Greening Mecca

Jessica Haller – CIO and Director of The Jewish Climate Campaign

I’m in Bath. Say it like an Englishman, not like you’re in the shower. Baaath.

Six months after Hazon attended the celebration of religions at Windsor Castle, with their 7-year plans to address climate change, I returned to England to take part in the steering committee for the Green Pilgrim Cities program, sponsored by ARC (Alliance of Religions and Conservation) and the United Nations Development Program. The committee was a reunion of old-new friends from the celebration at Windsor castle, including Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Naomi Tzur, and representatives of pilgrimage cities and religions from across the globe.

The idea, hatched at Windsor, was to unite pilgrim destinations around the world in addressing the ever-present problem of pilgrims leaving a mess in their wake.  100 million water bottles were left on the road and in the rubbish on the Hajj (the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) in 2008. 100 million.  That’s a lot of plastic, a lot of oil, a lot of bottles water, and a lot of money spent on a resource that should be free. The stories cross religions and regions.

If with the 7-year plans at Windsor we reminded ourselves and all people of faith that our religions and our gods (yes, some have many gods) are fundamentally connected to the natural world, its preservation and growth, then we may need to also remind pilgrims on their journey of the same message. Pilgrims range from barefoot Gandis to families hitting the King David for Passover.  We’re all on the move to our holy places at special times during the year, and we all need to leave our sacred sites in better condition than how we found them.

The steering committee accomplished a lot – we settled on a name: Green Pilgrim Cities.  We established a time line: 3 months until a completed handbook, 6-months until the next funding is requested, tentative spring trip to our Jerusalem pilgrimage site; global launch in September 2011 at a new Taoist center at the Sacred Mountain of Hua Shan in China that the government is spending $800 million on for the occasion.

We outlined key value propositions, stakeholders, language to use, resources to rely on.
Hazon already plays a central role – There is specific need for our rapidly developing ‘Greening Food Guide’ which will be launched in the coming weeks.

I look forward to sharing further updates about our exciting work.



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