I Loved that Car

On September 29th, an unusually heavy deluge struck New York City with many inches of rain. I was driving north on the Bronx River Parkway, a narrow thread of a throughway under significant construction and thick with traffic. I was traveling in the middle lane nose to tail ahead and behind me. As I approached an underpass, the traffic suddenly stopped, as the puddle underneath grew in size and depth as the Bronx River backed up and poured into the underpass. Five minutes later, I abandoned my car after the water rose in the car up to the bottom of my seat. My car was in a video posted in the New York Times. You may have seen the grey roof of the car, at least the last inch or two of it in the bottom left corner of the screen.

I joke that I have never made the New York Times, but my car has. The levity serves as a slight balm for the struggle to wade through the filthy flood water to the safety of the ramp, and the rest of the journey home. A month later, most of the disaster is resolved. While counting my blessings, the more important task is a backward look at the mechanisms or lack of mechanisms in place addressing climate change.

The car insurance company was swift, accurate and fair in their recompense. The tow truck driver was sympathetic and helpful with his blunt answers. In contrast, the City of New York was overwhelmed, ill-prepared, and hiding the fact that the flooding issue at this underpass is a long, ongoing problem that has never been addressed. The private companies are already updating their processes and responding with the ease of fresh experience. Government, however, is far behind, mired in the “talking phase” at the beginning before the beginning of any solution process.

Why is our government so slow to respond? Government is typically reactionary, only responding after the fact. Funding is always a contentious issue because the pot of available funds is always too small to address the needs as they are understood today. Even so, the crux of this lack of government response is the long, ongoing meddling by the fossil fuel industry at every level of government.

The approach of the fossil fuel industry is to kill any legislation and all regulation that promotes a response to climate change. Their approach is still to deny climate change. If climate change does not exist, then there is no reason for government to fund responses to the escalating crisis. As former governor Mike Huckabee said in an abrupt response to a question on the presence of climate change, “Eh, it will be gone in another year or so.”

The government response to climate change is far, far behind the needs of the day. The number of weather-related disasters per year is rising and the cost of each disaster is also escalating. Even if your house or car was not directly affected this past year, the growth in the costs of repair and replacement is causing your insurance rates to rise, and your taxes as well. Yet, the year 2023 has demonstrated we can take back both the narrative and the power to compel a better government response.

New York State has demonstrated that the fossil fuel industry push to defeat climate legislation and regulation can be stopped. Citizen action is as powerful or even more powerful than the paid lobbyists and campaign donations when such actions are applied. We have pressured legislators to vote for bills and mandates to address the changing climate, and many responded. We have thwarted attempts to remove the regulatory guardrails at city, county, and state levels of government. Our lobby visits, protests, and rallies worked.

Climate change is relentless, and it is speeding up; losing my car in a freak storm is ample proof. We are making a difference and defeating the greed of the old energy economy as the weather alarms clamor louder. Let us finish the task we set out to do, to save the Creation from the ravages of greed and unrelenting development.

Now we are confident: the goal is obtainable.

Bomb Scare

My congregation was one of 175 synagogues that received a bomb threat this past weekend. No bomb was found and we’re fine. First, I would ask you to check in with affiliating synagogues in your area; let them know you care. Second, all of this spreading Jew hatred is expensive and is being funded by someone(s), dark money akin to what we face as climate activists. The louder you protest and the harder you fight for climate change legislation at every level of government, the more you push back against these same authoritarian thrusts that seek to divide the nation. Your work to save the creation by organizing has more goodly consequences than you may realize. From fear, to faith, to fighting for justice!

Virtual Lobby Visits

The New York State budget was released late last night and now we know what we need to ask our legislators next week. Join NYIPL and the NY Renews coalition for our post-budget Lobby asks. You do not need to speak; we do need you to show up. Every visit already has a lobby lead assigned to guide the group.

At Chautauqua Institute

Rabbi Jacob will be presenting at Chautauqua Institute this summer during Infrastructure Week. He will be delivering a lecture followed by Q&A on our religious approach to addressing climate change. His presentation is scheduled for July 24, 2023 at 2:00pm in the Hall of Philosophy. For further information go to: https://www.chq.org/

Public Testimony before Climate Action Council

I am Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of New York Interfaith Power & Light, an advocacy group organizing people of faith across the state to fight for climate change legislation. On behalf of 3000 members and 130 congregations across the state, we bring two messages to the Climate Action Council.

We as voters and citizens do not tolerate hypocrisy by those who are elected, are employed by, or volunteer on behalf of the state. Six false solutions have been proposed in the scoping plan that in no manner will address climate change and reduce our carbon footprint in the short number of years we have. Biofuels, “renewable” natural gas, biomass, waste incineration, “green” hydrogen and carbon capture technologies either do not exist or they are still destructive to our environment and communities. Those proposing these solutions are misleading New Yorkers for their own narrow benefit.

Most important, the people of faith across the state want to know if the members of the Climate Action Council are going to act with moral courage or succumb to moral cowardice. The only possible solution is reducing the carbon footprint as thoroughly as possible and as soon as possible. Adherence to the CLCPA mandate is the only viable choice, funding its mandate as written, fully. Any other solution is an abdication of your moral obligations to the state, its citizens and to be honest, your families. Are you going to acquiesce to greed and power, or are you going to fight to save the creation?

Let me remind you: We are the first generation to address climate change and we are the last one that can. Thank you.

Where We Are Going

NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has released its strategic plan for the next three years. We fought to pass the legislation in 2019 that governs where this plan seeks to go. As we continue to fight to fund the 2019 mandate (the CLCPA), this document maps out how the state energy bureaucracy sees the state moving forward.