Tag: Saving our Environment

Are These the 7 Years of Famine Dreamed by Joseph and Pharaoh?

More Torah cartoons at www.g-dcast.com

Hmmm, 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine.
Joseph got it right and saved up.
America apparently didn’t. We consumed our riches instead of planning for the future. Where could we have been if we:

  • produced energy efficient automobiles (now we are bailing out the car companies)
  • provided real oversight of Wall Street (now we are tossing bad money after good to bail them out)
  • regulating the mortgage industry (now we are watching the house of cards come tumbling down)
  • curbed greenhouse gases (now we are watching the glaciers melt and…)

Unlike Pharaoh and Joseph, we let greed about “I want to enjoy it now” overwhelm the urge/need to plan for the future.

Call for Climate Action

I signed onto interfaith petition to President Elect Obama on Climate Control. You can sign on too here.

Call for Climate Action
Interfaith Petition to
President-elect Barack Obama

We, the undersigned, of diverse faith traditions, stand together as brothers and sisters dedicated to finding solutions to global warming and the threat it poses to Creation. We urge you to take swift and meaningful action to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Global warming is a moral crisis that people of faith care deeply about. It endangers the lifesupport systems for all that God created and puts the most vulnerable at immediate risk. It is the world’s poor, who have contributed least to this problem, who will suffer the most.

Inaction cannot be an option. Interfaith Power and Light represents over 5,000 congregations of
all major religions throughout the country. For the past eight years, our congregations have been
changing light bulbs, installing solar rooftops and geo-thermal systems and shrinking our carbon
footprints. We’ve shown that it can be done. But we know that our actions alone will not be
enough to stem the tide of global warming.

It is past time for the U.S. to take a leadership role in this crisis. You have thoughtfully addressed climate change policy in your campaign and have embraced clean energy policy solutions. As president, we ask you to enact those solutions into law.

Please act quickly to ensure the future of our planet, and of generations to come, by implementing our clean energy agenda:

1. Make Climate Policies Equitable and Just
• Provide energy efficiency to low-income families
• Create 5 million green collar jobs
• Provide adaptation assistance to undeveloped nations
2. Green the Electricity Sector
• Move America toward a 100% clean energy future by maximizing energy efficiency,
modernizing the grid, and greatly expanding power generation from renewable energy
3. Cap Emissions and Auction the Permits
• Reduce emissions by 35% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050
• Work with other nations to accelerate these reductions as needed to avoid further warming
beyond 2º F
• Auction 100% of credits and direct revenue to developing a massive clean energy
transition, creating green jobs, and protecting vulnerable communities
4. Clean up Transportation
• Invest in clean mass transit infrastructure, increase fuel economy standards, and develop
alternative fuels
5. Stop New Coal
• Put a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants until and unless carbon emissions can be
captured and permanently sequestered

Electric Cars: Israel’sLeading the Way Again

The Associated Press (December 8, 2008) writes:

Instead of filling up at the pump, soon Israeli motorists will be able to fill their cars up at the plug.

That’s the idea behind Monday’s demonstration of the parking lot of the future, equipped with stations to charge the battery-powered cars scheduled to ply Israel’s streets in 2011. Israel’s government has endorsed the project, which aims to blanket the country with electric cars and plugs.

The California-based company, Project Better Place, is building the infrastructure to switch Israeli drivers over to battery power. The group has built 400 wired parking spots, mainly in and around Tel Aviv, since it launched the initiative in June.

Demonstrating the first 10 stations in a Tel Aviv mall parking lot, organizers explained that drivers can charge their cars while shopping.

Charging stations are 3-foot-high pedestals with curly-cued cords attached. A triangular plug fits into a socket where a car’s gas tank usually is.

Pini Leiberman, manager of infrastructure for Project Better Place, says the group hopes to wire 100,000 parking spots in Israel by 2010. The plugs will energize a fleet of electric cars being developed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance scheduled to hit the streets of Israel in 2011.

The car prototype was first demonstrated in May. Israel’s government believes it’s a way to reduce Israel’s dependence on oil and reduce pollution.

However, there are concerns that the cars can drive only short distances before they need to be charged. Leiberman said wired parking lots like the one displayed Monday can help solve the problem. He added that in 2010 there should be charging stations every 25 miles (40 kilometers).

