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Human impact on the environment: a hot topic for debate. Barrack U – December 2, 2012 Dr. Darin Katz, Academic Dean Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston , Ph.D., Director of Jewish Studies. Question: How does the Torah establish the human role on earth?.

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human impact on the environment a hot topic for debate

Human impact on the environment: a hot topic for debate

Barrack U – December 2, 2012

Dr. Darin Katz, Academic Dean

Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, Ph.D., Director of Jewish Studies

slide2

Question:

How does the Torah establish the human role on earth?

slide3

God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.’ - Genesis 1:28

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The Lord God took and placed the human being in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it. - Genesis 2:15

what is fracking
What is fracking?
  • Thousands of feet below the surface are the Marcellus and Utica shales and their untapped reserves of natural gas.
  • Extracting the gas was not economical until the advent of horizontal drilling techniques and the use of hydraulic fracking.
  • Millions of gallons of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals are injected deep into the earth to fracture the shale and release the trapped gas.
  • http://marcellus.psu.edu/resources/drilling/index.php
what are the environmental implications of fracking
What are the environmental implications of fracking?

To support the drilling of a 5,000-foot-deep well and the fracking process that follows, engineers must build a raised, gravel pad of three to five acres in size and a stormwater system to handle the resulting runoff. New roads to the drill pad are needed, as are compressor stations for pumping the gas and pipelines to carry it away. And because most of the pressurized water comes back up once hydraulic fracturing is finished, flowback water storage ponds and treatment facilities must be constructed, as well.

what are the environmental implications of fracking1
What are the environmental implications of fracking?
  • Some of the most beloved forests in the state are found in and around Pine Creek Gorge (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/oldgrowth/pinecreek.aspx), known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.
  • The site's expanse of trees is also among the last unbroken, “core” forest in the state and across the entire northeastern United States, as well.
  • Research studies have shown that nearly 25% of PA gas pads needed for fracking are being built in core forest areas, including those near Pine Creek.
  • Core forest is significant, in part, because of the birds that depend on it for their livelihood and survival, especially neo-tropical migrants, such as warblers, thrushes, and tanagers, which over-winter in Central and South America and then fly north in the summer to breed. Roughly 20% of the world's population of scarlet tanagers, for example, breeds in Pennsylvania.
more environmental implications
More environmental implications…
  • As forest is cleared and soils are removed or covered over to create pads and roads, land managers and scientists also want to prevent sediment erosion and nutrient runoff into downstream waterways. Of particular concern is shale gas development in the Susquehanna River basin—the source of more than half of the freshwater flowing into the embattled Chesapeake Bay.
  • This means that shale gas development poses a substantial new risk to the water quality of Chesapeake Bay, which people have already been struggling for decades to improve.
do we as jews have an obligation to rule the earth protect the earth or both
Do we as Jews have an obligation to rule the Earth, protect the Earth or both?
  • Rule the Earth
  • Fracking will provide much-needed natural gas for energy consumption.
  • Residents in NE PA are being paid thousands of dollars to allow gas pipelines to be built on their land.
  • Protect the Earth
  • Fracking has the potential to permanently harm the ecosystem in NE PA.
  • Some residents do not want gas pipelines built on their land. Should they be forced to do so?
jewish environmental ethics
Jewish environmental ethics
  • Leaving corners of the field for the poor (Levit 19:9 and Mishnah Peah)
  • Celebrating a sabbatical (shmita) and jubilee (yovel)(Levit 25:1-12 and Mishnah Shevi’it)
  • Refraining from harvesting trees until after three years (Levit 19:23 and Mishnah Orlah)
  • Taking care of the land is an expression of the covenant (Deut 11:13-21)
jewish environmental ethics fueled by poetic imagery
Jewish environmental ethicsfueled by poetic imagery

Thus said the Lord,

The Creator of heaven who alone is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who alone established it --

Who did not create it a waste, but formed it for habitation...

- Isaiah 45:18