On Passover and Earth Day, Eugene links the ten plagues with the modern-day pharaohs of the fossil fuel industry. Here’s Todd Boyle.
[00:00:07] Todd Boyle: It was Earth Day 2022, this great rally in downtown Eugene in front of the Chase Bank. And it was in protest against their funding of fossil fuel projects. 100 people were there, pretty huge turnout, over such a depressing subject. It was organized by Jewish leaders in Eugene in coordination with a nationwide project called Dayenu.
[00:00:29] And what was particularly interesting to me was the style of protests, which is a lot of songs and sort of, like, joyous mood and everything.
[00:00:38] Dr. Evlyn Gould: day-Dayenu, day-Dayenu, day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu.
[00:00:49] Marlene Drescher: Thank you, Dr. Evlyn Gould, Hazzan / Cantor extraordinaire. And thank you all for coming today.
[00:01:01] We’re here today on Earth Day and Passover to call on Chase Bank to move their money, their dough, and stop funding fossil fuel industries. Yes. Yes.
[00:01:16] Each year at Passover, we Jews tell the story of how the ancient Hebrews, enslaved for generations, demanded their freedom from Pharaoh and fled Egypt. As the Sea of Reeds parted, they had to leave quickly and therefore there wasn’t time for the dough to rise, thus the symbolic unleavened bread of matzah, which you’re holding in your hands (and not eating at least for a little while).
[00:01:47] And it is said that God led the ancient Hebrews out, but it clearly took the strength of the people themselves demanding change and freedom from bondage, like we are demanding change and freedom from fossil fuels.
[00:02:11] Today, we are demanding change for the sake of our planet for the survival of future generations. Future generations in Hebrew is: דורות העתיד. It is said that Jews are obligated to tell the Passover story as if we ourselves had been enslaved. Now we must tell another story about how the climate crisis threatens our very ability to survive: דורות העתיד.
[00:02:40] Like the Hebrews escaping from bondage, we must demand a new end to this story. That’s why we’ve paired the Passover story with the urgency of defunding the fossil fuel industry.
[00:03:02] The climate crisis is not inevitable. There are of course powerful forces who bear responsibility: oil, gas, coal companies. They are the new pharaohs who have spewed greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, polluted our air and water, knowingly spread misinformation and delayed meaningful action.
[00:03:24] They have been enabled by financial institutions like Chase Bank funding the extraction, the transportation, and burning of oil, gas, and coal.
[00:03:37] They are the fossil fuel pharaohs who bind us to a polluting past instead of allowing us to journey toward a just and livable future. Despite making commitments to move their dough away from polluting fossil fuels, they drag their feet, withhold information, waste our precious little time to turn the tide of the climate crisis.
[00:04:01] That’s why we are here today to tell Chase Bank to move your dough. Say it with me. Move your dough! Move your dough! Hold up your matzah. Move your dough. Oh yes.
[00:04:22] All right. Stop funding fossil fuel industries! Like the ancient Hebrews leaving Egypt, join us on our journey toward freedom from fossil fuel crisis. Again, thank you for coming and joining our little street seder. This event was sponsored by the Tikkun Olam Committee of TBI, organized by the local Dayenu Circle.
[00:04:48] We want to thank the many organizations and allies who helped make this event possible, including TBI, The Jewish Federation, NAACP, Beyond Toxics, 350 Eugene, Fossil Fuel Eugene, CALC, the union and labor folks who are here today, South Eugene Jewish Student Union, and National Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action.
[00:05:13] Now. I’d like to welcome Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics. Thank you.
[00:05:21] Lisa Arkin: My name is Lisa Arkin and I’m the executive director of Beyond Toxics. And I’m here today also as a member of the Eugene Jewish community to speak out against the environmental injustices that are rained down upon us by financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase Bank.
[00:05:43] I ask you to join us as we stand up to expose Chase Bank’s history of funding the fossil fuel industry, and associating with polluters who reap huge fortunes from selling dirty energy while they allow the harm of that dirty energy to be passed on to vulnerable communities. What is it called when polluters get rich while others bear the brunt of air, water, and soil pollution?.
[00:06:19] It is called externalizing the harm. Chase Bank’s game is to keep all those profits internally while casting off or externalizing the harm onto people who are least able to defend themselves against the danger of global warming. The pattern of companies like Chase Bank is to externalize harm, which causes injustice, environmental injustice, racial injustice, social injustice.
[00:06:55] Beyond Toxics is fighting the system that allows polluters to externalize harm onto our most vulnerable neighborhoods. And we’re fighting that right here in Eugene as well. A great example is J H Baxter who has intentionally polluted the Bethel neighborhood with dioxins and PCBs in order to reap ever bigger profits from their industrial site.
[00:07:25] And the moment their pollution was documented, the company walked away from the harm they had caused, leaving the community to continue to suffer, and for all of us taxpayers to pick up the cost for the cleanup.
