February 13, 1996
Beginning in the late 1970’s with concerns about US energy independence and its implications for Israel’s security, environment issues, including water pollution, toxic waste clean-up, and environmental justice, have emerged as significant policy concerns of the organized American Jewish community. The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council recognizes the importance of environmental preservation to the long-term health and security of societies and peoples around the world.
The Jewish tradition teaches that all creatures are worthy in and of themselves and that humanity has a sacred obligation to maintain the integrity of creation. The integrity of ecological systems is also necessary to the survival of the human community. Ecosystems provide for our sustenance and well-being by purifying our water, creating our oxygen, generating soil, and providing primary genetic and biochemical resources upon which agriculture, medicine, and industry rely.
Ecosystems around the world are now threatened by destruction, fragmentation, and simplification. Such degradation diminishes their intrinsic value and their ability to serve as life support systems and sources of biological diversity. Human action, including tile over-exploitation of species, physical damage to ecosystems, pollution (including global atmospheric change), and the introduction to ecosystems of alien species, is now causing the extinction of species at a rate estimated to be 100 to 1000 greater than would occur by non-human natural processes. Furthermore, the loss of genetic diversity within species is diminishing their ability to withstand environmental changes at a time when humans are dramatically increasing the rate of such changes.
Human-caused extinction of species is an early warning of ecosystem disintegration and threats to human existence, demanding a timely and comprehensive response. Maintaining all levels of biological diversity — ecosystem, species, and genetic diversity — on land, in freshwaters and in the sea, requires knowledge, commitment, and the purposeful action of governments, industry, and citizens.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council calls upon federal, state, and local governments to develop, strengthen, and fully implement laws, policies, and programs — including the Endangered Species Act — in collaboration with the public that will protect and restore the biological inheritance of the human community both in the United States and abroad.
The NJCRAC is committed to educating the Jewish and general community about the urgency and importance of threats to biological diversity. The NJCRAC urges local and national Jewish organizations to educate their constituents, publicize these principles, and join with civic, religious, and other groups who share these goals to protect our biological inheritance for its inherent value and for its importance to human well-being now and for generations to come.