A buzz of summer excitement traveled through the humid air in Edgewood Park. On a wide patch of grass, young climate activists outlined the words “Climate Solutions” on a sprawling banner. Nearby, New Haveners strolled through the Cityseed Farmers Market. A violinist played a light tune. Small dogs padded through the park.
Sunday morning, members of the New Haven Climate Movement (NHCM) Youth Action Team organized a Climate Fair in Edgewood Park, meant to educate New Haveners about the organization and broader climate emergency. This fair, which included the chance to paint two climate-themed street banners, was the last of a three-part series organized by team members this June.
“We decided to do it three times so we could engage more people and reach different audiences,” said Kawtar Nadama, a rising senior at Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) and NHCM summer intern.
Nadama and Germain tabling at the NHCM booth at the farmers market.
Helping educate at the booth was fellow NHCM summer intern Gabrielle Germain, a 2021 graduate from Sacred Heart Academy. She plans to attend McGill University in the fall.
“Climate education is so important to me because this is a crisis that we’re all going to have to deal with, especially younger generations,” she said “So the more education we do, generally the more people will be equipped to handle these crises that they’re being faced with.”
Both Germain and Nadama agreed that it had been a rewarding experience hosting the fairs and interacting with families and local residents throughout the month. “It’s been super fun and the community is super welcoming,” said Germain.
On a table with free snacks and juices, the two set out a petition calling for New Haven to invest some of the $90 million coming to the city through the American Rescue Plan towards local projects to mitigate climate change. There was the QR code for a survey for New Haven residents on the climate solutions they would like to see in their communities, a donation jar, and numerous informational resources about NHCM and its fiscal sponsor, the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project.
Adjacent to the main table was a station for arts and crafts, where visitors could decorate colorful mini plant pots with paint markers, fill them with soil and their choice of herb seeds, and water it to launch their gardening adventures.
Germain helping children decorate and fill their plant pots.
Traveling behind the booth to the park’s open field, two 30-foot long street banners, designed and organized by local high school youth, laid spread out on the grass. NHCM members and volunteers ranging from children to adults grabbed brushes and gathered to paint details like protest signs. Some even lent a hand in painting on hand print shapes.
One volunteer present was Rosie Hampson, a rising freshman at Wilbur Cross High School. She said she was there to “raise more awareness” around climate change not just across the globe, but also in New Haven.
“I want to do this so that we can come up with some solutions because climate change is a really pressing issue that we’re facing and we need to take action now,” she said.
While the back side of both banners featured different designs to add variety when they are hung up on streets, all sides boldly proclaimed “Climate Solutions Create Healthy Neighborhoods.”
The motto of the street banner campaign: “Climate Solutions = Healthy Neighborhoods.”
Natalie Card, a rising junior at Hopkins School who is a summer NHCM intern, said that this motto was created to push viewers to think about climate change both broadly and in their own neighborhoods.
“We wanted people to think that solving climate change could lead to more healthy neighborhoods in their area,” she said.
“For one of the sides, we wanted to prompt more of the government to take action. So, we have imagery of the skyline of New Haven and also climate action with different signs of renewable energy and other energy-efficient symbolism,” said NHCM intern Patricia Joseph, a rising senior at ESUMS.
“And then for the other side, we wanted to focus more on what it looks like in New Haven neighborhoods, so we had more tree planting, homes with solar panels on them, electric bus fleets, and wind turbines.”
NHCM intern Caitlin Owens, a 2021 graduate at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, expressed her excitement regarding the upcoming hanging of the team’s street banners in New Haven neighborhoods by the City of New Haven.
“I can’t wait to see all the hard work that we’ve done and everybody together has done, and see them up on the streets for everyone to look at,” she said.
The work to date leading up to the completion of the street banners at the event was made possible by over 25 volunteers across multiple painting sessions this month, Joseph said.
Chris Schweitzer, Director of the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project and Coordinator of NHCM, said the youth summer internship consists of multiple team projects.
Interns work on organizing climate education fairs, creating videos for social media interviewing community members about climate change, advertising a survey on climate solutions, developing street banners and in-school educational posters, and supporting NHCM’s advocacy on their Climate Justice Schools proposal for interdisciplinary climate education in New Haven Public Schools.