Thanks for your passionate letter and the good points you make.
Though people may be opting for plant-based alternatives because of how they believe their choices will impact the environment, I don’t think that is why Hashem put it into the world. Similarly, when the seven Sassoon children tragically died in a fire in Brooklyn, I didn’t believe it was to teach people the importance of UL-listed appliances. I was looking for a more spiritual reason and that’s the direction I took.
As far as the Torah references to stewardship of the land, the only ones I found related to either Adam in the Garden of Eden, which was subsequently closed off to humans and was a spiritual commandment anyway, or Shemita, which is specifically not an ecological mitzvah. There are other references to defiling the land but they refer to spiritual behavior making us unworthy of the land promised to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.
The Torah requirement to guard our health might very well direct us to be careful of what we eat, (though only time will tell whether an Impossible Burger is any healthier than a beef patty once in a while) and the command to “do what is just and good” should make us consider the effect our actions have on others.
One final piece of food for thought is that God runs the world and will not allow people to use their free will to do anything He doesn’t want them to do. That means that climate change is not necessarily a given based simply on the choices people make. Nothing is: not politics, not lifespan, not even what we think we want to eat for lunch today. At least, that’s the way I was raised to understand the world through my studies and teachers.
Looking at the world that way, knowing that others cannot negatively impact us unless it was decreed from Heaven (see Chovot Halevavot, Shaar Habitachon) is a very liberating thing. Hashem is our safety net and He won’t let us mess things up too badly. We should be careful with the choices we make, but ultimately the outcomes will be the ones that He decides.Jonathan Gewirtz