A group of people were travelling in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath his seat.

His friends said to him: “What on earth are you doing?” The man replied: “Why does it concern you? I’m only drilling under my own place”

They said to him: “But you will flood the boat for us all!” (Midrash Vayikra Raba 4:6)

This 1500-year-old parable of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai encapsulates starkly the challenge we face in the world today.

For centuries, we were able to dig holes in our collective boat without any noticeable impact. We mined for coal and oil. We cut down trees. We burned fossil fuels to abandon. The oceans and the forests absorbed our carbon emissions. We have now reached a point where that is no longer the case. We have a collective responsibility to not to drill holes ourselves and to stop others from doing so.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, expressed it grimly in his speech at the opening of the Cop27 conference this week:

“Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a Climate Solidarity Pact – or a Collective Suicide Pact.”

Yet, like the person in the parable, so many people in the world today, especially in wealthy countries, are  blithely  unaware  that  by  their actions they are drilling a hole in our collective boat.

The attitude of only being concerned about yourself and not caring about the needs of others is associated with the inhabitants of Sodom, in this week’s parasha.

The prophet Ezekiel describes what they were like:

“Only this was the sin of your sister, Sodom: arrogance! She and her daughters had plenty of bread and untroubled tranquillity; yet she did not support the poor and the needy” (Ezekiel 16:49)

Sodom had wealth, fertile land and prosperity. Yet it resolutely refused to share its blessings. The result? Destruction!

The symbolism of the fate of Sodom should not be lost on us. None of us can escape the effects of climate change, but each one of us can make a difference!