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- Peggy K. Wolf
Global Climate Change Forum
The BHC Green Team sponsored a public forum on "Global Climate Change: Public Health and Public Ethics" on May 17. Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH, and Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin addressed over 100 people, including Delegates Dan Morhaim, MD, and Dana Stein, following Shabbat Shelanu.
Dr. Patz is Professor of Environmental Studies & Population Health Sciences and Director of Global Environmental Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. As a lead author for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), his work contributed to the IPCC's receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with former Vice President Al Gore. Rabbi Cardin is the General Consultant for the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), a member of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and Director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network (BJEN) at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, which is dedicated to promoting environmental advocacy, ethics and behavior.
Dr. Patz spoke of the ethics of global climate change. He pointed out that the ethical issue has three aspects. The first is the ethics of humans adversely affecting other species through excess carbon, such as the threat to polar bear habitat due to global warming. The second aspect is the disparate health effects of global climate change throughout the world-the wealthy industrialized countries in the Northern Hemisphere produce vastly more carbon emissions than the much poorer Southern Hemisphere, yet it is the populations of the Southern Hemisphere that bear most of the health effects of increased carbon-related insect borne diseases such as malaria and carbon-related water runoff diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. Over the past century, the United States has been by far the number one carbon emitter in the world. Although China recently surpassed the United States as the leading annual carbon emitter, the United States will continue to have the greatest cumulative impact on climate change for many years. The final aspect of climate change ethics is the vastly disproportionate effect on the health of children, who are not responsible for the decisions that cause excess carbon.
Rabbi Cardin spoke of the primacy of man's role in the world as a steward of the Earth. She pointed out that the Torah portion, Behar, mandates that Jews are to leave their fields fallow every seven years, in order to allow the land to rest in the sabbatical year, just as we are mandated to rest and reflect every Shabbat. The parsha reminds us that we are to respect the land and not to take from it more than we require. The sabbatical year is a reminder that the Earth is Holy and that man only exercises stewardship over the land, not ownership.
The BHC Green Team is a group of Congregants committed to making their household lives more environmentally friendly as part of the Congregation's green initiative. To join the Green Team, a Congregant must commit to at least three environmental actions on a regular basis, preferably one of which s/he has never done before. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
submitted by Sheldon H. Laskin