Hudson County Holds First Ever Town Hall on Climate
This article was submitted by The Climate Mobilization (Hoboken Chapter) and lightly edited by CivicStory.
The first ever Hudson County Climate Town Hall drew a crowd of over 200 on Wednesday, April 17th, with dozens standing in the back of the packed Jersey City Council chambers, and hundreds more watching via live stream. If there was one takeaway from the evening, it’s that in Hudson County, the threat of climate change is not an abstraction, nor the pet concern of an informed few, but a major political issue capable of mobilizing citizens from all corners of the community.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla opened the event by acknowledging their surprise at the large turn-out. They outlined the ways they are attempting to mitigate climate change now, while also discussing the challenges both cities will face in the future. Mayor Bhalla received loud applause after announcng that the city of Hoboken was in the process of purchasing 100% renewable energy, while Mayor Fulop stressed the importance of environmental justice, as sewage overflows that pollute Jersey City disproportionately affect low income communities.
Physical Oceanographer Philip Orton of Stevens Institute of Technology kicked off a panel discussion by showing the impact sea level rise will have on the community in the next 60 years. Even under conservative estimates, his research shows, large portions of Hudson County will be rendered virtually unlivable by major increases in monthly flooding. Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action of New Jersey stressed the impact of fossil fuel pollution on our children’s health, particularly in communities of color. She pointed out that in Newark, a city with heavily polluted air due to the proximity of the Northeast’s large trash incinerator and the country’s third-largest port, over one quarter of the schoolchildren (including all three of her own) have asthma, a rate double the national average.
The star of the evening was 16-year-old Ananya Singh of the Sunrise Movement, who received the loudest ovation of the evening for her impassioned speech about fighting for her future under the spectre of a changing planet. Though she roused the crowd with her hopeful rhetoric, particularly in regards to the Green New Deal, the teenage activist was also clear about naming the culprit standing in the way of reform: energy companies. “I think when we have environmental science classes… they focus entirely on the intensity of the problem, and ‘oh, here are the solutions - clean energy, and things like that,” Ms Singh said in response to a question about how climate change could be better addressed in the education system. “But it’s not often understood that there’s a huge barrier to achieving those solutions, which is fossil fuel money.”
Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club reminded attendees that Governor Murphy faces proposals for 13 new fossil fuel projects—eight pipelines and five power plants—and has given no indication that these projects will not go forward, despite his executive order to transition New Jersey to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Tittel and the Sierra Club, along with Food & Water Watch, Clean Water Action NJ, Empower NJ, Bluewave NJ, and The Climate Mobilization are advocating for a statewide moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
The Climate Mobilization (TCM) is an international organization that has been building a grassroots movement demanding a government response to the climate emergency. The Hoboken chapter holds regular meetings at the Hoboken Public Library which are open to the public.