Jackson and Co. Live It Up at Friday’s Climate Strike

Senator Robert Jackson stands with Legislative Aide Sowaibah Shahbaz (Photo by William Engel)
Senator Robert Jackson stands with Legislative Aide Sowaibah Shahbaz (Photo by William Engel)

Nobody could accuse State Senator Robert Jackson (D-Washington Heights, Fort George, Inwood) of being in low spirits during last Friday’s climate strike. Despite the bleakness of the issue at hand – namely, the disastrous consequences of our warming climate – the State Senator took plenty of opportunities to join the crowd’s chants and schmooze with his constituents, all while enthusiastically livestreaming his progress on his iPhone.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Jackson. “There was over a million people. Most of them, I would say, were young people, marching with their mothers and fathers and what have you. They’re putting the pressure on our elected officials on all levels of government to do the right thing for future generations. That’s what this is about.”

On Sep. 20, three days before today’s U.N. climate summit, scores of people around the world took the day off from work and school to demand lawmakers to start phasing out fossil fuels and pursue sustainable forms of energy. New York’s climate march took place in Manhattan, spanning from Foley Square to The Battery. A vast portion of the marchers were elementary, middle and high school students who took the day off from school to fight for arguably the most important issue affecting their generation.

Student activists prove that you’re never too young to fight for what you believe in (photo by William Engel)

Millions of schoolchildren ignited the borough with chants like, “There is no Planet B” and, “Sea levels are rising, and so are we”. And while many of them had their guardians marching alongside them, there were plenty proudly showed up alone.

As an outspoken advocate for climate justice, Senator Jackson was happy to join the cause. Sowaibah Shahbaz, Legislative Aide to Senator Jackson, said that combating climate change has always been a major part of his agenda. During the latest legislative session, Jackson sponsored several climate-related bills, including the Climate Community Protection Act (CCPA), which would establish stringent mandates to ensure that New York achieves a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within the next 30 years.

“There’s a couple of bills we were fighting for during the last legislative session,” said Shahbaz. “Jackson’s main concern is that we can’t wait; climate change is already happening. Whenever there’s an environmentally friendly bill, he’s the first to sign on.”

And while the situation may look desperate, Jackson is taking solace in the fact that he isn’t fighting alone – and neither is New York.

“[The movement] is happening in South Africa, in Australia, all over the world,” said Jackson. “That’s what we need – pressure on our executives to do the right thing on behalf of the people.”

Leslie Espaillat, a worker on Jackson’s campaign, concurred, adding that the younger generation gave her hope for the future.

“We’re so supportive of what’s going on today with the young people,” said Espaillat. “I feel that the younger generation is going to make a huge difference in the coming decades.”

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