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Environment Author Finds World's Condition Critical, But Willowbrook resident finds some cause for optimism in his latest work


Despite some positive changes, the world is in more of a mess, environmentally speaking than it was in 1984, when Dr. Richard H. Schwartz penned the book "Judaism and Global Survival."

Earlier this year the Willowbrook resident and professor emeritus at the College of Staten Island released a revised edition of the book in which he updates us on just how bad things have gotten.

"The world is threatened as never before," he said during a recent interview, citing climatic changes, the extinction of species, an alarming water shortage in many parts of the world and other man-made catastrophes.

"In most ways," he said, we're worse off than we were in 1984.

His contention in the book is that if Jews took seriously some of the biblical teachings - like the Earth itself is the Lord's and the, fullness thereof from Psalms - everyone would benefit.

"The teachings are there within our religion," he said.

On the flip side, the professor, a passionate vegetarian who also is the author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism" believes that some religious teachings are misused.

"The teaching that only people are created in God's image does not mean we can do whatever we want to animals, or the natural environment, he said.

While his book is aimed primarily at a Jewish readership, his approach "is easily adapted to Christianity and other religions," he said.

The professor said he sees some cause for optimism in that since he first wrote the book, many environmentally conscious groups have come on the scene. The revised edition includes a list of "Jewish groups that are doing something" and there's an expanded list of what ordinary people can do to help.

Some suggestions: Become more aware; convince religious people to put environmental concerns on their agenda; conserve natural resources wherever possible by walking, riding a bicycle, carpooling, using energy efficient light bulbs; become a vegetarian.

Religious leaders who incorporate an environmental message and action plan in their services might also reap some benefits, Dr. Schwartz contends.

Tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world "should be a central focus of churches and synagogues. That, in turn' might help attract idealistic people back to the world of religion.

"The world is in terrible trouble and religious values can make a difference," Dr. Schwartz said. "Religion has wonderful, powerful mes-sages and I think it's urgent that they be put into practice today."

"Judaism and Global Survival," published by Lantern Books, can be purchased at Carmel Hebrew Books and Gifts in Willowbrook, at amazon.com or at barnesandnoble.com.