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Interfaith organization addresses how spiritual teachings should drive treatment of earth's environment

Recommended by Alicia Purdy

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 6 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Our take: Yonatan Neril has always been interested in environmental issues and sustainability, but because of his faith, he decided to explore more deeply into what role faith has to play in how the earth is treated. After finding that numerous religious texts across a number of faiths address how the earth should be treated by believers, Neril founded the Inter-faith Center for Sustainable Development to bring aspects of various faiths into promoting "co-existence and environmental sustainability through education and action."

The Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison tells the following story: A young girl with a bird in her hands went to a wise person. The child asked the wise person, "Is the bird in my hands alive or dead?" If the answer was "dead," she would open her hands. If the answer was "alive," she would close her hand and kill the bird. The wise person, sensing her intention, responded, "I cannot say whether the bird is alive or dead, but I can say that the fate of the bird is in your hands."

Today we have in our hands not one bird, and not just all birds, but all living beings on our planet, including 7 billion human beings.

I grew up on an acre of land in California with a large orchard and organic garden. In my BA and MA studies with a focus on global environmental issues, I conducted research in India on renewable energy and in Mexico on genetically modified corn. I came to see first-hand global environmental changes that humanity is effecting on this planet. Following these studies and research, I studied for a number of years in a rabbinic program. Because of my environmental background, I encountered traditional Jewish texts from a particular lens, and realized that my own tradition offers profound teachings that relate to environmental sustainability.

Read more about sustaining the earth through religious texts on Huffington Post.

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