As we experience climate change – some more than others, it is often with numbers that we get a sense of its scale: over half of the earth’s surface poses critical danger to biodiversity; last June was the hottest on record, being the 14th month in a marathon of record breaking temperatures. We were disgusted when the Australian Government – concerned over tourism– censored UNESCO’s report on coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef (as well as damage to the Tasmanian wilderness and Kakadu). Whether governments, industries and agribusiness take responsibility or not, we’ll continue to see surface water levels dropping worldwide, heatwaves becoming more frequent and intense, and flooding and bush fires worsen.
When prompted to discuss climate change, some within our ranks ask why this is relevant to the AJDS. Well, not only is the environment a primary necessity for any type of activism on a basic physical level, climate change will continue to manifest in human societies along socio-economic and political lines. Developing countries will suffer the consequences of rising water levels and pollution first, while Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders will be disproportionately affected by climate change here. Traditional owners of this land and their intrinsic knowledge of natural systems must be involved in the solution, but we suspect they won’t be without further action.
Societal collapse borne of increasingly uninhabitable conditions will create more refugees, and their reception (or rejection) will rely on the rank politics of nationalism and racism. It is also no secret that many companies, including the Jewish National Fund, operate under the guise of environmentalist organisations, the JNF is in fact an agent of environmental, as well as cultural, devastation (read more at whatsbehindjnf.org.au). Water shortages in the Middle East have played an important role in the ongoing conflict there, and this problem will not be going away. Global climate change requires both global and local action.
We embrace Jewish teachings borne of Biblical and Talmudic teachings that encourage cultivating and safeguarding our environment for future generations. But another uniting premise for the action taken by AJDS members has always been to advocate for social justice, and there can be no such justice without clean water and air, and sustainable practices.
Our organisation considers climate change and the environment as one of our core issues for all of these reasons. This issue of Just Voices captures the links between social justice activism and progressive environmentalism.
What you can do:
Keren Rubinstein, AJDS Content Editor
By Naor Bar Zeev (Appeared originally in the Australian Jewish News in March 12, 2004). From a Torah perspective, vegetarianism was originally the norm. Initially permitted by God to eat only vegetables, it was only after animals were saved by Noah that humans were permitted to eat meat (Bereshit 1:28-9). Even then, wanton killing of animals is prohibited and animals must be slaughtered swiftly with a sharp non-serrated instrument. Many laws reflect the principle of not inflicting needless suffering or pain on an animal: One must never eat an animal while it is still alive (Bereshit 9:4)’ One must send away a mother bird if one collects eggs (Devarim 22:7); One may not muzzle an animal while it is threshing to prevent it from eating (Devarim 25:4); One may not even raise one’s voice to yell at an animal if it eats while working (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 186); One should feed one’s animals prior to eating one’s own food (Berachot 40a); and One must care for a lost animal until its owner is found (Devarim 22:1-4; Shemot 23:4). Although it permitted the eating of meat a posteriori (bedi’avad) following the flood, the Torah encouraged kindness to animals, clearly viewing them… Read More
Animal rights NGO, Animals Australia, along with three Israeli animal protection groups – Anonymous for Animal Rights, Let the Animals Live, and Israel Against Live Shipments – have launched a campaign to end live exports. The trade is objectionable to most Australians, due to the horrific conditions sheep and cattle are subjected to on the long voyages, and also upon arrival, where they are kept in feedlots until an often cruel and unregulated slaughter. All in all, these animals are kept in extremely unclean, overcrowded and unattended conditions for months. A great deal has already been written elsewhere about this ongoing horror. But animal welfare is not necessarily a motive for those concerned over climate change. Here are some reasons I learned for condemning live exports also for environmental reasons: The shipping of live animals for slaughter overseas is carried out by extremely polluting ships running on diesel fuel. Upon arrival, excessive pollution is produced by cows in feedlots, by the concentrated animal sewage. Then, countries often import grain for the feedlots, which in turn perpetuates the unsustainable grain industry in those poorer countries (this results in Dutch Disease – the decline of other sectors to give rise to grain production… Read More
In November of 2015, the Victorian government implemented its Forest Industry Taskforce, following Daniel’s election promise. The taskforce, funded by the Victorian government, brings together various interest groups representing unions and environment groups to develop policy recommendations for the future of Victoria’s forests. The Taskforce will seek broad community support to address key challenges facing workers, forest, wood and fibre industries, and Victoria’s environment. Victorian Campaigns Manager with the Wilderness Society, Amelia Young, said in a media release: “This is a unique opportunity for stakeholders to work together to recommend solutions that benefit all Victorians, conserve high-value ecological assets, and deliver new investment and employment opportunities, especially in regional communities.” The taskforce is led by stakeholders and is the first time in Victoria that policy recommendations have been delegated to stakeholder groups. It brings together groups that have historically been at odds with each other’s interests, from environmental NGO’s to industry representatives, with the challenging task of finding common ground for the consumption and conservation of forest resources. The top priorities f or the taskforce are to prepare policies which ensure: secure fibre and wood supplies jobs maintenance and growth protection of unique native flora and fauna and threatened species… Read More