Also, Leiberman said the company is developing battery changing stations, so drivers with no time to charge can trade drained batteries for charged ones.

Drivers who recharge at parking lots will pay by the mile. Computers will look at how much electricity the car needs and calculate the cost.

Leiberman said he did not know what the cost per mile would be, nor what the cars will cost, but pledged it would be lower than gasoline-operated cars.

That could be critical. Persuading Israeli car owners to trade their gas guzzlers for short-range vehicles could depend on whether the overall outlay is significantly lower, including the cost and effort of installing special plugs at their homes. There are also concerns about pollution from spent batteries and added drain on Israel’s already sagging electricity grid.

Israel Corp., a local partner of Better Place, has invested $200 million in the project, the company said, to pay for the entire electric car infrastructure in Israel.

If Project Better Place’s plan works, Israel would become the first country to have large numbers of electric cars on its streets. Test runs are set for next year.

The Danish energy company DONG Energy AS adopted a Better Place model in march, hoping to have electric cars running on power generated from wind turbines by 2011.

Hawaii and California were among the first states to sign onto the plan, the company said.

Seeing Green in the Shofar and its Call to Action

Gotta love being Jewish. Seems like we are on the forefront of most significant (peaceful) movements that change the world. Jews are all over the Green movement (see COEJL among others).

Now we come to realize that Jews have long promoted one of the most Green, Wireless Communications technologies ever: The Shofar.

JTA, in Seeing Green in the Shofar and its Call to Action, offers:

Is green the theme of the shofar this Rosh Hashanah season? In a year of sustainability and carbon footprints, high gas and hybrids, the shofar is the simplest, most eco-friendly method of reaching the Jewish community with a vital message.

The shofar, if you pause to think about it, is a rhapsody in green. Lightweight and easily transportable, it sports no moving parts — the shofar blower, or ba’al tekiah’s, own mouth becomes the mouthpiece. Yet it’s dependable enough to deliver the complex musical message required to begin a new Jewish year.

A totally natural product, its availability is a byproduct of an already ongoing ancient enterprise — sheep herding.

Powered by one human, and empowered by a congregation, the shofar requires no batteries, power cord or transformer. When we hear it, we are the ones who become transformed.

Rain as Reward? Reward and Punishment in the Torah

How do we modern Jews understand reward and punishment? My colleague and friend Rabbi Jocee Hudson, Director of Education at Temple Beth Sholom of Santa Ana, CA, reflects upon this question, which arises in the Torah portion Ekev (Deuteronomy 11:13-21):
This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Eikev, includes the theologically troubling second paragraph of one of our central Jewish prayers, the Sh’ma. In fact, these words are so challenging, the Reform movement long ago removed them from our liturgy. And, while the words are preserved in our TBS siddur (Or Ami keeps only , we don’t often recite them. What are these words that cause us so much worry? Deuteronomy 11:13-21 reads: If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving Adonai your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil — I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle — and thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For Adonai’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that Adonai is assigning to you. Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart: bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a-symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children — reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates — to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that Adonai swore to your fathers to assign to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth. What can we, as Reform Jews, do with such a firm theological statement of reward and punishment (a theology that our movement long ago rejected)? This way of looking at the world (i.e. good behavior = rain) clearly no longer fits with our ethics and morals. I believe we must look past the simple (p’shat) meaning of these words and explore their relevance in our world today (d’rash). I believe that God, through the words of Torah, is speaking to us today. God is saying to us: If you continue to burn fossil fuels for your benefit today, without exploring alternative technology, you will feel the ramifications of your actions, as your weather patterns will change (droughts, hurricanes, floods, and mudslides). And, you will feel the consequences of worshipping the gods of “convenience” and “progress.” God is saying to us: If you continue to produce “new seeds” and use dangerous, poisonous chemicals and fertilizers, planting without concern for native environments or the needs of local populations, you will experience hunger and create inarable land. And, you will feel the consequences of not researching the possibilities of locally grown produce, organic growing, subsistent farming, or alternative theories of agriculture. God is saying to us: If you continue to strip the land bare of old growth trees and pay no heed to your efforts at deforestation, you will experience mudslides and climate change. And, you will feel the consequences of not treating the land with respect. I fear that we, as a world collective, have begun to believe that we are no longer subject to the Divine laws of the elements. We have begun to imagine that we are no longer intimately connected to the land and her rhythms. We have begun to believe that the intricate, Divinely controlled relationship between human actions and needed rainfall no longer apply to us. We have begun to believe that we no longer need God’s commandments. This year, as we read these timeless words of Deuteronomy, let us return to our God — to the cautions we were long ago commanded to impress upon our hearts. We learn in this week’s parashah that we cannot compartmentalize our actions. The way we treat our planet is the way we treat our God is the way we treat ourselves. On this Shabbat, let us hear Torah anew. On this Shabbat, let us recommit ourselves to enduring — and even thriving — in our land.

