Progressively Speaking: How is Glastonbury like the Garden of Eden?

Progressively Speaking: How is Glastonbury like the Garden of Eden?

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith takes a topical issue and applies a Reform Jewish angle

A Midrash in the 7th century collection, Kohelet Rabbah, has God taking Adam on a tour around the Garden of Eden.

God showed him all the trees and said to Adam: “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are!

“And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it. Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.”

Last month’s Glastonbury festival aimed to be the greenest yet.  The organisers encouraged the 200,000 people to ‘love Worthy farm and leave no trace’.

Single use packaging was to be avoided, solar and wind power was used as much as possible, recycling bins were provided all around and festivalgoers were asked to promise to take all of their belongings home with them, including tents, of which it is not unusual for 50 percent or more to be left behind at festivals.

Good environmental stewardship is an aim for many festival organisers who bring thousands of people together, whether Glastonbury or Limmud.   However, it does not work unless the festivalgoers are truly partners in the enterprise.

Many newspapers last week printed photos of the mess left behind after Glastonbury finished, stating that it was going to take many days for the site to be cleared by hundreds of rubbish clearers, in marked contrast to the good intentions of the organisers.

In the end, the aim to be green and take care of the world can only succeed if every person thinks of themselves as that Adam, being taken around the garden and taking responsibility for what they see.

If any one of us thinks that someone else is going to fix the world from the damage we do, then we have to recognise that the consequences of environmental degradation will affect us and that, in time, we will reach a point when it will be too late to repair the world.

In fact, before environmental degradation makes life far worse in the UK, the effects will be felt in poorer countries without the resources to ameliorate them.

The Midrash says that every one of us is a partner in making the world liveable, and we can start easily by reducing what we throw away.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith serves Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue and is a steering group member of


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