[00:07:41] The ancients pharaohs built their iconic pyramids to display their power, wealth, and control. They used slave labor to create their wealth. Today’s pharaohs are doing exactly the same. Today’s pharaohs are businesses like Chase Bank, which is the world’s largest banker of fossil fuels, pouring more than $316 billion into propping up the fossil fuel industry. in just the last few years
[00:08:17] This feels like Purim.
[00:08:25] Their business plan of bankrolling hydraulic fracked gas fields, and gas pipelines, oil refineries and export terminals and so on and so on is like an evil pyramid scheme. The person at the top gets rich while the people at the bottom suffer. The people at the bottom suffer the injustices of water and air pollution that make them sick and the polluted landscapes that make neighborhoods into sacrifice zones and that perpetuate their poverty.
[00:09:00] The climate crisis fueled by fossil fuel extraction is the largest externality that has ever burdened low income communities and communities of color. The symptoms of climate disaster, and you know them well, polluted air, heat domes, wildfires, rising sea levels. It is like a Dayenu. Yes, it’s enough. It’s enough. Yes. Asthma and cancer.
[00:09:31] These are all creating a legacy of inequality for the communities that are hit first and hit the hardest by these calamities. And here is our message without the immediate shift of financial investments to renewable energy technologies, we all remained chained and enslaved to a system of cheap energy, dirty energy and socioeconomic oppression.
[00:10:03] So in closing, Passover Day and Earth Day is a time to call upon Chase Bank to end its support for fossil fuel extraction. Their investments make Chase Bank fully complicit in the disproportionate climate hazards and pollution faced now by our environmental justice communities. We demand visionary financial leadership that invests in renewable energy systems that will meet the scale of the climate crisis and alleviate the urgency of environmental injustice.
[00:10:41] So thank you for standing up. Bravo.
[00:10:47] Marlene Drescher: And thank you so much, Lisa, for all you do in this community. And now next up is Aya Cockram from Fossil Free Eugene. Let’s welcome Aya.
[00:11:03] Aya Cockram: Hello everyone. My name is Aya Cockram. And I’m speaking with you today as the coalition coordinator for Fossil, Free Eugene, a group of grassroots organizations that are working towards the transition to renewable energy and pushing the city to take action and be accountable to their own climate goals.
[00:11:29] I want to thank Eugene Dayenu Circle for organizing this beautiful event. I stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and these powerful Passover actions that are happening all over the country, and with everybody gathered here today to speak out against the destruction of our collective future.
[00:11:49] Fossil Free Eugene coalition is currently urging the city of Eugene to pass an ordinance mandating new, new, not existing construction to be all electric starting in January, 2023. Buildings produce— yeah! —. Buildings produce about one third of our state’s climate pollution and so-called natural gas pollutes more now than coal.
[00:12:14] On top of this, burning methane gas in our homes is really damaging to our health, particularly to the most vulnerable in our communities. Passing an electrification ordinance for climate would be a huge win. The average lifespan of a building is about 50 years. Let’s not let ourselves get locked into decades of dirty energy and indoor air pollution.
[00:12:37] This event is all about freedom. Let’s liberate our city from fossil fuels.
[00:12:45] Let’s be the first city in Oregon to electrify and be a leader for others to follow. I hope you’ll join our campaign. Follow us right to City Council and testify at city council meetings. There is a meeting on Monday and we need to express to them the urgency. That is the need to defund. The need to move away from fossil fuels in our community and beyond.
[00:13:11] So thank you. Together we can build a Fossil Free Eugene.
[00:13:20] Marlene Drescher: Next up we have the lovely Jewish tradition of the 10 plagues of Passover and the 10 plagues of the fossil fuel industry; the Jewish tradition of flinging aside each plague just as we will be flinging aside the worst of the fossil fuel industry. Jess Lambright, and Adina Veloz-Remis, it’s all yours.
[00:13:54] Jess Lambright: Thank you. The Passover story is one of speaking truth to power. Moses, the spokesperson for the ancient Jews, did not act alone. He went with Aaron and with the backing of Miriam and with the whole Jewish people. We too are part of a broader movement and act with our partners and allies who have long called on financial institutions, like Chase Bank, to stop funding fossil fuel.
[00:14:22] But like the biblical Pharaoh, fossil fuel companies have hardened their hearts, putting profits over people. The result: destruction and deadly plagues. If we go off the climate cliff, we shall experience plagues in our own generation, much like the Ten Plagues, all eco-disasters that we remember during our festival of Passover. If we allow today’s pharaohs to continue in their corporate comfort, our grandchildren will live in misery and suffering. Today we name and bear witness to these plagues.
[00:14:55] Here’s how it will work. Adina will call out the biblical plagues in Hebrew and English, and then define its modern-day manifestation. In a typical Seder, we would remove one drop of wine from our cup, for each plague to acknowledge the hardship and suffering that each one caused.
