A response to growing frustration with the ‘religious’ right and the naïve.
Excuse #1: God told Noah that God would not destroy the world again, so it can’t happen.
Response: There is a classic story about a man who hears on the radio that a flood is coming and will destroy his home. His response, “Nothing to worry about, G-d will save me.” A man comes door to door telling everyone to evacuate, “G-d will save me.” The flood levels rise and so people come by boat and helicopter to save the man, “G-d will save me.” He continually repeats. Finally the flood engulfs his home and he is swept away and dies. He goes before God in the world to come. “Why didn’t you save me?” He asks. God looked at him inquisitively, “What are you talking about? I sent you news reports, and people on foot, boat and helicopter trying to rescue you!”
Excuse #2: God gave us dominion over all the world, so it’s ours to do what we like with.
Response: In Genesis 1:28 good gives humanity ‘dominion’ over all life. But in the never next line, that ‘dominion’ is limited, humanity may only eat seeds and fruit, and in fact that same food is promised to the animals as well. Humanities dominion is descriptive, not prescriptive. We must use the power of our intellect to feed ourselves and all creation.
Excuse #3: The Mashiach (Messiah) is coming (2nd coming) in the next few years so it doesn’t matter anyway
Response: I have often been taught that to help bring the Messiah we should lives as if the Messiah is already here. Plus no matter when you believe the Messiah is coming, you must still live according to the Jewish commandments that inspire us to act including Bal taaschit, pikuach nefesh, etc. So even if Maschiach comes tomorrow (G-d willing) we should be acting environmentally responsible today.
Excuse #4: Environment and Climate change really aren’t Jewish/Religious Issues.
Response: Environmental responsibility is: Torah inspired behavior; Jewish ethics & morality; Behavior that affects every person, plant and animal on the planet for the better; Behavior that can protect Israel and other nations threatened by changing climates and other environmental challenges. Each of us personally and our Jewish communal buildings are contributors to the problem, so we must be part of the solution. While this is not exclusively a Jewish issue, the causes are universal and the solutions are universal , including the Jews/religious. And in the words of the great Reb Hillel. “If not now, when?”
Excuse #5: I just don’t believe scientists, on this and other topics.
Response: Whether you believe the scientist or not, Jewish law demands action whenever a threat is perceived. This is known as the precautionary principle, and is described by Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asherm of 13th Century Spain as follows: "We don't need an expert [to save a life], since even doubtful danger to human life makes the law lenient. And it's forbidden to delay the treatment. " Tur OH 328 – to which Rabbi Caro adds, "the one who rushes to do so, look, this is praiseworthy! But the one who stops to ask, look, this is a murderer." Whether you believe the science or not, it doesn’t hurt to try our best to eliminate the potential risks to human health and our planet.
Heard other excuses? Have other responses? Please share.