OOS 56-10
Old-time religion and cutting-edge climate: Jewish and interfaith intersections with ecological science

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 4:40 PM
341, Baltimore Convention Center
Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Washington, DC
Background/Question/Methods: Moral exhortations toward sustainable actions abound.  So do data-driven suggested action-steps, informed by the latest ecological science.  By integrating scientific facts with spiritual and ethical angles, we have already seen benefits -- and can anticipate further positive outcomes -- for ecologists and people of faith alike.  These include opportunities to reach new audiences across a wide swath of society; ability to speak the metaphorical language of communities where ecological science has not yet made deep inroads; clear knowledge that inspires appropriate actions by people of faith who are moved by the message; and more.  Numerous religious-environmental groups have been doing just this, and early results are encouraging.  But reflective practitioners in faith communities could clearly do more if they had greater facility with and access to ecological science, just as ESA researchers and theoreticians could reach more people more effectively through further partnerships within the faith community.  As a historically “science-positive” faith, Jewish tradition shines instructive light on this fusing of scientific and religious perspectives.  This talk addresses how to effectively build these partnerships -- at the national, regional, and local levels -- based on specific and extensive experiences in Jewish communities, and also within larger interfaith circles.   

Results/Conclusions: As a local case study, this session reflects experiences of a rabbi whose EPA-Energy-Star-Award synagogue (www.adatshalom.net) has installed a 43kw solar array, taken environmental justice tours, become involved in interfaith advocacy efforts, started an onsite organic garden and native-species restoration area, and more -- all of which have had measurable and demonstrable positive environmental impact, and have shown great promise in furthering congregants’ ecological awareness and their daily actions.  At the same time, drawing on the numerous faith communities with which he has worked while chairing the Maryland and Greater Washington chapter of Interfaith Power and Light (www.gwipl.org, which has worked with over 300 regional congregations), he can cite inspiring examples of people of faith choosing to educate themselves and others, to unify their voices, and to take meaningful action steps, around climate and other environmental concerns.  And nationally, as chair of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (www.coejl.org) and board member of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (www.nrpe.org), he can speak to the scores of denominations and literally thousands of communities exhibiting best practices, and demonstrating the utility of greater collaboration with ecological scientists.