Reprint of Green committee article — SRJC bulletin March 2017 — Environmental protection in the current administration
Opinion of Chair Steven Goldstein
If we intend to provide a better life and a better world for future generations, we can’t ignore the quality of the environment we leave them.
— Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Republican Presidential contender
Judging by the number of recent emails I’ve received from the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and a host of other organizations with missions that include environmental concerns, they are all very, no, extremely worried about the planet, and the commitment of the new administration to protecting the environment and enforcing existing regulations. One of Mr. Trump’s first acts, as President, was to issue two executive orders to advance the completion of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
As I write this, the battle over confirmation of the newly proposed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking shape and the Republican-led committee changed the rules to allow the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to be considered by the full Senate without Democratic input at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee level. Mr. Pruitt’s nomination to head the EPA is quite controversial, as his views on clean air legislation, pollution control, and climate change place him in opposition to the established views of the organization he would head, if confirmed. He also has ties to the energy industry that may represent a conflict of interest, and has refused to answer questions or provide documentation about that link.
I find myself in accord with the opinion of the Climate Policy Director of the Sierra Club, Liz Perera, who released the following statement on hearing that the committee approved Mr. Pruitt and sent the nomination to the full Senate:
It is deeply disappointing that the committee that is supposed to put the environment and public first has approved a climate change-denying fossil fuel ally as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although environmental advocacy groups see these developments as disturbing, some see them as an opportunity to educate their members, and the public, about environmental issues and develop new advocates to resist environmental degradation and ameliorate climate change. Readers who feel committed to the environmental movement should consider joining some of the organizations listed below and signing up for their mailings.
- EcoWatch: Ecowatch.com
- The Environmental Defense Fund: EDF.org
- The Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org
- Food and Water Watch: FoodandWaterWatch.org
- Greenpeace: Greenpeace.org
- The National Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
- The Sierra Club: SierraClub.org
- Union of Concerned Scientists: UCSUSA.org
I renewed my membership in The Sierra Club today. Now is the time to take action to protect our planet and future generations. There is a long history of Jewish activism in the environmental movement. Be a part of it even if it is only a small one.
Your thoughts welcome, Steven J. Goldstein, SJG34@Cornell.edu
10 Things You Can Do Each Month to Be Environmentally Conscious
Compiled by Dr. Steven Goldstein, President, SJG34@Cornell.edu
Fracking: Ten Reasons You Should Be Afraid of It
Water is Life. Once you Frack, You Can’t Go Back. -Sign at a protest rally against Fracking
Fracking is the shorthand word used to denote hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting buried deposits of gas or oil from the ground. In this process, water, sand and chemicals are injected into wells that start out vertically and then branch horizontally in order to fracture deep underground rock formations and allow gas to escape from pockets in the rock.
Fracking is in the news frequently and is controversial because the adverse environmental impact of fracking must be balanced against the jobs it creates and our need for local energy sources.
The debate over fracking continues. Many feel that future generations will pay the price for the degradation of the environment that fracking may cause. Others feel that the need for energy and jobs is our great challenge and outweighs the environmental drawbacks. Some communities are rethinking their decision to allow fracking.
Each well requires between 1 million and 8 million gallons of water for the site.
400 or more tanker truck trips are required to bring supplies to each well.
Approximately 40,000 gallons of water and chemicals are pumped into each fracture site.
Contamination of groundwater and the aquifer is a real concern. Methane and chemicals used in fracking often enter the groundwater. Many states have documented water pollution from fracking.
Fracking can create seismic disturbances. There have been earthquakes in communities where there is fracking.
Large amounts of methane escape from wells on some sites, contributing to global warming.
Oil extracted from shale by fracking has been shown to have explosive tendencies, putting communities and transport systems at risk.
The fatality rate among oil and gas workers is increasing as fracking becomes more common. It is now approximately 8 times higher than the rate for all industries combined. (Source: NPR and Resilience.org)
Air pollution levels in fracking communities are often higher due to escape of volatile organic chemicals into the atmosphere. There is some evidence that this pollution is linked to an increase in low birth weight infants in those areas.
Access roads to fracking sites and the land required for the sites contribute to the loss of watersheds and to environmental degradation of natural areas.
References available for all of the above.
