Local advocates joined state-wide partners in a virtual rally focused on the overlapping of the environment, COVID-19, racism, and the economy.
The New York Renews rally brought together people from all walks of life across the state, from actors Jane Fonda and Don Cheadle, to PUSH Buffalo executive Rahwa Ghirmatzion. It was all in an effort to make corporate polluters re-invest into the communities they damage. Ghirmatzion said these corporations need to pay up.
“These communities create the least amount of pollution that they're harmed by. The fossil fuel corporations are the real polluters, they have caused the ecological crisis that we are in,” said Ghirmatzion. “So they need to pay their fair share to clean it up, directly investing in these frontline communities. They need to invest in the people, have family sustaining jobs, build housing that is sustainable and renewable infrastructure”
Ghirmatzion believed crises, whether environmental or a pandemic like COVID-19, hit communities of color the hardest.
“It shows plainly the same issues of the climate crisis, a lot of ecological degradation, environmental racism, that are playing out and hitting indigenous, black, and brown communities disproportionately, because these are the communities with the highest economic disparities,” Ghirmatzion said. “They have lack of resources and proximity to pollution that causes respiratory illness, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, all of the underlying health conditions that cause more severe outcomes and death from this virus.”
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act [CLCPA] passed by the state legislature in 2019 puts New York on a target for increased renewable infrastructure. Labor union director Hae-lin Choi of the Communications Workers of America said with the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, turning towards green energy could be a way out.
“Almost 2 million New Yorkers out of work, the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression, we need an economic recovery plan,” Choi said. “One that is just, that is green, and that centers the communities impacted the most. By COVID, by the economic crisis and the climate crisis, and we need to build on the victory of the CLCPA.”
As part of their efforts, NY Renews has launched a social media campaign to lobby Governor Andrew Cuomo for increased funds in the upcoming budget to communities hit by what they call the “climate crisis.”