Abraham Issac Green
Judaism and Preservation of the Environment
Seek my Face, Call my Name
We have an urgent need to restore the responsibility of man to his surrounding nature.
When we call for reducing the abuse and gross exploitation of the earth's resources, when we call for respect and protection of the air, land and water, for the conservation of species of the flora and fauna, we need a theological language that will serve as the basis for that change in man's attitude. The period in which we live in actually calls out for the language of faith, which speaks of the unity that underlies all reality, which is revealed in the diversity and multiplicity of life, and not the one that speaks of war of all against all. That unity depends on the concept of creation, on the feeling that all of existence comes from one source.
In contemporary discussions, especially among ecologists, they have attempted to portray a biocentric* world view, contrary to the theocentric** and anthropocentric*** views. It was argued that these two views led man to neglect his duty to take responsible action to preserve life as a whole.
The anthropocentric conception led to man's aggression, to the view that only what is created by man deserves serious attention, whereas the theocentric conception totally opposes the earthly world, which does not see it as a subject worthy of real and urgent concern. The two aspects of this criticism are rather simplistic, relating to very limited versions of those religious views.
The truth of the matter is that the theocentric conception, at least as expressed in Judaism, also led to a feeling of great responsibility to act responsibly. The anthropocentric view of man as the "crown of creation" leads to the belief that man is the custodian and guardian of the world of the Holy One, blessed is He. These two concepts may come together to create a more responsible humane attitude. Instead of negating and fighting these portions of our human heritage, we must try to make use of them, in a way they enhance and do not diminish the sense of collective responsibility.
* A conception that claims that the entire creation – nature – is in the center.
** A conception alluding to G-d as being in the center.
*** A conception placing man in the center.