Environmental activist Melinda Tuhus sent in this write-up:
A diverse crowd gathered on the New Haven)Green Sunday afternoon for Connecticut’s own version of Rise Up for Climate, Jobs, and Justice.
It was one of 800 similar actions held around the world over the weekend ahead of a critical conference of provincial, state, municipal government and business leaders from around the globe convened this week by California Gov. Jerry Brown to push forward solutions to the climate crisis.
Traditional folk singers alternated with young rappers, Wes and Q, from Hartford in revving up the crowd, which also witnessed a “battle” between a 60-foot-long “fossil fuel dragon” and an “earth hero” armed with a sun shield and wind turbine sword, played to the hilt by young climate fighter Sam Rosenberg.
City Engineer Giovanni Zinn welcomed people to New Haven on behalf of Mayor Harp and urged everyone to check out the 97 elements of the City’s Sustainability Framework and sign up to help usher them into reality.
Jen Siskind with Food & Water Watch urged everyone to call their member of Congress to urge support for the OFF Act (Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, H.R. 3671). Of Connecticut’s five reps, only Rosa DeLauro has signed on so far.
“Climate change is the most crucial issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives,” John Harrity, retired president of the State Council of Machinists and chair of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, said. And it’s happening now. “We all know that the fossil fuel economy can’t be sustained, but fossil fuel workers need a just transition to green jobs and new employment.”
The inclusion of “justice” in the day figured into several short speeches. Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda member Alex Rodriguez related two recent disasters that befell the island.
“My mom and grandmother were caught in the storm,” Rodriguez told the crowd. “For two weeks, my family was immensely frightened by the possibility that they may be dead. When we made contact, we had to pool all of our resources together to bring them home a month after the destruction took place. The CT Puerto Rican Agenda calls on the federal government to provide more housing vouchers to the many families barely surviving without a roof over their head. We also call for our debt to be eliminated, because the PROMESA bill signed into law in recent years makes it impossible to pay back debt owed to the United States and give government services such as healthcare and education back to our people.”
“We know that the struggle against climate change is ultimately a struggle against injustice, and we definitely have to stand together,” the Rev. Scott Marks of New Haven Rising said. The people that experience the cost of climate change are poor people and people of color. If that is the case then poor people and people of color must take the front and help to lead this movement. So many things are coming together to have us be divided, but I’m telling you, the environment is a great thing to bring us all together.”
He said he was gratified to see the mix of people before him. And he gave an example of how hotel chains pit low-wage workers against guests trying to do the right thing for the climate by not having their towels changed or rooms straightened every day. He said that lets the owners cut hours for those workers.
Thirteen-year-old Jaysa Mellers became an environmental justice activist at a young age when she fought for the closure of the state’s last coal-fired power plant, in her Bridgeport neighborhood. She suffers from asthma, an illness associated with coal plant pollution. Rally day marked the end of an almost three-week-long national prison strike, and two speakers mentioned the fact that prisoners in California are risking their lives fighting climate change-worsened forest fires for $2 an hour or less.
Leticia Colón de Mejías, the founder and CEO of Energy Efficiency Solutions, is the lead plaintiff in the case going to court in New Haven this Thursday against the state of Connecticut for raiding $155 million paid by utility customers on their monthly electric bills meant for energy efficiency and clean energy options to address climate change that was diverted to the general fund to reduce the deficit.
“Climate change is real; this is not drama, this is science,” she said. “It is time to hold our leaders’ feet to the fire to protect our people, to ensure we have the right to breathe air freely and cleanly and to drink clean water.”
After the rally, New Haven Rising’s drummers led participants on a high energy march to several sites of struggle or progress: to the flagpole (a war memorial) to address the outsize role of the military in fueling global heating; to the sanctuary church to talk about the role of climate disasters such as droughts in sending refugees fleeing Central America and Mexico to the U.S.; and to Chase Bank, the biggest U.S. funder of both oil and gas pipelines and of private prisons and immigration detention centers. A surprise highlight of the afternoon for many was a performance by 11-year-old Ambar Santiago-Rojas of a song, “No beauty in war” by Innana Sarkis.
At many of the stops, singer-songwriters Ben Grosscup and Annie Patterson also performed songs with relevant lyrics. The sites of progress included the city’s fuel cell behind City Hall – a more efficient form of energy than any other fossil fuel, even though it’s powered by natural gas; the State Street train station, to highlight the new New Haven to Springfield rail line and the adjacent bike share station; and a reading by a member of AFSCME of the national union’s resolution on climate change passed at its recent convention.
As the march wound back to the Green, organizers urged everyone to become even more informed about the climate crisis and to take action with one of the sponsoring organizations: 350 CT, the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club, or the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda, or one of the many other groups working on the issue.
Check out this Facebook Live video from the Green.