Climate activists have broken the shackles binding Mother Nature to a model power station – in a youth-led protest designed to galvanize individuals, private organizations and the city government to act now to save the planet the ravages of climate change.
This march took place around the Green and in front of City Hall on Friday as part of the New Haven Climate Movement‘s “Stop Climate Freefall Demonstration”.
At the youth-led rally, organizers and participants called for carbon reduction changes at individual, institutional and policy levels. These included everything from urging members of the public to use carbon-neutral modes of transport to pushing for the Board of Education to declare a climate emergency, just as the Board of Alders did in 2019.
The visual and theatrical centerpiece of the protest involved a teenage girl activist carrying cardboard cutouts of the Earth and chained to a model power station released by her climate-conscious peers.
New Haven Climate Movement organizer and Yale student Emma Polinsky told the Independent that the idea for the Mother Nature skit came from creatives on the team who “I wanted to give people something visual to get them excited about the climate.
Yellow chains tied Mother Nature to the miniature power plant, covered in fossil fuel harm statistics, trailing behind her.
As the rally – part of young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s annual climate strike – progressed and the marchers learned more about what they could do to reduce carbon emissions , Mother Nature seemed healthier and more cheerful, until she was finally freed from the chains that weighed her down.
From the corner of Elm and Church streets, students from kindergarten to college, parents and even grandparents gathered to hear from organizers from the New Haven Climate Movement, Save the Sound, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition , the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition and Mayor Justin Elicker.
Organizers made sure the rally was seen and heard. The marchers were armed with cardboard signs, some homemade and others distributed by the organizers, and noisemakers. Throughout the rally, attendees shook rock-filled soda cans, whistled, yelled, clapped against their signs and even sang along to chants to show their support for the fight against climate change. Many passing cars honked their horns in solidarity.
After an introduction and upbeat speech to get things started from an organizer with Save the Sound, Mother Nature led the procession down Temple Street, where they paused for another speech before continuing to Center Church. There, Kiana Flores, co-founder of the New Haven Climate Movement, gave a speech and led the group in writing messages to Mayor Elicker about their ideas for fighting climate change in the town of Elm, which Mother Nature then presented to the mayor.
Although he was supposed to address the crowd outside City Hall, Mayor Elicker met the rally on the green so he could pick up his children in time. Arriving on his bike, he stopped to take selfies with a few students before speaking to the crowd about his work with organizers, pointing out the new federally-funded City Hall posts designed to deal with the climate crisis in New Haven and encouraged qualified residents to apply for these open positions. He made sure to mention that residents had Democrats to thank for creating the climate response office.
After the mayor left, the rally walked back down the Green and back up the steps of City Hall. The marchers began by sitting down for a moment of silence to acknowledge the deaths caused by climate change. Organizers beat a drum 40 times during the silence, once a year since 1982, and highlighted the most recent disasters in Puerto Rico and Pakistan, pointing out that the nations least guilty of the climate crisis often bear the brunt of its devastation.
The rally ended with more speeches from the high school organizers, a group photo, and a reading from UN Recent remarks by Secretary-General António Guterres on the climate crisis: “Emissions increase as people die in floods and famines. And this is madness. It is collective suicide. From Pakistan, I make a global appeal: Stop the madness; end the war with nature; invest now in renewable energy.
“50% fossil free by 2023”
One question was at the heart of every talk, activity and song that punctuated the march around the Green: What is the plan to bring New Haven to “net zero? »
Alex Rodriguez, Save the Sound’s keynote speaker, said the first step is to raise awareness of the realities and dangers of climate change, including rising sea levels, heavy rains, longer droughts and higher temperature heat waves. “People deserve to know how their climate is affected,” he said. “There’s no way to refute that.
Flores expressed her faith in the New Haven community and the importance of coming together to fight for a safe environment. She urged attendees to sign the New Haven Climate Movement’s Individual Pledge to reduce personal carbon emissions by 50% by 2023 by finding more sustainable food sources, electrifying appliances and switching to carbon-neutral transportation.
This individual commitment is the first level of the movement’s new campaign, called “50% fossil free by 2023.”
The campaign also asks organizations to take action to reduce their carbon footprint and raise awareness.
The final level is focused on government. The campaign is asking the Board of Alders to commit an additional $5 million to cut fossil fuels, on top of the $5 million from the US federal bailout law (ARPA) aid that the mayor and the alders have already allocated to climate change resilience efforts.
Young In Kim, a senior from Wilbur Cross High School, gave the final speech of the day on what’s next for the New Haven Climate Movement. They will attend the Education Council meeting on Tuesday and urge the council to pass a climate emergency resolution similar to the one the movement successfully pushed through the Alder Council in 2019.
Kim noted that transportation is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions and the school district needs to take steps to reduce its own emissions from school buses. He also highlighted how climate change is already interrupting education: “An entire wing of my high school was closed last week after heavy rain in one day.
Kim told the Independent he was optimistic the resolution would pass. He said board members he and other students had worked with, including board vice-chairman Matthew Wilcox and board member Dr OrLando Yarborough IIIhave “been very responsive and supportive of student activism, even if it takes two or three emails to get there.
At the end of the rally, Kim and Polinsky called on all participants who are passionate about tackling climate change in schools to attend the Board of Education meeting and testify in support of the resolution.