Posts Tagged ‘Heschel Center’

Hi Everyone,

In the following video, Dr. Eilon Schwartz, founder of Israel’s Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership challenges us to own up to our own implications in causing climate change, as well as our reservations in fighting it, and makes important suggestions as to what we can do, at Jewish Climate Initiative/Hazon’s Vayehi Or: Values and Vision in Energy and Climate Change Workshop in Jerusalem.


(If you can’t view the video from this page, click here.)

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By Yannai Kranzler

I just finished offsetting 20,000 miles of airplane carbon emissions. I also just started. Because the whole thing took about five minutes.

I decided to offset, to counter the emissions from mine and my wife, Chana’s recent visit to my family in New York. We chose to buy carbon credits from the Heschel Center’s Good Energy Initiative, and their “Children’s Power Project,” which circulates solar-powered medical equipment to children in need.

The process went like this:

I went to www.goodenergy.org.il, and clicked on “Offset with Us!” I then chose “Flights”, entered airport codes into the site’s carbon calculator, and was told that Chana and I had 12.03 tons of CO2 to offset. We then searched through a handful of potential offsetting projects, chose Children’s Power, went to “Check Out,” and paid. Our offset charge was 120 dollars.

There are hundreds, probably thousands of offsetting projects out there. But we wanted to offset with Good Energy because their projects are about providing simply Good Energy to Israel and that’s all. No far-fetching, fund-munching projects projected to be effective in the year 2020; rather, pragmatic ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aid in Israel’s energy independence and help Israeli communities suffering socio-economic difficulty.

And so that was it. Five minutes, 120 dollars, offset CO2 and a clear conscience.

Or not. We certainly have no regrets about flying to visit family once a year- but our conscience is far from clear. No matter how many good energy initiatives we join, our carbon emissions are”out there,” warming the earth, changing the climate.

To Chan and me, carbon offsetting is not about becoming “Carbon Neutral”- but being carbon honest. Or carbon accountable. Honest that even good actions have bad consequences, and accountable in trying to pay for them. In that sense, buying carbon credits is less of an “Offsetting,” and more of a tax that supports a less carbon reliant future.

My wish and blessing to us and other offsetters out there, is that we use carbon offsets not to absolve ourselves from responsibility for our carbon emissions, but as a measure to increase our carbon consciousness: reminding us to be more carbon efficient in daily life, encouraging us to keep track of how much we are actually emitting, and reassuring us that when important things like visiting family abroad come up- there is an easy, five-minute activity that will at the very least, do something to help.

For more on offsetting, check out Jewish Climate Initiative’s Free 2008-9 New Year’s Guide to Carbon Offsetting

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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?


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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