I have been invited to present at Chautauqua Institute this summer. (https://www.chq.org/) I will be presenting a lecture followed by Q&A on the religious response to climate change, our obligations and our approaches. My lecture is scheduled for Monday, July 24th @ 2:00pm in the Hall of Philosophy. Woohoo!
Author: Glenn Jacob
Rabbi, Community Leader, Fundraiser, Board Development, Non-profit management, strategic planning, educator, writer, and editor.
Eggplant Pie – Southern Style
Eggplant Pie #1
- One eggplant, peeled and chopped
- 1 TBL butter
- Splash of milk
- 1 egg
- Corn FlakesTM
- Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350oF or 180oC
Boil the eggplant in a pot of salted water until soft, about twenty minutes. Drain off water. Using a potato masher, mash the eggplant into a paste. Add the milk, a couple pinches of salt and two fistfuls of cornflakes crushed in your hands. Stir. Add egg and stir again. Place mixture in glass pie pan and cook twenty minutes until set.
Remove pie from oven. Dot top with bits of the butter. Take two more fistfuls of cornflakes crushed in your hands and cover the top of the pie. Top with shredded cheese and return to oven for ten minutes.
Because Corn FlakesTM contains a goodly number of industrial food ingredients, the first recipe is not recommended for those with food sensitivities.
Eggplant Pie #2
- One eggplant, peeled and chopped
- 1 TBL butter
- Splash of milk
- 1 egg or egg white
- ¼ cup almond flour
- Cheddar Cheese, shredding
Preheat oven to 350oF or 180oC
Boil the eggplant in a pot of salted water until soft, about twenty minutes. Drain off water. Using a potato masher, mash the eggplant into a paste. Add the milk, a couple pinches of salt and the almond flour. Stir. Add egg and stir again. Place mixture in glass pie pan and cook twenty minutes until set.
Remove pie from oven. Dot top with bits of the butter. Cover the top of the pie with a thick layer of breadcrumbs. Top with shredded cheese and return to oven for ten minutes.
Simple and Inexpensive
- Cheapest bottle with a screwtop
- Add 2-3 TBS kosher salt
- Shake to dissolve (it will foam)
- Open an awful bottle, add it to the cooking wine bottle
- ½ cup coconut flour
- ¼ cup almond flour
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1-1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup peanut oil
- 1 tsp almond extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup chocolate nibs
Preheat oven to 375o
Mix together almond butter, sugar, eggs, extract, peanut oil and salt. Stir in nibs and both flours.
Drop by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on parchment paper or greased cookie sheet. Bake 14 minutes. Let cool five minutes before removing to wire rack.
I got tired of the overly sticky and unworkable biscuit scratch recipes. These two flours work well together, although regular whole wheat flour will suffice. This recipe takes away a third of the usual amount of cream and adds cold butter for a more substantial dough.
- 1 cup (142g) – “OO” flour
- 1 cup (142g) – Whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 tsp – baking soda
- 2 tsp – sugar
- ½ tsp – salt
- 2 TBL – cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup – heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
Preheat oven to 425oF
Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper
In food processor, process all the dry ingredients to mix. Cut butter in pieces and process in dry mixture, two or three pulses. Turn on machine and pour cream through spout. Process until dough forms.
Toss dough onto clean surface dusted with flour. Work dough, adding sprinklings of flour until no longer sticky. Either wrap in plastic and let sit in refrigerator until needed, or proceed to cutting biscuit shape.
Roll dough flat until ¾ to 1 inch thick. Use biscuit cutter to make round shape. Place on baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown appears on top. Serve immediately.
Finnicky Dough begins quite sticky coming out of food processor. Dust your hands with flour unless you like bits of dough between your fingers.
Place tray in middle of oven. If placed on bottom rack, the biscuit will burn on the bottom before browning on top.
Using ultra-pasteurized cream will produce flattened, uneven biscuits with undercooked dough in the middle. Autoimmune diets can only use pasteurized cream.
ABC: Asphalt, Bureaucracy, & Climate
When Vice News interviewed the mayor of an Oregon town that lost a third of its housing to last year’s wildfires, the mayor offered the following sentiment. She was asked if encouraging people to return was a good idea with the ongoing threat of another wildfire. Her response was that climate change is everywhere and this is where they were choosing to make a stand.
While her statement is a typical politician’s response, “We can do this!”, her program is a failure. Her determination on behalf of her constituents is admirable, her plan is poorly positioned as is the limited municipal money she has allocated. They are building Recreational Vehicle (RV) hookups to draw back displaced residents who cannot afford to rebuild to return to town. The RV hookups plan is appropriate if the goal is bringing back the tax base; however, the response is valueless if it is meant to be a stand against climate change.
