Local Leaders In Montclair Address Climate Change

Flanked by members of the Montclair Township Council and the local business and environmentalist leaders (including former Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried, at far left), Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill explains the latest local initiatives to combat climate change.
Flanked by members of the Montclair Township Council and the local business and environmentalist leaders (including former Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried, at far left), Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill explains local initiatives to combat climate change.

Civic and business leaders and activists in Essex County gathered at  the Montclair Fire Department on Pine Street on May 14 to announce their various initiatives to combat climate change on the local level.  In light of new initiatives from the Obama administration to deal with climate change,  Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill  said he wanted to highlight the actions being taken locally.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but it also has tangible impacts on public health safety and commerce,” Gill said.  He cited the various instances of extreme weather that have affected New Jersey alone, from Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 to the “October Surprise” snowstorm of 2011 and the more recent heavy rain that flooded part of the Montclair-Boonton NJ Transit railway on April 30 of this year.  Another similarly heavy rainfall, in fact, is anticipated for May 16 at this writing.

Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville, one of the speakers at the 40-minute conference, spoke about the effects of climate change from her perspective as a pediatrician. She said that climate change would adversely affect children more than adults, noting that more polluted air and water and altered agricultural would stunt children’s growth.  Children, Dr. Baskerville said, would have less access to the fresh food and water vital to their development and would be more susceptible to disease.  She advocated for greater education to understand the effects of climate cahnge and to make people more aware of the problem.

Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, representing Mayor Robert Jackson, who was unable to attend, talked about how Montclair was at the forefront in reducing the township’s carbon footprint by purchasing natural gas vehicles and equipping public buildings with solar panels.  He lamented that Montclair, though, was limited in what it could do.

“We’ve done everything we can, we’re not doing enough,” he said.  He was pleased that Montclair was setting examples for other communities, and he welcomed President Obama’s efforts to establish carbon pollution limits from power plants, set new efficiency standards for vehicles, and investing in new alternative-energy programs, but he was also quick to bash climate-change-deniers who were sticking their heads in the sand “like ostriches.”  He did not mention the most recent politician to question climate science, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), by name.

Former Mayor Jerry Fried, a supporter of the New Urbanist movement advocating more walkable communities with more transit access, said that the greatest environmental problem facing the United States is the car-dependent model of tract housing, shopping malls and freeways that has led to an inefficient living pattern, degraded the quality of life, and used energy wastefully and inefficiently.

“The reason why there is sprawl, the reason why there are distant suburbs and it takes people an hour to drive to get to their jobs, is because for decades, the federal [government] spent billions and billions of dollars on creating these roads, which, frankly, drew people out of cities and densely populated areas, and it brought suburbs which are the most inefficient,” Fried said, echoing the sentiments of urban planning critics like James Kunstler and Philip Langdon.  Fried, a founder of Bike & Walk Montclair,  added that Montclair was fortunate to have a townscape developed before the postwar auto age, which provides cycling and walking opportunities as well as ample transit, and he said that Montclair should continue enhancing its cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly street pattern as younger people increasingly opt for more walkable suburbs and urban neighborhoods.   Fried has also advocated restoring the Bloomfield Avenue trolleys, which were dismantled in 1952.

New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition Executive Director Cynthia Steiner echoed Fried’s statements in her remarks, and she also spoke on behalf of Pinnacle CEO and CetnroVerde developer Brian Stolar, who was unable to attend.   Steiner cited Pinnacle’s innovative use of sustainable components at the CentroVerde complex, with rooftop greenery to reduce heat trapping and control rain runoff and a 35,000-square-foot solar panel that will power an automated car-parking facility that will automatically guide vehicles into parking spaces to reduce driving time in the garage and offer car-share opportunities to reduce the number of cars overall.

Steiner added that her groups’ partnership will “launch a variety of transportation options” to CentroVerde tenants that will be expanded to other township residents in the interest to expanding access to Montclair’s six railway stations,  providing bike-share opportunities, and electric and low-emission shuttles.

