JDS 212 Jewish Environmental Ethics

The world faces mounting environmental challenges in the twenty-first century, such as global warming, pollution, deforestation, and the loss of biodiversity. While scientists are developing solutions to help resolve these crises, it is up to humanists to consider its moral challenges and become a constructive participant in the discussion. While scientific awareness of the serious ecological threats to human survival is recent, the engagement with environmental issues and challenges is deeply embedded in Jewish history and thought. This course will examine the complex attitude of the Jewish tradition towards the natural environment. We will begin by looking at the diversity of approaches in the Jewish tradition to nature. We will then give particular attention to how classical Jewish sources and contemporary interpretations engage with (a) the human life cycle, (b) animals, (c) land and water and (d) the atmosphere. While the classical sources were mostly written for Jewish audiences, their moral teaching is of importance to all environmentally conscious individuals.