By Raya Salter, Executive Director, the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center and Member, New York State Climate Action Council
This afternoon I was scheduled to keynote a climate rally in NYC to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for our burning planet and soaring energy bills. Despite New York State’s ambitious climate law, the fossil fuel industry is fighting climate action every step of the way. They are refusing to adhere to our climate law’s targets, working to weaken them, and sowing misinformation, all while asking for dramatic rate increases.
So, led by People vs Fossil Fuels, we decided to take to the streets today and highlight the need to enforce our climate law, shut down dirty power plants and dismantle fossil fuel infrastructure. We planned a forceful but joyful teach-in and art action featuring stickers, screen printing and a giant story book.
But with the climate crisis causing NYC to suffer the world’s worst air quality due to smoke billowing from Canada’s unabated wildfires, there was no way we could gather people to chant and sing. The danger to our health is too great. We had to cancel. The climate crisis canceled our climate rally.
While this irony is frustrating, the real tragedy is the ongoing public health emergency that the poor air quality is causing. Pollution and the related health disparities in New York have taken many lives due to covid, disproportionately impacting communities of color. The same people, those with pre-existing conditions, children, the elderly, essential workers who can’t shelter inside- are bearing the brunt of this poor air quality. The same people are paying too much for the very energy that is harming their health. This environmental injustice is caused by fossil fuels.
New York City’s skies are glowing a hazy apocalyptic orange. We now need to wear our masks outdoors too. What else must we experience before waking up to the fact that the climate crisis is upon us, now, in NYC?
We have the tools to address this. Our state laws and climate plan demand that we phase out fossil fuels, shut down power plants, downsize fossil fuel infrastructure and move away from combustion.
We will reschedule our rally (join us on June 14th!) and we won’t stop fighting for the plain and simple truth- we need air to breathe- and we won’t survive unless we stop burning fossil fuels.