Progressively Speaking: UK’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution
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Progressively Speaking: UK’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution

Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich asks whether British Jews should back the government's plan to ensure the future of the environment

Apple tree
Apple tree

Bal tashchit (do not destroy) is one of the fundamental commandments of the Torah. 

It was interpreted by the rabbis as meaning that we should not destroy fruit-bearing trees, and as a more general principle of avoiding the unnecessary destruction or wasting of resources. 

Today, many of us in the Jewish community apply it as a general rule to our relationship with Mother Nature, having realised the dichotomy of our relationship with the Earth has destructive consequences for our own future. 

The government’s recent 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution is a welcome and much-needed step towards refocusing our energy as a country and becoming a greener economy. 

It is a small but noble step to counteract the effects of the industrial revolution over the past 200 years, as the title of the plan suggests. 

The bal tashchit principle is formulated in a singular form as always strengthening a personal sense of responsibility of a Jewish person for the positive or negative impact we make on the natural world around us, hence ourselves. 

The same principle now requires us as a Jewish community to make sure we hold the government accountable for its promises in the plan and to help the realisation of the programme as much as we can. 

We also, in turn, can continue helping ourselves and others to build a healthier future by addressing some of the issues the government did not. 

For example, did you know that according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the methane released from cows, along with the deforestation and fertilisers used for all livestock, creates as much greenhouse gas as all the world’s cars, lorries and planes combined? Or that today we still waste 4.5 million tonnes of food in the UK? 

So, even if each of us cannot afford to change our diesel or petrol car to an electric one, or invest into providing some of those 25,000 green jobs promised by the government in the plan, we can reduce our weekly meat consumption, food and plastic waste and the number of short trips in our cars, when a walk would do so much good to our mind and our body. 

  •  Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich serves Nottingham Progressive Synagogue 

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