Leading Idea: Responsibility toward nature

Responsiblity toward nature:

Devarim 22:6-7: Birds and Bird Eggs.

Is the preservation of nature an end in itself (as well as a means to our ends)? This passage speaks about our responsibility toward the environment. We might feel this responsibility for three different reasons.

(i) Out of a responsibility toward our own children: This is to care for the environment so that in the future there will be more eggs to feed us. This is to see our responsibility toward mainaining a balance in nature in human terms. Our life will be extended in the sense that if we don’t take the mother bird then we will have the resources to continue to feed ourselves as the bird lays more eggs (See Abravanel).

(ii) Out of a responsibility toward the environment for its own sake. This is to say that we should not take the mother bird because we have a moral obligation toward nature itself (See Tigay Jeffrey and Sefer Hachinuch). This might be understood on theological or naturalistic grounds. We might feel a moral responsibility for looking after God’s creation, or we might feel a moral responsibility for the diversity and richness of nature in itself. Both might count as reasons for ‘not taking the mother bird with the eggs’, in that to do so would be to jeopardize the continuation of the species.

(iii) Out of compassion for the life of other species.  Here we have a moral responsibility to make sure other animals are not stressed or experience pain because of our own needs (See Maimonides),

(iv) Out of recognition of who we are and might become –  to realize our own humanity by becoming more fully human ourselves. In this case we might say that showing compassion to animals is important because, in doing so, we develop traits that are important to who we are as human beings (that is, we will become the kind of person who is compassionate by doing compassionate acts). These traits might be compassion (See Nahmanides), or humility and kinship with nature (see Ibn Kaspi)