Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

PROTECTING ANCIENT FOREST ECOSYSTEMS

Resolution adopted at the 111th Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
March, 2000

Background

In a brief moment in the life of our planet, we have destroyed all but a remnant of Earth's ancient forests. Over the last 300 years, the majestic ancient forests that once covered our continent have been reduced to a small remnant. The United States has already lost a stunning 96% of its old growth forests. Worldwide, 80% of old growth forests have been destroyed, and every year another 16 million hectares fall to the ax, torch, bulldozer, or chain saw.

As a result, thousands of creatures are at risk of extinction. Worldwide, 25% of mammals, 20% of reptiles, 25% of amphibians, and 34% of fish are in danger of extinction. Destruction of forests is a leading cause. Water around the world is polluted with the soil that washes off bare mountains. The biological inheritance of human-kind is being forever diminished, reducing potential sources of medicines, foods, and fibers.

The remaining wild forests are refuges for thousands of threatened creatures and plants, and are vital to the protection of clean water sources for tens of millions of North Americans. Wild forests also serve as refuges for the human spirit, places where we can witness the Creator's majesty, reflect upon the mystery of life, and hear the small, still voice within. Tragically, few alive today have ever stood in an ancient forest.

Judaism teaches that we have a sacred obligation to the Creator, to Creation, and to future generations to safeguard and protect Earth's ecosystems. Before the Flood, Noah and his family protected at least two of every animal species, enabling all creatures to make safe passage from one era of human history to the next. After the Flood, God said to Noah: "Behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you, of the birds, of the cattle, and of every wild animal of the earth with you" (Genesis 9:9).

Our heritage calls on us to serve as protectors and defenders of God's magnificent creations, ensuring safe passage of all creatures from one era to the next by protecting their habitats. It is our duty-as people of faith, and citizens of our nation, our world, and our biosphere-to safeguard and weave together the patchwork of remnant forests as best we can.

Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis calls upon all Reform house-holds, schools, synagogues, and camps to:

  • recycle waste paper and buy only those paper products that are made with a high percentage of post-consumer content recycled paper;
  • use only wood certified as sustainably harvested by the Certified Forest Products Council for all construction purposes;
  • divest from corporations whose activities contribute to the destruction of forests in the U.S. and abroad; and,
  • dedicate one Shabbat or holiday (such as Tu B'Shevat or Sukkot) to learning about environmental issues and Jewish environmental ethics.

Furthermore, the CCAR calls upon the federal government to:

  • move forward with President Clinton 's initiative to protect roadless areas in National Forests in a manner that protects all roadless areas over 1,000 acres, including those in Alaska, from all logging, mining, and other commercial use;
  • manage all public lands in a such manner that preserves and restores biological diversity; and,
  • end all subsidies for logging and mining on public lands and immediately suspend all such activities in all old-growth forests and other threatened habitats on public lands.