Delving Deeper into Sustainability and Tu B’Shevat

Once, while the sage, Honi, was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree.  Honi asked him:  “How many years will it take for this tree to give forth its fruit?”  The man answered that it would require 70 years.  Honi asked:  “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?”  The man answered:  “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me.  So, too, will I plant for my children.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a)

This story, written a couple thousand years ago, perfectly illustrates Jewish sustainability. We do not plant trees for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children. We, each of us, must act today, in order to protect the world for the future.

I usually recommend books for elementary school age children and younger. This year, I will also be recommending books for readers in Middle School through High School. After all, older readers should be equally prepared for, in this case, Tu B’Shevat on January 19-20, or whatever the value of the month is, right? What better way to start thinking about the future than with some great books?

My Life in Pink and Green. By Lisa Greenwald. © 2009, Amulet Books. Ages 10 – 13 years. After 12-year-old Lucy joins the eco-club at her school, she comes up with a brilliant plan to save her family’s pharmacy. She’ll open an eco-spa with a “going green” grant from the city!

Seedfolks. By Paul Fleischman. Illustrated by Judy Pedersen. © 1997, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.. Ages 10 – 15 years. Thirteen people living in apartments around a vacant lot in Cleveland share stories of how turning that lot into a neighborhood garden saved, changed and empowered their lives.

Who Really Killed Cock Robin?: An Eco Mystery. By Jean Craighead George. © 1991, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.. Ages 10 – 14 years. Cock Robin, the mascot of Saddleboro, the cleanest town anywhere, has mysteriously died. Who would have killed such a beautiful bird? Or perhaps the question is what killed it?

The Carbon Diaries 2015. By Saci Lloyd. © 2008, Holiday House. Ages 13 – 17 years. The year is 2015. Global Warming is wreeking havoc on the world’s weather systems. Great Britain has volunteered to be the first nation on earth to try Carbon Rationing. You hold in your hands the diary of 16-year-old Laura as she documents the world as it “may be.”

The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story By Jean Giono. © 2005, Chelsea Green Publishing Company. Age 15 +. One man, living alone with his dog, transforms his isolated and barren part of France into a verdant forest by planting 100 acorns a day for more than 40 years.

As you read one or more of these books, think of ways to improve your “Sustainability Quotient.” Research Jewish organizations like Hazon and COEJL (The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) that have many wonderful ideas, and be sure to attend your local Tu B’Shevat celebrations where there will surely be environmental demonstrations. If not, why don’t you offer to do one?

Whatever you do during this month, find ways to appreciate this beautiful world and its miracles and say a blessing for all the Source of All Things has provided.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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