Climate Change: What’s the Jewish Take?

Shabbat. The day of rest. We refrain from acting on the world, so as to take pleasure in it. We thank the Holy One for the world in which we live.

But it seems that we never stop acting on the world. And often in very detrimental ways.

Once again Thomas Friedman (NYTimes, 8/5/08) poignantly and articulately sounds the alarm (speaks the truth) about the effects of Climate Change on our world. Writing from Greenland he notes:

And my trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day. We’ve charged their future on our Visa cards. …
That’s how I learned a new language here: “Climate-Speak.” It’s easy to learn. There are only three phrases. The first is: “Just a few years ago …” Just a few years ago you could dogsled in winter from Greenland, across a 40-mile ice bank, to Disko Island. But for the past few years, the rising winter temperatures in Greenland have melted that link. Now Disko is cut off. Put away the dogsled. There has been a 30 percent increase in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet between 1979 and 2007, and in 2007, the melt was 10 percent bigger than in any previous year, said Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, which monitors the ice. Greenland is now losing 200 cubic kilometers of ice per year — from melt and ice sliding into the ocean from outlet glaciers along its edges — which far exceeds the volume of all the ice in the European Alps, he added. “Everything is happening faster than anticipated.”

It occurred to me that scientists have made clear that Global Warming and Climate Change are facts (not theory). Businesses and some politicians are starting to see the light. What about Jews? What is the Jewish take on Climate Change?

Head over to the Jewish Climate Initiative to read their blog and check out their website. Dedicated to illuminating the Jewish ethical and philosophical response to Climate Change, they write about a Jewish theology of climate change, Midrashic narratives, and a thoughtful article on Halakha and Climate Change: Because the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. Clearly Jewish thought and teaching makes clear that we are responsible in big and little ways to protect the earth, a gift from God.

Head over to Shma Magazine and read its August 2008 issue. The issue focuses on environmental issues from a Jewish perspective. Or check out COEJL (Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life), which is chock full of articles on Jewish values as it relates to climate change.

It is Shabbat. Today, up here during our jaunt in Northern California, I shall refrain from acting on our world and just schepp nachas (share the joy) at the beauty that surrounds me. Nonetheless, I shall be thinking about what we are doing – on non-Shabbat days – l’takein haolam, to fix this broken world.

Kosher Can Mean Socially Responsible and Environmentally Friendly Too

And the Ethical Kosher discussions keep coming! (Read my previous post on Ethical Kashrut or the Chicago Sun Times article.) A colleague, talking with a major health foods provider, is involved in a new organization that addresses issues of ethical kashrut.

One World Kosher
it is called. I’m not endorsing anyone, but this is fascinating. Being marked as Kosher should transcend the ingredients contained therein or the way the animal is slaughtered. It should reflect that the products and their production are done in ethical, socially responsible, environmentally compassionate, thoughtful ways. Here’s another attempt to move in that direction. One World Kosher’s website explains:

One World Kosher certifies products that meet the highest levels of kashrut and environmentally friendly and socially responsible production.One World Kosher supports consumers concerned with healing our world by ensuring a viable and sustainable future for ourselves and our children.One World Kosher recognizes that people seek certified kosher food for many reasons including religious beliefs and an assurance of third party supervised production. Though kashrut is based in Jewish teaching, we believe that the value of keeping kosher extends beyond religious labels and truly has the power to unite all peoples of the world. We also affirm that the true meaning of kashrut transcends the ingredients that go into our food and the manner in which animals are slaughtered. This higher level of kashrut demands that we look at how food is grown and how workers are treated, thus bringing true sanctity to our tables, our homes and our lives.One World Kosher certified products are:

  • Dairy or Pareve;
  • Produced in ways that respect and protect our environment;
  • Produced by companies that see their human resources as “human”
  • first and “resources” second.