Approving expenditures to help people return sounds worthwhile and a proper function of government at first glance. However, in a time of escalating climate change, the proper first priority of government is not accommodating people. The priority must be creating a survivable environment, a concept that only specialized segments of government bureaucracies who use emergency management centers typically encounter. The goal after such disasters is creating resilience now that the danger is known. A climate-stricken world requires an entire revamping of the role of government, which is a shift from the usual way of doing government business. The new reality is climate change is an ongoing, escalating crisis.
The climate change crisis in Oregon may be wildfires while the coastal flooding is the ongoing destruction in Miami, Florida. California and the rest of the southwestern United States are suffering prolonged droughts. Parts of Germany and Belgium are inundated with swollen rivers while the Indian subcontinent faces the extremes of misplaced monsoons. The eastern seaboard of North America is experiencing more frequent and more powerful hurricanes.
Certain religious traditions have more to say about long ongoing crises than others. Diaspora religions living among other majorities have long understood that there is no instant or elegant solution to resolving a long enduring crisis. Success is not characterized as overcoming or winning, instead success is defined as creating a dynamic balance that adjusts as the surges of tension and confrontation roil.
Most holy scriptures are a chronicle of the crises in the lives of human beings and their nations.[i] The religious voice offers powerful methodologies for navigating the effects of climate change and countering the greedy interests that want us to ignore climate change. Contrary to the sneering condescension of critics, the proffered methods are not “let us pray on it.” Seeking common ground, aligning communal interests, raising and promoting volunteers, redirecting self-interest back to community interest, and confirming universal ideals that can inspire all are some of the religious lessons that people of faith still use today. Multi-religious initiatives for the community’s good inspire and work.
Religions work in a specific manner in the public sphere. They offer established principles that set priorities of action and promulgate rules that define boundaries of acceptable actions. Saving lives is always the highest priority because life is sacred. Preventing the circumstances that threaten life is the next priority because it leads to the highest priority. In contrast, politicians talk about saving money and saving jobs as the highest priorities. The religious models accept those political talking points, but place them within the context of saving lives, putting jobs and money in a healthier and more achievable context.
When my new county executive was elected, I met him at a gala fundraising for another organization. After congratulations and introductions, he asked what was on my mind.
“Asphalt,” I said.
I continued. “You inherited a budget from your predecessor with a funding structure of replacing roads after twenty years of use. The extremes of climate change in our county have probably reduced the lifespan of our roads by five years, give or take. Did you know this was happening?”
“Let me look into that,” he said.
The upshot of that conversation was an aggressive tarring campaign, where a crew walks every road with a hot tar machine in tow, filling in every crack in the asphalt with tar. The process gives the road another two to three years of life. The tarring program had disappeared in the rush to cut government spending in previous administrations. The tar is inexpensive, but the crew time is costly – not as costly as putting in new roads though. The county executive’s response is an example of the dynamic flexibility required to address the facts of climate change. The politician’s priority of money and jobs was preserved and my priority of preventing destructive circumstances was achieved.
(A quick aside, the asphalt example can be correctly categorized as an example of adaptation. Adapting to climate change is a necessary step that many in the environmental advocacy arena dismiss as a distraction from the goal of clean renewable energy legislation or worse, a surrender to the failure of ridding the world of carbon producing fossil fuels. The events of the past few years have clarified that adaptation will be a necessary component of any climate change legislation, an unfortunate but predictable development. Most politicians are amenable to adaptation spending in their districts.)
While my county executive is an elected position, he used the bureaucracy to address the effects of climate change. The public rhetoric to address carbon pollution often overlooks the power of the bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are slow, rigid, and cranky; they are depicted as prone to corruption with political appointments and highjacked bids. The crimes reach the news cycles, but the day-to-day work, plodding up and down the streets for instance, are beneath notice. Bureaucracies do work and they can be quite powerful.
The dynamic power of a federal bureaucracy can have global reach, addressing not just the effects but the sources of carbon pollution. Reuters reported on August 16th, 2021, that the “U.S. Treasury to oppose development bank financing for most fossil fuel projects.” Fossil Fuel companies can longer use the multilateral development banks across the world to fund their projects. The only exceptions are countries buying coal plants to shut them down and poor countries with no infrastructure purchasing some natural gas-powered generation downstream. Using the bureaucracy, the U.S. government has shut down an the “at the source” funding stream for the fossil fuel industry. The U.S. Treasury is using its leverage in a new manner to shut down new fossil fuel development across the globe. While the U.S. Treasury has offered “guidance” throughout its history, this is a climate first and a welcome one.
