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Archive for the ‘Good News’ Category

By Yannai Kranzler

Today I booked a flight from home in Israel, to visit my family in New York. I’ll probably be one of tens of thousands of Jews flying to and from Israel this summer and holiday season.

As a nation, we really fly a lot. Proportionally, I’d bet there are more Jewish environmental organizations and eco-oriented people than in most ethnic groups. But our constant Israel flights, from family visits, to vacations, to Birthright trips, leave over an astronomically high carbon footprint, and render us at least as much of the problem as the solution to climate change. And that’s a hard thing to recognize, given that so many of us care deeply about and try very hard to be sensitive to our environment.

Enter Solar Impulse. Solar Impulse is a Swiss initiative to fly a solar-powered airplane around the world- with no fuel, no pollution, no contribution to global warming. Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA gathers sunlight by day, and coasts on what’s been stored by night. There have been solar flights before, but Solar Impulse is by far the most efficient and ambitious yet.

Could it be, then, that Solar Impulse promises us a way to sustainably maintain our Diaspora-Israel connections?

Well, not right now, at least. The HB-SIA flies at an average speed of 70 kilometers per hour- It would take 130 hours to get from Israel to New York (My wife and I are flying this year with an infant, for the first time. Twelve hours of conventional flight sound like a nightmare as it is). In addition, the plane can only carry one passenger- the pilot. And it will only be ready to fly the world in 2012.

For now then, we’ll have to suffice with more mediocre solutions: Offsetting is one option-  At JCI we’re big fans of the Good Energy Initiative. Cutting down on non-Israel related flights is another. As is slashing everyday carbon emissions, from driving less to conserving more, from making conscientious food choices to reusing and recycling household goodies.

Perhaps the most Jewish approach is to recognize our imperfection, and then supplement what we can do with a prayer. Rav Kook, in his “Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace,” concluded that while eating meat is permitted according to Jewish Law, it is only legitimate if we feel the weight of taking an animal’s life, and pray for the day when we will no longer feel the need to do so. He even says that Smicha, when we place our hands on an animal as we pass it off for slaughter in a temple offering, exists for this very purpose.

So, to the Solar Impulse team in Zurich, my prayers are with you. That you complete your mission of flying around the world safely and smoothly, and that you then go home, visit a bit with family, and get right to work at making a solar plane that fits two people. And then three. And that y’all speed the darned thing up a bit! We’ll be rooting for you from the ground.

Click here to download JCI’s free Guide to Offsetting Carbon Emissions, full of the why’s, how’s and with whom’s of offsetting, as well as a special addition on how you and/or your community can develop your own offsetting project.

For more on Solar Impulse, visit www.solarimpulse.com.


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Jewish Climate Initiative/Hazon‘s recent Vayehi Or event was recently featured in the Jerusalem Post, in an article by Ehud Zion Waldoks, entitled “The Jewish People’s New Challenge: Climate Change.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Can Judaism provide a solution to global climate change? Jews have tackled many challenges over the past millennia, but none quite as titanic as this.

This week, 55 select experts in a variety of fields kicked off their first session in Jerusalem, with the aim of drawing up what has been called a “Seven Year Plan for the Jewish People on Climate Change and Sustainability.”

The initiative is being spearheaded by the New York-based Jewish environmental organization, Hazon (“vision”), and the Israel-based Jewish Climate Initiative (JCI).

Click Here for the full story.

In addition, JCI’s Rabbi Sinclair and Hazon’s Nigel Savage wrote a piece for the Jewish Chronicle: “Let’s Think Big. Shabbat can Save the Plant.Click Here to read their article.

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By Yannai Kranzler

First Lady, Michele Obama, Digging out the Obama's New Veggie Garden, Together with Fifth Graders from the Bancroft Elementary School

I’m pretty sure there’s still no planned war against the species of Corn. But it turns out that the Obama family actually is turning the White House Lawn, or at least a chunk of it, into an organic garden, contrary to an article I published before the weekend. Spearheaded by First Lady Michele, the garden involves replacing 1000 square feet of grass with 55 species of veggies, herbs and berries.

To quote the NY Times article that printed the story last week:

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Brought in as special advisors to the project were twenty three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington. Their school has mantained its own garden since 2001, and they will now till and tend at the White House.

If only I could be wrong like this all the time! What can I say- I guessed a giant kitchen garden at the Executive Mansion too good to be true.

Obviously, the global significance of the new garden is mostly symbolic. But symbolism is a powerful tool for change, and the Obamas’ new garden is a powerful symbol that hopefully will inspire change. Michael Pollan cites Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous Victory Garden as an example, when the first lady planted veggies on the White House Lawn during World War II, spawning a home gardening movement throughout the country that ended up supplying 40% of American-grown produce during the war.

At a time when the food industry accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than anything else we do, a White House full of homegrown, local food can prove very meaningful indeed.

