On Jan. 14, energy independence and environmentalism was the central topic for Jewish leaders and more than 100 community members at a conference at Bel Air’s Luxe Hotel. The event was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, which has made energy one of its cornerstone issues, and 30 Years After, an organization promoting Iranian American Jewish participation in civic life. Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, explained the growing importance of energy independence to Iranian Jews. “We can’t help but see the correlation between the increase in gas prices and how emboldened these regimes become.”
David Nahai, senior adviser to the Clinton Climate Initiative and a member of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, moderated the expert panel, which included Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee; Jonathan Parfrey, director of the GREEN LA Institute and a commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power; and Adi Liberman, the former executive director of Heal the Bay, currently serving on the California Coastal Commission.
“I have heard the rhetoric of rejecting foreign oil for four decades, yet dependence has only increased,” Nahai began. Los Angeles, he said, has been both a victim — through droughts and wildfires — and perpetrator — coal and cars — of climate change, but is making strides in renewable energy use.
Perry spoke of being an African American Jewish woman, pointing to connections between Judaism, social justice and the environment: “We have a Jewish imperative to lift other people along with us.”
Beginning with an adaptation study by the California Department of Resources on likely impacts of climate change, Jonathan Parfrey shared a sobering prediction that by 2100, the Sierra Nevada snow cap, which provides most of California’s water, will have diminished by 95 percent. But he went on to highlight positive changes like electric vehicles, locally produced renewable energy and ending the flow of petro dollars overseas. “If we can get off oil, we can change the world,” he said.