NISHMA Introspection 5767-01
Dayan HaEmet

by Howard Pasternack

In the beginning of God's creation of Heaven and Earth, the Earth was without form and empty.  Later, God filled the earth with many forms of life: plants, animals, insects, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, fungi, microorganisms, and other creatures, including humans.  Among the humans, God chose a select group, the Jews, to receive God's message, and to be God's mouthpiece on Earth.  B’ezrat Hashem, one day everyone on Earth will understand and appreciate that it was God Who created all of the living things and their complex habitats that enable us all to live and eat and breathe here.

The question I would like to pose in this essay is this: If it is Am Yisroel's role to be the link through which the rest of humanity will ultimately come to know and worship God, and to realize that all life is His creation, then wouldn't a key part of this role be to stand up for the preservation of this awesome creation of Hashem?

Many sources talk about how man can come to know the greatness and majesty of Hashem through a love and respect for Nature and by otherwise studying His creation.  Rambam, in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah (2:1-2 and 4:12) tells us that the path to the mitzvot of Ahavat Hashem and Yirat Hashem is to contemplate on God's wondrous deeds and creations, and appreciate the sublime wisdom that is the yesod, the foundation of creation.  In Chovos Halevovos (Vol.1, Part 2), we learn how man can become so accustomed to the benefits of creation that he will habitually take them for granted, and fail to discern their holy Source.  We also learn that it is our duty to overcome this habit by studying creation, for thereby we can learn to treasure the wisdom of the Creator.

Unfortunately, in today's world of concrete and glass and metal, of bagged salad and meat in styrofoam trays, of instant dinners and machine-mediated interaction with people and with nature, many of the miracles of creation are shielded from our view.  It is difficult to appreciate what we cannot see. 

In addition, as we move further away from a rural agrarian society towards an urban technological one, human beings as individuals have relinquished their direct custodianship over the land to large collective entities -- mostly corporations.  Most of the food we buy in supermarkets is now grown on large "factory farms" owned by corporations.  The Human face of custodianship has largely been erased.  Instead, abstract faceless entities, whose dealings and decisions are frequently beyond the discernment of the general public, are the new custodians of the land.  Without direct interactions with nature, and as long as nature is hidden from view, our moral link to it is lost.  Our sensitivity to it is lost.  Out of sight, out of mind.

So, today, how will Mankind find the inspiration to make that sublime connection, to discover God in Nature, especially if we turn Nature into a giant cesspool of toxic waste, plastic packaging, smog and extinct species?  Man's impact on the Earth, on its habitability for all forms of life (including Man himself) has been highly destructive.  While many areas of halacha permit some degree of destruction as long as some benefit can be gained (eg. killing animals for food), we must nonetheless question the wisdom of destroying so much that we deprive future generations of such benefit, and indeed deprive ourselves of the benefits of toxin-free air, water, soil and food.

Sensitivity and Sechel

In Rav S.R. Hirsch, Bereshis 2:15 tells us: "it is by virtue of man's moral conduct and his conscientious use of the bounties of nature that nature itself receives not only aid for its development toward its purpose, but also the conditions for its very survival.  Hence our Sages juxtapose the concepts of cultivation and care with Torah and the observance of the Divine Commandments, which comprise the totality of man's purpose."  Thus, Man has the power to threaten the survival of nature itself, and the continued survival of nature depends on the way that  Man uses it.

We now ask: is it appropriate for a Jew to have little or no sensitivity to the harm being done to Creation, to ourselves and to future generations?  In order to develop an appreciation for the magnitude of the problem, let us have a brief overview of the nezek, the damage being done to Creation.  (Note: You need not simply take my word for what's happening -- do some reading yourself.  Use your sechel, and sort between the hype and the science, the agendas, the lone crackpots, and the real physical measurements, the mouthpieces for interest groups and the publications in peer-reviewed journals.)

Here are just a few examples of the damage
(some references shown in the text below, see more references at the end)

