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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Taglit-Birthright Israel, what an amazing experience. Any qualified candidate for this program is an absolute fool if they don’t take advantage of it. There are so many different types of trips that cater to different preferences (anything from Orthodox-based to outdoor inspired biking ventures) that it’s almost silly. Please, go if you can.

This post is actually a follow up to something I wrote a few months ago titled, “Is Tel Aviv a Sustainable City?“. While I was traveling I kept a close eye out for signs of sustainability across the country. After looking at my notes (scribbled throughout my tattered Moleskine), it looks like my report is fairly optimistic. Talking to our tour guide, I learned that even though the “green movement” hasn’t quite hit Israel yet, the framework is certainly there. The country, through it’s remarkable technological resources and innovations, continues to draw in solar and energy-related companies, and it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before a tipping point sends Israel to the forefront of the sustainable movement.

Two particular things I noticed:

1) Many of the places that we stayed have toilets with two options for flushing. The smaller button produces a water flow just great enough to flush liquids, while the larger button, well, it gets rid of the bigger stuff. I had quite a fun time experimenting with both! It seems like this technique saves a lot of water, which in Israel is certainly a concern. The Sea of Galilee, which supplies roughly 30% of Israel’s water, is drying up more and more each year. Israel, the founder of drip irrigation – which saves a significant amount of water – is definitely ahead of the game when it comes to water conservation. I haven’t heard about this toilet technique anywhere else in the world…have you?

2) Strewn throughout the country are several large recycling areas for plastic bottles. The bins, usually placed on street corners, are supported by Aviv Recycling Ltd. The site explains that up to 50 such constructions exist in a given municipality. I saw another web address on the outer label, but the site is completely in Hebrew. Can any of our readers, or other authors, translate this (http://www.ela-el.com)?

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Hopefully I’ll have a better idea when I’m there in – let’s see here – just about three weeks! After graduating college, I have one day to pack up my apartment and drive 4 hours back to Nashville, where I will be leaving the next morning for New York City. A bunch of college buddies are joining my brother and I on a Birthright Israel trip; since 2000, this organization has been sponsoring free, 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish adolescents.

My brother and I extended our trip home and plan to spend a few extra days visiting a friend on a kibbutz between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When I started doing research on the area, I was interested to come across a TreeHugger article that discusses the sustainability of Tel Aviv as a city.

Back in 2006, David Pearlman of the Heschel Center addressed 50 American and Canadian citizens in a 10-day tour of the city that was sponsored by North American philanthropists eager to promote awareness for environmental issues in Israel. Yet while the article discusses environmental concerns (air pollution, for example), I was reminded yet again how ubiquitous the term sustainability can be. Sustainability, as I recently have come to understand, is a vague and often misunderstood term that spans a wide variety of disciplines and philosophies. In this case, the question is posed – What makes a city sustainable?

Did you know, for example, that – according to Pearlman in 2006 – Tel Aviv is the only city where a Starbucks opened and then closed? I wonder how important the coffee business is to Tel Aviv’s overall sustainability, but an interesting fact nonetheless. Also, I found it intriguing that although there are plenty of bicycle lanes, few bikers exists due to a lack of suitable road signs.

There are a number of considerations involved in assessing a city’s (or project’s or product’s, etc.) sustainability, aside from the oft-quoted environmental consequences. Throughout his tour, Pearlman makes sure to incorporate social issues with his environmental-based teachings in an effort to illustrate that sustainability is more than a one dimensional, environmental concept.

A well written article indeed. I look forward to getting a firsthand glimpse of Tel Aviv in the near future; I’ll post a follow-up upon my return.

(picture courtesy of Two Thumbs on flickr)

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Ladies and gentlemen…Rabbi Peter Stein!Not Rabbi Stein

…OK, no, that isn’t Rabbi Stein, but it’s quite a picture. Anyway, a few days ago, a post went up on JewSchool (also cross-posted on Radical Torah) in which Rabbi Stein,¬†ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary two years ago and now living in New Haven, CT,¬†presented his take on Torah and Judaism; he believes that the whole goal of Torah is to create a sustainable society. Not surprisingly, this rings true to all of us here at Pitaron Park.

There are 4 aspects to Stein’s thoughts on sustainability: economics, ecology, society and spirituality. In the post, Rabbi Stein presents many questions (appropriate enough, given that this was a Passover oriented post) for each of these aspects, suggesting potential topics and themes to think about for each separate category.

Despite the inspiring ideas, there are a few things missing from Rabbi Stein’s blogifesto. While he does an excellent job asking questions, he does not suggest any answers. While questions such as “will my decisions support the environment?” and “is this action spiritually meaningful?” are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to answer in blog format, it would be great to see some of Rabbi Stein’s thoughts on how to begin answering the stimulating and provocative questions he asks.

Another downside to Stein’s excellent post is a thorough lack of detail. To be sure, it’s difficult to provide background for such big, exciting ideas fully in a few short words, but it would be nice to see some proof or background information to explain how he has arrived at his current stance. Given that, according to Rabbi Stein, this big idea is the main point that the Bible itself is trying to tell us, where are the quotes from the Bible to prove it?

Perhaps this can serve as a challenge to us all to look to our tradition to find the sources and proof texts that support Rabbi Stein’s position, so that we can fully know with our minds what we also know with our hearts. This seems to be a great discussion starter…any thoughts?

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Last year, Chancellor Mark Wrighton announced that Washington University (in St. Louis) would join the sustainable movement with its own I-CARES initiative, a $55 million investment designed to promote interdisciplinary, collaborative research on alternative energy, carbon dioxide, green technology, and virtually all things ‘popular’ in the wake of the sustainability craze. The bandwagon of greenness has rocked the academic world, with schools like Yale publicly pledging a 10% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

Both Yale and Washington University understand the politics of sustainability. The moral benchmark of going green continues to rise as more and more institutions make public announcements of their newest proposals and investments, and in order to maintain that competitive edge, universities continue to pump resources into ‘greening’ their campuses.

Has this concept – the social pressure to go green – spread to any rabbinical school campuses? Are there any Jewish day schools making public announcements that laud their latest efforts to go green? A curious question indeed.

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Is there ancient wisdom in the bible that can help direct us to being better moral people in the face of environmental threats? Some believe there is.

Shaul Judelman’s Eco-Activist learning center holds two-week, English spoken sessions that offer a holistic, ecology-based study of the Torah and explores the relationship between ancient texts and modern environmental thought. Read more about Judelman’s plans in an article titled, “Be a Better Environmental Jew.” Judelman grew up in Washington state but now resides in Jerusalem. Click here for a collection of Judelman’s writings, some of which may be helpful in better understanding his unique world view, one that is much appreciated by all of us at Pitaron Park.

TreeHugger.com, the article’s host, is a wonderful resource for the latest in environmental discussion. I first heard about the site last year when I met one of its writers who was covering a sustainable design conference in Chicago. When I read this article, I knew that finding content to write about would not be a problem. There are more than enough Jews around the world interested in environmentalism, and I hope that this site will ultimately increase the number of ecologically-sound Jews throughout the world, one post at a time.

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