A coalition of community groups, along with black and Latino elected officials, gathered in front of City Hall Thursday to demand aggressive penalties against polluters and promote a stronger environmental movement among people of color.
“The people who are going to suffer and die [as a result of climate change] are living in the Caribbean,” said Luis Garden Acosta, president of El Puente, a Latino community and cultural group. “We are not going to go quietly into the night—into the nightmare that awaits us.”
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke and José Serrano joined groups including Environmental Advocates of New York, 32BJ, Communication Workers of America and the Working Families Party to call for legislation that levies fines on corporate polluters and for minority communities to mobilize to fight climate change.
“We are the victims of pollution. We are the victims of environmental degradation,” Velázquez said. “This is the time for immigrants and people of color to send a message.”
Velázquez cited a recent poll by the New York Times that found Hispanic voters are more likely than non-Hispanics to consider climate change a problem that affects them personally. They also are more likely to support policies such carbon pricing and polluter pay.
In urban centers like New York, environmental justice advocates say low-income communities often bear the brunt of air pollution as well as the effects of climate change.
“Thousands of families were displaced by [Hurricane Sandy],” Clarke said. “We must work with other nations to support the development of renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.”
Clarke assailed climate change deniers in Congress saying, “There are still dinosaurs roaming the halls of Congress who believe we should only burn fossil fuels.”
Serrano made a direct attack on congressional Republicans.
“This planet is on loan to us. This planet does not belong to us,” he said. ” Republicans are not in the business of challenging corporate America. They’re in the business of protecting corporate America.”
The group rolled out a new website, Takesides.org, that elucidates the three basic positions of the coalition: that Congress must enact a pollution penalty for emitters of greenhouse gas and other pollutants; that fossil fuel companies have a moral obligation to release whatever scientific data they have on the climate effects of burning fossil fuels; and that citizens and elected officials mobilize in their communities to phase out the use of fossil fuels and build more resilient infrastructure.
“People in Staten Island and the Rockaways lost their homes in livelihoods because of climate change,” Ana Maria Achila from the Center for Popular Democracy said, in a reference to Hurricane Sandy. “We cannot wait for another disaster in our city, or in New Orleans or in Florida or in California.”
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