Rise for Climate Global Day of Action Calls for Unity to Address Climate Change

Excerpts of speeches by activists at the Rise Up for Climate, Jobs and Justice in New Haven, CT, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

A diverse crowd of 200 to 250 gathered on the New Haven Green on Sept. 9 for Connecticut’s Rise Up for Climate, Jobs and Justice protest. It was one of 800 similar climate actions held around the world over that weekend ahead of the Sept. 12 Global Climate Action Summit that will be attended by provincial, state, municipal government and business leaders from around the globe, convened by California Gov. Jerry Brown in San Francisco to push for solutions to the climate crisis.
Speakers in New Haven addressed the devastation of Puerto Rico by climate change-fueled Hurricane Maria last year; the need for a transition to clean jobs for workers in the energy industry; how the poor and people of color in the U.S. and around the world are affected first and worst by climate change – and therefore must lead the movement against it and much more. The leadership role of youth was represented by presenters who were 11, 12 and 13 years old.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus helped organize the event and recorded the speeches. Presented here are excerpts of two talks, including Leticia Colon de Mejias, a Connecticut entrepreneur who founded Energy Efficiency Solutions. We hear first from Rev. Scott Marks, a leader of New Haven Rising, which works for good jobs for city residents.
REV. SCOTT MARKS: It’s great to see – all around the country I’ve had friends calling me about the 30,000 people who showed up in San Francisco, and basically, we’re coming together to save our environment. We know that the struggle against climate change is ultimately a struggle against injustice.
We have to stand together. The people that experience the cost of climate change are poor people and people of color. If that is the case, then poor people and people of color must take the front and help to lead this movement. So many things are coming together to have us be divided, but I’m telling you the environment is a great thing to bring us all together.

I’m proud that our movement in New Haven has hooked up with Fossil Free Yale; I’m proud that the leaders of New Haven Rising have worked on the Dakota Access pipeline. But I also want to take a minute to talk about corporations that have little commitment to our environment aside from using it, making it a camouflage for more money in their pockets.

So, recently, we had a story from the Boston Globe and the article titled, “Going green is cutting into housekeepers’ livelihoods.” The article documents how the workers at the Marriott Sheridan Boston have had their hours cut back and their schedules made erratic based on a false green solution.

To cut costs, the Sheridan encourages their guests to come in and not receive the housecleaning that they normally receive. This means that housekeepers lose hours and when they finally get to the room they find a bigger mess to clean up. Can I get an uh-huh? Housekeepers who get cortisone shots in their hands to keep doing their work, they find that they’re faced with larger piles of trash, more mildew and even more work throughout their whole workday. It is a lie; it’s false; it’s false. They do nothing for the environment, but they steadily put more pressure on workers, which causes the movement to be more divided.

I’m encouraged today that we’re coming together. We’re coming together across race. We’re coming together no matter where we’re from. I’m excited about the number of people of color that we see here, because there was a time when this was a white people day. But everybody take a deep breath. I’m trying to be real with you here today. Now take a deep breath and let it out. We all need to breathe. And basically the hotter it gets, the tougher it gets, so if we come together and we fight together, we can win together.

I love you all, I’m excited about the march, and basically it’s good for us to come here today and look at each other and talk to each other, but we have to commit to the longer term, and there’s a lot of work we have to do because some people just don’t get it, and we got to make sure we can all breathe. Take a good breath! God bless you.

BETWEEN THE LINES: That was Rev. Scott Marks with New Haven Rising. Next is Leticia Colon de Mejias, founder and CEO of Energy Efficiency Solutions.

LETICIA COLON DE MEJIAS: Last October, our legislators in Connecticut made a short-sighted decision to raid the state’s energy efficiency fund. They stole $160 million of our ratepayer dollars that were meant to reduce the effects of climate change by slowing the amount of fuel that we waste. The theft of these funds by our state’s leaders was a violation of the state’s promise to decrease the amount of energy we use in our homes and buildings. It violated a promise to protect our health from air pollution and water pollution, which are caused by the burning of fossil fuels. 

We are here today, together, to stand in unity for a better tomorrow, because if we don’t take climate action today, there will not be a better tomorrow. It is time to hold our legislators responsible and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire to protect our people – all people of the USA and all people of the world – to ensure we have the right to breathe air freely and safety and drink clean water. These are things we need to survive; they are necessities for life. And I want my kids to have the same opportunity as me to see things like mountains and forests and jungles and to live a life that’s worth living.

On Sept. 13, we’ll be here at the courthouse – right here – for a trial where I am the lead plaintiff in a case against our state legislators stealing this money, which is meant to reduce carbon emissions by slowing our energy waste. I haven’t heard many people say the word “efficiency” today, and everyone talks about renewables, and I love my solar and my renewables, but if we can’t take the common sense step to reduce our own consumption, we cannot make our way, we cannot make our goal, and we cannot save our future. The time is now to stand together, united, and hold our leaders responsible through votes and pledges and action, like this moment here today. Thank you.


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