On Sunday, September 21st, New York City will make history by hosting what will almost certainly be the world’s largest climate change demonstration—and the City Council has officially gone on record in support of the event.
Resolution 356, drafted by Council Member Donovan Richards (who also chairs the Committee on Environmental Protection), not only endorses the People’s Climate March but also “recognizes the dangers of climate change to human health and the environment.”
More than 1,000 organizations have signed on to support the march—from environmental justice groups to faith and conservation groups—and tens of thousands of people are expected to attend. “It’s unprecedented, the bringing together of groups that have not always worked together,” said Eddie Bautista, head of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, to Capital New York.
Members of the City Council have committed to march on Sunday, too.
Five Questions for the Councilman
While Resolution 356 may not alter our nation’s path with regards to climate change, it is an important gesture from NYC’s lawmaking body, and a strong signal to Mayor de Blasio: now is the time for climate action.
In order to get a better sense of Council Member Richard’s stance on climate change, and his thoughts on the People’s Climate March, NYER posed the following questions. Here’s how Richards replied:
NYER: Why did you develop Resolution 356?
Council Member Richards: Resolution 356 offered me a unique opportunity as the Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection to address the long standing issue of climate change. The warming of the globe and the threat to not only the earth but also more importantly to human life, can no longer be considered the elephant in the room. I am surprised that the council took so long to make a largely ceremonial but important step. The resolution also culminated perfectly with the events surrounding climate week in New York City such as the People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Change Summit so the timing worked perfectly.
NYER: What do you hope the People’s Climate March achieves?
CM Richards: Climate change affects us all and the march is symbolic of the role the individual plays to reverse the extensive damage to the planet. The most important thing about the People’s Climate March is what happens on the 22nd. Marches have always been about organizing people around a common cause, but the work comes after acknowledging your contribution to a movement, maintaining momentum and making an impact whether that be a locally or worldwide.
NYER: Councilmen Vincent Ignizio and Steven Matteo, both of Staten Island, formally abstained from a vote on Resolution 356 — even though their borough was the hardest hit during Hurricane Sandy. Do you know why they abstained? (Ed. note: NYER did attempt to contact both CM Ignizio and Matteo; both declined to comment.)
CM Richards: I trust my colleagues to vote in a manner that represents the needs and interests of their constituency.
NYER: Where do you think NYC could be acting faster with regard to climate change?
CM Richards: The list of things that New York City can do to address climate change is exhaustive but to name a few; the city can begin by creating an official energy policy, set more ambitious goals such as fully transitioning to renewable energy in the next decade, retrofitting and updating NYCHA housing for resiliency and ending the direct subsidization of fossil fuels.
NYER: What gives you hope about climate change?
CM Richards: There is a wealth of compelling evidence that our love affair with fossil fuels, consumerism and denial must end now. Simply, faith is the substance of things hoped for- the evidence of things not yet seen and I believe it is not too late to make the right decisions that will reverse some of the damage human activity has caused.