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By Yannai Kranzler

If you’re like me, you’re lifestyle has yet to be “Carbon Audited.” You might even be a bit put off by anything calling itself “An Audit.” But James Murray-White, a journalist and carbon or “green” auditor from Jerusalem is anything but imposing, and with a kind heart, concerned eyes and super-good humor, James is just the type of guy you’d want to come examine your lifestyle and suggest how to green it up.

Green Auditor, James Murray-White

Green Auditor, James Murray-White

Murray-White describes himself as an “Optimistic Hippie” who “Believes in the potential of people.” He was kind enough to answer some of our questions at Climate of Change.

Yannai K: Can you explain a little bit about what a Green Audit is?

James M.W.: A Green Audit is an interactive assessment of how to live one’s life more greenly – in consideration for the environment.

When an individual makes the link between human lifestyle and the shift in the planetary-environmental conditions, that’s where the carbon auditor comes in: to help individuals and families and business’s have a look at their lifestyles and how we’re all responsible for our energy use.

YK: How did you personally get into Green Auditing?

JMW: It’s relatively common in the UK. I was living in Bristol- a dynamic, green city. It’s like the bicycle capital of the UK. And I saw much of the affluent crowd opting not to own cars.

Getting inspired and coming here, I started thinking: Well, how can I make a contribution to Israeli society? I thought, I haven’t met anyone yet who gets brought in as a consultant to do carbon auditing, so I thought, I’ll do it- and I started on our house.

I officially got started with Mercaz Magshimim, part of the Hadassah Organization, which pioneered a scheme to support green activists. I began by auditing the lifestyles of the organizers of the program, Devorah Liss and Shoshana Finkelman.

YK: How does an audit work- What’s the process?

JMW: I use two existing models- a British and an American one, and am adapting them for Israel.

I go to the client’s home and use a series of questions:

How’s your yearly electricity usage? How do you shower? Do you use a dud shemesh (Solar water heater)? How much rubbish do you have per week- how many bags? Do you recycle? What do you recycle? Do you use energy bulbs? Energy bulbs around the house take out 200 kilos of carbon.

Then we move on to food- Does the individual have a meat-based diet? How much imported food do they eat?

Central heating is a big one. Is it gas or electricity? Is there insulation? What’s the condition of the boiler? A boiler 15 years old, for example, could be costing you 15% more in carbon.

Next comes transportation: Do you drive? How much do you walk? Do you own a car? How often do you fly? Many of the people I audit fly- so we then get into discussions about carbon offsetting. I recommend a few offsetters. I fly every couple of months and believe in paying for offsetting my flights- it’s the least I can do.

Eventually, I use a series of figures to translate the answers into tons of emitted carbon and water used.

Further questions involve shopping habits, cleaning products and so forth. I draw up a report of the audit, and email it back to the family, together with recommendations how they can improve energy efficiency. I bring a little cloth goodie bag with some light bulbs and little gadgets to save energy and water.

I’ve done about 12 family audits and one business audit, of an environmental organization- I won’t say which one. I had a fascinating time- The organization is a carbon disaster!

YK: Can you give us some tips?

At home, we use a “water butt,” and we got the plumber to put an outpipe from the washing machine and the dishwasher, to gather water into the water butt and we water our garden.

JMW: Assuming that not everyone’s ready to redo the plumbing, what else do you recommend?

Look at your job. Is there any way you can work at home for a day? Can you get to work a different way? Bus? CarShare? Train?

One of the most basic things, but we all do it, is leaving the heat on with the window open. It’s basic things like that.

YK: Do your audit recommendations end up saving people money?

Definitely. Completely.

YK: Is there a relationship between James the journalist, and James the Green Auditor?

JMW: As a journalist, I’m not interested in reporting on the war in Gaza, or politics. I’ve got no dreams of being a BBC war correspondent. I’m fascinated with currents of change in society, in the process of change- and that gets me to carbon auditing.

I also get to ask questions of professionals in the field. This is wonderful! I just met with Professor Pinhas Alpert, in the Geophysics Department at Tel Aviv University and the head of NASA in Israel. I got to spend a day hearing hard science, from a guy who is immersed in studying clouds, and seeing on the ground what they’re doing.

YK: From a journalist and green auditor’s perspective, what’s your prognosis of Israel from a green point of view?

JMW: There’s definitely a strong consciousness here, but I see it in pockets. I meet people on a daily basis, doing interesting green things. Massive cleantech innovations. Water research.

I think part of the problem is politics. The wider issues of security, tragically, really just get in the way, as we saw in the elections, where the green agenda was sadly wiped off the slate. Daniel Pederson summarized the environmental agendas of the different parties on Green Prophet. It was shocking to see main parties with no policy on energy and sustainability. And it looks like it’s going to be a Likud government and they don’t have an energy policy.

In England, it would be unthinkable for a party to run in a general election without it being in their written manifesto, how they will deal with climate change, and emissions. A lot of people care and migrate between parties on environmental issues. The previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, offered a complimentary green audit for every house in London, within his campaign for reelection last year.