Want to read more about children and fracking? http://www.aoec.org/pehsu/documents/hydraulic_fracturing_2011_parents_comm.pdf
Greening the Bathroom and Kitchen
As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. We will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. - Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is not Alone, 1951
1. Install low flow filters in the shower, bathroom and kitchen sinks.
2. Buy toilet tissue and paper towels made from recycled materials.
3. When you have the choice, opt for the electric hand dryer as opposed to the paper towel.
4. Fix water leaks.
5. Install water saving toilets.
6. Use reusable plates and utensils rather than disposables. If you must buy disposables, look for the compostable kind.
7. Use cloth table linen whenever possible and launder for reuse.
8. Buy green cleaning solutions that are safer for you and the environment.
9. Keep some reusable grocery totes in the trunk of your car and reduce your use of plastic and paper grocery bags.
10. Fill your dishwasher before running it.
Reference: read more at http://urj.org/green/building/checklist/
Ten Things That Affect the Health of Children And Are Good for the Environment
1. Stop smoking. The effects of smoking on children are long-lasting. Kids exposed to the toxins from smoke get sick more often.
2. Be careful where playthings originate. Some paints used on toys contain heavy metals and toxins such as lead and cadmium.
3. Serve organic fruits and vegetables when possible. Buy organic produce for the Dirty Dozen as they tend to carry more chemical and pesticide contamination. See ewg.org for listings.
4. Check older homes for lead paint. There is no safe lead level and children are particularly susceptible to its ill effects. Screen children under 6 for lead exposure.
5. Paint your home with the new low volatility paints. They add less toxins to the environment.
6. Be careful with folk remedies from overseas. Research them carefully as some contain heavy metals.
7. Use fireplaces carefully. They add to air pollution. Children exposed to soot and smoke from wood burning fireplaces have a greater risk of asthma.
8. Dispose safely of old style mercury thermometers and purchase a new digital ear or temporal one instead. Mercury is very toxic to the brain and to the environment. Avoid fish with mercury by checking the ewg.org website as well.
9. Use plastics carefully. They may contain substances that affect the endocrine system adversely. Only use microwave safe plastics in the oven and cover food in the microwave with wax paper instead of plastic wrap. Choose glass when possible and avoid # 3, 6, and 7 plastics.
10. Be careful with and conserve water. Consider having your water tested for contamination. The water you save today may impact our future water supply and quality. Long Island's aquifer is in jeopardy.
Be Environmentally Conscious: Nature-Deficit Disorder and Its Cure
There was a child went forth every day, And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became, And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child, And grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,…..
I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.
-----A Fourth-Grader in San Diego
This month I depart from the ten action items format of previous columns to concentrate on an aspect of environmental awareness that might not be well known to you. It concerns our children and families and how little connection they have to the natural world, including where our food and water come from, man’s impact on and responsibility to the environment, and the wonders around us in nature, even in urban and suburban environments.
The quotes above are from the frontispiece of Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods” (Algonquin Books, 2006). In this wonderful book the discussion centers around what he terms “Nature-Deficit Disorder”, and how we have denied our children (and ourselves) the opportunity to connect with nature and in so doing, the indoor generation of children we have created often does not understand the renewal, spirituality, creativity, stress relief, connectedness and sense of peace that can be achieved by spending time in the woods and fields. The exposure of children to the natural world gives them an opportunity to explore, invent, and sense the order of the universe. A video game can never do that.
Michael Pollan, in his books about food and the environment, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (Penguin Press, 2007) and “In Defense of Food” (Penguin Books, 2009), speaks about the lack of American understanding about where food comes from, its connection to the natural world and the processes and consequences of its production. I suspect that many of us would never eat a chicken again if we saw how they were raised and slaughtered. Michael is also famous for his distillation of what it is important to know about diet: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
So, how do we combat these deficiencies? First, I highly recommend all the abovementioned titles, but what I am really advocating is pushing your kids out of the house to play outside on nice days, and that we all take advantage of opportunities for a walk in the woods and perhaps schedule a trip to a farm with your children or grandchildren to expose them to food production.
We are fortunate in that Long Island offers many opportunities to view and play in the natural world. There is hiking nearby on the Green Belt Trail, extending from Cold Spring Harbor all the way to the South Shore, and in Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Neck. Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain are only about an hour away. On many hikes in Harriman, no other people are seen for many hours, although the trails are close to one of the most populous places on the planet.
For me personally, after hiking for many years, interaction with nature and its wonders is intertwined with my Judaic worldview and sense of order in the universe. A hike or time spent in the woods is a chance to commune not only with nature and friends but also an opportunity to sense something bigger and all encompassing.
E-mail me at SJG34@Cornell.edu if you would like suggestions for a family hike, a farm trip, or something more challenging.