  • In the past generation, 139 entire species of birds have gone extinct, as well as 74 species of mammals and hundreds of species of other living things (source: IUCN 2006 Redlist).  These include species that were saved by Noach over 4000 years ago ... but now they are gone forever.  Thousands more species are on the endangered and critically-endangered lists, and many of these will be gone in the next generation.
  • Urban sprawl, logging and mining activities encroach into new animal habitats every day, as well as taking the place of farmland.
  • Timber companies are clear-cutting forests for their lumber, destroying treetop habitats and reducing the planet's ability to absorb pollution and clean the air.
  • Thousands of industrial chemicals pervade our homes, our water, soil, air and food.  Fetal and early childhood exposures have caused developmental brain disorders for millions of children:  one out of every six children worldwide.  (Source: The Lancet and Harvard School of Public Health, "A Silent Pandemic: Industrial Chemicals Are Impairing the Brain Development of Children Worldwide" Nov.7, 2006)
  • >The blood of most North Americans is now contaminated with flame retardants, PCBs, Cadmium, pesticides, plasticisers, synthetic estrogens, and a large number of synthetic chemicals.  It is a sign of our time that we have a name for this: our "chemical body burden". (Sources: http://www.bodyburden.org, CBC documentary "Chasing the Cancer Answer" http://www.cbc.ca/consumers/market/files/health/cancer/, http://www.CalBBC.org, PBS "Trade Secrets, a Moyers Report" , and many others. )
  • In the past 40 years, cancer rates in Israeli Jews ages 20-34 have tripled.  (Source: International Agency for Research on Cancer, Cancer Mondial database CI I-VIII of cancer statistics  http://www-dep.iarc.fr/)
  • Smog days are more severe and more frequent, forcing cities to issue warnings like "During a Smog Alert, reduce outdoor activity levels by choosing less vigorous activities or reducing their duration." and "Monitor children’s comfort regularly. If children experience any symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and/or difficulty breathing, reduce outdoor activity level or move children inside, preferably to an air conditioned environment." and "Provide children with plenty of rest breaks. Plan activities away from high traffic areas, especially during the peaks of morning and afternoon rush hours."  (Source: City of Toronto fact sheet, http://www.toronto.ca/health)
  • There has been an extraordinary rise in the incidence of childhood asthma and severe allergies, caused by air pollution, overuse of household chemicals, and other factors.
    http://www.examiner.com/printa-464388~Environmental_group_says_study_links_smog_and_child_asthma.html
  • Air pollution has destroyed much of the planet's protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.  This has allowed much more ultraviolet radiation to reach the ground, causing more cases of skin cancer and cataracts.  More UV also harms crops and livestock.  (Source: WHO, NOAA, and many others)
  • Our economy is currently structured in a way that makes heavy use of advertising and excessive packaging, creating a gigantic trash problem.  Large cities are continuously struggling to find new sites for landfills to dump ever-increasing volumes of trash.
  • Though previously outlawed, it is now common practice for municipal sewage treatment plants to sell the waste material that is extracted from sewage (known as "sewage sludge") for use as cheap fertilizer in farms.  The sludge is not just fecal matter but also contains all of the other things that people and factories dump down their drains and toilets, including many toxic chemicals.  This is now being spread across the food we grow.
  • Many farms have sprayed so much "Roundup" herbicide on their crops for so many years that the herbicide has accumulated in the soil to a concentration that kills the very crops it was supposed to protect.  Since normal seeds cannot grow there, farmers are now stuck buying special genetically-modified seeds every year, called "Roundup Ready" -- made by Monsanto, the same company that made, and continues to make, the "Roundup" herbicide.  As more farms lose the ability to grow normal crops, and become dependent upon Monsanto for their wheat, corn, and other seeds, Monsanto increasingly gains unreasonable monopoly-like power over the food supply.
  • Genetic tampering with foods has gone much further than this, though, with minimal regulation in place to prevent abuse.  Monsanto, Bayer, and other chemical companies have developed ways of implanting the genes of insects, bacteria, animals, and other forms of life into wheat, rice, tomatoes and other foods.  This technology enables the crop to form its own insecticides and herbicides from the inside.  These new chemicals have never been tested to see if they are safe for human consumption.  Genetically-modified ingredients are now a significant portion of most processed foods we buy in the supermarket.  While it is possible that many genetically-modified foods are safe, the basis used by regulatory agencies for deciding that they are safe is sloppy and unscientific.  The FDA and Health Canada require no independent testing for adverse effects on humans and conduct no such tests on their own.  Current rules provide no way to know if the developers of these foods have disclosed all of their data that is relevant to food safety.  That means these companies are free to cherry-pick the data they like and hide the results they don't want us to see.  This is exactly the abuse that was discovered in 2004, when it was found that, for years, pharmaceutical companies had been failing to disclose "unfavourable" clinical trials of their drugs, to create an unrealistically rosy picture of the drugs' combination of adverse effects.  In response to this, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors put new rules in place for medical publications, requiring drugmakers to reveal ALL test results, not just the good ones -- as well as making a special database to track every last clinical trial.  No such luck for Genetically-Modified foods, though.
  • Large factory farms that raise livestock put antibiotics into their daily feed.  While reducing infection in the short term, this practice also breeds drug-resistant bacteria.  As a result, much of our food, our groundwater and even crops in the vicinity of such farms contain bacteria capable of causing "superbug" infections in humans that are not treatable by traditional antibiotics.  This has created the need for new antibiotics.  However, due to misuse of these antibiotics over time, bacteria have evolved the ability to withstand these as well.  So, there is a kind of "arms race" happening now between research labs' development of new antibiotics and bacteria's development of new resistance.
