Sunday, June 25, 2017

In Memoriam Fern Bernadette Jones

Yesterday, on Saturday June 24th, 2017, I attended a memorial service for Fern B. Jones, who sadly was killed by a garbage truck recently, close to her NYC apartment, at the start of a trip to her family home in North Carolina. As one of her family members humorously reminisced: "It took a Mack truck to kill her, a lesser car would have been totaled!" That observation was symbolically a very accurate description of who Fern was. She was a rock to family and friends alike. Here is a professional in memoriam from the Croatan Institute.

To me she was a professional friend, dating back to when I found her an accountant some ten years ago at a time she needed help sorting out some business challenges. We stayed in touch ever since. Her background being linguistics (Yale) and Management (MIT), was often very complementary with mine, linguistics (Leyden, unfinished), and Economics (Fairfield U). She understood like no other the important role finance could play in the green agenda, and how in practice finance all to often played a perverse role, often inadvertently achieving quite the opposite of the purported goals. She grasped the analytics of green finance like few people I ever met.

Besides our professional involvement over the years, we became good friends, almost like brother and sister, able to support each other emotionally through thick and thin with all of the various challenges that life brings. At times we could play each other the ball in business, thanks to our complementary "domains." Years ago, she hit it off right away with my girlfriend, who in many ways was a mirror image of her, being the "go-to" person and an anchor for her own family. Periodically, Fern also attended my classes on A Course in Miracles when I was teaching at the Theosophical Society on 53rd Street, and we discovered a deep shared interest in spirituality, including my deep appreciation for the Quaker tradition where she felt most at home.

At the memorial service I was able to share about the many-faceted relationship I had with Fern, and how sincerely I felt she was like a sister to me. The theme that I was asked to speak to was "trailblazer," which Fern certainly was, and as we all know, being a trailblazer is not always easy. I took the opportunity to reminisce about a recent experience along those lines which Fern and I had.

At the inception of the NY Green Bank, we gave them a presentation, proposing a underwriting policy and program, which would support NY State's stated goal of, at that time, 50% GHG-reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The point we made was that, if the bank financed any retrofits that achieved less than 50%, or ideally 80%, GHG-reduction, they were in fact insuring with mathematical certainty that the state would fail in its objective, something which is now pretty much a fact as the sate has scaled back its goals to 40% GHG-reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050, without ever having addressed the fact of why their actual policies, including the all important role of the Green Bank practically ensure failure. The Green Bank bank was not receptive to our proposal a few years ago. However, in a recent meeting with NYCEEC, which is effectively the NYC Green Bank, we found out that at NYCEEC they were now having regular meetings about this exact point. The reality of course is that both banks, at the NY State level and at the NYC level, in actual fact financed mostly projects at the level of 20-30% GHG-reduction, and therefore are counter productive to the larger state mission. In short, a few years after we offered the solution, these institutions were starting to recognize the problem.

Fern had a keen sense about how finance could play a perverse role, if, like in these cases, people do not bring the correct analysis to bear. It is all finance 101 stuff, except most people forget about it. Not Fern. I called her the Minister of Finance, but maybe I should have been more specific and called her the Minister of Green Finance. She always laughed when I quoted Brealy and Myers again, when exposing yet another green finance scam, for she remembered what most people forgot. She knew when it was time to go back to the drawing board.

Fern's spirit will be with me forever, and her steadfastness will remain my inspiration. In honor of the deep spiritual foundation of her life, I ended my talk with a poem from Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, from the bundle The Gifts of God:
A Child, a Man and then a Spirit, come
In all Your Loveliness. Unless you shine
Upon my life, it is a loss to You,
And what is loss to You is also mine.

I cannot calculate why I am here
Except for this: I know that I have come
To seek You here and find You. In Your life
You show the way to my eternal home.

A child, a man and then a spirit. So
I follow in the way You show to me
That I may come at last to be like You.
What but Your likeness would I want to be?

There is a silence where you speak to me
And give me words of love to say for You
To those You send to me. And I am blessed
Because in them I see You shining through.

There is no gratitude that I can give
For such a gift. The light around Your head
Must speak for me, for I am dumb beside
Your gentle hand with which my soul is led.

I take Your gift in holy hands, for You
Have blessed them with Your own. Come, brothers, see
How like to Christ am I, and I to you
Whom He has blessed and holds as one with me.

A perfect picture of what I can be
You show to me, that I might help renew
Your brother's failing sight. As they look up
Let them not look on me, but only You.