Not only is climate change a hot topic, it coincides with Judaism’s long-held value of caring for the environment. “We have an obligation to God as stewards of the earth to not destroy the planet,” says Eve Shapiro, M.D., a local Jewish pediatrician who’s on the board of the Arizona chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Plus, she says, “climate change is a public health issue.”
PSR, along with 35 other local and national organizations, will sponsor “Climate Smart Southwest: Ready or Hot?” on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 20 and 21. The conference will take on public health issues in the region that are related to climate change, with the hope, says Shapiro, of educating and expanding cross-cultural, community and governmental partnerships.
“We also want to talk about the actions that individuals can take. There are things people can do to mitigate the threat of heat stress,” she told the AJP. “Find out who the very vulnerable are in the community —the elderly, the very young, the people with physical disabilities and mental health issues. What can we do to influence local leaders?”
Eric Klinenberg, author of “Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago,” will speak on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Tucson Electric Power Unisource conference room, 88 E. Broadway. Klinenberg, who is Jewish, is a sociology professor and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker and other publications. His talk is free but an RSVP is required at www.psr.org/ azclimate.
Climate Smart will continue on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Tucson Convention Center, with morning presentations by other nationally and internationally known speakers on health problems, food security and community issues related to climate change. Afternoon workshops will consider such topics as health services preparedness for climate, cross-cultural and cross-border health concerns, mental and spiritual well-being, and climate change education for children. Cost for the day is $35; $15 for students, which includes a buffet lunch and parking.
Gregg Garfin, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Arizona, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the UA Institute of the Environment and a lead author of the “Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States” will speak on Sept. 21 from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Garfin, who is also Jewish, recently wrote a guest column “How Would an Extra Month of 100-Plus Degree Days Feel?” in the Arizona Daily Star (May 1, 2013). The UA climate change assessment, he wrote, “concludes that the decade 2001-2010 was warmer than any decade in the last 110 years.”
He also opined, “no one should doubt America’s ingenuity and resolve to tackle serious threats like climate change. Landing on the moon, developing the Internet and decoding the human genome are all examples of American know-how and ingenuity at work. We must do it again.”
Shapiro, who will lead an afternoon workshop, “Climate Change Education for Children,” says, after speaking with teachers “I was appalled” at how little children know about climate change.
All of us are in danger from increased intense heat waves and extreme weather events such as forest fires and dust storms in the Southwestern United States and, she adds, from newly emerging infectious diseases, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Teachers must be able to integrate these issues into the curriculum, she says. “Teens I’ve talked to don’t recognize the threat of climate change for future generations. We have to change how we’re living, look to alternative energy sources, otherwise we’re done.”