  • Ruminants evolved as grazers, eating mostly grasses.  Industrial beef farms feed grain to cattle instead of their natural diet of grasses.  Grain increases stomach acidity, and turns cow stomachs into the ideal environment for breeding the deadly bacteria E-coli O157:H7.  This is why we now treat hamburger as a deadly toxin until fully cooked.  Large beef farms generate millions of tons of cow feces, which release volumes of this bacteria into the groundwater, which enters into our water supply for both drinking and irrigation (hence the recent spinach scare).  "Boil water advisories" and failures in water treatment plants are now common in rural areas because of this.
  • Synthetic Oestrogen and other hormones given to cows have a range of health effects on humans, from cancer to man-breasts.
  • Industrial poultry and egg farms pack thousands of birds together in a confined space.  This creates the perfect breeding ground for viruses.  The antibiotics fed to them do not kill viruses, and so bird viruses spread very quickly in this environment.  It is precisely these conditions that have created and propagated the much-reported bird flu virus "H5N1".  International medical organizations are concerned that H5N1 might evolve into a form that is easily transmissible to humans, and they monitor H5N1 closely wherever it turns up, to be ready to warn the world if this happens.  The greater the population of the virus, the greater likelihood that it will mutate into a form that humans can catch and pass on easily.  This is why farm conditions that make it easy for the virus to increase its population (such as large factory farms) are a hazard.
  • With the rise in use of antibacterial soaps, they are now accumulating in our soil via sewage sludge and runoff.  Antibacterial soaps kill bacteria in the short term, but stimulate the evolution of resistant bacteria in the long term, thus becoming another source of Superbugs that can be passed onto people through crops.
  • Processing and burning fossil fuels and petrochemicals has led to large amounts of mercury, PCBs and other toxic substances entering our lakes and oceans.  Our supply of previously-edible fish is now so contaminated that governments at all levels have issued warnings to pregnant women to avoid eating most kinds of fish, since mercury harms a fetus' brain development.
  • Genetically-modified, or "Transgenic" fish are grown in many fish farms.  Fish farms are often located in sequestered areas of shoreline, and are not rigourously enclosed.  Thus, transgenic fish often escape into the wild and interbreed with the fish created by Hashem, spreading their altered genome into nature.  Studies have shown that transgenic fish are more aggressive, eat more food, and will attract more mates than wild fish; in spite of this, their offspring will be less fit and less likely to survive.  As a result, scientists predict that some of the more vulnerable species of fish will become extinct within only a few generations.
  • The past generation has seen massive increases in "Dead Zones" in lakes and oceans.  These are regions devoid of oxygen where no fish or crustaceans can live.  Dead zones are caused by massive quantities of fertilizers and sewage, which are carried by rivers from large urban areas and industrial-scale agricultural operations.  Plankton feed on the nutrients in these wastes, and overpopulate the region, and then die.  The decaying plankton consume all of the region's oxygen.
  • The extraordinary concentrations of fertilizer in the oceans have also been causing accelerated growth of toxic algae, which are eaten by sealife, making seafood equally toxic.  Shellfish and fish can accumulate this toxin without apparent ill effects. But in humans, the toxin crosses into the brain and interferes with nerve signal transmission.  This phenomenon has led to the closure of many fisheries during "toxic algae blooms".  As the oceans have been getting warmer, more large toxic algae blooms are being seen further north than ever before; they used to be a phenomenon limited largely to tropical waters. 
  • Overgrazing, overuse, deforestation and poor irrigation of marginal lands at the edges of deserts has caused desertification.   Worldwide, about 6 million hectares of land loses all or part of its productivity due to human-induced soil degradation every year.  Some 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares of drylands used for agriculture worldwide are already degraded and threatened by desertification. (UNCCD.int FAQ & factsheets)
  • The oceans are getting warmer, causing ice to melt, making more liquid water available for the hydrologic cycle.  This leads to more water vapour.  Water vapour is a much more potent greenhouse gas than even Carbon Dioxide.  More water vapour means more warming.  And more warming means more ice melting, and so even more water vapour.  This is called a "positive feedback loop" and the worst case scenario is that warming will accelerate so much that we will reach a point where even a complete cessation in carbon emissions will not be enough to reverse the trend.  Climatologists are currently studying this, as well as other positive and negative feedback mechanisms in order to develop a solid predictive computer model of the climate's general behaviour.  Though it gets a lot of press coverage, this science is still in its infancy, and so the strongest evidence can be found in empirical observations of the planet's actual behaviour.
  • Thousands of scientists who specialize in atmospheric science, oceans, ice, glaciers, polar ecologies, tropical ecologies, deserts, animals, insects, plants, fish, and other fields have all been observing events that are extraordinary for their areas of study.  They have each independently witnessed and recorded unprecedentedly rapid changes to local ecologies all over the planet.  There is an overwhelming consensus among experts that climate change is real, and that it is caused by human activity.  Though critics of this position often gain attention by the popular media, they are roundly and effectively debunked by the science world. 
  • If all of the polar ice is given a chance to melt, the rising water will submerge most lowlands and coastal regions with an elevation less than 200 feet above sea level.  These include: Manhattan, most of Washington DC, most of southern England, all of the Netherlands and Bangladesh, and most of the Mediterranean coast of Israel including Tel Aviv, Gaza and Haifa.  Since many civilisations have grown as a result of sea travel, a disproportionate number of major cities around the world are in coastal areas.
  • Current computer models suggest that complete melting is a few centuries away, based on numerous arbitrary assumptions.  The current real and observed rate of melting is exceptionally fast, but because we don't know how to account for feedback effects yet, it's very hard to predict how long it will take for this to happen.  It could be 100 years, or 1000.  In any event, if nothing is done to stop it, it will happen.

