About 50 residents from across Islip Town took part in a protest for climate action before Town Hall on Friday, Sept. 20, wielding picket signs demanding environmental planning. Leading the chant among residents was Sayville High School senior Joanna Ziegler. An active environmental advocate in her own right, Ziegler is the acting treasurer of Students for Climate Action’s Long Island chapter.
“Our country has made minor strides to better climate action but has not been doing a lot, and there have been major strides in other countries,” said Ziegler, who also organized the protest. “I am here standing to advocate for more to be done at the municipality level, county level, state level and federal level. Everyone can do their part to better climate action and push further.”
The protest was in correlation with countless others globally, including several across Long Island. New York City even announced that public school students could skip class without penalty on Friday to partake in the strikes.
The state has made its mark in the climate movement, and the Climate Community Protection Act is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s flagship policy with the goal to ultimately slash greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 85 percent by 2050. Ziegler noted that the governor’s policy is a step in the right direction, but said there is much work to be done at the federal level.
“Our generation has this urge to do something, but we are not in the places to do something. And the people who have the executive office do not recognize climate change, as big as it is,” Ziegler said. “Our own president sometimes even says that global warming is not real because we had a cold day in October. With that logic, we are not going to get anywhere. And this is a nonpartisan issue. This is science.”
Ziegler hopes she is heard by the Town of Islip as a voice for environmental concern. She and her group, she said, meets with supervisor Angie Carpenter on a regular basis to discuss the placement of a sustainability director.
“Even though we are making strides, we want to keep going further,” she added. “It might seem small compared to the whole country, but one town can do a lot. And then we can set examples for other towns, and then that town turns into the county, and the county turns into state.”
The Town of Islip, according to Carpenter, has always been a leader in reducing its own carbon footprint, and was one of the first in the country to begin recycling over 30 years ago.
“We initiated recycling metal, glass, plastics and paper through our WRAP program. Some of the initiatives that are in place or being worked on include moving the town forward in obtaining certification as being a Clean Energy Community with NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority,” she said in response to the protest. “We have two solar farms located on our inactive landfill sites. We operate a shellfish hatchery, placing oysters and clams into the Great South Bay to clean and enrich the bay water, and our private collection sanitation fleet runs on CNG-compressed natural gas.”
Bay Shore resident Laura Serrano made her voice heard on Friday, making clear her concern for the youngest generations — and those to come.
“We need all the mothers and fathers to stand behind the children because we want our children to have a safe planet,” Serrano said. “No matter what country, what state they’re in, this world is going down if we do not do something soon.”
Atop mentioning the need of tending to drinking water and infrastructure, Serrano touched upon the daily things that everyone can take part in.
“Get in your car one time, do all your errands, and come home. Shut off your lights. Shut off the TV. Stop throwing away so much food. So much waste,” she said. “No one cares about that until it is too late.”
Along the topic of waste, Bay Shore resident Kimberly Jaramillo suggested more education on where a water bottle, for example, ends up. “A lot of people are blinded by the fact that they don’t know where their plastic goes. It is more of just throwing it out, and that’s it,” she said. “We have to think that what we are doing on a local level can affect globally.”
Including plastic pollution, water pollution as a whole is of immediate concern to Long Island. Worth noting is the height of the water table and its potential to contaminate groundwater, waterways and the Great South Bay.
“Something we should focus on, especially here on Long Island, is environmental remediation and cleaning it up,” added Bianca Paul, a Bay Shore resident.
Delee Smith, an Islip resident, participated in last week’s efforts because she’s “passionate about the environment” and concerned about the direction of the country, in regards to climate change, under the current presidential administration.
“We need a change,” Smith said, in regards to how concerned citizens should tackle the issue of climate change moving forward. “It’s important for future generations, as well as the future of the planet.” n
-Anthony Perrotta contributed to this story