Addressing climate change is not about a stand against the effects of climate change. All the industries that oppose addressing climate change are happy with this misguided stance and encourage it. The more effort that is expended on the destruction and costs produced by climate change, the less effort is available to attack the sources of climate change. The mayor in Oregon is truly looking out for her citizens and the town, for which she deserves our compliments and encouragement. People who use their political power to raise the downtrodden and stricken deserve the support of religious affirmation. However, when the means of support are misdirected, more productive actions need to be introduced and corrected if possible.
As we examine the laws, regulations, and allocations in our local communities, we must keep the following mantra in mind: We cannot fight climate change; we can only fight the sources of climate change.
[i] Following Judah Magnes PhD, Gleanings 1948
- 2 parts – Cream of Tartar
- 1 part – baking soda
- 1tsp – corn starch or potato starch
- ½ cup – Cream of Tartar
- ¼ cup – baking soda
- 1tsp – potato starch
- Cream of Tartar loses potency after one year.
- People on autoimmune diets should use potato starch instead of corn.
- Store in mason jar to retain freshness.
The Phony Cry of Doomerism
The reports from the field observations on climate are returning with ever worsening reports, as predicted. Heat absorption, the Arctic and Antarctica, mounting land degradation tallies are ticking upward, which again, were explicated in the climate models. Last week, Greenpeace released a report on an Exxon lobbyist who was tricked in admitting fierce lobbying behind the scenes and the corruption of key senators to prevent climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate, as per the Tobacco playbook of fifty years ago. The interview also shows the campaign to prevent climate change legislation is shifting into another, well-documented gear: “Give up,” certain no-name writers press. “Give up and go home; enjoy these better days while you have them.
The new task at hand is not defending the veracity of the data. The evidence proving climate change has swayed approximately 70 percent of the American population according to the latest surveys. Climate Denialism continues to lose adherents as the effects of global warming are experienced by more people with no alternate explanations possible. Scientists and activists are winning the first battle of denialism, but the fossil fuel industry has already moved on.
More than one set of delaying tactics are described in the earlier Tobacco Industry playbook, which goes back fifty years. Thwarting legislation is a multi-pronged approach requiring several different strategies, and different types of timing. As denialism tapers off, the fossil fuel industry is pivoting to two other methodologies: denigration and delay. As the Tobacco Industry demonstrated, these tactics work, delaying anti-tobacco legislation and litigation for fifty years.
On the denial track, we have passed through most of the “denial that the problem exists,” although there is still funding flowing to professional deniers such as the Heartland Institute. Thirty percent of Americans still believe that climate change does not exist, that it is a hoax, or that its existence and effects are overblown. These public relations campaigns have been unusually effective.
One of the most effective components happening now is the half-step campaign. The half-step is the acknowledgement by the industry that climate change exists. Such pronouncements are hailed as great milestones and proof the fossil fuel industry is finally paying attention to the threat of climate change. In truth, they have been paying close attention since the late 1970’s according to their own internal studies and documents. With this half-step announcement, the industry pivots to a stance of non-engagement. In the same breath that they confirm climate change is real, they deny that climate change is a problem. No one needs to act because climate change is benign.
Continuing further down the denial track, the fossil fuel industry pushes two specific ideas. The first project is to deny that the fossil fuel industry is the cause. They point fingers at cows, governments, corporate agriculture and most effectively, at ordinary people. There are kernels of truth in their accusations, but not even close to a whole, accurate truth. Just enough truth to make the accusations appear tenable is part of the strategy.
Their claim is if everyone would take personal responsibility for their contributions to climate change, the crisis would be solved. The argument is demonstrably false, but it accomplishes its true goal of shifting the conversation away from fossil fuels. Other permutations include “we’re trying, why aren’t you” or “we’re doing our part, everyone else is the problem.” Most insidious of all is the claim “not to worry, a technological is fix is coming to save us.” There is no technology in a production pipeline to address climate change now.
The second idea, which has not emerged fully into blossom yet, is to deny that we can solve climate change. The climate is complicated involving ocean currents under the ocean to carbon accretion in the upper layers of the atmosphere, and no one can really understand all of it. Even the climate scientists do not have all the answers, they claim. The fossil fuel industry will humbly profess the problems are too complicated to solve at this time, but they promise to continue studying the issue.