[00:15:16] As she reads the modern-day plagues, we can all symbolically reach into our metaphorical cups and flick off a drop that represents one aspect of climate destruction. Then together, we will respond to each plague with ‘Dayenu! (Enough!)’
[00:15:35] Adina Veloz-Remis: Dam, blood: Water poisoned by coal, ash, oil, and gas pipeline spills and the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing (Dayenu!).
[00:15:46] Tzfardeiya – frogs: Destruction of wetlands and the habitat of the plants and animals who live there (Dayenu!).
[00:15:56] Kinim, lice: Further spread of disease-carrying pests. Vectors for infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease, malaria, Zika, and more (Dayenu)
[00:16:07] Arov, wild animals: Or in this case, wildfires, roaming further and longer, consuming everything in their wake, including wild animals (Dayenu!).
[00:16:19] Dever, pestilence: The loss of biodiversity, the extinction of plant animal species, critical to the intricate web of life (Dayenu!).
[00:16:29] Shechin, boils: Punishing heat waves, linked to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and sometimes death (Dayenu!).
[00:16:38] Barad, hail: More powerful storms, hurricanes and historic flooding (Dayenu).
[00:16:47] Arbeh. locusts: Crop failures made worse by climate-change-fueled drought, heat, and pests (Dayenu).
[00:16:58] Choshech, darkness: Air pollution from oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and other fossil fuel facilities increasing their risk of asthma attacks and cases of heart and lung disease (Dayenu).
[00:17:11] Makat bechorot, death of the firstborn: Lives are at stake, and as is too often the case, those are those on the front lines of the climate crisis—black, brown, indigenous and low-income communities—are harmed first and worst (Dayenu).
[00:17:30] These are the modern-day plagues that Chase Bank is financing.
[00:18:01] Dr. Evlyn Gould: Oh, oh. Oh, day-Dayenu, day-Dayenu, day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu.
[00:18:16] Marlene Drescher: (Dayenu!) (Enough!) Okay. I’d like to introduce our next speaker, Dr. Hazzan Evlyn Gould, Cantor at Temple Beth Israel and Temple Har Zion.
[00:18:35] Dr. Evlyn Gould: As we observe at this time, the shared holy days of Easter, Passover and Ramadan, our ancient, sacred wisdoms remind us that top-down power must be called to account for us to reach a promised land, that is to say, the beloved community.
[00:18:59] In the name of our moral commitment to the Creator Spirit, to the Holy One of all being, we urge Chase Bank to sow the seeds of change by meeting the needs of this critical hour in planetary time.
[00:19:14] As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote in the face of great injustices in that time, ‘We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now… Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too Late. ‘
[00:19:37] Heard all together, these fossil-fueled plagues paint a somber picture of our future, but we know that when we act as a community in solidarity, we have the power to leave the narrowness of fossil fuel extraction and build a joyous future for ourselves and for generations to come.
[00:20:01] Today in the place of the plagues, we pray for healing. So as I call out each one of these hopeful ways to help our planet, let’s respond with the Jewish call to life: L’chaim! (L’chaim.)
[00:20:21] Create organic farms in countrysides and cities. (L’chaim.) Purchase electric power from wind based suppliers (L’chaim). Support hybrid or electric cars for families, but also for cities, government agencies and businesses and their fleets (L’chaim). Use public transportation (L’chaim).
[00:20:44] Engage family and congregational education to heal the earth by turning the hearts of children and parents to each other lest the earth be utterly destroyed (L’chaim). Encourage vigils, picketing, and civil disobedience at sites of mountain destruction by coal companies (L’chaim). Prevent the extensive pipelines that cross our lands (L’chaim). Bring an end to fracking (L’chaim).
[00:21:19] Divest from fossil fuel companies, shifting investment to renewable sustainable energies (L’chaim). And last, but certainly not least, advocate for a carbon fee that will generate hundreds of billions of dollars with provisions to ensure that working families and the poor are not harmed by a higher carbon prices.
[00:21:44] Let’s end subsidies to coal, to gas and to oil industries (L’chaim!)
[00:21:52] Let the playing fields of our land be leveled as if by a rolling flood, a powerful torrent. May equity not be perverted neither by pitying the poor nor kowtowing to the wealthy; rather teach us to treat one another with unfailing righteousness, not spreading lies about the other or simply standing aside as they’re harmed. Help us to know that we are all of one spirit.
[00:22:25] Give us the courage, not to harbor fear, nor hatred of others in our hearts, but rather to speak up against wrongdoing and injustice, lest we ourselves bear the responsibility of that wrong. Open your hearts to those alongside whom you live. So that someday we may come to love them as we love ourselves. So that perhaps one day we may come to truly love ourselves.
[00:22:57] And to know that the whole of the world is divine. Thank you.
Todd Boyle posts his videos at https://www.youtube.com/c/ToddBoyle/.