קונגרס העולמי ה-18 למדעי היהדות

An Ethics for the Coming Storm: Jewish Thought in a Time of Climate Crisis

Global warming and the way that our consumption of fossil fuels drives global warming has changed our climate, our environment, and our social structures. It is the argument of this paper that our debates about this problem have largely been driven by the language of economics and political power and thus have become both deeply divisive and deeply symbolic, in which differing truth claims and moral appeals are held as signs of identity.

I turn to another language found in the texts of religious traditions, in particular, in the tradition of Jewish thought. We are born into a world that we do not make, that is a free gift to us, so ordinary a gift that we think it barely worthy of notice. How can we could come to understand our situation of being beings on an earth, surrounded by air and light and water, yet be living in a place where we both deliberately and carelessly abuse, where resources are becoming scarce, and where the well-being and basic health of our neighbors on this earth is threatened. Climate change is the most pressing ethical issue of our time. I work as ethicist and I live as a citizen, and I argue that both roles present inescapable and role specific duties. It is the argument of this paper intention that the language of Scripture, the Talmud, and philosophy of Judaism may offer a different kind of argument for the radical sacrifices necessary to confront this crisis. I argue that the traditions, histories, and text of Jewish thought address precisely the sort of existential crisis that we face now, and thus deepen and enrich our public discourse about what to do, and who to be in our time.