Earth Matters focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living. This weekly series is brought to you by Maria Luisa Boutique and Strawtown Studio and Summer Play Camp at Blue Rock School and Dying To Bloom, a natural burial boutique for humans and pets.
If Earth Matters to you, sign up for our mailing list and get the next installment delivered right to your inbox.
There’s a hard-working new environmental watchdog group in the county, led by high school students. Their inspiration? That climate-crisis Joan of Arc, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Their goal? A county that acknowledges a climate emergency, and takes bold steps in response.
The Rockland Climate Alliance’s co-founders and guiding spirits, Nyack High School students Lucinda Carroll and Emmy Udry, spoke to Earth Matters last week about their grass-roots group–how it got started, what it’s up to, and how you can help.
We first saw you all in action at the Nyack Earth Day Fest on April 27, and again at last Friday’s Climate Strike in Nyack, which you organized. When did your group get started?
Udry: Rockland Climate Alliance (RCA) has a group of about 20 people—and growing fast—who show up at all our events, and a core of about ten that come to our meetings and help with our planning. Our immediate goal is for Rockland County to declare a climate emergency, and create a climate task force to address it.
Carroll: Westchester has a climate action task force connected to their county government. Its primary focus is sustainable living in Westchester, and making their policies more sustainable, too. We want a task force like this established in Rockland County.
You call yourselves the Rockland Climate Alliance, but so far your events have mostly taken place in Nyack. What are you doing to reach other towns and villages in the county?
Udry: We were originally going to hold last Friday’s climate strike at the New City courthouse, and [State] Senator [David] Carlucci [D-38] offered to let us use his New York State Senate insurance for the event. But the courthouse denied our request for a permit. So we moved the event here to Nyack a couple of weeks ago, because it’s a public park, and Mayor Hammond said, “We can’t stop you!”
Carroll: Nyack and Piermont are such environmentally conscious places, and they’re very supportive. But the rest of the Rockland county, not so much. We’re working hard to break into other towns and get members from elsewhere. That’s why we tried to do this protest in New City.
Udry: This is a real outreach effort that’s going to take a lot of work.
There are plenty of environmental challenges in Rockland right now. Are you being drawn into any other issues?
Udry: We’ve been connecting with other groups in the county, especially the Rockland Citizens Action Network (RCAN). They’ve been posting on our Facebook page. I spoke to some of their members at their last meeting, and some of their members came to the strike, and came to our last RCA meeting too.
Carroll: And Rockland water activist Laurie Seeman actually came to us about the issue of Suez Water’s proposed new headquarters on the shore of Lake DeForest in Clarkstown. We’ve been attending meetings in Clarkstown on this. An immediate goal of ours is to halt the construction of that headquarters.
Udry: That’s the source of our drinking water in Nyack, and a lot of places in New Jersey, too
Carroll: And there are many other issues like this in Rockland County. Local politics and local issues are so often forgotten. But once you dig down and educate yourself, the puzzle pieces start to come together. They are all really important, and will directly affect you and your family.
The “die-in” at last Friday’s Climate Strike brought back memories for old 1960s Vietnam War protesters who were making a point about the waste of lives. What statement is it making now for young climate emergency protesters like you?
Udry: This tactic is used all the time by the group Extinction Rebellion. They pretty much shut down London in April. That was really powerful. They had teenagers standing at Heathrow airport asking, “Are we the last generation?” And they used the die-in to illustrate that.
Carroll: And now many groups are doing this. Die-ins are a staple of climate activism.
Our job isn’t done until the United States is on board with the Paris Agreement. Until we actually start seeing emissions drop to safe and sustainable levels, my generation is facing an existential threat. And so we have no choice but to keep fighting.
Lucinda Carroll, Rockland Climate Alliance
“Grassroots” often means “running on a shoestring.” How are you all managing, and how can people help your group?
Udry: Right now, we’re running on the donations that we collected at the Nyack Earth Fest.
Carroll: But we’re trying to be as resourceful as possible. I went dumpster diving for the cardboard for last week’s climate strike. And the sound system was from my band.
Udry: And we try to be sustainable as we can in the stuff we have to buy.
Carroll: If you want to help us out, go to our Instagram or Facebook page or website, where we post meeting dates. And come to our meetings. That’s the biggest thing. That’s where we do most of our brainstorming about our events.
Udry: Everyone is welcome, of any age. Help us spread the word, and help us expand. Right now we are mostly concentrated in Nyack, but we want to get more people involved who have different perspectives–people from other high schools and other towns.
- Rockland Climate Alliance press release on the May 24 Climate Strike
- Rockland Climate Alliance website, on Facebook and Instagram
- “Protect Our Water from Proposed Suez Construction on Lake DeForest” (5/14/19, Nyack News and Views)
- “Youth Climate Strike Nyack” (3/20/19, Nyack News and Views)
- “Nyack’s Earth Week Party” (5/1/19, Nyack News and Views)
Read Earth Matters every Wednesday on Nyack News And Views, or sign up for the Earth Matters mailing list.
Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, Dying to Bloom, Strawtown Studio, and Summer Play Camp at Blue Rock School.