WESPAC Foundation supports Environmental and Food Justice with a separate listserv used for promoting upcoming events and discussion. WESPAC opposes fracking and two of our members have produced a documentary that highlights Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on fracking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdwCKzqVRdQ. We have cultivated an extensive cooperative network of food justice activists around the county who seek to expand access to fresh, local food. We also partner with the Wassaic Community Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): http://wassaiccommunityfarm.com. To get involved or for more information, please contact the office at 914.449.6514 or by email at [email protected]
100% Renewables Now NYS
Written by Mark Dunlea
Jan. 14, 2016
Hundreds of climate change activists rallied in front of the state Capitol on Wednesday, then flooded the hallways to make sure legislative and political leaders understand that more is needed to be done on climate as they flocked to the Governor’s state of the state address. (Video from TU; photos here and also here. )
Media reports estimated that 250 people participated, which would apparently be the single largest “climate change” event at the Capitol to date (though obviously the anti-fracking folks had several larger events). Hopefully this record will be surpassed several times in the coming months, particularly at an Earth Day Lobby Day.
While the call for 100% renewable energy as soon as possible (e.g., 2030) had been highlighted in the media and publicity leading up to the rally, the need for the Governor to halt the massive buildout of the fossil fuel infrastructure (pipelines, power plants, oil bomb trains, storage facilities, compressor stations) was most visible at the event, especially in the hallways of the concourse.
The third pillar of the State of the Climate event was the need for a Just Transition, to provide both jobs and a voice to those most impacted by climate change. This was addressed by Matt Ryan of ALIGN, who discussed the new Renew NY campaign, and Howie Hawkins of the Green Party who laid out the Green New Deal. The Climate event also had posters linking the fight for climate justice with the Fight for $15 minimum wage; the latter issue brought thousands to the concourse.
While the Governor sought to suppress first amendment rights by sheltering his guests behind a massive blue curtain and penning protestors away from the convention center, climate change activists lined the crossroads area and the hallways from the LOB and Capitol to make sure our message was heard.
One speaker attracting media attention was actor James Cromwell, who was arrested a few week ago protesting the proposed CPV power plant in Orange County. Watch a video (six minutes) of his remarks with fellow activist Pramilla Malick. (Listen to WAMC / NPR interview before the rally, 23 minutes.)
Former Albany City Council member Dominick Calsolaro and a member of PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy) kicked off the rally talking about the fight to halt the oil bomb trains centered on the Port of Albany. Julia Caro of Citizen Action also addressed the issue.
Sandra Steingraber of We are Seneca Lake – one of the heroes of the anti-fracking fight – spoke out about hundreds have been arrested protesting the proposed gas storage facility at Seneca. A busload of local protestors (video) came to the event and then delivered a thousand statements to the Governor’s office.
Fighting gas pipelines was addressed by many speakers, starting with Becky Meier of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline. People were excited to hear that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (who walked by us later) will be filing formal objections with FERC to the Constitution Pipeline beginning to clear cut trees before receiving the critical Water Quality Certificate from Albany.
Protestors also urged NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer to divest the city pension fund from all fossil fuels (not just coal) when he walked through as the rally organizers were setting up. During the rally Assemblymember Felix Ortiz discussed the state divestment bill he is sponsoring with Senator Liz Krueger.
We got extensive media play / radio interviews prior to the rally. A statewide radio report here. Covered on Capitol Pressroom and radio stations in Poughkeepsie, Binghamton, NYC and Syracuse.
In his State of the State, the Governor mentioned climate change four times and stressed the need for more action (though he felt short of what President Obama said the night before in the SOU). Much of his remarks repeated positions re renewable energy that he had announced in recent months; activists had hoped that he would go beyond his initial call for 50% renewables for electricity by 2030. While he said again that this would be a mandate, he did not say that he would pass legislation – or that he would require a comprehensive climate action plan detailing the timeline, steps and benchmarks for meeting the goals. Politico highlighted that the details of his renewable energy activities are still missing. (A new USA today poll shows that young voters by 80-to-10% support 100% renewable energy by 2030.)
