Today is Earth Day: Here’s what its local Jewish stewards have to say

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Bill Motchan, Special For The Jewish Light

We’ve become accustomed to hot, muggy summers in St. Louis, but temperatures are slowly rising here and around the world—an increase of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2016, according to the EPA. That may not sound like much, but sea levels are rising and weather patterns are become more extreme. On April 22, these factors take center stage during Earth Day, the annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first held in 1970.

The tenets of Judaism and the issues raised on Earth Day are closely linked. Consider the value of bal tashchit (do not destroy) and shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth). Locally, two members of the Jewish community are making an impact on the environment in meaningful ways.

Jonathan Lehmann, advocate for environmental legislation

His work: “I chaired the Rivers Committee of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club in the early to mid-1980s. The River Committee was involved with several campaigns during that time, including a suit against the Army Corp of Engineers’ plan to double the size of the locks at Lock and Dam 26 in Alton which enabled much larger and more frequent barge tows without any wildlife mitigation measures. The suit eventually led to court action which greatly increased the size of the Middle Mississippi section of the Mark Twain Wildlife Refuge between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minnesota.”

On tikkun olam: “Rabbi Susan Talve (of Central Reform Congregation) tells us it encompasses the way to see the world and the way people should be driven individually. It’s about sustainability in a global sense. I knew I was going to be driven my entire life by the environment.”

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Larry Levin, executive director of Ozark Land Trust

His work: “Our bread and butter is on-the-ground and permanent land protection. This involves working with landowners to voluntarily protect their land in perpetuity. About 80% of our portfolio-protected lands remain in the hands of a private individual but are permanently restricted from development. We become stewards who monitor that property on an annual basis to make sure that there are no violations of the document that protects the property, which is called a conservation easement.”

Preservation tips: “Recycle and compost, because, in the aggregate, those make a huge difference. Participate with environmental organizations that either do on-the-ground conservation like we do, or advocate for it.”

Energy saving tips anyone can try

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a heat pump and solar panels to be more energy efficient. Here are 10 easy steps:

  1. Open a window instead of turning on the air-conditioning
  2. Seal cracks to eliminate drafts
  3. Switch from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs
  4. Get a smart power strip for TVs and other appliances
  5. Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth
  6. Try composting to minimize food waste in landfills
  7. Cut back on the amount of meat you consume
  8. Recycle unused or gently used clothing by donating it
  9. Walk, bike or take public transportation
  10. Drink from a reusable cup instead of a plastic one