Sayville High School students rally in front of Islip Town Hall
About 50 residents from across Islip Town took part in a protest for climate action outside town hall on Friday, Sept. 20, wielding picket signs and demanding environmental planning.
One of loudest speakers was a Sayville High School senior, Joanna Ziegler. An environmental activist in her own right, Ziegler is the acting treasurer of Students for Climate Action’s Long Island chapter.
“Our country had made minor strides to better climate action but has not been doing a lot, and there have been major strides in other countries,” said Ziegler, who also organized the protest. “I am standing here to advocate for more to be done at the municipality level, county level, state and federal level. Everyone can do their part to better climate action and push further.”
The protest was held in correlation with countless others globally, including several across Long Island. New York City even announced that public school students could skip class without penalty on Friday to partake in the strikes.
The state has made its mark in the climate movement, and the Climate Community Protection Act is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s flagship policy with the goal to ultimately slash greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 85 percent by 2050. Ziegler noted that the governor’s policy is a step in the right direction, but said there is much work to be done at the federal level.
“Our generation has this urge to do something, but we are not in the places to do something. And the people who have the executive office do not recognize climate change, as big as it is,” she said. “Our own president sometimes even says that global warming is not real because we had a cold day in October. With that logic, we are not going to get anywhere. And this is a nonpartisan issue. This is science.”
Ziegler continued as a voice for environmental concern in hopes of being heard by the Town of Islip. She said that her group meets with supervisor Angie Carpenter on a regular basis to discuss the placement of a sustainability director.
“Even though we are making strides, we want to keep going further,” Ziegler said. “It might seem small compared to the whole country, but one town can do a lot. And then we can set examples for other towns, and then that town turns into the county, and the county turns into state.”
The Town of Islip, according to Carpenter, has always been a leader in reducing its own carbon footprint, and was one of the first in the country to begin recycling over 30 years ago.
“We initiated recycling metal, glass, plastics and paper through our WRAP program. Some of the initiatives that are in place or being worked on include moving the town forward in obtaining certification as being a Clean Energy Community with NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority,” she said in response to the protest. “We have two solar farms located on our inactive landfill sites. We operate a shellfish hatchery, placing oysters and clams into the Great South Bay to clean and enrich the bay water, and our private collection sanitation fleet runs on CNG-compressed natural gas.”
Another Sayville High School senior, Samantha Kohn, attended the gathering outside town hall. She decided to get involved in the movement from “seeing the effects of climate change,” noting the recent Amazon fires and rising sea levels. “I might not be able to do much,” she said, “but I’m going to do what I can, in my own way.” n
Randall Waszynski contributed to this story.