A few speakers also stressed energy conservation as a way of reducing carbon footprints.  Fried cited  the need to conserve electricity at home and drive more fuel-efficient cars,  while Meredith Nole, the president of American Efficient Lighting, said that buildings could be designed or retrofitted to eliminate wasteful equipment and reduce energy usage.  Nole illustrated to the need to take climate change seriously by referring to an article on energy efficiency and a climate change efficiency initiative issued by the state of New Jersey.  Both publications are from the 1990s.

“How does this happen that we’re in 2014 and we have a real mess?”  Nole said.  While illustrating the lack of progress and the worsening situation in the previous two decades, she was interrupted by a screaming toddler who had to be carried out of the room by his mother.

“I hope it wasn’t anything I said,” Nole quipped.

Despite the dire nightmare scenarios of melting ice in the Antarctic and ten-foot sea level increases, Montclair Sustainability Officer Gray Russell was optimistic about leadership at the local level making a difference.  He noted that the township’s efforts  to increase energy efficiency in its public buildings – which have saved Montclair $65,000 – helped  earn a Climate Showcase Community designation from the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency.  “Actions at the local level are driving the state, national and global initiatives, which are necessary for sustainability and resilience – and to prevent the worst aspects of climate disruptions,” he said.

Gill concluded the conference saying that he was “excited” with the efforts from local leaders about what can be done in the future – not just in Montclair, but in New Jersey and the nation.

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  1. So it’s going to rain tomorrow? This climate change/global warming/ozone depletion/greenhouse warming thing is snarking out of control!Somebody do Something!! Hold a meeting, give a speech!!!

  2. Russo said, “We’ve done everything we can, we’re not doing enough.” Huh?

    No mention of nuclear? Just natural gas (wait for the anti-fracking folks to chime in). Nuclear is green- no greenhouse gasses.

    I’m all for solar panels, and better municipal cars and truck efficiency.

    Not because I’m worried or even believe this “mess” we’re in, just because why not? Why do something that might cause harm if you don’t have to? I’ve never even got to the question of is Climate Change happening.

    But the scare tactics used regarding the “mess” of this “calamity” that will “destroy our cities” is WAY over the top. And the folks who screamed the loudest only caused some to discount climate change all together, or at least fight over whether or not it’s “real.”

    For the prof, I do what I can- waiting for the next Tesla, or plug-in MINI, buy products with reduced packaging, working with the staff on transitioning to battery powered equipment (except for the mower- yards too big), and most of all: composting.

    Not because I’m scared of ice melting, but because why not?

  3. “I’ve never even got to the question of is Climate Change happening.”

    —fortunately the scientists of the world have.

    Do let us know if/when you get to this “question”, prof, and what your ruling is…

  4. The Earth has been experiencing global warming since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. There have been short term aberrations (20 years to 100 years) in that trend during that time. Many scientists believe in another 10,000 to 20,000 years we could enter another ice age….but not if the tragically hip of Montclair have anything to do with it!!!
    In the mean time it might be a good idea to figure out what to do with all those solar panels…not the ones installed and yet to be installed…but the ones we will have to dispose of. Solar panels have a life expectancy of 25 years, if you believe their Chinese manufacturers, and that’s under ideal conditions…doesn’t factor in snow damage. In about 10 years we will start stuffing our landfills with toxic solar panels…no problem, just stack them over there next to the Tesla batteries. I heard Al Gore’s next big investment play is in waste management…

  5. But the scare tactics used regarding the “mess” of this “calamity” that will “destroy our cities” is WAY over the top.

    “Scare tactics.” Is that the latest talking point from Fox News, prof? Meanwhile, Miami is now flooding on a regular basis at high tide. But it’s surely “scare tactics” that are the issue.

    The Earth has been experiencing global warming since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

    Hoo boy. The temperature of the planet isn’t even the real issue. The pace of the change is. But don’t let ideas like looking into it for more than five minutes stop you.

    I urge everyone to at least check out the Overview of the National Climate Assessment. Eye-opening stuff, in simple non-“SCARE TACTICS” language.


  6. ” . . . but not if the tragically hip of Montclair have anything to do with it!!!”

    Lol, sell more UGGS to teenage girls.

