As the running campaign for the next president begins, Charlottesville, VA is already in a buzz. The “red state” made history when Virginia turned blue for the election of president Obama in 2008. Along with other major issues, the environment is becoming a very verbal political issue here in Charlottesville, as well as all over the world. With the fear of global warming, violent storms growing, the ozone layer depleting, pollution increasing, oil reserves running out and deforestation on the rise, scientists say we may be killing our planet.
Republican Congressman John Shimkus represents many Christian’s views on the issue. “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God,” he said during an interview with Politico in 2010, “And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.” While his biblical knowledge is great, his scientific facts may be a bit skewed. In the last 100 years, the Earth’s temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit causing the oceans to rise 8 inches, and the planet is only heating faster. While that doesn’t seem like much, one must take into consideration that if the Earth cools 4 degrees, we would be in an ice age, and if 40% of the ice caps melt by 2050 (a realistic possibility) we could see worldwide devastation.
Judaism’s perspective coincides with the laws of Torah, which seem to promote the care of the environment. The coming of Jesus in Christianity may have freed Christian believers from the laws of Torah, but his coming was never meant to ignore the care for the planet God gave to us.
God gave us the plants to have dominion over and tend; Genesis 1:29. Because of this, Judaism observes Tu Bish’vat, a holiday for the trees. The symbol of the tree is a powerful one in Judaism; even the Torah is dubbed Eitz Chaim, the tree of life. Jews send trees to be planted in Israel for special occasions, and during Tu Bish’vat, many plant a tree in their community to honor God’s creation of nature. The Jewish effort is in vain, however, when it comes to the deforestation that destroys millions of acres of natural habitats for animals every day. Oxygen levels in the atmosphere may already be diminishing.
Genesis 1:29 also tells us that God gave us dominion over the animals. Leviticus dictates how to care for and consume them. Raising and consuming cattle according to the Torah’s specifications could actually save the environment. Because of the strict laws, Jews consume less meat, and handle the whole process with explicit care. The report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” conducted by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations announced, “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale form local to global.” Big Macs may be delicious, but the meat industry is a leading contributor to the destruction of our planet.
Within Judaism’s 613 commandments, many pertain to the up-keep and wellbeing of this planet. Judaism blesses the Earth and sees nature as a part of God. HE created it, HE keeps it going, and HE is forever a part of it. It is our obligation to keep clean the gift that was given to our forefathers to be bestowed upon us, our children, and our children’s children. As said in many Jewish services, “L’dor v’dor”; “from generation to generation.”
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