Delaying action on climate change is the arena in which doomerism is actively pushed. Two types of delay are in play, but both are concerned with politics. The most expensive element in the industry’s push to stop legislation is lobbying. They make donations to politicians and political campaigns. If they identify a vulnerable legislator, they fund campaigns to raise a primary challenger or fund the candidate who supports their industry in the full election. They have lobbyists in every state, working with municipal, county, and state legislators and with the regulatory agencies. They fund think tanks and institutes whose sole purpose is to stop climate change legislation from being passed. They have been successful.
However, constituents vote, and they lobby too. The power of the electorate is formidable when it is engaged and their aggregated votes and demands of legislators are effective; they are a deep challenge to the fossil fuel industry despite their billions of spent dollars. To delay the electorate, they hire firms to prevent aggregating into large coalitions. These firms target individuals who are aggregators of public concern including scientists, teachers, clergy, pundits, environmental groups, and informed politicians. They also attempt to discourage people from taking up the cause using media, social media, print campaigns, and any other method they think may work. They have money to spend.
The promotion of doomerism, the fear that it is too late to save the planet and that all is lost, is a pernicious delaying tactic. The voice of doom sends the message that nothing can be done. The concerned citizen who learns this terrible truth should go home and close their doors. They should use their energy to live the best life they can while they can because all is lost. They should give up the fight because the battle is already lost; we are too late.
“I came to view with despair all the gains I had made under the sun,” Kohelet records in the Book of Ecclesiastes, falling into a funk of futility despite his recounted successes. Doomerism is the latest expression of well-attested despair. Despair is crippling, leading to withdrawal from the world and from everything that gives life meaning and worth; it is an affliction.
As a tool to discourage people from taking community and political action, despair is potent. From young adults through every decade through the elder years, despondency is a cruel and crippling reality to the vulnerable. “No sickness like despair” declared Israel Salanter Lipkin centuries ago.
To the power hungry and cynical, promoting despair in the opposition or in the population is a documented path to success. Take the fight out of one’s enemies and they will not bother to raise their arms in defense, much less raise a counterattack. Peeling off parts of the population who would care about climate change and neutralizing them is an appealing strategy. The promotion of doomerism lately demonstrates the effort is well underway.
Across the globe in almost every generation, people have risen to overcome their despair and move forward. Despair is an ancient problem, which is found in the writings of every religious tradition. St. Francis of Assisi encouraged his fellows, declaring that hope is the antidote to despair. The ancient Jewish traditions argue that despair is the loss of hope. The Buddhist teachings direct the practitioner to lean into the despair, using the pain as a lever to raise others out of their despair.
Despair is real and its presence is a necessary component of our response to climate change. Hopelessness reminds us of all that is precious to us, from our fellow human beings to the planet that sustains us all. The suffering of human beings from global warming is cataloged as an evil in the Western religious traditions and as avoidable suffering in the Eastern traditions. Both traditions are on point, signaling why despair over the climate is painful and even crippling at times.
The toxic nature of despair is not a foregone conclusion. The presence of despair is a moment of self-revelation, an insight that all is not right. Anguish is an opportunity to examine the causes of our pain and to challenge our lack of hope. The propaganda surrounding the push of climate doomerism is an attempt to extinguish the presence of hope. Hope is the target to be eliminated as the industry pushes against change.
Despondency need not be a stumbling block. The power of this human sentiment is available to all people, and the power can be a great source of motivation. Without this element of threatened hopelessness, the fights for climate change legislation would be an academic one or the work of a professional gunslinger who earns a paycheck lobbying politicians. Despair is an engine that galvanizes the religious soul, that bothers the people on the sidelines who await a goad to act. Despair is the call to action. The presence of despair informs us that this battle to save the planet is the movement of peoples against the lust for wealth and power. As climate change is global, the gathering to force change on the fossil fuel industry is worldwide, and all of this gathering, each and every individual joining the cause, begins with despair. As one organizer declares in her email signature, “From pain, to protest, to power.” Despair is not a conclusion, but a beginning point. From anguish and hopelessness, the only path is upward.
My grammar, ‘tis of thee,
Of thee I sing.
I love each mood and tense,
Each freak of accidence,
Protect me from common sense,
Grammar, my king!
“The Wonder of Words” by Isaac Goldberg, 1938.
