Nineteen-year-old Nora Heaphy has a message for her Congressperson: Act on climate change, and earn lasting support from an entire generation.
A lack of urgency, she warned, will leave everyone under water.
Heaphy and four other local environmental activists delivered that message to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s office on Tuesday during a brief sidewalk protest followed by an indoor sit-down with the local Congressperson’s staff.
Heaphy, an East Rock native, Yale University sophomore, and member of the youth-led Sunrise Movement against climate change, had a specific ask for DeLauro on Tuesday.
She showed up at the veteran representative‘s offices at the corner of Orange and Elm Streets downtown to implore DeLauro to sign onto New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution. The resolution would create a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal with the goal of drastically reducing the country’s carbon emissions and transitioning its economy to wind, solar, and other sources of renewable energy.
“We’re here to tell Representative DeLauro,” Heaphy said while still outside of the Congresswoman’s office, “if we don’t have a bold climate action plan right now, both she and I are going to be under water in the next couple decades.”
For DeLauro and any other congresspeople who sign on in support, Heaphy said, “there is a huge movement of young people” and “grassroots energy” ready to support them.
District Office Director Jennifer Lamb issued a statement on behalf of DeLauro, who was not present at Tuesday morning’s meeting, indicating that DeLauro will give Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal serious consideration before Congress returns to session next week.
The proposed resolution, which already has the support of 10 Democratic congresspeople, including Georgia Rep. John Lewis and Massachusetts Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, would require Congress to develop a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality,” according to the draft legislation.
The proposal calls on the country to transition 100 percent of the nation’s power generation to renewable sources; build a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid; decarbonize, repair, and improve transportation and other infrastructure; and make “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major expoert of the United States.
If created, the select committee would require Congress to complete such a comprehensive environmental plan by Jan. 1, 2020, adopt legislation related to such a plan no later than March 1, 2020, and meet the goals outlined in the plan no later than 10 years after adoption.
The protest began outside of DeLauro’s office just after noon, with Heaphy and four other protesters waving signs about the perils of climate change and the devastation wrought by wildfires still raging in California.
“I’m here because I’m terrified about what climate change means for my future,” Heaphy said. “I am afraid that our Democratic leadership does not have a plan to stop climate change and that in 12 years or in 10 years, the world is gonna look radically different than what I thought I was going to grow up to see.”
She spoke about how she and 150 other young Sunrise protesters filled California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. last week to pressure the woman poised to resume her past mantle as speaker of the House to act forcefully on combating climate change. It was at that protest last Tuesday that Ocasio-Cortez, a millennial herself and one of the most prominent faces of a new ardently progressive wing of the Democratic Party, first announced her proposal for a Green New Deal.
Local environmental activist Geremy Schulick said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2017 was the costliest year on record for weather-related disasters in the United States.
“A carbon-free economy is not a radical position,” he said.
Inside DeLauro’s second-story office at 59 Elm St., DeLauro staffers Lamb and Lou Mangini welcomed the five protesters into the congresswoman’s conference room, and listened patiently as each explained why DeLauro should sign onto the resolution.
350CT’s Ben Martin said that working towards a greener future is not just an environmental issue, but an economic one. He said that an investment in wind power, solar energy, and workforce training for a “green” economy while reducing the roughly $20 billion in subsidies that the federal government gives to the oil and gas industries each year will improve the health of both the environment and the economy.
Now that Democrats control one chamber of Congress, New Haven Climate Movement’s Chris Schweitzer said, “We need a plan now.”
“I think our views are the same,” Lamb said to the activists. She and Mangini said that DeLauro has an infrastructure bank initiative that calls for the pooling of private and public funds to support improvements to public infrastructure and transportation.
“We’ll be taking a hard look when Congress gets back in session next week,” Lamb said.
Below is the full release issued by DeLauro’s office in respond to the protesters’ calls for her to sign onto Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution.
“Climate change is a real and urgent problem that the Congress must deal with. Our country has gone backward under the Trump administration: from pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement to gagging federal agencies in order to stop the release of scientific studies. We cannot allow climate-deniers to set the legislative agenda any longer.
“I have long championed investments in green jobs, green technology, and conservation measures in Congress—including investing in hundreds of millions of dollars into clean energy during the last Democratic Majority. I have pushed to pass legislation like the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, which would transition our economy away from fossil fuel to clean energy sources. I also support discussing the creation of a Select Committee on Climate Change to push these changes into action. We must act to address this issue on all fronts, including the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. The time to act is now.”
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch part of the protest.