A few weeks ago , I traveled with the Israeli delegation to The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference, titled “The Future We Want,” was an opportunity to evaluate the global progress on environmental issues since the last summit in 1992 and to commit to future changes. An amazing cross-section of humanity – heads of state, tribal kings, medicine women, and ordinary activists like me – gathered from all corners of the earth to discuss how to reduce p¬overty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection across the planet.
It was truly an honor to represent Israel and Teva Ivri in this colorful, inspiring forum.
During preparations for the summit, I was surprised to find that the Israeli delegation had no “Jewish flavor.” Although we would be arriving in Rio with a strong platform for social and environmental change, it contained no hint of Jewish stewardship values. In response, Teva Ivri asked some of Israel’s leading academics, educators, and activists to compose a Jewish-Israeli position paper on Sustainable Growth – the summit’s central topic.
Weeks of lively discussions and in-depth learning produced a unique overview of Jewish laws and values that address the question of sustainable growth and development. The paper, which outlines both ancient and modern Jewish-Israeli approaches, was well received both in Israel and in Rio. It was presented at the following Israeli conferences ahead of Rio: Sustainability Today and Tomorrow (Ministry of Environment), A Jewish Approach to Sustainable Development (Bar Ilan University and Teva Ivri ), and Judaism and Environment (Lipschitz College). In Rio, hundreds of copies were distributed to attendees from every corner of the earth.
Teva Ivri’s presence also made an impact on the Jewish community in Rio. Teva Ivri was the only organization that made contact in advance to spearhead a community event in cooperation with Rio-based environmental groups, Bnei Akiva, and Hillel. As a result, our position paper was translated into Portuguese! I also had the chance to present the paper during a focus group session about major world religions as agents of social-environmental change. The Jewish perspective resonated deeply with other participants and contributed much to the conversation.
Unfortunately, Rio +20 ended with little governmental consensus around practical issues. As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, "Governments alone cannot solve all the problems we face…from climate change to persistent poverty to chronic energy shortages." After Rio, I believe that grassroots, local sustainability efforts are more important than ever. Here at Teva Ivri we will continue to develop an Israeli environmentalism that is firmly rooted in Jewish sustainability values, in hope that we can be a model for all other nations and cultures.
Director Teva Ivri.