“The Solar Solution” was my first feature story, for Chicago magazine. This was back when solar cells were in their infancy and cutting-edge energy technology included passive solar: piles of rocks between an inner and outer wall, like the Anasazi built 800 years ago. I figured we’d all be heating our homes with solar energy in a few years. Ha!
Decades later, we’re getting closer. In 2019, wind and solar “represented 62 percent of all new [U.S.] generating capacity,” according to the World Resources Institute. The summer after my husband and I got solar panels mounted on our roof, we clicked into the app that showed how much energy the sun was generating. On sunny days, the sun poured in 25 kilowatts…10 more than we use, on average. Geeky thrills.
This past Rosh Ha’Shanah, at a Covid-inspired parking-lot event, Michael and I found ourselves parked between two cars whose logos said “fuel cell.” We knew one of the drivers, so texted him and asked, “What kind of car is that?” He texted back: “It runs on liquid hydrogen. Emissions: water.” Really? A bit of checking reveals that fuel-cell cars need a national network of fueling stations. But fuel-cell cars add to the electric vehicle option, both alternatives to fossil-fuel cars.
Fossil-fuel use has caused our inexorable slide toward an unsustainable planet. More than Covid, climate change wakes me up at night. What was once too slow moving to notice has sped up. Now, in-your-face wildfires, floods, drought, super-storms, and sea-level rise have grabbed people’s attention.
Climate-change dystopia novels are a growing genre—appropriately named “cli-fi.” (Yep, I’m working on one.) Fortunately, our “just in time” species seems poised to make big changes to halt this existential disaster. Maybe, if we act faster, our future won’t be dystopian. I think many of us would like to help repair our world, to take part in tikkun olam. But where to start?
The Addison-Penzak JCC’s Jewbilee is one way. When APJCC’s Maya Tripp asked if I would be on the Environmental Action committee for this year’s Jewbilee, my instant answer: yes! After meeting Jenny Green and Alissa Klar, the other two on the committee, I learned about a new organization devoted to halting climate change: Dayenu. Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Dayenu’s founder, has spent years in the social justice arena and she also happens to be Jewbilee’s keynote speaker.
The theme of Jewbilee 2022 was Social Justice & Social Action: environmental action, racial justice, criminal justice reform, refugees, societal inequalities, and more. They are all big issues that raised our awareness—and concern—this past year.
Like raising kids, I believe any worthwhile but difficult thing takes a village. Jewbilee can be that village.