By Joe Tonini,
Monday April 23rd 2018, dawned bright and beautiful, a harbinger of what was to be a good day; good for environmental awareness, good for social justice. And, of course, good for the ongoing political education of Governor Andrew Cuomo. This was a day when thousands would descend upon Albany to tell the Governor to walk the talk on climate – to be the bold climate champion NYS needs by stopping all fracking infrastructure, moving to 100% renewable energy, and making corporate polluters pay.
Our Long Island bus was filled with folks from both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Ryan Madden, the Sustainability Organizer with LIPC – who did an excellent job of both planning our outing and coordinating the events of the day – gave us a briefing on the ride up to Albany. We had an early, delicious lunch as we approached Albany, and despite the challenging logistics it went off without a hitch. A huge thank you to Bhavani Jaroff of iEatGreen for providing the scrumptious food!
We departed the bus in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany, a working class area and community of color that has been saddled with a fossil-fuel power plant for generations. We heard several speakers tell personal stories of living near this plant and of the poor health outcomes experienced by family members. Epidemiological data tells us of higher instances of cancer and asthma in areas adjacent to fossil-fuel power plants. It is one of thing to read of such problems, it is quite another to hear testimony from those directly affected.
Following the Sheridan Hollow rally, over 1,500 of us marched to the State Capital, and an enthusiastic group we were; with creative signage, and some marchers in creative attire as well (e.g. one woman’s outfit consisted of 500 single-use plastic bags). We rallied again in the shadows of the Capital, with speakers from several groups, emphasizing the need for Governor Cuomo to walk the talk.
The Governor has done some good things to help mitigate the effects of climate change. New York State has banned fracking under his leadership. He has committed to closing down the remaining coal-fired power plants in our state, with some provision for those whose jobs will be lost. NYSERDA during his time has become a powerful advocate for renewables. However, his support for the nation’s most ambitious climate legislation, the Climate and Community Protection Act has been tepid. How can he then lay claim to a mantle of an environmental champion and social justice advocate while building a new fracked-gas power plant in Sheridan Hollow?
Our day in Albany concluded with a spirited rally at the “million dollar staircase”, followed by 55 brave and committed souls who engaged in the time honored American tradition of civil disobedience, getting arrested for blocking entrance to the Governor’s office. We will continue to push Gov. Cuomo to walk the talk on climate. These events are energizing and they are fun too!