But does it taste good?

Ethical Kosher: A Kashrut We All Could (Should!) Follow

You would think that if an item is designated as “kosher” all aspects of its production would be “kosher” [read: ethical, moral, environmentally friendly]. You would expect that from the way it is prepared to the treatment of the workers who made it to the way the company treats the environment, all aspects would be kosher. Not so.

Along comes the Conservative Jewish movement with an innovative solution:

According to JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency):

The Conservative movement released a policy statement and guidelines for its much-anticipated ethical kashrut certification, outlining the social justice standards companies are expected to meet if their foodstuffs are to qualify for the designation.

According to the document released Thursday, products will be evaluated in five main areas — employees’ wages and benefits, employee health and safety, product development, corporate transparency and environmental impact — and assessed in part on the basis of information from third-party sources. Read more.

Bravo to the Conservative Movement. Now that’s a kind of kashrut we all could follow!

The Green Rabbinical Student

When two people I admire – one a newly minted rabbi (former intern) and the other an HUC Joint Master’s student/Or Ami intern – both point to the same blog and tell me “I gotta read it,” I gotta read it.

the green rabbinical student is a great blog which looks at the world through Shomray Adamah (protect the earth) lenses. Its opening quote is motivational enough, from a Midrash which has God speaking to Adam: “See my works, how lovely and praiseworthy they are, and all that I created, for your sake I created it. Put your mind [to this], that you don’t ruin or destroy my world, for if you ruin there is no one who will repair after you.”

Check him/it out!

PS. The picture, one of many beautiful shots on his blog, is of “Mud Lake: His favorite place in camp.”

Two Great Quotes: On Silence and on Activism

This first quote from Rabbi Rafael Goldstein’s Thoughts for Today (a daily SHORT email with thought-provoking quotes and questions). Get his daily quotes and spiritual questions by emailing Rabbi Rafael Goldstein directly.

So often my words precede my thoughts, and I feel humiliated. I am a fool more frequently than I am a sage! O G!d, show me how to keep quiet more often, at least until I have something real to say and someone who wants to hear it. (Rabbi Chaim Stern)

This second quote from an article by Rabbi David Saperstein in this month’s CCAR Journal. It informs our work against genocide in Darfur as well as so many other social justice activities:

Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the world and does not is liable for the transgressions of the entire world. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b)

Texas to Tel Aviv: Inspiring Electric Cars from the Holy Land

Genesis teaches us to be Shomrei Adamah, stewards and protectors of the land, to care and cultivate it. Protecting America requires us to find alternative sources of fuel. Protecting Israel demands both.

In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman writes:

What would happen if you cross-bred J. R. Ewing of “Dallas” and Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club? You’d get T. Boone Pickens. What would happen if you cross-bred Henry Ford and Yitzhak Rabin? You’d get Shai Agassi. And what would happen if you put together T. Boone Pickens, the green billionaire Texas oilman now obsessed with wind power, and Shai Agassi, the Jewish Henry Ford now obsessed with making Israel the world’s leader in electric cars?

About Shai Agassi: age 40, is an Israeli software whiz kid who rose to the senior ranks of the German software giant SAP. He gave it all up in 2007 to help make Israel a model of how an entire country can get off gasoline and onto electric cars. He figured no country has a bigger interest in diminishing the value of Middle Eastern oil than Israel.

His idea: Agassi’s plan, backed by Israel’s government, is to create a complete electric car “system” that will work much like a mobile-phone service “system,” only customers sign up for so many monthly miles, instead of minutes. Every subscriber will get a car, a battery and access to a national network of recharging outlets all across Israel — as well as garages that will swap your dead battery for a fresh one whenever needed.

Read on and be amazed when Israeli and American know-how and commitment get hooked up together.