The big news is that he committed to phasing out coal plants in four years – though still apparently providing hundreds of millions in annual subsidies to the coal plants. This was a big win for the Beyond Coal campaign of Sierra Club. The Governor did not mention his proposal to also provide subsidies to upstate nuclear plants
There unfortunately was no commitment to jumpstart the state’s offshore wind program. Advocates want the state to commit to purchase 5000 MW of OSW by 2025 and 10,000 MW by 2030. And no mention of the need to stop his drive to build out natural gas and the fossil fuel infrastructure.
Advocates had also wanted to hear that the Governor’s budget – which he released at the same time – would invest in building out recharging stations for electric vehicles (though the travel distance for such vehicles is increasing rapidly).
The proposed budget does include $32.5 million in new funding in the Environmental Protection Fund for climate change mitigation and adaptation, to provide funding for adaptive infrastructure, greenhouse gas management, and resiliency planning programs.
It also includes $15 million in funding for the Clean Energy Workforce Opportunity Program. In order to educate the next generation of clean energy workers, this fund will expand clean technology and renewable energy programs offered by SUNY. In partnership with clean energy businesses located on or near SUNY campuses, (It is believed that Gov. Spitzer made a similar proposal but unclear about its status / implementation.) Advocates may seek to increase the funding level for jobs in the adopted budget but it is a positive step to highlight the need for increased job training for the renewable energy industry.
The Renew NYS campaign is developing a comprehensive package re such investments.
What the Governor said: “the problem of climate change is finally being recognized by most world leaders, anyway. Here in New York we have already been actively working to address it. Now, New York State has a business and an environmental opportunity. Let’s become the international capital for clean and green energy products. We have already attracted some of the largest solar manufacturers on the planet to New York State. We’ve already attracted some of the biggest research and development firms on the planet to New York. I now propose a $15 million Clean Energy Opportunity Training Program so SUNY and our community colleges can train the workers with solar technology and installation.
“I believe this is the economy of tomorrow and while we’re developing the business plan, we can also employ it in the state of New York. I propose installing solar in over 150,000 homes and businesses and converting SUNY facilities to renewable energy by the year 2020. We can do it and we should.
“My friends, this is the path for the future to ensure that the planet has a future — let New York lead the way once again on this important topic.”
Take a look at this article written by Tamar Haspel entitled “10 things we should do to fix our broken food system”. Haspels lays out a comprehensive list of the major problems with our food system and ways in which we can implement better societal practices to improve the efficacy and quality of our food system. Take a look here!
“When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was the Dr. Seuss classic “If I Ran the Zoo,” in which young Gerald McGrew decides he wants none of the humdrum lions and tigers and bears. Instead, he’ll fly to Ka-Troo and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo. My fondness for that book-length Seussian fantasy of control was an early indication that I like being in charge — which could explain why I am a freelancer and an atheist.
As a nod to Dr. Seuss, I wanted to write my “If I Ran the Food System” column in anapestic tetrameter, but nothing rhymes with “crop-neutral insurance,” so I had to stick to prose.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten ideas about food from a lot of people who grow it, regulate it, supply it, cook it, study it and just think about it. And the list of potential improvements, from farm to table, is long. But making the changes necessary to fix the problems in both our agriculture (pollution, greenhouse gases, soil erosion) and in our diets (too few vegetables, too many calories) requires a fundamental shift in attitude. We all have to pay attention to things that haven’t been on our radar. And so, although there are many smart suggestions floating around, I’m focusing on 10 that have a ripple effect: changes that, with luck, will beget other changes that, ultimately, can change the zeitgeist.
Because some problems began decades ago, with government incentives that rewarded production of just a few commodity crops, I’ll begin with what government can do and follow with ideas for manufacturers, consumers and farmers…”
A huge thank you to Francesca Kabemba, WESPAC’s Executive Assistant, for compiling this annual report 2015. The WESPAC staff and board would like to thank all friends and donors for keeping the lights on at WESPAC and for all your support in so many ways. We have much work to do together in 2016. Please click the link under the photo for our annual report. annual report 2015
Interview with Naomi Klein is now online: https://www.
A big thank you to all who organized and who showed up on the cold, rainy day. Photos courtesy of Andrew Courtney:
Fios video clip of the rally: http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/openGraph/wid/1_s032r6qo
We announced that the next WESPAC Food Justice Planning Committee meeting will take place on Thursday, December 17th, at 7pm in the WESPAC office. People may ask – what is food justice? One definition that we are comfortable with is: Food Justice means communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals. Our collective food justice work can lead to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.
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