Climate change has definitely come to St Louis this winter. With temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s, February has felt like late April; Marian has started cleaning for Pesach! As it turned out, this year’s Scholar-in-Residence program was held in February; the theme was our environment, here and in Israel. Philosophical people may wonder “What effect on our environment can we really have?” They may point to the large uses of fossil fuels in cars, airplane travel, and equipment. There is a time to philosophize and there is a time to act. The hagaddah states, “I was personally liberated.” Responsible people ask, “What can we do?”
Israel, we learned, pioneered drip irrigation, saving huge quantities of water, and built desalinization plants, converting salt water from the Mediterranean Sea to water that is drinkable and useful. Solar panels exploit one of Israel’s great natural resources – the sun – and have generated home heating for showers throughout the Jewish state and increasing quantities of solar-transformed electricity.
So, what can we do? Here are a few friendly reminders: 1. Turn off lights and other electricity when not in use. 2. When shopping, bring reusable cloth bags. No need for plastic; no need for paper. 3. Be diligent about recycling. 4. Compost. It reduces waste and produces nutritious soil.
For counsel, I called one of our experts, Ceil Tobin, who has been composting for 45 years! Composting is fairly simple: 1. Combine dirt, chopped leaves and grass clippings (try to avoid weeds), and natural food scraps (onions, carrots, celery, banana and orange peels, apple cores) and even egg shells. (Stay away from large hard pits, e.g., peach; no meat or cheese leftovers). 2. Construct, or buy, a confined area, just a few square feet. Several stakes and a waist-high wire fence are sufficient to contain the natural products and allow air to circulate.
Our Scholar in Residence speaker, Dr. Jeremy Benstein mentioned an organization called Interfaith Power and Light. You can check out Missouri’s chapter, whose mission is “to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy to protect the earth’s ecosystems, safeguard public health, and ensure sufficient, sustainable energy for all” at http://www.moipl.org/ and sign up to receive information and tips.
The Torah sources on environmental responsibility are few; but powerful.
Adam and Eve were commanded to work and preserve the Garden. They were commanded to subdue the earth, but not to destroy it.
In war, we were bidden not to cut down the fruit trees. The armies of other cultures destroyed everything to prevent the resurgence of the enemy population. The Torah commanded us to look ahead and note the importance of our environment. Form this single law, the Rabbis taught that we are not permitted to waste. Teaching ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, together, we can all take it personally.