Bal Tashchit or Ba'al Tashchit ?

As a species, we are showing ourselves to be terribly incompetent at the "conscientious use" of nature, leading to the mess we see today.

We live in the greatest golden age in history, with many wonders never before imagined.  But there is a price for this wealth and prosperity that we are beginning to finally pay ... and which our progeny will pay even more heavily.  Must we be so completely insensitive to this price?  It is a Torah attitude to say: "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die"?

For comparison to our current attitudes, below are examples of Torah thoughts on these matters:

"Tzadikim and elevated people of good deeds…do not waste even a mustard seed in this world.  They become sorrowful with every wasteful and destructive act that they see, and if they can, they use all their strength to save everything possible from destruction. But the wicked are not thus; they are like demons. They rejoice in the destruction of the world, just as they destroy themselves ... For destroying things other than those explicitly mentioned in scripture, a person should be flogged with the lashes of disobedience." - Sefer HaChinuch 529

"When the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created the first man, he took him and showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: 'See my works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are; and I created all of it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy my world because if you spoil it, there will be no one after you to repair it'" - Kohelet Rabba 7:13.  Maharzav adds that this warning applies to all of humanity, throughout the generations, and not just to Adam.

"But whoever breaks utensils, tears garments, demolishes a building, stops up a fountain and willfully destroys food violates the prohibition of 'you shall not destroy', and shall receive lashes deRabbanan." - Rambam, Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Melachim 6:10

We are to "regard things as God's property and use them with a sense of responsibility for wise human purposes. Destroy nothing! Waste nothing!  Do not be avaricious!" – Rav S.R. Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 56, Para. 401

"If you regard the beings beneath you as objects without rights, not perceiving God Who created them... then God's call proclaims to you: 'Do not destroy anything!  Be a man!  Only if you use the things around you for wise human purposes, sanctified by the word of My teaching, only then are you a man, and have the right over them which I have given to you as a man.  However, if you destroy, if you ruin - at that moment you are not a man, you are an animal, and have no right to the things around you.  As soon as you use them unwisely, be it the greatest or the smallest, you commit treachery against My world, you commit murder and robbery against My property, you sin against Me!' – Rav S.R. Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 56, Para. 397

Bal tashchit prohibits us from wasting fuel – T.B. Shabbat 67b

To teach people not to waste clothes, we must tell them that anyone who buries the dead in an expensive garment, or in too many garments, violates the negative mitzvah of bal tashchit, since it is better to give the garments to the poor.  – Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avel 14:24

The gedolim of the generation prayed to end a famine, but failed because the generation had been unworthy to receive Divine assistance in spite of these prayers.  How do we know this is the reason?  Because the famine began when Rav Yehuda saw two people tossing bread around as a toy, and gave them an angry stare – T.B. Taanit 24b.  The meaning here is that wastefulness during times of abundance, and the attitudes behind such wastefulness, are what bring famine.

Mitzvoth bein adom l'olam

We often classify mitzvoth into bein adom l'makom and bein adom l'chavero, but there is another class that emerges upon examination: bein adom l'olam: between man and Creation.  What kind of picture emerges when you look at Hashem's directives?

  • Do not cut stones for the mishkan using swords or implements of war
  • Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees for war
  • Do not boil a calf in its mother's milk
  • Do not schecht a calf and its mother in the same day
  • Do not take eggs from a nest without first "shooing" away the mother bird
  • Do not make an ox and a mule work together
  • Do not sow 2 crops in the same field
  • Do not weave linen (a vegetable fibre) and wool (an animal fibre) together into the same garment.

What is the common theme?  Do not be careless about such fundamental distinctions in the world as life & death, animal and vegetable and other basic classes of creation.  Show respect for life, for living things, and for our connections to God's life-giving force.  Recognize the value and the holiness of creation and do not be oblivious to the natural order.

Creation is not just a commodity to be thoughtlessly exploited.  Today's entire economic structure is founded on the commoditization of God's creation.  Everything is treated a commodity, a unit, a thing without a soul or essence, produced in unfathomable mass quantities.  Automation and mass production have made it possible to feed, clothe and house more people than before, but the system is flawed and we are beginning to pay a terrible price for this, which can undo all of the good that has been achieved.

When we say a bracha before or after eating something, we show some of the required sensitivity,  recognizing that we are benefitting from God's creation.  But does the bracha then become a joke when we throw half a chicken in the garbage because we neglected to re-refrigerate it after the meal?  Our generation suffers from the curse of abundance:  We have been lulled into believing that chicken is money, and nothing more.  We routinely waste half a chicken here, a few fish there, a few pieces of cow.  These animals die for nothing, to end up in a landfill, mummified with piles of disused broken plastic and metal, sealed in concrete for eternity.

