Climate Movement Pushes City Hall On Action

Abiba Biao | September 20th, 2023

Climate Movement Pushes City Hall On Action

Culture & Community  |  Education & Youth  |  Environment  |  New Haven Green  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative  |  New Haven Climate Movement


Yale College sophomore Amelia Lee. Abiba Biao Photos.

When Yale College sophomore Amelia Lee first moved to the U.S. in high school from her home in Beijing, China, she thought she would be free from the air pollution and low Air Quality Index Scores that plagued her city. However when she made it to the Elm City and the dusty gray sky and polluted air greeted her, a sight she was sorely familiar with.

Climate anxiety turned to action last Friday afternoon as the New Haven Climate Movement (NHCM) took to the New Haven Green to demand climate action in its yearly climate strike, held in alignment with #FridaysForFuture, a climate movement that sets worldwide days of climate action demonstrations in March and September. 

The day marked a Global Climate Strike, meaning that towns and cities across the world participated in similar actions.

The first part of the rally consisted of artmaking and poster making, followed by their demonstration. Members chanted climate sayings while making stops, starting the flagpole on the Green and marching to the Richard C. Lee U.S. Courthouse before closing at the steps of New Haven City Hall with a “die-in” and giving final remarks.


Suprya Sarkar and Sophia Rivkin.

Throughout, speakers including Lee let New Haven know why climate justice was important to them. 

“Growing up I rarely played outdoors and never felt a connection to nature to greenery, and never got on hikes, never learned about the different species of flowers and trees, because toxic air pollution was an everyday occurrence,” Lee said.

She paused and looked up at the audience, her question piercing through the wind as it picked up speed. 

“What I thought was a relic of my childhood manifested itself again. Is this what we want to live through? Is this how we want our world to look, to feel?”

The sentiment of feeling the global impact of climate change was echoed equally by Sheehan High School junior Suprya Sarkar, who cited her multicultural experience in a Bangladeshi household as her reason to fight against climate change. 

“Air pollution, overflowing landfills, and toxic waterways continue to define the global South, as well as major cities here in the U.S.,” Sarkar said speaking into the megaphone. “Leaders around the world need to accept that climate change processes a mass threat to all forms of life on planet Earth but the facts continue to be ignored.”

Mentioning the heat waves that forced New Haven Public Schools to close down last week, Sarkar noted that developed countries like the U.S. can turn to countries like Bangladesh’s transition to electric vehicles,  for climate innovation and green practices. 



Top: Cooperative Arts and Humanities high school seniors Toni Odom Kelly and Sophia Rivkin leading the march. Bottom: Emma Polinsky.

“It must take a global collective action to face the climate crisis,” Sarkar said. “And I genuinely believe that if we all start to question our lifestyle and take a strong civic stance against climate change, then the global will drive itself towards a greener future.”

Yale College junior Emma Polinsky took to the steps of City Hall to spread the word on clean building and energy projects. Polinksy has been active in NHCM since her first year at Yale and serves as the executive chair of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition this academic year.

“Why aren't we retrofitting old buildings to be more sustainable? Why aren't we building affordable housing instead of luxury apartments for New York City commuters?” she said and cheers arised from the crowd interrupting her speech with a wave of agreement.

During her speech Polinsky advocated for funding towards climate projects, mentioning how NHCM members have been working on an ordinance proposal over the summer.  In the proposed ordinance, “50 percent of construction fees or roughly about 1 percent of the city budget” would be stored in a climate justice fund, and go towards climate projects and electrification efforts.  The funds would roll over annually to continue sustainable funding. 

“We can't just keep relying on insufficient funds and not really prioritizing climate. By addressing climate through reallocation of  construction fees,  we’ll move one step forward towards really making climate a priority in the city's agenda.”


Yale freshman Young In Kim, a Wilbur Cross High School grad, and Megan Fountain.

After the rally, NHCM member and Yale freshman Young In Kim stood to talk to rally participant Megan Fountain, an education justice organizer for the New Haven Federation of Teachers.

Fountain attributed her participation in the rally to teachers and educators, and wanting to support their students' interests. She is likewise concerned about the effects of climate change on the city, and wants to increase energy efficiency across New Haven’s 41 school buildings and create green jobs.

Fountain emphasized fighting  against climate change apathy and encouraged people that there is a reason to engage in advocacy and fight back, even when efforts seem trivial at times by remembering the future implications. 

“What I hear a lot is people kind of like throwing up their hands saying, ‘it's already happened. It's already too late.’ No! We shape the future, and we're the ones who are going to be responsible,” she said. “Our grandchildren are going to look back and they're gonna see who took action, who stood up, and who was just a passive bystander.”


Yale freshmen Young In Kim, David Moreno, Valeria Castañeda, and Leslie Kim.

As an environmental studies major, Kim spreads the message of  climate urgency not just in the streets but amongst his classmates. Friday, he enlisted his friends David Moreno, Valeria Castañeda, and Leslie Kim to join in on the march and experience their first climate rally in New Haven. 

Leslie Kim, a computer science major, related the march to a Fridays for Future demonstration back to her hometown Ames, Iowa. Her interest in climate action stemmed from seeing changing ecosystems impact agricultural and horticultural livelihoods. Ames has a large farmers market culture and Kim has made connections with the farmers there, talking to them  during her farmers market shopping sprees on Saturdays. 

“It's the small things like ‘the strawberry fields aren't doing so well this year’  and ‘the dirt is drier’ and ‘things aren't just growing as well,’” she said. “And I think all these small things that in practice, like day to day basis, kind of like all come from a larger systematic problem.”

Castañeda, an environmental studies major,  echoed the same goal, wanting to explore the Elm City through environmental advocacy.

“I've attended some rallies back at home and I really wanted to, like get involved in the community, see what New Haven  is doing for the climate as well,” she said.

Abiba Biao is a graduate of the Arts Council's Youth Arts Journalism Initiative and has stayed on with the Arts Paper as a freelance writer and photographer. She is currently a sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).