PHOTO: A blue-and-yellow macaw, pictured at a preservation area in Colombia aquired by TiME. The program, spearheaded by Professor Uri Shanas, provides funders with an opportunity to select biodiversity sites around the world for preservation. (Santiago Rosado/TiME)
By ROCKNE ROLL
No matter which side of the Willamette River you live on, TiME is on your side.
The Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council is welcoming Israeli biologist Uri Shanas, founder of This is My Earth (TiME) for two presentations on TiME’s unique approach to preserving biodiversity. Shanas will appear at Havurah Shalom, 825 NW 18th Ave. in Portland, at 7 pm Tuesday, Aug. 8, and again at Noon on Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Eastside Jewish Commons, 2420 NE Sandy Blvd in Portland. The presentations are a partnership between the Climate Action Committee, Havurah Shalom and the EJC.
TiME works to preserve biodiversity by purchasing land plots worldwide which are home to vulnerable, unique flora and fauna using a democratic crowdfunding approach. Contributors vote online on proposals for certain areas, and funds matching the percentage of contributor votes received are used to purchase land and transfer it to local people and organizations to prevent development and resource extraction. Each contributor received the same vote, regardless of contribution, and all the contributions go to purchasing vulnerable land.
“100% of their donations, whether it’s a dollar or more, will go to land purchases,” Shanas said. “That means that we rely almost completely on volunteers.”
Rachel Nelson, Director of Educational Initiatives and Associate Director of Community Relations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, recalls hearing a presentation from Shanas about a project that secured a 99-year lease for an indigenous couple to steward a parcel of endangered habitat.
“They have the opportunity to protect it from big business, from oil,” Nelson said. “It’s really giving it back to the people, the indigenous communities who know the land and can steward the land.”
TiME also creates educational programs centered around protecting biodiversity and infused with the same democratic spirit. Shanas said that the responsibility of making such decisions provides motivation to dig into the curriculum.
“To make an educated vote you need to study the different locations,” he said. “It really inspires students.”
Shanas, who teaches at the University of Haifa–Oranim and holds a doctorate in zoology from Tel Aviv University, started to formulate the ideas and practices that became TiME many years ago and offered them to other organizations without much success. During a sabbatical at Portland State University in 2015, he concluded that bringing the ideas of TiME to life would be his responsibility.
“I didn’t want to do it myself. I wanted to stay in the lab,” he said. “Eventually I understood that I have to do it myself.”
Launched in 2019, the JCRC’s Climate Action Committee has been focused on legislative advocacy. It played a crucial role in the passage of House Bills 3409 and 3630, which will invest nearly $100 million to leverage nearly a billion dollars in federal grant funds to promote energy efficiency and climate resilience for Oregon communities and economies.
Brian Romer, the committee’s chair, has worked in environmental publishing all his career and sees the effort to combat climate change as an essential expression of Jewish values.
“Judaism’s overall mission is to heal and transform the world,” he said. “I see [this work] as perfecting a broken relationship we have with our environment, with our planet.”
Nelson specifically referenced the Jewish concepts of tikkun olam – “repairing the world” - and bal tashchit – “do not destroy” – as fundamentally informing the committee’s work.
“We really see it as the utmost importance to be protecting the Earth and the environment and the climate for generations to come,” she said, “and we see ourselves as stewards of the Earth, as well.
The upcoming TiME presentations are free to attend and are a great way to connect with others with an interest in addressing environmental issues from a Jewish perspective. “
“There are many things of things to do and a lot of people say, ‘I just want to do something,’” Romer said. “I think the best way to do something is to get with others.”
Registration is available at https://www.jewishportland.org/time.
Those interested in joining the Climate Action Committee can reach out to Nelson at .email@example.com..