’t help but hear someone saying that none of the available but unpalatable options are to be pursued, so we may as well put on a show so that it looks like we’re doing something.
One of the top newspapers in Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an article that seems to agree with what I’m saying — with the notation being that the high-ranking figure should focus on promoting policies meant to deal with climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
To use the “exact” words: “Prayer is not a bad thing, but the minister has the ability to influence (matters) in slightly more earthly ways.”
That’s the thing that gets me about seeing people use prayer as their first line of action anytime something doesn’t go their way — well, there’s quite a lot that you could actually be doing to improve the situation, isn’t there? Shouldn’t you pursue the actions first and then use prayer to ask for proper guidance of your actions? Wasn’t that the original use of prayer?
All of this is probably a moot point though, as truly effective actions to prepare for and limit anthropogenic climate change and the accompanying water scarcity in the region aren’t likely to be willingly embraced by a relatively wealthy population — like that of Israel.
Reuters provides some further background: “With technology coming up short, Israel’s agriculture minister sought an unconventional solution on Thursday to end the country’s water shortage — rallying a few thousand worshippers (sic) at Jerusalem’s Western Wall to pray for rain.
“Four years of heavy drought have overtaxed Israel’s unmatched array of desalination and wastewater treatment plants, choking its most fertile regions and catching the government off-guard, with farmers bearing the brunt. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, an Orthodox Jew, has a hand in determining water policy and how the resource is allocated, but to balance the science with the spiritual, he teamed up with leading rabbis to organize a public prayer session.
“A crowd of a few thousand gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s old city, the holiest place for Jews to worship, chanting a special prayer to end the drought.”
The thing to bear in mind here, is that the expansionary agriculture and domesticated animals paradigm that turned much of the land of the Middle East, the Near East, and many other places into the diminished places that they now are is essentially the same one that calls for every expanding “growth,” resource extraction, and consumption — whatever the costs.
If the intensity of the coming (and now arriving) climatic changes is to be limited to any real degree then a fundamental change of assumptions and beliefs is likely to be necessary.
A reassertion of the need for self-responsibility and accountability would be welcome in my opinion — the truth is that every single person in the “developed” world, regardless of political affiliations, is contributing directly and significantly to what’s happening to the world’s climate, oceans, soils, wildlife, etc.