Will God let it get worse?

In parshas Noach, God promised never to destroy all life on Earth again. 

However, He did not promise that he would not let us destroy most of it ourselves.

Many believe that God would never let this happen.  But who can honestly claim to know the mind of God?  One must be careful in asserting what God will or will not allow, especially in the generation after the Shoah.  If God allowed the horrors of the extermination camps and the murder of 6 million of His people, then we know that He does indeed allow terrible things on such a scale.

But we need not rely on the Shoah alone to suggest that man can destroy on a global scale.  In case we need reminding, here are just a few of our "achievements" over the past century:

        The emergence of cities in Africa has created the opportunity for HIV to pass from tribal bush meat hunters to the larger population.  The number of deaths from AIDS in the past 25 years has now surpassed 20 million, with 40 million currently infected globally.  As the virus spreads, health care workers face greater risks and must exercise more caution to avoid exposure.  A small exposed cut, a bloody nose, a manicure ... these will all eventually become objects of fear.

        Cancer causes 7 million deaths every year, 12.5% of all deaths worldwide.    Most of these are completely preventable, yet the rate is rising.

        The ongoing killing in Darfur (200,000 dead so far)

        Rwanda (800,000 dead)

        All 20th Century genocides combined: 18 million dead

        World War One: 15 million dead

        World War Two: 55 million dead

        USSR: killings under Stalin: 20 million

        China: killings under Mao Tse Tung: 40 million

        Russian Civil War: 9 million dead

        Chinese civil war: 2.5 million dead

        Combined 20th century wars, genocides and political killings: well over 150 million dead.

This is the legacy of the past century: Man's ancient inclinations meet the power of modern technology.  How can anyone honestly assert that more of the same cannot continue to happen?

This leaves the question: what attitude shall we take to all of this?  Many say that we should have emunah in technology as our saviour.  But does Torah say it's kosher to give ourselves permission to destroy wantonly, believing and trusting in technology's ability to dig ourselves out of any trouble we get into?  Can a believing Jew seriously go along with society's trend of digging ourselves deeper into this hole, all the while passively counting on technology to come to the rescue?

Similarly, we must not passively wait for God to take care of it.  A Jew may hope for miracles but must not rely on miracles.  Rather, our purpose is to make the tough decisions that we are faced with, bringing resources to bear that are within our sphere of influence.  It is not our purpose to sit back, destroy whatever we want, and say "God will save us".  This is not a Torah attitude.  Do not test God -- God has allowed us to destroy this much already. 

Besides, counting on a technological fix is just plain silly -- the scale is too large.  These problems were created over many decades of spewing by billions of people.  How can we count on politicians who can barely get a pot-hole fixed, to organize the construction of some giant space mirror or a continent-sized CO2 extraction device, or a titanic grid of thousands of wind-powered electric freezers for the Antarctic?  And forget about a mass exodus to another planet -- we can barely get our 20-year-old space shuttles running twice a year, and even those will explode on re-entry if a piece of foam falls on them during lift-off.  Imagine evacuating billions of people, or even a  million!  I hear people talk about these technologies as though they are real options -- but they are outright fantasy, drawn from watching too much television.

A dilemma for this generation

Jews have generally been associated with liberal causes, but this has changed in recent years.  In this generation, a collision of interests has led the political Right into a pro-Israel position, thus attracting Jewish support.  Today, the political Left favours environmental protection, while the Right favours commercial interests even to the point of allowing serious environmental damage.  So, Jews now have a dilemma:  Supporting causes whose aim is to save the planet (which we depend on for life) means supporting and allying with people who are likely to be anti-Israel.

In certain ways, the dilemma is a false one.  The fact that environmental protection is a value held more by the Left does not stop it from being a Torah value.  Rather, it exists as one value among a matrix of Torah values -- including the value of protecting the lives of Jews in Israel.  This is no more of a dilemma than Kashrus versus Shabbos -- there is plenty of room for both; it is merely a matter of how much of our time and resources we wish to put into each.  It is a matter of weighing and balancing values that inhabit a matrix of values, which also includes health and parnassa and davening and learning and chesed and so forth.  Prioritizing one's values is a common exercise.  The values of protecting Israel and the capacity of the planet to support life are not mutually exclusive.  One may engage in both without any loss to Torah.  Indeed, protecting Israel and protecting Creation are rooted in the same core value: the value of pikuach nefesh -- saving human lives.

