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Social Action

The work of Social Action is based on the ethical principles of Judaism, and the notion of Tikkun Olam, the injunction to repair the world. Social Action looks outward to the wider community and society, and the social issues that we feel able to engage with and to raise consciousness about. 

Over the past year, with the pandemic in the background, we have continued our support of Sufra, a local food bank. 
We have joined in campaigns to raise consciousness and to lobby governments to protest against the mistreatment and persecution of the Uyghur community in China. 

Closer to home, we held a four part series in conjunction with JCORE (the Jewish Council for Racial Equality) called RACISM: Identifying It, Learning about it, Combatting it. This featured a conversation with Lord Simon Woolley; the Jewish involvement in civil rights movements and Stephen Bush on his role in chairing the Board of Deputies’ Commission investigation into Diversity in the Jewish Community.

Focus on the issue of inclusivity and diversity within the LJS has included Unconscious Bias training for staff, Committee Chairs and Council members, and we are working toward the creation of an LJS policy on Diversity.

In celebration of the diversity within the LJS community, and our roots around the world, Social Action has created the LJS Heritage Trail, which you can view (and if you’re a member or friend) join in, on our website.

Having registered with Eco Synagogue we are working our way through an environmental audit of our building and practices and have supported the Climate Emergency Declaration.The work of the committee is quite wide ranging, and we always welcome participation in specific areas from anyone in the Community.

Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

'We should be deeply pained by the way we are with the stranger who lives in our midst', read Rabbi Alexandra
Wright's recent piece in The Guardian

Eco Corner

AnchorAt the LJS, we are excited to share that we are undertaking the EcoJudaism audit (read the November/December edition of LJS News here) with the ultimate goal of becoming an attributed EcoSynagogue.

This important process involves encouraging all our Members and Friends to measure and reduce their personal carbon footprints. To help you get started, here are some user-friendly tools to calculate your current carbon footprint:

https://www.climatestewards.org/carbon-calculators/ https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

Starting this month, ‘Eco Corner’ will become a regular feature in Shalom LJS and on our website. Here, you will find practical advice on how to live more sustainably, inspiring lifestyle tips and opportunities to share your thoughts and feedback.

Council, when approving this objective, highlighted the importance of engaging with members regarding environmental issues. To make this happen, our communications will include:

  • A call to action
  • Encouraging members to become involved, to support campaigns, to volunteer for the Environmental Impact Team
  • Providing an opportunity for members to share concerns on environmental issues and give feedback.

The Social Action Committee would love to hear about members’ results and any initiatives that are being taken to reduce personal carbon footprints.

Please get in touch with Gillian Smith or Harriett Goldenberg via communications@ljs.org



The Environmental Impact of Dietary Choices: A Call for Sustainable Consumption

Are you vegetarian, vegan or a proponent of the view that a healthy mix

of everything in moderation is the best option?

In this ‘Eco Corner’ we shed light on the environmental consequences of various diets and suggest ways to mitigate their impact. The website of the Vegetarian Society underscores the urgency of addressing our resource consumption, arguing that ‘we are consuming the planet’s natural resources faster than the Earth can replenish them, and without change, by 2050, we will need the equivalent of three planets’ resources to meet our current needs.’ (United Nations, 2019; Berners-Lee et al., 2018).

A pivotal study published in Nature Today on 6 March 2023, highlights the significant contribution of food consumption to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the study, ‘Global food consumption alone could add nearly 1°C to warming by 2100; 75% of this warming is driven by foods that are high sources of methane (ruminant meat, dairy and rice). However, over 55% of anticipated warming can be avoided from simultaneous improvements to production practices, the universal adoption of a healthy diet and consumer- and retail-level food waste reductions.’

The article emphasises that addressing the warming impact of the agriculture sector is complex due to the emission of multiple GHGs with varying radiative properties, atmospheric longevities, and emission sources. Carbon dioxide, for instance, can persist in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and is emitted throughout the food supply chain from energy use in cultivation machinery through to product transportation. Methane, which can trap over 100 times more heat than CO₂ on a per-mass basis, but has a shorter atmospheric lifetime of about a decade, is mainly emitted from animal products and rice production through enteric fermentation, manure management, and rice paddy methanogenesis. Nitrous oxide (N₂O), has an even greater heat-trapping potential - over 250 times that of CO₂ - and an atmospheric lifetime of around a century, is released through synthetic fertilizer use, the cultivation of nitrogen-fixing crops, and ruminant excretion on rangelands (Nature Today, 2023).

More agricultural land is used to raise cattle than all other domesticated animals and crops combined (Richie, 2017). A vegetarian diet requires two-and-a-half times less the amount of land needed to grow food compared to a meat-based diet (World Wide Fund for Nature). In the UK, livestock consume more than half of the 20 million tonnes of cereal, accounting for over 50% of wheat and 60% of barley (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, 2021).

The statistics cited by the Vegetarian Society about the relative land use of a plant-based versus meat-based diet are further explored by ‘A Well-Fed World’, an international hunger relief and food security organization. They highlight the inefficiency of feed ratios, noting that animals consume more food than they produce. The feed conversion ratios become even less efficient after accounting for the loss of water, blood, and non-consumable body parts during slaughter and packaging processes.

Choosing grass-fed beef over grain-fed beef, while popular for A chart of conversion infleficienciesDescription automatically generatedhealth and environmental reasons, may actually exacerbate climate change. Ruminant animals like cows, sheep, and goats produce three times more methane when consuming grass and hay due to enteric fermentation. Additionally, the deforestation for grazing land reduces photosynthesis, which is vital for reducing GHGs in the atmosphere (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2006).

According to a 2019 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock now use 30% of the earth's entire land surface, including 33% of global arable land used for producing feed for livestock. This has driven deforestation, especially in Latin America, where 70% of former forests in the Amazon have been converted to grazing land (FAO, 2019).

On a positive note, the website of HomeBiogas states that environmentally friendly dairy cow farming is possible. New studies aim to reduce methane emissions through improved cattle diets, such as seaweed supplements, and the development of vaccines to reduce methane production from enteric fermentation. Selective breeding for feed efficiency and methane reduction also shows promise in reducing agriculture's impact on climate change, though further research and innovation are needed (HomeBiogas).


  • United Nations. (2019). United Nations population stats 2019. Retrieved from UN World Population Prospects.
  • Berners-Lee, M., et al. (2018). ‘Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation.’ Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 6(1), 52. Retrieved from Elementa.
  • Richie, H. (2017). ‘Agricultural land by global diets.’ Retrieved from Our World in Data.
  • World Wide Fund for Nature. Retrieved from WWF.
  • Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. (2021). ‘UK annual supply and demand estimates.’ Retrieved from AHDB.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization. (2006). ‘Livestock's long shadow.’ Retrieved from FAO.
  • The Breakthrough Institute. (2023). ‘Livestock don't contribute 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.’ Retrieved from The Breakthrough Institute.
  • HomeBiogas. Retrieved from HomeBiogas.
Wed, 17 July 2024 11 Tammuz 5784