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Climate activists complete march from Saranac Lake to Plattsburgh

Thompson Tomaszewski, one of three Sunrise Adirondacks members who walked 50 miles from Saranac Lake to Plattsburgh to raise awareness about climate change and show support for the Green New Deal, speaks at a press conference outside the Clinton County Government Center, which houses U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s Plattsburgh office, on Tuesday. (Provided photo — Cara Chapman, Press-Republican)

PLATTSBURGH — Three Saranac Lakers concluded a 50-mile journey from their homes to the Clinton County Government Center, which houses U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s regional office, to push for immediate action on climate change Tuesday.

Thompson Tomaszewski, Carter Rowley and Madeline Clark are members of Sunrise Adirondacks, a local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, which aims to stop climate change and create jobs, and backs the Green New Deal.

“It has a lot of promise for people, and that’s how much we want it,” Clark said of the resolution. “We’ll walk for it.”

“Desperate to be heard”

Right now, a future where their neighbors can afford quality housing, have adequate health care, work meaningful jobs that pay a living wage and live in a society prepared for climate change seems intangible, Tomaszewski said.

“As hard as we work within our communities to build that future, we know that we can only accomplish so much without action at the state and federal level.”

Tomaszewski hearkened back to December, when Sunrise Adirondacks staged a march from Trinity Park to the Government Center in order to lay out three demands for Stefanik: Declare a climate emergency, stop taking money from fossil fuel companies, and support the Green New Deal.

According to Tomaszewski, none of the marchers’ concerns was written down, and they were ignored by the congresswoman.

“That’s why, early Friday morning, the three of us walked out of our homes, leaving behind our families and our warm beds, and began the long trek here. We are desperate to be heard.”

Tomaszewski posited that Stefanik has neglected the people of the North Country, focusing on her own career while New York 21st Congressional District residents struggle.

“Rather than addressing critical issues, she provides lip service for the Trump campaign and reinforces hyper-partisan politics.”

Opportunity

Rowley said that, though the signs he and his travel companions wore on their backs during their walk read “For our future,” Americans are dealing with the climate crisis right now.

“The West Coast is burning; the Gulf Coast is enduring storm after storm. We don’t want our communities to be next, and we don’t want anyone to be displaced because of our collective inaction.

“This is already costing us billions of dollars a year. The longer we wait to address it, the more money it’s going to cost us.”

Rowley spoke to the need to increase stewardship of the region’s lands, reinstate Indigenous sovereignty and allow for a faster transition to renewable energies.

He said the Green New Deal promises investment in public infrastructure that will benefit generations; Rowley also views the resolution as a jobs bill.

“I think it has something for everyone, and the fact that people can’t see it is pretty frustrating.”

Neighbors

Stefanik, a Republican from Schuylerville, tries to brush Sunrise Adirondacks off as a far-left, radical group, Clark said.

“In reality, we are farmers, small business owners, educators, scientists and essential workers here in the North Country. We are your neighbors. We are people fighting to make our communities better.”

Tomaszewski believes their walk both called on community members to demand action regardless of who wins the congressional election, and showed that young people are not backing down.

They added that their group is concerned about the environmental and climate change implications that could come with a second term for President Donald Trump.

Regardless of whom people vote for next month, Sunrise Adirondacks members hope they are prepared to join them in ensuring a future where representatives work for the region’s needs to ensure good jobs and a livable future, Clark said.

“When you cast your vote this election season, ask yourself, are our leaders telling us that they won’t lead us into the future or that they can’t? We cannot accept either.”

Promise

Clark said it seems as though, whenever the Green New Deal comes up, people say, “Oh, we’re going to take airplanes out of the sky. People can’t eat beef anymore.”

But the language, if people were to read it, in no way says that, she said.

Thompson added that people make assumptions about the proposal and slap labels on it like “radical” and “socialist.”

“It’s a federal pinkie promise at the end of the day,” Clark said.

“It’s not like law and order. It’s a promise that we’re going to get better.”

Stefanik, Cobb respond

Stefanik spokeswoman Maddie Anderson described the Green New Deal as “a radical, far-left proposal that even most House Democrats do not support.”

Tedra Cobb of Canton, Stefanik’s Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 election, doesn’t support it, either.

“I don’t support the Green New Deal,” she told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise Wednesday. “I think that there are practical things that we can do right now to address the devastating impacts of climate change and to create good-paying jobs here in the North Country. I believe in science-based decision making. I will fight to fund the EPA fully and to eliminate the dangerous rollbacks this administration has made. I will end our dependence on fossil fuel by eliminating oil, gas, and coal subsidies. I will hold corporate polluters accountable, and I will fight to protect the clean air and clean water that our tourism economy and our way of life depend on.”

Anderson contended the Green New Deal would massively reduce dairy and beef consumption and add trillions in new taxes for the middle class.

Anderson said Stefanik has co-sponsored the Republican Climate Resolution, “a serious and thoughtful proposal that works to protect our environment without imposing arbitrary, over-burdensome regulations on hardworking Americans.”

The Republican Climate Resolution contended that climate change is real, human-caused and a major threat, and that Congress has a responsibility to address it — but not at the expense of the economy. It did not propose any specific actions, and it was never voted upon.

Anderson added that Stefanik and her staff value all constituent feedback and concerns, and take them seriously, and prioritize meeting with people directly.

“She has spoken to many North Country farmers who are deeply concerned with the Green New Deal and the devastating impacts it would have on our critical farming industry.”

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The Enterprise staff contributed to his report.

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