Nevertheless, we also cannot ignore the reality that, in the political realm, this dilemma may be very real. In voting for a candidate, we may be forced to choose between conflicting positions and conflicting values.  Though it may be tempting to see one stance as all good and the other as all bad, that is not necessarily the truth. Neither the Right nor the Left reflects a complete Torah perspective on all issues. It is also not so simple to maintain that support of Israel must always triumph over environmental protection, which is still another Torah value.  In certain situations, it will make sense to direct one's resources towards Israel instead of environmental protection, but one must make such a choice with the awareness of a tension between competing Torah goals.  This will sometimes entail a careful investigation of the relevant issues to ensure doing justice to the breadth of Torah values.  It may also call upon us to continue to push the Right on various environmental issues, even while supporting their pro-Israel stands.  After all, we need not agree with the Right on every issue, in trade for their support of Israel.  How much fealty do we really owe the Right on issues unrelated to Israel, such as turning a blind eye to legislation removing limits on large-scale pollution by corporations?  If the political Left happened to be pro-Israel in this generation, and the Right were anti-Israel, then perhaps the Torah value of protecting Creation might not be so clouded as it is today.

Stand up and earn the Geula

There are three possible scenarios in which Moshiach will come:

1.      After a time limit runs out, specifically in the year 6000 in the Hebrew calendar.

2.      If our collective merit has grown so great that we have reached a high enough level to have earned Geula as a reward.

3.      If our collective sin has grown so much that we have descended so low that only Moshiach can save us.

Hillel said "in a place where there are no men, be a man"  (Avot 2:6).  We have a Torah obligation to protect God's Creation.  But if we throw up our hands, and declare that "the environment is a problem for the goyim, not for us"  or give some other excuse for counting on Messianic Option #3, then we become modern-day followers of Jacob Frank.  It is not a Torah attitude to announce that we're satisfied with sin and destruction as a perfectly good path to Geula.

We say the bracha "Dayan HaEmet" when a tragedy strikes, especially for incidents that are unexpected or out of our control.  But this bracha becomes absurd when we have created the tragedy through our own neglect, and have had ample time to understand and prevent it.  Is there a bracha for mass suicide through sheer apathy?

This is an opportunity to lead, to show our mettle.  Over the next few generations, things are going to get much much worse.  If we claim to be the true representatives of God, what will people say if we do nothing while Creation is ruined?  Our silence on this issue, as a group, as Am Yisroel, could prove to be the biggest chilul Hashem in history.

Howard Pasternack

More resources:

Canfei Nesharim ("the wings of eagles") is an organisation dedicated to educating about the importance of protecting the environment from the perspective of Jewish tradition and Halacha.

http://www.canfeinesharim.org

 The Jewish Nature Centre of Canada, Torat HaTeva provides vibrant and meaningful Jewish educational experiences that: promote ecological awareness, build community ties, encourage action towards global responsibility and stewardship (Tikkun Olam), and provide models for spiritually and ecologically sustainable Jewish living.

http://www.torathateva.org

Your carbon footprint

http://www.safeclimate.net/calculator/index.php

http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.html

http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/carboncalculator/

http://www.carboncalculator.co.uk/shopping.php

 

Latest News on Environmental Changes:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/environment.html

http://www.sciam.com/channel.cfm?chanID=sa012

 

Body Burden

Chemicals Within Us:  http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0610/feature4/index.html

Body Burden http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden/

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals: http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/

More upcoming studies: http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/local/16167884.htm

StatsCan to test 5,000 people for toxins:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20061222.TOXIC22/TPStory/Environment

Increasing exposure to phthalate plasticizers linked to unprecedented declines in fertility rates and semen quality that have been observed in people during the 2nd half of the 20th century

http://www.who.int/entity/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/ebd5.pdf

Dutch dump toxic waste in Africa, fumes kill 7 in Ivory Coast, make 9000 more sick

Plastic: What's in it, and is it safe?  http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/consumers/plastic.html

 

Asthma

CDC study links smog with Asthma

http://www.examiner.com/printa-464388~Environmental_group_says_study_links_smog_and_child_asthma.html

CDC Asthma Study http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/06facts/asthma1980-2005.htm

Asthma: A Growing Epidemic   http://www.ncsl.org/programs/environ/envHealth/ehasthma.htm

Asthma and the Environment: A Strategy to Protect Children     http://aspe.hhs.gov/sp/asthma/appxd.pdf

Environmental triggers of Asthma  http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HEC/CSEM/asthma/docs/asthma.pdf

 

Species Extinction

http://www.iucnredlist.org

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/07/060720-biodiversity.html

The planet is losing species faster than at any time since 65 million years ago

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article1187003.ece

West African Black Rhino Now Extinct

Three of the four Gorilla sub-species expected to be extinct within a decade

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=31&art_id=qw1153112402247N315

 

Sewage Sludge as Fertilizer

Researchers Link Increased Risk Of Illness To Sewage Sludge Used As Fertilizer

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020730075144.htm

Long-term effects of metals in sewage sludge on soils, microorganisms and plants,

Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology

http://www.springerlink.com/content/l9675655269wt38m/?print=true

Sewage sludge legal to use as fertilizer on crops

http://www.newstarget.com/z000232.html

 

E-Coli O157:H7

E-coli in spinach was from manure in cattle farm next door  

E. coli O157:H7 and the Spinach Scare  http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-19.pdf

Simple change in cattle diets could cut E. coli infection, USDA and Cornell scientists report

http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Sept98/acid.relief.hrs.html

