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It’s Not Just Hot Air: This Tu B’Shevat, Fight Global Warming

Winter has finally come to the East Coast. I must admit I did not mind the sunny January days that reached into the 70s. There are benefits to global warming if you, like me, prefer sun to snow. However, there are dangers as well. The recent decision by Great Britian’s Tony Blair to mobilize his nation around global warming (for much of England will otherwise literally disappear under water) is a sobering reality check.

In Genesis, God gives Adam and Eve the job not just to “conquer” the world (i.e., to tame it for productive use) but to “care” for it (to be good stewards of its resources and species). God’s command is all about balance: balancing our needs and desires with our responsibility to the larger world and to the future.


It is particularly appropriate to think about our stewardship of the Earth as we begin February with Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees. Like all holidays, Tu B’Shevat has its own rituals, from planting trees in Israel through the Jewish National Fund to holding a Seder based on the traditions of the ancient kabbalists.

Like all Jewish holidays, Tu B’Shevat also contains lessons that are designed to change our behavior, not just one day, but every day of the year. One such lesson is that God expects us to do all we can to be responsible stewards of the earth and the environment which sustains it. There is a lovely story about a sage named Honi who, as an old man, planted a tree that would probably not bear fruit in his lifetime. When he was asked why, he explained that just as his ancestors had planted trees for him, he was planting for his descendents. We have the same responsibility as Honi to prepare the earth for future generations.


It is not too late to stem global warming. Here are ten New Year’s Resolutions for Tu B’Shevat that can help:

1) Buy recycled napkins to help save one million trees, according to Newsweek magazine.

2) Turn your thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer to save 2,000 lbs. of CO2 a year.

3) Replace a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb to help save 1,000 lbs of CO2 per bulb.

4) Turn off lights, monitors, and other electronics when you leave a room, even for a few minutes, to cut your energy bill by up to a third. (It worked for me!)

5) Walk more, bundle errands to be gas efficient, and buy fuel efficient cars.


6) Keep your car in tune and tires at the right pressure to save up to 4% on your gas mileage (that’s 20 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon saved).

7) Buy food with an eye to its impact on the environment: Where possible choose locally grown, fresh rather than frozen, and organic rather than regular produce.

8) Recycle, including mail inserts and envelopes without your address. Old cell phones, PDAs, and rechargeable batteries can be recycled for free by mail through the Sierra Club.

9) Learn more. See “An Inconvenient Truth,” its web site, and check out the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.

10) Post this list and use it throughout the year.

— Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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posted January 30, 2007 at 7:39 pm

B”H With all due respect to Rabbi Grossman’s comments, as long as we continue to drive Hummers and other gas-guzzling SUVs, trucks, and sports cars, instead of walking or driving places, global warming will not be resolved. Hybrid cars only provide a temporary solution. The ultimate solution must include: 1. Better, SAFE mass-transit, especially in large metropolitan areas 2. Mass-production of both electric cars, and electric conversion kits for existing vehicles 3. Hefty penalties for any vehicle sold that gets than 40 mpg on the highway, these penalties increasing substantially over the next decade. This will, of course never happen. The oil companies have a stranglehold on our society, as they have for decades. Watch the movie, “Who Killed The Electric Car?” and you’ll see what I mean. Evil Oil must go. IT will literally take Moshiach for this to happen.

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Douglas Friedman

posted January 30, 2007 at 8:02 pm

It is anything but definite that human actions have anything to do with global warming. To the extent our actions do affect the climate, any modest changes the U.S. makes would be more than overwhelmed by increases in CO2 emissions from China, Brazil, and India. When I hear the environmental activists calling on those countries to cut their emissions, then and only then will I believe that their proposals are anything more than standard anti-Western tripe from people who have been termed watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside). That said, I think individual acts to use fluorescent bulbs, conserve gas, etc. are good in and of themselves, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, even if, as I suspect, they have little or nothing to do with “global warming.”

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posted January 31, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Here’s some more suggestions: 1/ Extinguish (shut off) your synagogue’s Ner Tamid 2/ Reform and Consevative synagogues should close their parking lots-everyone should walk to services. 3/ Don’t wear kippot or tallilot, they are useless garments who’s manufacture wastes energy. 4/ No more power using organ music if you’re R, and especially no more accordion (klezmer) music 5/ If Yom Kippur takes place on a really hot day don’t use any a/c-it will save energy and force you to suffer. 6/ All bar-bat mitzvah and wedding ceremonies should be small-large ones aren’t religiously necessary and waste energy Its easy to criticise society, but here the focus should be on what Jews can do. C’mon everyone let’s all reduce the ease and fun in this world. Al Gore said so.

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posted February 1, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Don t have a cow: It will help in fight against global warming The SUV in the Pantry Vegetarian is the New Prius Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian Vegan diets healthier for planet, people than meat diets Five Food Choices for a Healthy Planet Eco-Eating: Eating as if the Earth Matters The Vegetarian Mitzvah

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Neil Pelkey

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I love it when the people whose diets destroyed the lowland forests, coastal swamps, and nearly all the rivers in the world want to point their fingers at cow-eaters. Rice and sugar cultivation have arguably caused more environmental degradation than oil, beef, and war combined. We are as under the thumb of the worldwide rice and sugar mafia’s as we are of the oil barons’. I await Vice President Gore’s next epic-“An inconvenient starch.”

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Marian Neudel

posted February 2, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Another helpful hint–drive the speed limit. I’ve been doing that for a couple of months now, and I get an extra 40 miles from every tank of gas.

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posted February 4, 2007 at 7:06 pm

“any modest changes the U.S. makes would be more than overwhelmed by increases in CO2 emissions from China, Brazil…” Maybe you weren’t aware that Brazil has been phasing out fossil fuels since the 70s, and ethanol fuel from sugar cane is available at every gas station there. If the US is especially being singled out in this issue, it is because the US is most responsible for the production of Greenhouse gases in the world, far disproportionate to its population. People like Al Gore are trying to spread their message outside the US, Gore travels all over the world speaking about Climate Change, including China. In fact, Gore specifically addresses the explosive growth of China and India in An Inconvenient Truth. Everyone is well aware that all nations need to take steps to stop this problem, trying to make this into a ‘they’re just picking on us’ attitude is not the solution.

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