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Posts Tagged ‘Green’

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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Since posting, “Go Green-Earn Big: The Nice Guy Finally Wins“, we’ve been engaged in a lively debate on whether products like disposable “Eco-Shaped” bottles and hybrid SUV’s are positive trends representing a genuine fixing, or setbacks allowing people to feel good without giving attention to the real changes that need to happen.

The Heschel Center’s Dr. Jeremy Benstein fueled the discussion with the following comment:

Smaller labels on bottled water? Solar powered oil drills? Pseudo products make you *hopeful*?!

While it is true that sometimes lip service can lead to real commitments– I hate to be a pessimist- but in the commercial-industrial realm, it seems like it’s much more often the opposite. They do things for image, “greenwash” very detrimental things (SUVs, bottled water, etc.) and use it to avoid doing anything real.

If people think that SUVs and bottled water are now green(er)– then they’ll continue using them, feeling ok with themselves that they are now so environmentally-friendly. When in fact they need to do something else entirely: take back the tap, and boycott bottled water altogether; support mass transit, biking etc– and not use any form of SUV.

Let me phrase it as a question: What should we (citizens) or regulatory bodies do to make sure we, and they, the industries don’t stop there? That their image polishing needs to be based on real improvements?

Respectfully,

Jeremy Benstein

Adding to Dr. Benstein’s critique was Ant, who concluded that:

Sometimes we have to sacrifice our conveniences, not alter our conveniences, to make a real difference.

Countering was Sherri:

Just because companies are greenwashing it doesn’t mean people are fooled. Once they start thinking about these issues they’re not going to stop. The companies involved may just be doing lip service to environmental issues, but people aren’t and will think through the real environmental benefits of products rather than buy the hype someone is trying to sell them.

As another commenter, Donna, exclaimed, “Green is the New Black!”- and there is therefore lots of green “Trash” through which we need sift in order to see what really is good for the world, and what is not.

This is a super important debate, and we’d love to hear your opinion, too.

As Dr. Benstein asks,

“[Are these products] a step in the right direction, which will lead people on to bigger and better- or even the right- things? Or does it give everyone “an easy out,” so they don’t have to take the more difficult, but ultimately more meaningful, steps?”

How do you think environmentalists should be responding to an environmentally conscious world?

How do or can superficial feel good changes lead to more meaningful transformation?

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