Climate Action for the Apathetic
In any nationwide initiative to move the American population to change course, the two key demographics are the apathetic and the complacent. Unfortunately for most of our polling experts, these demographic groups nest comfortably within all age cohorts, zip codes, races, and economic profiles. Two representative projects seeking to push the general populace to address climate change are taking the challenge to rouse these lethargic individuals to pay attention. The question is whether these well developed, well presented efforts work as intended.
While The En-Roads Initiative presents an accessible presentation of what we need to do to address climate change, the academic presentation defines the audience who will interact eagerly with the webpage. The player can toy with all the sliders and watch the graph rise or fall as the player attempts to drop the rise in temperature to 1.5 oC. Those who enjoy science and who enjoy learning will embrace the site wholeheartedly. Developed and sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the academic approach is on clear display.
Back in 2019, CNN took a different approach to much of the same scientific evidence, offering an interactive quiz. The designers of the quiz offered a short piece of seven questions with four choices for all but one section (it had three). Each choice was ranked as a comparison to “how many millions of cars would be removed from the road.” After attempting to place the four choices of any question in the proper order, the quiz offered instant answers, rewards (you did better than 50% of others), and snippets of information. This worthwhile exercise led the quiz-taker to set priorities of what must be done first. According to the science, the top five choices most affecting the release of carbon in descending order are:
- Getting rid of chemicals in refrigerators and AC’s
- Wind generation installation
- Throwing away less food in every setting
- Eating a plant-heavy diet
- Restoring tropical rain forests
The CCN quiz ends at this point. The quiz/interactive article is short, working within the typical length of an online news media presentation of articles. Conforming to CNN publishing conventions, the articles convey the evidence-based information in a topical manner, allowing the reader to examine the presented evidence and make conclusions.
The data behind the quiz leads to a diversity of actions-to-take within the top priorities. Getting rid of chemicals is a regulatory process; wind generation is national legislation together with the free market economy; and changing diet while also changing how we treat food is individual action and free market economy. The top five solutions create a convincing conclusion of the necessity of a variety of approaches to solving the climate crisis.
Variety and diversity are anathema to addressing apathy and complacency though.
Both interactions with the climate science data are designed to convince and engage people who are asking one question: “Climate change is real, so, what do we have to do?” The presented solutions signal several angles of attack to address the crisis. Not stated, but certainly one concrete conclusion is no one elegant solution to climate change is possible. Several solution sets are necessary and within each set, a variable number of different tasks and protocols are required for success.
The disconnect between the reality of solution sets and the human desire for simple directions is daunting. When the apathetic are roused enough to ask, the request is typically circumscribed by the demand to “just give me the back of the envelope version of what I’ve got to do.” Such a thing does not exist. Even the plea for a one-page executive summary is probably not possible. Yet, the request is an opening for meaningful change to occur.
The Pew Research reports an aggregate of 62% of Americans believe in climate change, broken down at 90% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans in 2019. About 70 percent of the surveyed believe the United States should prioritize developing clean renewable energy. The numbers indicate a large popular movement willing to accept climate science. None of these recorded shifts in attitude give direction on how address the large groups of complacent or apathetic people captured within the findings though.
All the solution sets require these groups not only to accept but to participate. People need to participate in all the solution sets and in all the facets of each solution set. One set of solutions may examine personal actions such as beef consumption or electricity providers, but other sets are demanding from politicians legislative and regulatory action at the local, state, and national levels. Such behavior is contrary to the attitudes these people and their households are presenting, which is a request for a simple set of directions. Not only a simple set of directions, these groups want easy-to-follow directions.
To date, the challenge these two demographics present has not been met. For example, New York State mandates that its utilities must provide a community solar option for all its customers, which is an excellent development. On the Con Edison site, which serves New York City, the customer must log into their account online account first, then navigate three pages, clicking the correct buttons to land on the Choices page. On this specific page, the customer must navigate through pages on ratings, tips for selecting, and choosing. Only after these pages can the customer click the “find offers” button, only to be confronted with more choices before providers are posted. The customer then must navigate the page to find the correct filters for renewable energy providers (they are at the bottom of the webpage). Choosing a community solar provider is a complicated process complete with dead end tangents, misplaced buttons, and pages upon pages of text to navigate. Even the most dedicated are challenged.
These two demographics, the apathetic and the complacent, demonstrate the grassroots challenges that continue to thwart efforts to address climate change. Climate change is not simple to explain, to understand, or to address. Swaths of population are demanding that organizers, scientists, engineers, and lobbyists keep it simple. Their lack of actions indicate they will not rise reduce their carbon footprint until the process is simplified. The requests are not reasonable nor fair, but they must be addressed.