The AllCreation Podcast

Joelle Novey, Director of Interfaith Power & Light (D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia), talks about Jewish approaches to land ownership, managing climate grief, and how shmita teachings can inform the environmental movement.

Show Notes

Shmita and the Climate Crisis.
In this insightful podcast, Joelle Novey and guest editor Yaira Robinson discuss Shmita, who "owns" the Earth, the rhythms of Jewish sacred time, how to sustain activism, living with paradoxes, and more.

About Joelle 
Joelle Novey is director of Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA). She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University where she received a BA in Social Studies and a minor in the Study of Religion. She is also co-author of Green and Just Celebrations, a purchasing guide that Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) distributes to local congregations for assisting families in making greener purchasing decisions around weddings and bar/bat mitzvah celebrations. She is also an active leader in her local Jewish community.

About Interfaith Power & Light


I come from people who get involved and take action when life is at stake. Certainly, with the climate crisis we are in such a moment right now, and I feel like if I get anything from my tradition in facing this moment it's that I need to take action rather than look for reasons to delay.

The older I get the more I feel like we just have to live with irresolvable paradoxes and that if we can navigate through them with some kind of balance, and feeling tension on both sides, that's the wise path, that's the way forward. 

I think we have to have weekday consciousness in one pocket and Shmita consciousness in the other pocket.

I am grieving for so much that I love. I am grieving for the people I love who will experience a warmer and more dangerous world. I am grieving for the species that will not make it. I am feeling grief that is grounded in tremendous love. And then suddenly, with my heart open and my hands open, that's a tremendously powerful thing. It's like, I'm gonna be a warrior in the world for the things I love. I'm gonna have fierce, mother-bear protective energy for all that  I love. And, I'm in the fight of my life for all that I love.

What I appreciate so much about what I think a lot of our sacred traditions are bringing to this moment is putting an asterisk next to our feeling that we own the Earth, and own land. And there are many ways that I think Shmita and the teachings that, whether or not it feels like you own land, on a regular cycle you have to release it back to some collective--is one way the Jewish tradition, at least in principle, was trying to vet out a way of living in which everyone would sort of have a permanent asterisk after the idea of "owning the Earth." And I see so many ways that the communities we work with are trying to add that asterisk in a world where we are encountering so many negative consequences of not understanding our position in the world as interdependents.

Shmita forces everyone to think differently about land ownership and to put huge brackets and a big asterisk next to the idea that we have pieces of the Earth that we own, on which we can do anything we want, without thinking about our interdependence or the consequences to other creatures and species.

We have to make time to release and restore.

There’ s a role for everyone that’s completely authentic to who they are... Everyone already is who they need to be, to respond to the climate crisis, because they all already love someone who will be harmed by the climate crisis. And, we can never invite people to be someone else, but we can always invite them to be more fully who they are. 


Thanks for listening.
This podcast is part of our Winter 2021 series, Shmita Now.
Visit the AllCreation podcast site or for more. 
Produced and edited by Chris Searles.

What is The AllCreation Podcast? Faith • Spirit • Biodiversity • Connections