THE EFFECT OF DIET ON E. COLI 0157:H7 IN CATTLE

http://www.foodcontamination.ca/animalnet/2000/11-2000/an-11-15-00-02.txt

Pre-harvest factors influencing the acid resistance of Escherichia coli and E. coli O157:H7

http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/full/81/4/1080

 

Cancer rates

World Cancer Rates: http://www-dep.iarc.fr/

Summary of World Cancer Report http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr27/en/print.html

Examples:

Cancer in Israelis ages 20-34

Cancer in Canadians ages 20-34 

 

Clear-cutting, Deforestation

NASA - Small-Scale Logging Leads to Clear-cutting in Brazilian Amazon

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2006/2006080122766.html

Brazilian Amazon Deforestation; images & stats  

Boreal Forest soils absorb Mercury pollution, and so clear-cutting frees the trapped mercury to run into lakes  http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2003/may/science/be_mercury.html

Deforestation Threatens Canada's Boreal Plains http://www.ec.gc.ca/science/sandemay02/article4_e.html

http://www.globalforestwatch.ca/

 

Chicken, poultry in factory faming

Over 70 percent of all broiler chickens grown in the U.S. are fed "roxarsone", a form of Arsenic used to kill intestinal parasites called "coccidia"   http://scienceline.org/2006/09/20/env-wenner-arsenic/

Undercooked turkeys can harbour superbugs  http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6820&print=true

Antibiotic Resistance: Playing Chicken With Essential Drugs

http://www.environmentaldefense.org/documents/619_abr_general_factsheet_rev2.pdf

How chickens are really treated at the megafarms you get your eggs from:

 http://www.all-creatures.org/anex/chicken.html

De-beaking of chickens http://www.hsus.org/farm/multimedia/gallery/layers/debeaking.html

 

Hormones in beef

Why Europe has banned the use of hormones in beef

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/library/press/press24_en.html

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scv/out21_en.html

http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scv/out42_en.pdf

Accidental gynecomastia in children  http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=14156671

Impact of exogenous estrogens  http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/12/4/341

 

Freakshow meat on your table in 5 years

http://www.new-harvest.org/faq.htm

grow edible meat in culture from a few animal cells http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3302/05.html

Lab-grown steaks nearing the menu  http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3208&print=true

Test-Tube T-Bones on the Horizon  http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,druck-373796,00.html

meat grown on kitchen counter  http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2006/03/27/lab-meat-200602.html

Test Tube Meat Nears Dinner Table  http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71201-0.html?tw=wn_technology_2

 

Monsanto

Millions Against Monsanto  http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm

Monsanto bullys farmers via lawsuits into accepting GM seeds

http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/gl080402.txt

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/nightmare.php

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/assault011405.cfm

http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/nw130105.txt

http://www.connectotel.com/gmfood/ft130799.txt

Monsanto sues farm for raising dairy cows hormone-free, and for saying so on their milk packaging

http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/1,61612-0.html

http://www.answers.com/topic/oakhurst-dairy

 

GM Foods

Monsanto's GE Crops Spawn Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in North Carolina

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_2889.cfm

20 questions on genetically modified foods  http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

Genetically Modified Foods:Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?

http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html

Canadians are Guinea Pigs: Biologist  http://home.intekom.com/tm_info/rw10208.htm#10

'Superweeds' invade farm fields; Canola plants are almost pesticide-proof, experts say

http://www.purefood.org/gefood/canolasuperweeds.cfm

GMO Technology – a gentle genie or a tyrant?

http://spokane-county.wsu.edu/smallfarms/Biotechnology/GMO%20technology4.htm

Plant bacterium used in GM foods can transfer plant tumors to humans

http://home.intekom.com/tm_info/rw10206.htm#01

http://home.intekom.com/tm_info/rw10206.htm#03

http://home.intekom.com/tm_info/rw10206.htm#12

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrobacterium#Agrobacterium_in_biotechnology

American long-grain rice has become widely contaminated with genes from an experimental, gene-altered rice

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001903.html

 

Antibacterial soaps in soil

Antibacterial Soap ends up in sewage sludge that is spread on farm fields across the country

http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/headlines06/0510-07.htm

http://soundmedicine.iu.edu/segment.php4?seg=880

http://soundmedicine.iu.edu/go.php?http://video.indiana.edu:8080/ramgen/ip/soundmed/2006/080606_2.rm

http://www.webmd.com/content/Article/114/111085.htm?pagenumber=2

 

Mercury and other airborne toxins released from burning coal

Coal-fired power plants are the nation’s largest source of mercury air emissions

http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3/fact_sheets/fs_util.pdf

A better use for coal than burning it  http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

How Air Pollution from Power Plants Threatens the Health of America’s Children

http://www.catf.us/publications/reports/Children_at_Risk.pdf

 

Mercury in Fish

Advisory for Kosher Consumers  http://fn.cfs.purdue.edu/fish4health/FishAdvisory%20Kosher%2006.PDF

Mercury warnings for NY State  http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/fish/fishregs/fishhealthadv.html

Mercury and Fatty Acids in Canned Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel

http://www.cfse.purdue.edu/media/news/MercuryFattyAcidsCanned.pdf

 

Overfishing

Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species

Too few fish in the sea

 

Transgenic Fish

Transgenic Fish Coming http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TFC.php  "Transgenic tilapia, modified with pig growth-hormone, were three times larger than their non transgenic siblings."

