April 15, 2008

Dolgin Addresses Water Threat in Middle East

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Noam Dolgin might be the first ever ‘Mr. JewSA,’ but he hasn’t let it get to his head. No, despite receiving this honor from New York City’s 14th Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association for his skills as a multitalented tofu chef, comedian and motivator, he continues to travel throughout the U.S. and Canada educating young and old on environmental issues across the globe.
Appearing yesterday at Anabel Taylor Chapel, Dolgin brought his expertise to Cornell, speaking on the rarely discussed environmental situation in Israel. Focusing on the connections between security, economics and environment, he emphasized the importance of addressing the growing problems of resource overuse and pollution to ensure the future of this struggling country.
“I thought it was real interesting to hear about not just the conflict in Israel, but about the environmental problems and what we can do from here to help,” said Liza Rubenstein ’10 who attended the lecture. [img_assist|nid=29871|title=Father Nature|desc=Noam Dolgin explores Israel’s environmental concerns and how they affect the Middle East, yesterday in Anabel Taylor Hall Chapel.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
As a former teacher at the Teva Learning Center, the world’s biggest Jewish environmental learning center, he has spent much of his career looking at issues like those in Israel through the Jewish perspective, always striving to balance the science and morals of any situation.
By approaching issues from a religious standpoint, you can bring ethics into environmentalism, said Dolgin. With this kind of focus, the movement can strengthen by gaining support from religious communities, and political clout from powerful religious lobbies and governments that value religious rights, he added.
In the case of Israel, Dolgin has tried to move the issue through the Jewish community by emphasizing the importance of this region as the ancestral home of the Jews and their faith. But on another, more tangible level, he stressed that without immediate actions in Israel, the people that are there right now could disappear along with the entire country.
What could be such a threat that it could destroy an entire nation and culture? The short answer is water shortage.
Currently, Israel is on a collision course with disaster, said Dolgin. With such heavily polluted rivers and streams, declining freshwater resources and increasing desertification of historically arable land, the people of the region — Israelis and Palestinians alike — may have to look for a new home.
However, he stressed that focusing on mistakes of the past is not the way to solve these problems. In due fashion, Dolgin who once hosted a classic NYC eating contest said, “The question is not what the problem is. The question is what can we do about it?”
He pointed out a number of progressive steps being taken, such as the implementation of new water-saving technologies, the use of recycled “gray water” for agricultural application and native tree planting to ward off the encroaching Sahara sands.
On an individual level, Dolgin said that people could help out by purchasing carbon offsets in Israel and decreasing personal carbon footprints to decrease the effects of global climate change, which may exacerbate the current problems if unchecked.
Linda Schwaber ’07, Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow at Hillel, said she hopes that with the help of Dolgin, students will become more aware of problems like this and do their part to help address these issues.