By Kathy Mintchev, Greenwich Academy class of 2022
On Saturday, a crowd of students, elected officials and candidates gathered outside Greenwich Town Hall to promote legislative action in combating the climate crisis.
The organizers, Greenwich Environmental Advocacy Group (GEAG), are a student-led chapter of 350.org involved in grassroots projects and comprehensive climate efforts.
The rally aimed to encourage local legislators to endorse the H.R.2307 bill, or the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
If passed, the bill would place a fee on fossil fuel industries and return revenue to American households, all with the goal of lowering U.S. carbon pollution to net zero by 2050. It is currently endorsed by 1189 businesses and prominent individuals including US Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut.
Himes was joined by Greenwich Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150), and Selectperson Jill Oberlander were joined by candidates for the Board of Selectmen Bill Kelly and Janet Stone McGuigan in speaking in support of climate activism at the protest.
All the while, members of the GEAG raised vibrant signs which illustrated their sentiments.
At the podium, Isabelle Harper and Nima Gupte, co-presidents of the GEAG, emphasized the need for climate action among today’s youth. Both acknowledged the threats which climate change poses in areas such as resource distribution, ecosystem health, and human rights.
Isabelle said, “We [The GEAG] are a student-led group of committed individuals that really want to see change in the government…We are the kids of the future. For us, this is the most existential threat that will be haunting us for our entire lives.”
Nima echoed Harper’s message and offered an optimistic perspective.
“It’s important for young people to stay involved in politics,” she said. “If we put all our effort and energy into demonstrating what’s important to us, we can have a very material change.”
“You have power in your voice,” Steve Meskers told the GEAG. “The power in your voice is the threat that politicians feel in ignoring the voice of the people.”
State Rep Meskers sits on the Connecticut General Assembly Energy and Technology Committee and the Transportation Committee. He spoke on the urgency of the climate crisis and stated his commitment to a sustainable future.
Some speakers highlighted the progress which has already been made in sustainability efforts.
Lauren Rabin, Greenwich’s Selectman, assured the GEAG that “folks in office are definitely dedicated to the cause.” Rabin spoke on topics such as efficient resource allocation and affordable housing, as well as management of the town’s recycling program.
Congressman Himes later said, “This [the climate crisis] has been a struggle in the US Congress for two decades, and I’m happy to report that we’re making progress.”
Himes, however, noted his discontent with the current rate of progress, pointing to stagnation within the energy and technology sectors as one area of concern.
“The United States has always led on technological innovation. The fact that we’re not at the forefront of electric battery development, of solar panel development, and that we’re leaving them to others is a generational catastrophe,” he said.
Each politician expressed their excitement to work with the GEAG and local youth to achieve climate goals.
Jill Oberlander, Selectperson alongside Ms Rabin and a partner of the town’s Sustainability Committee, pledged support for an ongoing discussion.
“I’m so impressed with the activism and interest that we see out of our younger generations, encouraging all of us to be better everyday,” Oberlander added.
Bill Kelly, a candidate for the Board of Selectmen, said: “If I do get elected First Selectman… they [The GEAG] can have the first meeting in my office at 8am on December 2nd, and we will set forth a plan for you.”
One idea which prevailed throughout the protest was the intersection of education and the climate crisis.
Janet Stone McGuigan, candidate for Selectwoman and member of the Representative Town Meeting, spoke on her experience in both areas.
As a former environmental policy analyst and PTA leader at the North Street School, McGuigan said that “working for the environment and working for education go hand in hand.”
McGuigan underscored that local schools have successfully set up recycling programs and reduced their waste stream by as much as 60%.
To wrap up the event, members of the GEAG returned to speak on their personal connection to the climate crisis.
“I think being in Greenwich really shields me from the realities of climate change… but being here today is a step in the right direction. I hope that we can inspire other communities like us to fight for our future,” concluded GEAG member Hannah Klingbeil.
The Greenwich Environmental Advocacy Group is a partner of 350.org, Sophie Brachet Jewelry, and Sarah Tocci Artworks. Sophie Brachet, who is a member of the GEAG, creates themed, handmade jewelry in support of the group’s endeavors. The GEAG aims to expand its membership to students all across Greenwich, creating an inclusive space for students to become involved in environmental activism. For more information about the GEAG and its partners, visit greenwichenvironmentaladvocacygroup.org.