PLATTSBURGH — Declare a climate emergency, stop taking money from fossil fuel companies, support the Green New Deal.
Those were the three demands members of Sunrise Adirondacks — a local branch of the Sunrise Movement — and fellow marchers laid out for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik Friday.
"Every single one of us here is different, from age to culture to background, but we are all alike in that we all stand for the same thing," said Arden Calhoun, a Saranac Lake eighth-grader who spoke to the approximately 100 people gathered at Trinity Park.
"We stand to fight against climate change and what it is doing to us and the future of our planet and all of its inhabitants."
Marchers carried signs bearing the messages, "We need the Green New Deal," "Fossil fuel $ or our lives" and "Whose side are you on?" as they walked from the park along and across Margaret Street to the Clinton County Government Center, where Stefanik's office is located.
The event, and others like it across the country, coincided with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, which, among other things, will feature meetings of the countries that have signed on to the Paris climate agreement.
President Donald Trump's administration began the process of withdrawing the United States from the agreement in November.
Of the almost 200 countries who signed on, the United States is the only one "to go back on our commitment," said Gavriella Mallory, a member of Sunrise Adirondacks and march co-organizer, to boos from the crowd.
Mallory said the Green New Deal is legislation "that enacts a 10-year plan to mobilize every sector of American society to meet the historic challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and racial injustice.
"It is time for the United States to act our part as a global leader and treat the climate crisis as the emergency it is."
According to its website, the Sunrise Movement aims "to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process."
March co-organizer Margot Brooks said she first learned about the movement at a Green New Deal information session at SUNY Plattsburgh.
"I was watching these images on the screen of young people that were doing sit-ins in (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s office and demanding change, and I was so moved."
She attended the session with a friend who brought her baby, which made Brooks think of her own two-year-old daughter, Harriet.
"I felt like, in that moment, I really needed to do more to demand our leadership step up and take action."
NO URGENT ACTION
Brooks appreciates that Stefanik sits on the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, but said the congresswoman has taken $150,000 from oil and gas company executives.
"We’d like her to pledge to stop taking that money and then we can really know ... that she’s going to be out there with our interests in her mind and her heart instead of the interests of those oil and gas companies."
Franklin County District 7 Legislator Lindy Ellis said she is very disappointed with Stefanik's approach to climate change.
"If this was a hurricane, if this was a stupendous flood, if it was an outbreak of contagion, we would be dealing with this differently," Ellis said.
"I do not see her having that urgent action to ... go beyond just market forces."
'TIME TO DECLARE'
The Franklin County Legislature and several municipalities have approved resolutions recognizing the climate crisis, Ellis said.
The legislature's resolution indicated that the issue is impacting two major industries: tourism and agriculture, she added.
Along with many other marchers, Ellis and her husband, Saranac Lake Village Trustee and Deputy Mayor Rich Shapiro, met with Stefanik's staff.
They presented copies of the local climate change resolutions, discussed the impacts on tourism and the economy, and asked what immediate actions the congresswoman was taking to address it.
After the meeting, Ellis said the staff member did not have any specifics, so she was not satisfied with what she heard, but he said he would follow up with them.
"I expect Congresswoman Stefanik to declare herself," the legislator said.
"It needs to get driven to action, and so it’s time to declare."
Stefanik opposes the Green New Deal, her spokeswoman, Madison Anderson, told the Press-Republican.
"Congresswoman Stefanik has been dedicated to working on bipartisan, common-sense climate solutions with her Democrat and Republican colleagues since her first term in office," she continued.
"She is honored to represent an environmentally diverse region and will continue to work toward bipartisan solutions to protect and preserve our environment."
Anderson said Stefanik is an original co-sponsor of the Republican Climate Resolution, and that she does not support the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
While Stefanik's Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb, did not say whether or not she supports the Green New Deal, she said she believes in science-based decision making.
"I will support efforts to reduce climate change and hold corporate polluters accountable.
"Our health, our farmers, and our tourism industry are dependent upon clean air and clean water.
"We have a great opportunity to build our economy by creating good-paying jobs when we invest in clean energy."
In order to do that, fossil fuel subsidies must end and corporate money must be taken out of politics, Cobb continued.
"Unlike my opponent, I’m not accepting any corporate PAC money, including that from the fossil fuel industry."
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