But then again, that redoubles our efforts. We can cut down carbon use, and we can think about carbon reduction. And we can save water. Because we have to. We clearly have to.

James Murray-White is a freelance journalist from Cambridge, UK (“Scottish roots,” he adds), with a background as an actor, director and playwright- he’s currently engaged in a long-term documentary film project with the Bedouin of the Negev Desert. A Masters’ graduate in Human gaia-climate-changeEcology, James sees himself as an anthropologist, as well. He is a proud contributing editor and reviews editor for www.greenprophet.com, Israel’s premier English-language green website.

To contact James and to find out more about ordering a green audit for your home, business and lifestyle, contact James Murray-White at James@Sky-Larking.com.

Did you enjoy this post? We welcome you to visit our interviews page, for more great conversations with leaders and do-good-ers in the Jewish/Ecology world.

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By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Two things were clear from attending the International Renewable Energy Conference that took place in Eilat this week.

The first is that Israel is now a world leader in clean energy.

The second is that there is a small but growing group of players in the field who see this not just as a huge business opportunity, (though it certainly is that), but also as an ethical, or spiritual mission.

Israeli leadership in the field was manifested by a list of “firsts”, “biggest evers,” and breakthrough technologies that were heralded immediately before and during the conference. Brightsource-Luz2 announced that it had signed a contract with Southern California Edison to build the largest ever solar thermal generating field, which will produce 1.3 gigawatts in California. (more…)

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By Rabbi Julian Sinclair

David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens

David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens

I met Chansee in the heart of Harlem entering the apartment building that she was just about to move into.

19-ish, just out of foster care, slight and with wide vulnerable eyes, she obviously hadn’t had an easy life. (She almost laughed in my face when I asked her if she was getting any support from her family.) But she said she was going to take the opportunity she was being offered and use it to succeed in her life, knowing that her new home was no ordinary apartment building.

When I asked her what was special about it, she replied, “I’ve never lived anywhere that had a garden. It’s so peaceful, like it’ll be a good place to get away from some of the stress in my life.” I got the impression that Chansee had had quite a lot of stress in her life.

Chansee was moving into the revolutionary David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens development in Cental Harlem. It’s a joint project of Harlem

David and Joyce Dinkins

David and Joyce Dinkins

Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI) a consortium of ninety local churches and mosques that works for affordable housing, together with Jonathan Rose Companies, one of America’s leading green developers. Dinkins gardens is one of the first developments in the country, combining low-income housing with state-of the-art ecological design.

The building has solar panels on the roof, used green building materials including recycled glass, and individual unit ventilation systems, which means that air goes in and out of each apartment without circulating bad air and smells from all the other units, a major cause of asthma and sickness in poor housing.

There’s a roof garden on the third story. The thickness of soil helps insulate the building and improve energy efficiency. The garden at the back of the building has smooth rocks that you can relax on and plots where the residents can grow greens and squash. There are classrooms in the basement where a local college teaches construction trades training courses. In summer they move the classes to the garden.

Indeed, multiple-use spaces is a hallmark of the development company’s approach. Jonathan Rose, the founder explains to me that that enables you

Jonathan Rose

Jonathan Rose

to build high-density, reducing sprawl, but that it also creates multiple, criss-crossing relationships that build community. Contrast that with suburban development, where residential, office and retail functions are segregated and no one knows their neighbors.

Rose gives me a ten minute hurricane of a PowerPoint presentation beginning with a photo of ragged climate refugees in Africa that he took (“When I don’t turn out my lights, I’m hurting them”) and moving to pie charts showing how suburban sprawl is one of the leading contributors to climate change in America. (“When you factor in transport and houshold use, average suburban housing use four times more energy than urban multifamily green developments.”)

With US population predicted to rise by 94 million over the next few decades, Rose believes that cities are the only place to build housing for those people if we are not to irretrievably wreck the climate. Yet this housing must also foster the innate human needs to live in community and in connection with nature. “A green urbanism is emerging that addresses these needs”, Rose explains, “creating buildings that are filled with light and fresh air and gardens that are tended by the hands of their residents.”

Jonathan Rose identifies as a “Jubu” and counts the Dalai Lama among his friends. He established the Garrison Institute, a Buddhist retreat center on the Hudson. He avers that Buddhism permeates his urban design work, particularly the principles of the interdependence of all things, human interconnectedness with nature and of doing no harm. Rose draws inspiration from Tibetan city designs that embody these principles. He believes that insights gleaned from ancient wisdom must help shape the future of our cities.

The future of inner cities may well look like the Dinkins Development. Chansee is excited. We should be too.

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By Yannai Kranzler

There are a few things one notices upon visiting the website of Israel’s new Green Movement-Meimad political party:
1) Everyone’s smiling.
2) Everyone looks different from one another

And it’s hard not to think: “Hey- this party just might actually be different.”
(more…)

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