One last quotation, also from Louv’s book:
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth, Find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. -----Rachel Carson
For now the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land. The time of the singing has come; the song of the turtledove is heard in our land. The green figs form on the fig tree, the blossoming vines give off fragrance. Song of Songs 2:11 –13
This month’s theme is Environmentally Conscious Eating, and how and what we choose to eat can help save the planet.
1. Eat produce. The health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables are well known, and a new study increased the optimal number of servings per day from 5 to at least 7 for adults. The energy involved
in growing produce is a fraction of that needed to produce meat.
2. Eat local. Locally produced food is often fresher, and energy is saved in transportation costs.
3. Grow your own. Vegetables can be grown in a small space, even in pots on a small patio or terrace. Less cost, better taste, the satisfaction that you grew it yourself, and no transportation costs.
4. Eating out: Order tap water rather than bottled. Order beer from the tap rather than from bottles. Save energy and wasteful bottle use.
5. Go meatless. Meat production is energy intensive, creates huge amounts of waste product, and may be detrimental to health. Consider going meatless one or more days per week.
6. Rotate your fishes. Relieve some of the pressure on endangered species by eating local fish and staying away from such species as Chilean Sea Bass and Orange Roughy.
7. Go organic. Organic food production means less pesticide, chemical and fertilizer use, and it is more environmentally friendly. Refresh your memory about the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables and the Clean Fifteen by visiting the Environmental Working Group website (www.ewg.org).
8. Shop at your local Farmer’s Market and join your local Community Supported Agriculture Program (we support one at SRJC: call the office for more information).
9. Watch the packaging. Buy bulk sizes and create your own single servings. One big empty bag of popcorn in the trash is better than one big bag plus the 10 little ones found inside.
10. Pack your lunch. Reusable lunch containers and ice packs will help you to eat healthier and reduce your trash production.
This month’s column is on the seas and food we get from the sea, and focuses on how we can protect ourselves from danger, and help insure healthy seas and food for generations to come.
“Have dominion over the fish of the sea…..” Rabbi Hanina said,”If humanity merits it, they will have dominion, while if they do not merit it, they shall not” (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 8:12).
1. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant women and children should limit high mercury content fish like albacore tuna, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel to no more than 6 ounces per week. The Environmental Working Group advocates that moderate mercury species also be limited. This includes Spanish and Atlantic mackerel, orange roughy, seabass, halibut, and tuna steaks. They recommend that children also limit canned light tuna, carp, flatfish, freshwater bass and perch, haddock, hake and snapper. Mercury safe fish include salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, shad, and farmed trout. Read more on the EWG website, including information about which fish are highest in omega-3 oils, a healthy addition to your diet.
2. Don’t eat or order endangered species. Many species from around the world are overfished, putting their future in jeopardy. This includes bluefin tuna (ahi is a good substitute), red snapper (substitute black seabass or pacific rockfish), Chilean seabass, and orange roughy (substitute flounder, tilapia or Pacific sole).
3. Beware of labels on fish that say “organic” as there are no finalized standards as to what constitutes an organic fish. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the designation is meaningless in the U.S. as foreign producers may label a contaminated product from an environmentally unsustainable environment as organic.
4. Prevention magazine recently looked at the nutritional content and safety of farm raised salmon vs. wild salmon. Wild salmon has less sodium and calories, half the fat, more calcium, potassium, zinc and iron, about the same amount of cholesterol, and three times the saturated fat. It is also much more expensive. They recommended buying canned wild salmon as an alternative
5. We can help keep the seas clean by not putting anything other than rainwater into our street drains. Many of them drain directly into the sea or bay. Never dump solvents or paints into a sewer drain.
6. Foreign plant and animal species introduced into our inland waters may upset the delicate ecological balance and affect fish and shellfish harvests. The zebra mussel, brought here accidentally in ship’s ballast from Europe, has caused billions of dollars worth of damage and loss in the United States. Never dump a home aquarium into a local waterway as you may introduce a foreign species.
7. Consider buying a fishing license even if you don’t fish. The money raised by selling licenses is used for fish conservation and ecological work in the state.
8. If you go fishing, practice “catch and release” whenever possible. The fish will survive, and someone else gets to enjoy the sport.
9. Be a responsible boater and fisherman. Never litter our waterways and follow local ordinances regarding waste disposal practices.
