Jewish Environmentalism or Jewish Ecology?

As a member of the self described ‘Jewish environmental movement’, I find it necessary from time to time to ask myself what it means to be a Jewish environmentalist. Having covered that in my last blog post, I want to ask a follow up question. As Jewish environmentalists, are we operating ecologically? Do our organizations, institutions, and members observe, interact with, and learn from the multivalent relational systems present in the world?

If we examine the biblical narrative of Abraham, it is clear that a careful, considered questioning of relationships is fundamental to a healthy Jewish experience. This analytical process is also quintessentially ecological and may offer the Jewish environmental movement a valuable perspective on its practice. Abraham recognized the hypocrisy of his father’s idolatry and embarked on an investigative journey that led to the understanding of One. What operational relationships are we investigating, personally and as a movement? Can we expect (or hope) to have an equally monumental discovery?

It is probably unrealistic to expect such a profound revelation. However, as a ‘Jewish environmentalist’ I firmly believe that our movement has the capacity to enrich, enliven, and contribute to the contemporary practice of Judaism. In fact, I believe we are already living up to those expectations. However, if our aim is more ambitious and we expect our movement to contribute to a broader reevaluation of global systems, then we have an obligation to interrogate our movement’s relationships at multiple scales.

Are we diversifying our networks so that they are resilient and strong? Are we developing the operational capacity to respond to unexpected futures? Do our organizations exist as intersections or islands? Are they polyfunctional or monofunctional?

Collectively, the answers to these questions represent an ecological timestap for our movement. To evolve and innovate, we must continue to ask questions. It is not enough to have a Jewish environmental movement. To be successful on a global scale we require a dynamic Jewish ecology that is rooted in the discourse and rigor of ecological science as well as the tradition and heritage of the Jewish people. We need a Jewcology.

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