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After Sandy, Will New Jersey Act on Climate?
In this month’s United in-flight magazine, there is a major expose on New Jersey, a state that one year ago was on the hearts and minds of citizens nationwide when images of destruction and hardship blanketed the airwaves.
Those images hit home particularly for me. I grew up in New York City (Washington Heights, Staten Island, Brooklyn), and some of my fondest memories involved the awesome beaches—hopping waves at Robert Moses Park, splashing around the sandbars of Jones Beach, or hanging out with college friends on the Jersey Shore or Atlantic City.
Hurricane Sandy inflicted damage at a level that few thought imaginable. But, not surprisingly, New Jersey pulled itself together. Rebuilding is happening, albeit it slowly in places, and as the expose captured, New Jersey’s dream to be a major manufacturing, education, and technological powerhouse has not been dampened.
Which makes it all the more perplexing as to why, Governor Christie, you have felt reluctance to publicly speak about the need to do all we can to prevent or reduce the intensity of future Hurricane Sandy’s by tackling the root cause of climate disruption: the warming of our planet.
I’m not naïve, I know it likely feels risky at a time when your colleagues in the Republican Party appear to be having a bit of an identity crisis on this issue. But what feels more risky, if I were in your shoes, is all you stand to lose or put in harm’s way because of inaction:
- You have the 3rd busiest seaport in the nation, which is preparing for a major boom when the Panama Canal expansion project finishes in 2015.
- You have enviable seashore attractions hosting 59 million visitors annually, contributing $38 billion to the state’s economy.
- You have Cape May, a popular birding destination and a favorite spot of John Audubon, the founder of The Audubon Society. Nature based tourism generated $522 million dollars for Cape May in 2011.
Governor Christie, you have a rare opportunity to put New Jersey at the forefront of forging energy solutions for the future that reduce our carbon footprint. This can be part of your New Jersey legacy—and an opportunity your state is ripe to seize because you have in-house talent:
- Your state is headquarters to 21 Fortune 500 companies many of which have a commitment to being environmentally responsible. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, which scored a 98.5 on Newsweek’s Green Ranking, have invested in making their business environmentally sustainable.
- Business innovation is happening in your backyard, with leading institutions like NJ Institute of Technology training young professionals committed to high tech manufacturing for the future.
- Bell Labs, part of a global energy consortium GreenTouch, is working to reduce carbon pollution by building more energy efficient internet and communications networks, that will likely be handling up to 70 times more traffic within the next seven years.
What we need now more than ever is lawmakers committed to finding workable solutions to climate change, propelled by what is morally right and economically smart. This leadership will earn you support and respect not just with citizens in your state, but with all of those who live outside your borders, share memories like the ones I hold, and are hungry for thoughtful and constructive leaders.
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