In Support of Offshore Wind Power in Maryland

I had the honor of speaking at a town hall meeting on November 3, 2011 in support of wind power in Maryland. Here is the text of my talk:

Thank you for having me tonight.

I’d like to begin by telling you a story.

Two years ago, my family went on a trip to Colorado. We spent a few days hiking in what was – what had been – the amazing pine forests of Colorado. But instead what we were hiking in were miles and miles of dying trees. The pine beetle has been decimating the forests of Colorado, partly as a result of climate change. Some of the trees were falling down in the forest; other trees were just beginning to show signs of decay. Ultimately the entire forest was dying.

My son was just four years old at the time. I felt heartbroken that instead of showing him the lush forests of Colorado, we were walking in a dying forest. I felt pressure behind my eyes and a tightness in my chest. I felt so desperate and helpless! And I felt more than ever the compulsion to protect the precious resources that we have. Not just for myself, but for my son and all the children of our world.

That sadness and helplessness turned to hope when I heard about the opportunity to make a real difference for the whole state of MD and reduce the threat of climate change through this offshore wind project. I felt compelled to get involved.

Climate change is not just about trees. It’s about people and it has real affects in the state of Maryland. According to the MD Department of Natural Resources, Maryland’s people, wildlife, land and public investments are at risk due to expected consequences of climate change. The affects on our region include sea level rise, increased storm intensity, extreme drought and heat waves, and intensified wind and rainfall events. Behind Louisiana and Southern Florida, the Chesapeake Bay region is the third most vulnerable to sea level rise. In fact, historic tide records show that sea level already increased approximately one foot in the Chesapeake Bay over the last one hundred years.

My tradition, the Jewish tradition, teaches that our human mandate is to use the resources of the world — but not to destroy them. In fact, it’s a Jewish commandment not to needlessly destroy anything. Jewish teachings remind us that although we work, we also need to rest. We have responsibility for our neighbors. And although we use the resources of this world, we also have to consider what we’re leaving for our children.

As a teaching on the book of Eccleiastes (Kohelet Raba (Vilna edition), 7, Judaic Classics Library translation) explains, when G-d created Adam, “He took him and showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him, ―See my works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I created, I created for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy my world—for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.”

Here in Maryland, I lead a local Jewish environmental project in Silver Spring, the Kayamut Sustainability Circle, which meets monthly at the Silver Spring Jewish Center. Our members – community members of all generations, with jobs and families and many things to occupy them – are actively trying to reduce our own impact on the environment through personal actions. We’ve talked about invasive species, sustainable food and packaging, saving water, and using less energy on the Jewish Sabbath.

We can make a difference as individuals, but when we come together as a community, there is so much more that we can do. That’s why our Sustainability Circle met last week to learn more about the offshore wind possibility and what we can do to support it. Some of those members are here tonight. Many others have also come out to show their support for this important initiative and help make it a reality.

We share a common commitment: that by addressing our energy challenges and increasing our renewable energy resources, we make a difference for the state of Maryland. While creating jobs, saving hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in health costs over 25 years, and meeting our renewable energy standard, our state can show leadership toward a healthy and more sustainable world. For Maryland, this is a win-win.

More important to me, it’s a step in the right direction for a healthy and sustainable world for my son – and all our children.

Delegate Kramer, I know that you have been a leader in supporting our community in numerous ways. Thank you for your commitment to the people of Montgomery County and the people of Maryland. I know whether or not you support this legislation will make a big difference to its success.

I hope you’ll continue to show leadership by making offshore wind power a reality in Maryland. For the jobs, the environment, all Marylanders – and our children.

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