  7. Good point flip side. Need to see what the Germans do with their old solar panels when they are used up. The are the world leaders in this technology, not us, so l expect Germany will figure it out – they’re good and progressive in that department ( and their cars are damn good too ), and then the anti-solar folks ( especially the coal lobby ) over here will invent a cozy new bubbe-meise.

  8. @ jcunningham, it must of been fun to write your comment. But what’s more fun is me laughing at your inability to understand what I wrote. For you, sadly, that’s just an everyday occurrence.

    @mikey, like jcunningham, you must smile so broadly when you write my name and Fox. So it must be curious to you that while I’ve flipped by Fox (and find O’Reilly funny at times), I get my news from two main sources: I subscribe and read daily the NYTimes, and I’m a sustaining member of WNYC (if you listen and knew me, you’d hear my comments/questions on air every now and then). So then, it must make you NUTS to know that someone well informed might come to a different conclusion than you.

    But you, I imagine, are stuck in the echo chamber where screaming FOX, KOCH, and PALIN gets your friends smiling back at you with their stratified smile.

    And if you don’t find a lone Polar Bear adrift on a hunk of ice, desperately looking for a way out
    a scare tactic, you must of though that crying Indian was high art.

  9. (though=thought; “Indian” used instead of Native American, because at the time used, the word used, as the commercial is now known was “Indian.” I’m not a fan of revisionist history as it relates to cultural references. Which is why I don’t raise my fist and scream “African-American Power.”)

  10. Typical politician double-speak.

    Take a look at the revised Master Plan that will be discussed on Monday night at the high school.

    Chock full of more development and commercialization (also known as sprawl) of residential areas designed to bring more cars into the township, thusly making it even more dangerous to ride your bike in town. Pretty much a disaster for anyone living in the Third Ward who is concerned about quality of life issues.

  11. So then, it must make you NUTS to know that someone well informed might come to a different conclusion than you.

    You’re not well-informed, at least on this issue. If you were well-informed, you wouldn’t be questioning the validity of the effects of climate change. Read the National Climate Assessment. Then you’ll be at least semi-informed.

    And I mention Fox because what you say here and what they say there is remarkably similar. It may be coincidence, but probably not. In either case, its wrong.

  12. Yea Spiro let’s hope the German’s figure it out. They figured out that going all in on solar wasn’t such a great idea. Solar works in Arizona not so much in cloudy Germany. Maybe they will sell some slightly used to panels to Montclair.

  13. Actually, I know of no big regrets on switching to solar over there in cloudy Germany. Any links, flipside? Would be interested.

  14. I am sure you can find articles pro and con on German solar but the truth is they have been phasing out the subsidies. (which collapsed panel prices) That to me is more telling than biased “news” stories. I am all for renewables but we have to beware of profiteers dumping bad technology of a panicked public.

  15. The nice thing about science is it doesn’t care whether you agree or disagree with it. It just is, and the globe is getting warmer whether you like it/believe it or not. It’s unfortunate and inevitable. It’s not going to wipe out humanity, but it will make life awful for a huge section of the population. So appreciate the niceness of your life now because a couple generations from now people are going to be pretty pissed about how cavalier we were with their future.

  16. Since Marco Rubio is on the record insisting this global warming thing is claptrap, we know he’s not expecting his beloved Florida to slowly submerge, porous limestone bedrock notwithstanding. However, if it does slowly submerge, courtesy of melted icebergs from elsewhere, Florida’s land area will shrink, Florida’s population will shrink, and Florida’s influence within the Electoral College will shrink as well. Florida will slowly lose it’s ability to swing national elections. This will greatly upset Marco or whoever sits in his Washington office at the time. …That is, unless the federal government sends tax dollars down there to build some kind of massive concrete wall to hold back the sea and keep Florida dry, well populated, and politically influential. But Floridian Tea Partiers don’t like the idea of gubmint handouts, so they’ll probably just accept that the Good Lord wants them swimming with the fishes.

  17. “I get my news from two main sources”

    —so you’re two up on Sarah Palin, then. No wonder you’re preening…

  18. This back and forth is comical. To the side trying to support the climate change argument with science you are wasting your time. We still have a fair amount of people in this country that believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago and Jesus is going to save them from their sins.

    You think they are going to let facts and science get in the way of their politicaly convenient opinion on climate change?

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