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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

What does your religion have to say about global warming and mankind's moral duty to the environment?

It is easier to respond to the second part of your question than to the first, because there is significant material on our responsibility to the environment, but global warming was not an issue until relatively recently.

Briefly, our faith teaches us that this world and all it contains are gifts to us from God. We are not the owners of the world. We are its trustees. As trustees, we are religiously obliged to do our best with this trusteeship.

It is prohibited to wantonly destroy or despoil God's world, except if there is life-saving involved. Life-saving, as a general rule, trumps all other considerations, and understandably so. Failing a life-saving circumstance, it is forbidden to destroy resources, to waste food even by simply overeating, and yes, it is wrong to pollute.

The blunt truth is that we are all polluters, although we do not deliberately intend to pollute. Every time we use our car, we are polluting the environment.

A serious issue arises in terms of our obligation in this regard.

May we pollute the air just for the convenience of being able to get to a destination more easily? If the answer to that would be "no," it would turn many lives upside-down.

Can we turn up the heat in the winter and the air conditioning in the summer to maximize comfort?

We see all these as "givens" that are problem-free, but our assumptions on all this are being seriously questioned.

Whatever is the final verdict concerning global warming, there is no question that we must all take our environmental obligations more seriously. Even the simple gesture of walking instead of driving when that is possible, raising the temperature just a degree less in the cold, or a degree more in the heat, all help lower the assault on the environment, and show a greater sensitivity to our fellow human beings and to God.

We need not wait for further research to make these caring gestures.


Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  January 6, 2007

Wed, May 22 2019 17 Iyyar 5779