Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

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Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Time to Go Carbon Neutral

By now, almost everyone is aware of the growing danger of global climate change. Citizens of Highland Park and Middlesex County have a long, proud history of being in the vanguard of fighting for conservation and working hard to restore the healthy ecosystems our planet needs to survive.

Now, in conjunction with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Jewish National Fund, a group founded in 1901 to reforest Israel, has embarked on an exciting new program of which I am proud to be an active volunteer. That program, called Go Neutral, provides a survey by which any person can calculate his or her carbon dioxide output and then neutralize that output by planting trees in Israel to offset that damage.

Of course, it crucial to plant trees here at home, but a tree planted anywhere in the world can make a genuine difference. Imagine if every citizen of Middlesex County alone planted trees either here or abroad to offset their carbon emissions. The reality is that when it comes to global warming, everyone really can make a difference.

One of the most powerful steps anyone can take is to reduce his or her amount of air travel. Airplanes are some of the worst emitters of carbon dioxide, doing far more damage than ground-based vehicles. Taking vacations closer to home or utilizing ground instead of air travel is a giant step towards a carbon neutral lifestyle.

After completing the Rutgers Environmental Stewardship lecture program, through the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Program, I am excited to begin a new chapter in environmental advocacy by serving as a volunteer with the JNF Go Neutral program. In this capacity, I plan to conduct outreach to various Jewish and possibly other organizations promoting the Go Neutral program.

To encourage more people to get involved with JNF GoNeutral, the Jewish National Fund is sponsoring a Go Neutral Bootcamp, which will take place on Monday, October 15 in New York City from 4:00 - 7:00PM. As described on the Go Neutral web site, "this free program will provide you with the tools you need to go back to your community, and raise environmental awareness, encourage action by reducing and offsetting carbon emissions while learning about and supporting JNF’s work in Israel. The JNF Go Neutral Bootcamp will include a panel of environmental experts to teach about the environmental issues we are facing, breakout sessions to learn how the program works, and tactics to engage those in your community."
The event will take place in NYC on Monday, October 15. For more information and to register for the program, please email Debra Scher at You can also find more information dirctly by visiting

I give special credit to my family and closest friends for inspiring me to find a cause that blends both my Jewish heritage and long term environmental concerns. The idea of volunteering with this new effort and encouraging others to do the same grew directly out of conversations I have had with family members and friends about global warming and planting trees. The movie "An Inconvenient Truth," which I had the opportunity to view in a class last fall, had a tremendous, jarring impact on me, as it has had on so many people. Taking care of the Earth is not a Republican or Democratic or factional issue. It is not even solely a human issue. It is about preserving a healthy habitat for all creatures far into the future. And though this may seem a daunting, overwhelming task, it is something toward which we can all make a real difference, whether through JNF or the many other groups working on the same issue.

Another action we all can take is consciously decide to donate a portion of the net worth of gifts we receive at birthdays, holidays and anniversaries to environmental groups. This past July, as usual, I received far too many gifts that I do not need at my annual birthday party. The JNF Go Neutral program gave me the privilege of donating 20 percent of the monetary value of the gifts I received toward planting trees in Israel. Donating a percent of gifts one receives is something every person can do, and it makes the celebration all that more meaningful, moving away from the usual focus on hyper-materialism to concerns of the soul, of giving of oneself.

Not everyone celebrates the Jewish New Year. However, what we do share is a common fate as part of the world now in serious climatic trouble and running out of time to turn things around. Every single individual can make a difference in averting disaster. The Go Neutral program shows that no one is too small or insignificant to matter.