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Thoughts on the New Year:
It has been a few weeks since last writing.Â The month of December was a blur, with travel (two trips to Texas, one to N. California) and vacation.Â But it is now 2010, which means that the summer is just around the corner.Â So first some updates, then some musings:
And now for my musings:Â Last weekend I spent the week at the Hazon food conference.Â For those who are not familiar with Hazon, it is the largest Jewish environmental group in the country.Â The purpose of the Food Conference was to bring together Jews who are making their relationship with food and the environment a key part of how they are living their Jewish lives.Â There were over 650 attendees at the conference ranging in age from 3 months to over 85 years old!Â In addition to eating yummy meals that often lasted more than an hour, I had a chance to meet amazing people involved in all sorts of interesting environmental work.
For me, there were three main take-home lessons from the food conference.
#1 Many Jews care deeply about the environment and the food that we are eating.Â I know that for every person who attended the conference, there were probably at least 5-10 others who would love to have been there, but for one reason or another (mainly financial) could not make it.Â Most of us from Denver received very generous grants from the Rose Foundation to attend the conference.Â Without the assistance of Rose, this conference would have been out of reach for many of us.Â But the conference also highlighted a major issue in the Jewish environmental movement.Â At this point, eating healthy, sustainably grown food is an issue of class.Â Sustainably grown food has higher upfront cost.Â Today, I went to a farmers market, and bought a pound of broccoli grown about 75 miles away for double the cost of broccoli grown in South America and available for purchase at the local supermarket (I am in San Francisco as I write this).Â I have the luxury of spending the extra $1.50 per pound.Â But if my expenses were higher, say if I had two or three kids, I am not sure I would feel able to spend the extra money.
#2 There are very few â€˜black and whitesâ€™ when it comes to eating.Â I did not meet many people who said â€œonly eat organicâ€ or â€œonly eat localâ€ or â€œonly eat vegetarian foodâ€.Â Â In general there is a trade off:
The operative word is not â€œorganic, vegetarian, or local,â€ but â€œsustainable.â€Â When we live in a sustainable manner with the environment, we realize that there are tradeoffs when we eat.Â We take these tradeoffs into account, realizing that there is no such thing as the â€œperfectâ€ food during each part of the year.Â For some people, sustainable means eating less meat, for others it means eating more local produce and forgoing some foods in the off season, and for others it means only eating organic food.Â But this is a deeply personal choice, one that no one at the conference was trying to dictate to others.Â One of the messages of the conference was â€œbe aware of what you are eating and make an educated choice.â€
#3Â There are some amazing educational enterprises going on today in the Jewish world.Â I met teachers who were using the Hazon Tuv Haaretz curriculum in their classrooms, people who are working in camps, Hebrew schools, and synagogues, all of whom are making Jewish environmentalism a core part of their program.
And of course, I have to bring it back to camp. . . For camp, I hope to be able to raise awareness of all three of these issues.Â We are committed to living this summer in a sustainable manner with the natural world.Â This means every aspect of our program will be open for examination, from the food we eat, to the trails we hike to the resources we use in running the camp.Â I look forward to engaging with our chalutzim about the choices we are making about the camp, from the manner we recruit (flying WAY too much) to the use of flush and composting toilets, to the food we are eating (sometimes choosing less expensive food from Costco, instead of locally grown produce).
To be a committed Jewish environmentalist does not mean to reject everything modern.Â I believe it means to live in the tension of the modern world and understand that every day we make hundreds of choices that affect not just our own lives, but the lives of people in all parts of the world. Â One of our goals at camp Â is to empower our chalutzim to take these lessons home with them and help their family make more educated choices given their own personal situations.← Back to Camp Blog