The Coming of Biotech Animals http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2001/101_fish.html

Transgenic fish could threaten wild populations  http://www.purdue.edu/UNS/html4ever/0002.Muir.trojan.html

Careful risk assessment needed to evaluate transgenic fish   http://calag.ucop.edu/0603JAS/pdfs/BiotechFish.pdf

 

Transgenic Grains

Cancer Promoting Transgenic Rice  http://www.i-sis.org.uk/CPTR.php

Bayer's herbicide-resistant "Liberty Link" Rice escapes, creating Superweeds

http://pested.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/september2006/liberty_link.htm

http://pested.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/november2006/liberty-link.htm

http://www.agbios.com/docroot/articles/02-281-005.pdf

http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2004/ricebriefingfinal2.pdf

Monsanto & Gene Giants Spread Genetic Pollution  http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/pollution.cfm

American long-grain rice has become widely contaminated with genes from an experimental, gene-altered rice
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/20/AR2006092001903.html

 

Superbugs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance

Miracle Drugs vs. Superbugs: Preserving The Usefulness Of Antibiotics

http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1998/698_bugs.html

Antibiotics are losing their punch as microbes learn to resist them

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6596812/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098/

 

H5N1

General info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H5N1

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm

http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_01_15/en/

Acquisition of easy transmissability to humans

http://www.recombinomics.com/News/10220501/H5N1_H9N2_Recombination.html

http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0003C46B-CB18-1421-84E683414B7F0101

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/101/21/8156.pdf

H5N1 emerges in high-density industrial-scale poultry farms

http://www.vnaa.org/vnaa/gen/Avian_Flu,html~germ_protection_center_avian_flu.html.aspx

http://www.vnaa.org/vnaa/images/H5N1_outbreaks_2005.gif

Surveillance, prevention and disease management of Avian Influenza in the EU
http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/controlmeasures/avian/surveillance2_en.pdf

 

Desertification

http://www.unccd.int/main.php

http://www.unccd.int/knowledge/faq.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desertification

http://www.fao.org/desertification/default.asp?lang=en

http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/desertific/

2006 was the international year of desertification  http://www.iydd.org/

(happens to be the 1st UN event ever held in Israel http://www.iydd.org/documents/iydd_docs/Israelconferencenov2006.pdf)

 

Teflon, PTFE nonstick coatings

"Can non-stick make you sick?" ABC News

http://www.news.utoronto.ca/bin2/010718a.asp

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?cls=15&cat=18&articleid=2874

 

Damaged Ozone Layer and increase of UV rays

http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/ozonelayer.html

http://www.ozonelayer.noaa.gov/science/basics.htm

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr51/en/index.html

http://www.wmo.int/web/arep/reports/ozone_2006/exec_sum_18aug.pdf

 

Climate modelling: Measurements and assumptions, evidence and inference

Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World's Oceans
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/309/5732/284

Warming the World's Oceans
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/sci;309/5732/254

Behind the Hockey Stick
http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=00007F57-9CE1-1213-9BEF83414B7F0000

Climate change: 'One degree and we're done for'
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19125713.300&print=true

Is the hydrologic cycle intensifying?
http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap06/hydro_cycle.html

Global Hydrological Cycle with Global Warming
http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~phys443/Modeling%20Web%202/Hydrological%20Cycle.html

Phenomenological solar contribution to the 1900–2000 global surface warming
http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/2005GL025539.pdf

Attribution of 20th Century climate change to CO2

Why it's necessary to look at real, empirical observations and not just computer models:
Misuse of Models

Global Warming Discussion on Scientific American site

http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?cat=19

http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=are_you_a_global_warming_skeptic

http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=are_you_a_global_warming_skeptic_part_ii

http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=are_you_a_global_warming_skeptic_part_ii_1

http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=are_you_a_global_warming_skeptic_part_iv

 

Sea level rise:

Sea Level May Rise 40 Percent Higher Than Predicted
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061214-sea-level.html

Sea Level and Climate  http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs2-00/

Images of what the coastlines would look like after various amounts of water level rise:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/warnings/waterworld/index.html

 

Algae gone wild

Giant toxic algae bloom could hit B.C.shore, CanWest

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061228-ichetucknee-video.html

http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=e19ce359-93d2-4230-b5a0-c3783b3af23e

http://www.whoi.edu/redtide/notedevents/Canadian_article_6-3-00.html

http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a002200/a002241/florida_algae_103098_web.jpg

 

2007 NISHMA