By Sybil Sanchez
Standing at the intersection of adam v’adamah — between human beings and the Earth — presents several challenges: How do we address the nexus between energy, security and the environment? How do we meet our energy needs as human beings and the environmental needs of our home, the Earth?
Our reliance on fossil fuels comes with a host of moral dilemmas. Hydraulic fracturing — shooting industrial fluids deep into the earth to release natural gas — could endanger our freshwater drinking supply. The 2011 meltdown of nuclear reactors in Japan has contaminated the region’s air, water, and crops and reminded the world of the danger that nuclear energy poses. Oil extraction from tar sands in Canada generates about three times as much greenhouse gas emissions as the production of conventional oil, yet the practice is increasing. People in Somalia starve during severe drought, yet pundits continue to debate whether climate change and extreme weather events and rising summer heat are connected. Arab states hostile to Israel control much of the world’s oil supply, dictating market prices and politics. And yet day after day we flip our light switches, boot up our computers, and drive our cars. What should we do?
While we cannot remove ourselves from the necessity of using energy, we have a moral obligation to work toward protecting our environment. There must be a sustainable alternative to how we live now.
The need to address our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our energy security has become central to our time. Although international commitments and legislation in Washington are critical in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy independence, our challenge is not to passively wait for policymakers to finally make their next moves. We need to bring our communal, institutional and personal strengths to bear now. That is why Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign leaders are committing to speak out as a public Jewish voice on energy and the environment.
The Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign seeks to integrate the goals of energy independence and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the mainstream of Jewish life. This publication provides the resources that you can use to take action immediately and make a meaningful impact.
Rabbi Tarfon taught us that we are not obliged to complete the task, but neither can we desist from it. The task is indeed great, and we hope you will join us as we work to change the way we live — and change the environment for the better.
By David Krantz
Seven is a holy number in Judaism. In Leviticus 23:15-16 and again in Deuteronomy 16:9-10, we are commanded to count seven weeks of seven days from Passover until the 50th day, Shavuot, the anniversary of receiving the Torah. But that’s not the only time we’re commanded to count by sevens. In Leviticus 25:8-12, we’re told to count seven cycles of seven years — seven shmittah, sabbatical, years until the 50th year, yovel, jubilee.
Think of yovel as a giant reset button, when mistakes are undone: Debts are forgiven, slaves are set free and wealth equality is restored. Yovel presents a blank slate and a second chance to get things right.
This Jewish Energy Guide consists of seven sections of seven articles, followed by a 50th, a jubilee, a vision for what life can be like by the time of our next yovel, if we will it. May we use this guide to help us prepare our second chance. Let’s reset our climate and restore the balance of greenhouse gases baking our planet, changing our climate and wrecking havoc on the human race.
May we be conscientious stewards of the Earth, and may we pass a healthier Earth on to our children and grandchildren. May we return to the days of old, when forests covered the land and fish filled the sea. May we breathe clean air and enjoy bright blue skies. And may the pages of this guide help lead the way.
Sybil Sanchez is the director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. She previously served as executive director of the Jewish Labor Committee and as director of United Nations affairs at B’nai B’rith International. An advisory committee member of the Jewish Greening Fellowship, Jewcology.com and Camp Ramah in the Rockies, and a former board member of the Green Zionist Alliance, Sanchez also chairs the Green Hevra, a network of 15 Jewish environmental organizations. She earned her master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University.
David Krantz is the president and chairperson of the Green Zionist Alliance, as well as a leadership fellow at the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. A founding member of Jewcology.com, Krantz is also a journalist whose work has been published around the world by media outlets including The Associated Press, espn.com and the Jerusalem Post. He serves on the cabinet of the board of directors of the American Zionist Movement, and he earned his master’s degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism and at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where he studied environmental policy.
The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.