By Jim Green. The South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission released its report in May. Its main recommendation was to consider turning SA into the world’s nuclear waste dump by importing 138,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level nuclear waste. How much money might be made by taking nuclear waste from other countries? There is no precedent to base an estimate on. There is a great deal of uncertainty about potential revenue, and it is far from certain that revenue would exceed the Royal Commission’s $145 billion estimate of the costs associated with the project. The economic case presented by the Royal Commission was strongly challenged by economist Prof. Richard Blandy, by The Australia Institute and others. Yet those critiques were ignored by the Royal Commission and by the state government. The Royal Commission glossed over major contradictions in its proposal. For example the assumption is that high level nuclear waste will first be imported for storage to accrue funds to build a deep underground repository. But what if efforts to establish a repository come to nothing ‒ as they have in many other countries? South Australia will be stuck with thousands… Read More
By Pablo Brait. (Originally published in The Well, July 27, 2016) If your neighbour asks to borrow something from you that you know he will use to commit a crime, would you lend him what he needs? Or say your neighbour asks to borrow paints and paintbrushes from you in order to make racist placards for a far-right political rally. Would you hand them over? Would you be complicit if you did? What about if your neighbour asked to borrow money? As Australians, we hand our money over to banks and superannuation funds on a regular basis, yet very few of us know what they do with it. And unfortunately, quite a bit of what they do with it is invest in activities that worsen global warming, destroy farmland and forests and pollute our air and water supplies. In 2007 I realised that climate change was the most important long-term issue humanity faced and I dived head-first into activism. But even before that, inspired by my grandfather’s experiences as a holocaust survivor and the life he led afterwards, I had been involved in many social justice and environmental campaigns, and sought to live morally as an individual. When I found… Read More
By Timetraveller (pseud.) As populations of the Middle East become more urbanised and adopt Western-style living standards, the demands on the area’s water resources will become more immediate and desperate. Of 33 countries worldwide predicted to suffer severe water shortages by 2040 due to changing populations and life-styles, as well as the effects of climate change, the Water Resources Institute lists 14 in the Middle East – among them Israel . These countries are already heavily dependent on water extraction from ground sources, aquifers and desalination, and deteriorating factors will most likely result in unprecedented demands on the water infrastructures of those countries. An immediate example can be seen in Syria, where the civil war has been partly blamed on a prolonged drought, resulting in people who previously lived on the land losing their livelihoods and moving into urban centres, thus destabilising that country. Israel is a special case in this area, since, due to its large urbanised Western immigration, it is amongst the most economically developed countries in the region; add to that the immeasurable benefits it enjoys through the benevolence of the United States. With the foundation of the modern state of Israel, the earliest Zionists immediately realised… Read More
By David Rothfield. It hardly got media coverage but, yes, they said it. Those gathered for the U.S. Democratic Party Convention last July declared that they could not to wait for others “…to lead the world in combating the climate emergency” (my emphasis). The closing declaration of the Convention went on to say that “… our generation (must) now lead a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from catastrophic consequences.” If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, then, in the words of the Declaration, “within the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, climate experts, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.” This must be the first time that the term ‘emergency’ has been embraced by any major political party in relation to the climate crisis. It has taken some ground-shaking climate events, as well as a measure of success on the part of the global climate movement to bring about this new dynamic. The year 2014 had the distinction of being declared the hottest year, globally, on record. The record… Read More
By Bonnie Gelman. ‘Fracking’ is an abbreviation of a process of coal seam gas extraction called ‘hydraulic fracturing’. Gas extracted in this way is known as ‘unconventional gas’. Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock at high pressure. The rock fractures and gas (or oil) is forced out. There are many issues relating to fracking; there are multinational companies putting pressure on governments to allow for the process. It is said that increasing reliance on natural gas, rather than coal, is creating widespread public health benefits, as the burning of natural gas produces fewer harmful particles in the air. Also claimed is that nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced dramatically at the power plant level, with natural gas producing only somewhere between 44 and 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions compared with burning of coal. But air quality dynamics around fracking operations are not fully understood, and cumulative health impacts of fracking for nearby residents and workers remain largely unknown. There may be also be under-appreciated problems with air quality, particularly relating to ozone. Natural gas is not a purely clean and renewable source of energy, and so its benefits are… Read More