What Would King Do?

California “YIGBY” Bill Could Empower Churches To Add Affordable Housing

As Martin Luther King day ends here on the west coast, the role of churches and religious institutions looms large. King’s activism arose out of his spiritual commitment. And in California, it looms large in a surprising way concerning the built environment. Land use is (in)famous for its acronyms: NIMBY, BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere …


Religion’s “Traditional” View: A Friendly Dissent

Faith Has Long Embraced Environmental Values

Dan’s nice summary of Laudato Si will be the first of several commentaries on the page. But before we get going, I have to offer a friendly dissent on one aspect of it — an aspect that unfortunately plays into a lot of discussion of religion. Dan writes that Pope Francis’ encyclical seeks to re-read …


A New/Old Jewish Environmental Ethic: Don’t Go About Like a Merchant

Even the most cursory look at Jewish ethics will reveal a vehement — at times almost obsessive — concern with preventing gossip.  Even little kids grow up being warned against לשון הרע (“Lashon Hara”), literally the “evil tongue” — a horrific sin in traditional Jewish ethics.  The great rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933, and no …


A Unique Definition of “Interfaith”

Today in the mail appears an interesting program from the Wallage Stegner Center of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law: this coming Friday and Saturday, the Center will host “Religion, Faith, and the Environment” with lots of important guest speakers.  Good on them. But then when I looked at the program, something …


The Talmud and the Endowment Effect

The endowment effect is one of the most important aspects of behavioral economics.  It postulates that losing something is worse than gaining something is good.  One can easily see it applied to various aspects of property law: it is worse to lose a piece of property that you think is yours than to gain a …


Chanukah: The Ultimate Environmental Festival

“To see what is in front of one’s nose is a constant struggle.” — George Orwell. Every now and then, something hits you right between the eyes, and you wonder why you didn’t see it before.  Thus it is that I realized this morning that Chanukah, which begins this Saturday evening, is the paradigmatic environmental …


Giving Thanks to Whom? And How?

Thanksgiving is often thought of as America’s unique secular holiday.  That’s somewhat ironic, because the very name of the day suggests an external power, force, or being to whom we give thanks.  But Thanksgiving also carries with it important environmental implications, because we are also celebrating the bounty of the earth. In a recent essay, …


“Everything is God”: The Shema and the Environment

Rabbi Marc Angel is one of the most important Jewish thinkers today: the former chief rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel , New York’s oldest Sephardic synagogue, he created and now heads the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, a think tank that has pioneered innovative modern Orthodox thought in the Sephardic tradition.  His recent award-winning book on Maimonides and …


Is Rick Santorum a Pagan?

All the press coverage over Rick Santorum’s idiotic suggestions that mainline Protestants aren’t Christians, or that President Obama isn’t a Christian, or that prenatal care increases abortion rates, or that people who favor prenatal care favor eugenics, have obscured his equally idiotic attacks on environmentalism: Santorum said that he was referring not to the president’s faith …


They Tripped Through Its Wires

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “The Joshua Tree”? I’m just back from a week at Joshua Tree National Park.  I was enormously fortunate to attend a fabulous Jewish Wilderness Spirituality program of Torah Trek, the brainchild of Rabbi Mike Comins.  Comins’ book, A Wild Faith, is the fundamental starting point for examining the …