On July 10, Governor Kathy Hochul visited Orange County following a flood that shattered all precedents and claimed the life of 43-year-old Highland Falls resident Pamela Nugent as it surged. In her televised address, rain boots out of frame, Hochul called the storm “historic”—a 1,000-year event. But Hochul also said that New Yorkers would not enjoy a thousand years’ reprieve until the next true torrent. This, Hochul said, is the new normal. This is New York under climate change.
As a host of climate problems take hold of our region, Sustainable Hudson Valley presents Climate Solutions Week: a festival spotlighting regional climate actions that address global climate concerns. Over 60 events will take place from September 16-24, each representing an opportunity for community engagement. Presentations on business, policy, and infrastructure will guide the series, breaking complex climate options down to concrete action plans. Outside of these sessions, niche programs will zoom in on solutions that can be implemented at the individual level. Interactive composting seminars, EV demonstrations, and even a sustainability scavenger hunt are among the offerings.
Dr. Melissa Everett, executive director of Director of Sustainable Hudson Valley, hopes that this year’s program will mobilize new climate actors: “Opinion leaders,” she calls them, “who can contribute to the buzz.” They could be business owners, Everett says, local officials, or active, informed citizens. The festival’s sweeping agenda could offer an unseen solution to their specific concerns, like using green technology to future-proof revenue or applying for a municipal decarbonization grant. Everett hopes that connecting people to sector-specific solutions will empower them to “carry the message forward.” The message? Act now. “We're seeing an unprecedented destabilizing of the climate system,” Everett says, “We’re in a very dire situation.”
Regional Citizens’ Climate Lobby leader Sean Dague agrees. Dague will present on clean energy in the CSW lineup. In his role at CCL, part of Dague’s focus is reducing carbon emissions with electrification. His work has forced him to confront the specific consequences of unmitigated fossil fuel use. “There's a lot of people that are actively harmed by the pollution that’s in the air today,” Dague says. “Harmed by these climate disasters that we've seen.” In June, smoke from the Quebec wildfires increased hospital visits among those with respiratory issues in the Hudson Valley. When air quality was at its worst on June 7, hospital traffic rose 82 percent statewide. Increased global temperature helped these fires start and spread. According to Dague, disasters like this will only worsen if our fossil fuel consumption does not relent.
As symptoms of the climate crisis continue to overwhelm, swift and strategic action is needed to set course for a viable future. A critical step, Everett says, is understanding and supporting policy progress. Climate Solutions Week is a good place to start. The festival’s Implementing Federal and State Policies webinar will introduce participants to climate-conscious legislation, explain the correlation between environment and economy, and share opportunities to support sustainable policies. The webinar will introduce attendees to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): a piece of federal, economic policy with built-in climate benefits. Among those benefits, the IRA invests billions of federal dollars in renewable energy, with 40 percent going to cities and regions that experience above average pollution. It also incentivizes business owners to make climate-conscious changes, offering tax credits to those who adopt renewable energy. Both Everett and Dague point to the IRA as a significant policy win for climate actors. With it, Dague says, “We wrote better futures.”
Policy is a beacon of hope for leaders like Everett and Dague who are working to engineer an environmentally sound future. It’s also the thread that connects the events on the Climate Solutions Week roster. By engaging participants in affinity events related to food, cars, or farming, Everett hopes to forge policy connections: “People can support policies that are aligned with those things and they can become literate (in policy).” As a presenter, Dague looks forward to seeing participants start that process. “What I am excited about,” he says, “is the number of people that will take their first climate action this week.” Dague sees the network of climate action as a “chorus of solutions and voices.” Climate Solutions Week invites us to start singing along.
SUPER REPAIR CAFE DAY September 16
Four repair cafes, four counties, one day. That is the Super Repair Cafe. The simultaneous events are organized by Repair Cafe Hudson Valley: a network of regional pop-ups designed to change consumer habits by restoring broken goods. The network consists of over 50 cafes that operate with one unified mission: to keep useful things out of landfills and have fun doing it.
On September 16, cafes will open in Rensselaer, Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties. Volunteer fixers will be present to repair any number of infirm goods: clothing, jewelry, furniture, appliances and even some electronics. Coordinator Suzie Fromer sees the repairs as essential climate actions. “I think that we all need to change our relationship with things,” she says. “There's just so many things that are thrown out that shouldn't be thrown out.” Super Repair Cafe Day is open to everyone: interested fixers, owners of broken goods, and the otherwise cafe-curious. No registration is needed.
CREATING CLIMATE COURAGE: A VIEW FROM THE CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE September 19, 21
In Creating Climate Courage, Citizens’ Climate Lobby leader Sean Dague will lay out the look and feel of a clean energy future. That future, he says, is two steps away: replacing fossil fuel sources with non-emitting alternatives and electrifying the commodities that those fuels power. The lecture will highlight technologies designed to facilitate this transition and action steps that listeners can take to support the shift.
A world powered by renewables can seem distant. Dague thinks we’ll get there by 2050, and he wants listeners to know what life will look like after we take the necessary steps. His presentation will explore the details of a clean energy future, asking questions like “What does it mean to cook on top of an induction stove on magnets… and why does your wok actually work better?” To learn more about the finer points of our climate’s future, join Dague for a presentation in Rosendale or Highland. No registration is needed.
EAT DELICIOUS FOOD FOR A BETTER WORLD September 19
Maria Reidelbach is a culinary expert and community activist committed to changing the way we cook and eat. Her Zoom presentation will detail the open secrets of factory farming and food processing and explain what we can do to restore our nutritional instincts.
The food industrial complex, as Reidelbach calls it, has complex implications. Industry emissions, resource consumption, and eventual consumer waste all impact our climate. But problematic food factors impact our health, too. “Ultra-processed food, it has a huge carbon footprint… And it's really bad for us,” Reidelbach says. Her solution? Cook, and build community while you do it. Compost when you’re finished, and repeat. The presentation will include flexible ingredient recipes that Reidelbach has written in partnership with the Ulster County Cornell Cooperative Extension.
As global temperatures rise, climate events continue to threaten our landscape and ways of life. Nick Sussillo is a Rhinecliff resident with a background in sustainability whose work represents the last line of climate defense: survival. “The UN has been ringing the alarm bell and scientists have been ringing the alarm bell for a long time,” Susillo says. His work responds to that alarm.
In his presentation, Sussillo will discuss the effects of rapid warming and technologies available to help Rhinecliff withstand the events that higher temperatures forebode. Although his blueprint is drawn specifically for Rhinecliff, the technologies that it suggests can be adapted to meet the needs of any community. The basics, Sussillo says, anyone can do, like upgrading home insulation to reduce energy expense and keep cool during accelerated warming. In a late stage climate crisis, Sussilo warns that adaptations in education, agriculture, and transportation will be necessary for every community’s survival. Residents of Rhinecliff and beyond are invited to attend.
The Regional Climate Action Road Map and Toolkit is a one-stop shop for information on imperative climate actions at the regional level. SHV director Dr. Melissa Everett will introduce the resource in a webinar designed to foster community engagement in the region’s plan for change.
The Road Map site offers a set of clearly defined objectives: “to speed up progress against climate change while making the Hudson Valley more prosperous, resilient and equitable.” Beyond that, it provides an actionable framework on how to unify regional resources to realize the end goal. With action steps outlined in every sector of concern (including energy, development, and land use), the Road Map offers real access to the future of climate in the region. Register here to learn more about the database and key projects that it calls for.