Jewish Energy Guide – Shavuot: Cheesecake, Temptation and Conservation

By Rabbi Natan Levy

During the 2011 riots here in London, teachers and social workers were said to have been among the looters. British Prime Minister David Cameron called them opportunistic criminals. Perhaps temptation simply got the best of them.

Yielding to temptation may be pandemic in our culture. When we argue about mitigating climate change, the discussion is often framed as a question of progress versus conservation — but it may ultimately be revealing the tension between temptation and self-control. The average American releases about 19 times the amount of carbon into the atmosphere as the average Guatemalan; the average citizen of the United Kingdom releases about seven times as much carbon as the average Bulgarian; and the average Israeli releases about three times as much as the average Lebanese. Why? Objects of temptation, such as flat screen TVs and vacations to the Caribbean, all involve a large input of energy resources. And because we can acquire more objects, because we can fly more, we invariably do. We take what we want when we can, and scientists’ warnings about the changes we’re causing to our planet’s environment are as unheeded as a London policeman’s calls for looters to restrain themselves.

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Rabbi Natan Levy is the social-action consultant to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He served as the consultant for social action at the London School of Jewish Studies, and was involved in the shaping of the school’s emerging Centre for Faith, Citizenship and Community. Levy also acted as the liaison on environmental issues to the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He has been involved with a number of environmental education projects in Israel, working with organizations such as the Society for the Protection of Nature. Levy is one of the co-founders of Radio SalaamShalom, the United Kingdom’s only Jewish-Muslim radio station.

The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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