10. Visit the Long Island Trout Fish Hatchery on Route 25A in Cold Spring Harbor. Kids will love it and you will all learn about New York State’s fish and wildlife. They report having the largest collection of New York State freshwater reptiles, fish and amphibians. Trout are available for sale, for “catch and keep” and for feeding in their ponds.
The practice of limiting ourselves and honoring the boundaries of others is integral to a creation ethic. Curbing addictions, quitting smoking, avoiding sweets, and refraining from self destructive behaviors are all self imposed restrictions that yield greater freedom. So too, reining in the addictive behaviors of taking wantonly from nature. It’s time to find the beauty and pleasures of living within nature’s limits. ― Ellen Bernstein, The Splendor of Creation
1. Take a look at the Food and Water Watch website. This organization supports sustainable food sources and clean water for all.
2. Create an environment around your home friendly to wildlife. Feed the birds by hanging a bird feeder to watch from your window. Remember that if you start feeding, you should continue through the winter as the birds may become dependent on your food source.
3. Plant shrubs and flowers in your yard or patio that will provide food and shelter for wildlife like birds and butterflies. The National Wildlife Federation has a guide for creating a garden for wildlife. The process of certifying your property will give you a sense of what environmental stewardship entails.
4. Build or buy a birdhouse or nesting box for your backyard. The birds will entertain you as they feed their young in the spring. Remember what Yogi Berra said: “You can observe a lot just by watchin’.”
5. Put a birdbath in your garden to provide a source of clean water for the birds. Keep it filled and clean it 2-3 times per week so mosquitoes don’t breed. Some people put a heater or a daily fresh glass of water into their birdbaths in the winter months.
6. Wildlife need cover for protection from the weather and from predators. According to the National Wildlife Federation, these can include a bramble patch, wooded area, rock pile, brush or dense shrubs. Check out theirwebsite for other suggestions about how to make your property wildlife friendly.
7. Consider buying indoor plants as a way of purifying the air and adding beauty to your home or office. The Top Ten plants for cleaning indoor air according to research done at NASA are the Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Bamboo Palm, Rubber Plant, Dracaena ”Janet Craig”, Philodendron, Dwarf Date Palm, Ficus alii, Boston Fern and the Peace Lily. Read the book by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, “How to Grow Fresh Air 50 Houseplants to Purify Your Home or Office”.
8. Ever see those little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers? Not all of them are recyclable and some are toxic. The safer plastics are labeled with a 1, 2, 4 or 5. Stay away from plastics labeled with a 3, 6 and most 7’s. Check out “Know Your Plastics” on the HealthyChild.org website.
9. It may be time to replace those nonstick pots and pans. Perfluorinated compounds used in coatings are implicated in a host of health problems, including cancer promotion, endocrine disruption, thyroid disease, and attention issues. Read this article for more information on this important issue.
10. If you have a wood burning fireplace, save your ashes and add them to your compost pile or incorporate them into your garden soil to enrich it. Don’t use the ashes from the barbecue or store bought 3-hour
logs due to their chemical content.
The basis of Jewish environmental learning is the fundamentally Jewish connection to the land and seasons. The three major festivals of the Jewish calendar… are all harvest holidays, celebrating our relationship with the land. Our prayers, too, are connected to the outer world… In order to understand our religion, we must, at the very least, go outside… Jewish environmental education goes back to Judaism 101 and actively recognizes Divinity in the everyday miracles. It fosters awe and gratitude, radical amazement, and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. Nili Simhai, Why Jewish Environmental Education Matters
Clean and safe water is taken for granted here in much of the United States, but one in nine people around the world do not have access to an adequate supply. Water conservation is the theme of the recommendations this month.
1. Keep a pitcher of cold water in your refrigerator for drinking, so you don’t have to run the tap.
2. Do only full loads of laundry.
3. Use a bucket of soapy water to wash the car, and don’t let the hose run.
4. Don’t let the water run while soaping up in the shower, brushing teeth or shaving.
5. Don’t use running water to defrost food. It is also safer to defrost food in the refrigerator.
6. Wash dishes in a full dishwasher. It saves water compared to washing by hand.
7. Patronize car washes that use recycled water.
8. Drop tissues in the trash instead of flushing them.
9. Use a broom to clean sidewalks, patios and driveways instead of a hose.
10. Wash dark clothes in cold water. This saves water and energy and helps maintain their color.
Resources: Water.org, Wateruseitwisely.com, and the Tu B’Shevat Hagaddah from the Jewish National Fund
Even if the land is full of all good things, still you must plant... even if you are old, you must plant. Just as you found trees planted by others, you must plant them for your children.
Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim 8
1. Now is a good time to start looking at those seed catalogs and plan for spring planting.
2. If you have a fireplace, close the flue when it is not in use and keep the doors to the fireplace closed. Consider putting sealed doors on your fireplace to prevent heat loss up the chimney.
3. Lower the temperature on your water heater to under 120 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and prevent scalding burns.
4. If you own a cat, keep it indoors. Even well fed cats are a major predator of birds and according to a 2013 study, they kill over 3.7 billion birds in the U.S. each year.
5. Make at least some of your meals vegetarian, and organic if possible. Raising animals for food creates much waste, uses more energy and is harmful to the environment.
6. If you are painting your home or office, look for paints that emit low or no volatile organic compounds. These paints do not contribute greenhouse gases that are implicated in global warming, and they have less odor. Many paints are now certified as “green”.
7. Think before you print that memo at the office or at home. Save ink, paper and money.
8. Buy recycled paper products whenever possible.
9. Put your computer to “sleep” when you are not using it. You will save a lot of energy.
10. Download a seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn which fish to eat to minimize damage to the oceans and depleting the species. www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch.asp
Our involvement with the Isabella Freedman Jewish Greening Fellowship continues and we will be announcing new programming shortly.
“Environmentalism goes beyond limited questions of harming nature or preventing pollution and raises deeper questions about what it means to be human, what real progress is, and what sort of society we are striving for – questions Judaism and all religions have been struggling with since time immemorial.” Jeremy Benstein, from The Way Into Judaism and the Environment.
1. Choose paper over styrofoam whenever possible. Styrofoam doesn’t degrade, is unsightly, the manufacturing process is toxic, and it will stay in landfills forever.
2. Bring reusable bags with you when you shop.
3. Ride your bike or walk for errands instead of driving. You’ll save money and energy and your heart will thank you.
4. Shut off infrequently used computer equipment. The printer you rarely use only takes a minute to power up.
5. Unplug infrequently used remotely controlled televisions and equipment. They use electricity to remain in an instant-on state.
6. Caulk those drafty windows in your home to save on heating costs and save energy. Kits for weather stripping doors are available at all hardware stores as well.
7. Use a thermostat that allows you to turn down your heat when no one is at home.
8. Plant a tree. They help clean the air, provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, prevent erosion, attract wildlife, cool the streets, save water, increase property values, and can provide food.
9. Look into purchasing green cleaning products for your home. Many of the new products work very well and are less toxic. Check out this website for a guide to effective products: www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.
10. Check the tire pressure on your cars. Properly inflated tires are safer and save fuel.
Shelter Rock participates in the Isabella Freedman Jewish Greening Fellowship program. This program, in their words, “aims to cultivate environmental change leadership among Jewish communal professionals, reduce the environmental impacts of Jewish organizations in the New York area and generate meaningful responses to global climate change while strengthening Jewish life”. One of our initiatives is education, and we hope you will read this column and adopt our suggestions. Please contact us if you are interested in joining the Greening Committee and helping with this very worthwhile project.
“When G-d created the first human beings, G-d led them around the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1 on Ecclesiastes 7:13)
1. Replace light bulbs with new LED lights that cost a little more but use very little electricity and last a very long time.
2. The Town of North Hempstead has a very robust recycling program. Separating your paper, plastic, glass and metal waste is easy and decreases what goes into landfills. For further information check out this website:http://www.northhempstead.com/recycle/
3. Don’t flush your unwanted medications and pharmaceuticals as they end up in our water supply and bays. Bring them to a collection program.
4. Buy organic produce whenever possible. Organic farming uses less chemicals and is kinder to the environment.
5. Start a compost bin to recycle your fruit, vegetable and lawn waste. Use the compost to enrich your garden and further decrease your waste stream. North Hempstead offers a class and a discount on a composting bin.http://www.northhempsteadny.gov/content/7352/7123/8510/default.aspx
6. Make sure your sprinklers don’t go on during the rain.
7. Speak to your gardener about using more natural fertilizers and decreasing chemical use.
8. Consider your use of plastics. Try to reuse plastic materials and avoid them when possible. Most plastics don’t break down easily.
9. Stop buying bottled water. It is a tremendous waste of natural resources. Use municipal water and reuse the container. There are many easy to clean BPA free water bottles on the market and your savings over the year can be substantial.
10. Use aluminum foil only when necessary and recycle it when you can. Pack your sandwich in a reusable container.