When people hear I have a degree in Environmental Studies, most assume it means conservation; however I have always leaned towards the development path. How is development connected to Environmental Studies? Very simply: anywhere you can live is your environment and when developed in a socially and economically inclusive way, will be sustainable. This sustainability is why developed communities can focus to work towards issues such as climate change. Many also think that climate change is better tackled by large institutions, with capital to invest in new technologies, and that without them small, underprivileged communities won’t achieve lasting change. Let me offer a different argument: communities that have fulfilled their basic needs can and will work together towards a better world, with incredible and lasting results. This is sustainable development.
Tzedek cares about sustainable development and lasting change, these are two main pillars for the projects that we support. Each of the overseas projects aims to empower the communities that are involved by providing them with tools, not gifts, which they can use to lift themselves out of poverty. It is very important that after Tzedek’s funding and support is done, the project can continue on its own to empower more people in the communities creating a ripple effect. These are sustainable projects.
The education part of Tzedek aims to educate Jewish communities in the UK about our work abroad, why it is so important, and why we should care. Our communities in the UK have access to basic needs: health, security, and education; this means we are able to help others and prioritise sustainability. As mentioned before, only when all the basic needs have been filled in a community it is possible to look outside; you wouldn’t expect your child to do their homework without the proper tools, even less if they are hungry or worry about their security. Tzedek’s UK programmes are important to tie into this concept of sustainable development, uniting UK communities and abroad to work together in a sustainable fashion.
This is how my degree ties into my work at Tzedek. I have been an intern with the Education team for the past three months and have three more left. Working from a small charity in the UK I have done more to work towards a sustainable world than working for a large capital environmental consultancy for a year. Real sustainable development exists in these ventures, empowering people and working together; take it from a former non-believer. I hope that through my experience I can encourage others to support organisations like Tzedek and understand their value. Sustainable communities are happy communities, and happy communities lead the future to a happier and balanced world.