Approximately 40 people took part in the “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice” rally on Saturday, September 8 in New Paltz. It was part of a global day of action calling for an immediate end to dirty fossil fuel projects and for a fast and fair transition to 100% clean renewable energy that would create millions of new green jobs. People took to the streets at 1,000 events in 90 countries to demand bold local action to tackle the climate crisis.
“If Ulster County were to become fossil-free, we would save $300 million dollars a year in energy and electricity costs, create 40,000 new green construction jobs, 500 new permanent jobs and save over 30 lives each year”, said speaker Joel Tyner, a Dutchess County legislator. The numbers came from a 2013 Cornell/Stanford report on the benefits of New York State becoming fossil-free by 2030.
Tyner brought up examples of communities that have been powered 100% by renewables for years: Burlington, Vermont; Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas and many more. He urged attendees to form an Ulster County Fossil Free Task Force and for each municipality to come up with actionable plans to achieve these goals.
Participants hoisted up signs like “There Is No Plan B,” “Grandkids Need a Planet Too!” and “The Seas Are Rising and So Are We.” Vehicles honked and passersby showed their support. One young woman high-fived everyone there, “Because I love our earth!” she exclaimed.
Samrat Pathania, chair of the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition reminded everyone that climate change is an unprecedented problem, affecting everything from agriculture, water availability, biodiversity and severe weather events. He stressed the need to protect frontline communities, that are often low-income communities of color, that contribute the least to the climate crisis, but bear the brunt of its worst impacts.
“Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but it is also a racial justice issue.” said Pathania.
Pathania also announced a Zero-Emissions Parade taking place this Saturday, September 15 that will feature electric vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, dancers and band instruments. It will begin at the New Paltz Middle School at 11 a.m., to be followed by a Green Vendor Fair from noon to 3 p.m. at New Paltz Village Hall.
The last speaker at Saturday’s event, Iris Marie Bloom has been fighting fracking and pipelines for nine years as director of Protecting Our Waters. She is also a member of the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition and a Marbletown Environmental Conservation commissioner.
Bloom began by handing out a basket of local plums to the crowd, saying, “Climate change means we need to do everything differently: how we eat (eat local!), how we drink (avoid disposables), how we transport ourselves (walk, bike, public transit, e-bike, EVs — electric vehicles) and how we generate power — to put climate at the center of our decision-making, we need to change how we think.”
While the crowd enjoyed the plums, Bloom talked about the relationship between big and small change. “Our planet is burning; firefighters now talk about fire years instead of fire months and wildfires are burning more intensely, last longer and burn more land: 5.6 million acres this year as of July 30. The Carr fire was a 100-foot tall wall of flame.”
She encouraged everyone to think of that 100-foot-tall wall of flame coming at us and do everything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, from stop using single-use plastics to start an energy retrofit to stopping the Glidepath fracked gas power plant in the Town of Ulster.
“We can do this! This is New Paltz — which led the charge against Pilgrim Pipelines, and won,” she concluded.
The organizers, Barbara Upton and Rosalyn Cherry, both with New Paltz Women in Black, were pleased with the turnout, the informative and inspirational speakers and the enthusiasm of people passing by.
“I love that this movement is rising from below,” Cherry said. “It’s putting power in the hands of the people, not corporations. It’s also a very diverse and strong movement with environmental organizations, joining with racial and economic justice groups, faith communities, workers, Indigenous-led groups and young people.”
“We are at a crisis point and it’s up to us to come together locally to push elected officials and private-sector leaders to take bold action on climate change so that we may have a healthy, sustainable and just society,” said Upton. She also encouraged people, as many of the speakers did, of the need to vote for those who champion a clean energy future.
For more information and to get more involved, visit protectingourwaters.wordpress.com and newpaltzclimateaction.org. You can also join New Paltz Women in Black any Saturday in front of the Elting Library from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. Their four areas of focus are: an end to war, rights for Palestinian people, resisting all the harmful actions of the Trump administration and the need to protect our environment. Write to Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org to see which issue the group is doing each Saturday.