I have a degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies and one in physics. I tell you this mainly to make my mother proud (it still might). Actually, they came the other way round: physics first and training to be a rabbi later, but that never meant abandoning science and “doing” Judaism instead. Both my scientific background and Judaism influence the way I approach the world. S
o I was disturbed, although not altogether surprised, to read recently how under-represented science graduates are in Parliament. Do MPs need a science degree? Of course not. But a certain degree of scientific literacy must surely matter when considering the issues that face us as a society. A new Populus poll shows almost half of MPs remain unconvinced by the overwhelming (97 percent) scientific consensus on anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.
Tory MPs fare worst in their willingness to disregard the science, with 53 percent feeling the evidence is inconclusive and 18 per cent believing it to be “environmentalist propaganda”. The debate is not about climate change, but what we do about it. See theconsensusproject.com. A midrash tells the story of the passengers on a small boat. One of them took a drill out of his luggage and started to bore a hole in the floor under his seat. “What on earth are you doing?” exclaimed the others. The man kept on drilling.
“What’s it to you?” he said. “I’m only drilling under my own seat.” No longer can we say, “It’s just one quick car journey” when we could walk, cycle or at least take public transport. No longer can we say, “It’s just one light that I forgot to switch off, or television that I left on standby, or unnecessary flight I took.” Bangladesh is apparently one of the countries most immediately vulnerable to climate change. Yet one person flying in an airplane for one hour is responsible for the same greenhouse gas emissions as a typical Bangladeshi in a whole year. No longer can one country say, “What’s it to you? We’re only drilling a hole in our bit of the ozone layer.”
• Rabbi Paul Freedman is senior rabbi, Radlett Reform Synagogue and vice-chair, Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK