Martin Luther King, Trees, & the EPA

Last week I suggested that we plan actions on Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish midwinter festival of the rebirth of trees (and of the earth in general) , to address the recent destructive actions by the director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

He stopped efforts by the states to curb CO2 emissions from autos and thus reduce the danger we are facing from the global climate crisis.

A number of letters have come to us, supporting the idea. This letter suggests ways of carrying the message to EPA offices in eleven cities across America.

Religious Background: Monday, January 21, is the official day for celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday. At about 4:30 that afternoon begins the celebration of Tu B'Shvat. (The day before is exactly one year before the inauguration of the next President of the United States.)

In Jewish mystical tradition, Tu B'Shvat celebrates not only the rebirth of trees but also the rebirth -- through four worlds of Creation -- of God's Own Self, imagined as the Tree of Life. It is traditionally observed by planting trees and by eating a sacred Seder - a meal made up of four cups of wine and four courses of fruits and nuts, the free gift of trees. It is the only sacred meal that requires the death of not even a carrot or an onion or a radish yanked from the earth. The meal of the Garden of Eden, human earthling at peace with the earth.

The confluence of MLK's Birthday and Tu B'Shvat suggests uniting the religious celebration with a call for change in public policy, as Dr. King often did -- and in the Tu B'Shvat vein, pointing this call toward healing of the earth. We keep in mind as well that global climate crisis is already affecting the poor in the US and in the world - the poor who were always a deep concern of Dr. King's -- even faster and more sharply than it is affecting others.

Trees are one of our planet's major ways of reducing the CO2 that is heating our climate to the disaster point.

One way to connect the dots of religious celebration of God's Creation with the need for change in public policy is to intersperse the Seder with learning about the dangers to the earth, and taking time during the Seder to write letters to the editors of newspapers about the EPA action.

For details on doing this, see -

Another is to bring trees to EPA offices around the country, along with vigils and prayers for the earth.

Policy Background: The EPA refused to allow California, New York, New Jersey, and 14 other states to set CO2 emissions standards for automobiles that are more protective of the earth than the Federal standards. The head of the agency, a political appointee, did this despite the UNANIMOUS recommendation of EPA scientists and lawyers to give the authority the states were requesting.

For details on the EPA decision see -

Since I will be in Chicago for Tu B'Shvat, leading a Seder for the students and another for the parents of the Jewish day school in which my seven-year-old granddaughter is a student, I have talked with Chicagoans about a vigil/ ceremony at the EPA offices there.

What emerged is a plan to gather at 4:30 p.m. at the EPA regional office, bringing a tree in a planter pot, and have a brief ceremony blessing the Divine Tree of Life. We will invoke the memory of Dr King. We will speak out to praise the EPA staff that supported life-affirming stands by the states, and to condemn the short-sighted rejection by the head of EPA. We will invite people of all religious and spiritual communities to take part, and we will seek for coverage by the media.

We encourage others, in Washington and in the ten cities with regional EPA offices, to do the same. Below are the addresses. And we encourage you to forward this message to your friends and co-workers.


Shalom, salaam, peace, and healing -


EPA Headquarters
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

EPA New England, Region 1,
1 Congress Street, Suite 1100
Boston MA 02114-2023

US EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
New York, New York 10007-1866

US EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street (3PM52)
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029

Region 4 EPA
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303-8960

US EPA Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604

EPA Region 6 Main Office
1445 Ross Avenue
Suite 1200
Dallas, Texas 75202

US EPA Region 7
901 N. 5th Street
Kansas City, KS 66101

US EPA Region 8
1595 Wynkoop St
Denver, CO 80202-1129

U.S. EPA Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105

U.S. EPA, Region 10
1200 Sixth Avenue Suite 900
Seattle, WA 98101


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