Sayville High School Students Form
Bi-partisan Climate Action Committee on Long Island
To Work with Rep. King to join Climate Change Caucus
(All thanks to training by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore)
Individuals from the around the globe, representing 32 countries from Pakistan, China, Indonesia, England, Hungary, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, among other nations and the U.S. states, gathered together in Denver, Colorado, March 2-4 to join in one common effort: the protection of life on our planet. Chloe Gaconnier, Sayville high school student and Melissa Parrott, Sayville resident and Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Central Pine Barrens Commission were fortunate to be among them.
Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore led a group of almost 950 individuals through the science, visible but inconsistently reported catastrophe, and emerging risks associated with man-made climate change. The meeting represented the start of the 12th operating year of the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit organization founded by Gore to urge action in addressing and combating the man-made impact on earth’s climate and ecosystems.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is a reality. Carbon pollution is warming our planet and creating weather volatility and extreme droughts, flooding, wildfires and super storms. Right now, scientists predict that the current rate of carbon emissions will lead to an average increase in global temperatures of 7.2 degrees by the end of the century. The increase will exacerbate currently observable water shortages, droughts of agricultural lands, high tide flooding, extreme temperatures, vector-borne diseases, famine, human and nonhuman geographical displacement and the frequency and volatility of weather-related events. Land temperatures have already exceeded 140 degrees in some areas of the world, affecting the poor and most vulnerable, New York's temperatures have increased by 4 degrees since 1970.
The vice president focused on the significance of an immediate shift away from fossil fuels as the first necessary intervention, stating, “With a shift to a clean-energy economy, we can still create the sustainable future we all want. But we have to act now.”
Enter, the Suffolk Student Climate Action Committee (SSCAC), a Committee comprised of high school students from across Suffolk County demanding climate change action from elected officials.
The model Chapter at Sayville high school is already 20 students strong and growing. These students will be a model for other schools in the fall. Climate Reality Training attendee and Sayville high school student and co-creator Ms. Gaconnier says, “The Suffolk Student Climate Action Committee is genuinely student run and it is really empowering to have the ability to choose what actions we want to take on and see it through. Every member is as passionate as the other and I can see us all making an impact beyond our local community”. Sayville high school senior, Chase Hofmann continued, “I am planning to major in environmental studies and policy and this Committee is exactly what I want to continue to do throughout college. I want to work alongside others to make positive change”.
A priority for the student Committee was urging their Congressman to join the bi-partisan Climate Solutions dialogue. The Committee repeatedly communicated with Congressman Peter King’s office about joining the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus on Capitol Hill. Soon after Ms. Parrott, co-creator received a call from Representative King’s office, the Congressman had indeed joined the Caucus, putting Long Island’s economic and environmental future priority and showing the students, their voice matters. “This is such a great example of our Congressman looking out for his constituents needs!” “I give a big thank you to Congressman King, not just for joining the important conversation of climate solutions, but also for listening to these amazing kids!” “Who knows if we were a tipping point for him, but he helped these students understand their impact on the world”, says Ms. Parrott. Congressman Lee Zeldin is also on the Caucus, so both Long Island Congressmen are looking out for the economic and environmental health of our communities”.
Due to the need of an immediate shift away from fossil fuels, the Sayville Chapter of the SSCAC will urge and assist the Town of Islip to go 100% renewable by 2030 by attending Town Board meetings and meeting with the Supervisor and Board members. The Climate Reality Project provides resources to help, “It is so important for this generation to take a stand, to stop standing still and start combating climate change. I, for one, am excited to begin this new Committee!” says student leader Sophomore Harrison Bench. “Harrison is my champion”, says Ms. Parrott, “he was my first call and he has owned this Committee and keeps it growing every week’.
The students are charged with creating the SSCAC, they are designing the logo, developing the website, creating the social media platforms, deciding what public events to speak at, and writing the petitions. “This is a great start, the train has left the station”, laughs Ms. Parrott, “you can’t stop these guys, and it’s incredible!” Sophomore Hannah Bishop is one such student, “ While it is not this generation’s fault for the global climate change, this generation is the last generation that can prevent the worst of what global climate change entails. We hold the future’s fate in our hands and history is watching. Taking responsibility is our duty and I will gladly take on the pressure if it means saving the planet earth”.
Bringing students into the mix to make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy was a win-win, says Ms. Parrott, “they are our future decision makers and by way of their youth and enthusiasm can get the attention of elected officials” Parrott continues, “The Committee’s goal is to help and support our communities to go renewable- 100% by 2030. Other cities have done it, so can we- Long Island can be a leader to help reduce the impacts of climate change”.
Contact: Melissa Parrott