Schirin Rangnick

To celebrate April Fool’s Day, teens from the New Haven Climate Movement, or NHCM, threw a “pity party” on the steps of City Hall to shame “fossil fools” that they believe have not adequately addressed the climate crisis. 

The NHCM is a coalition of individuals and local organizations that are devoted to climate action. On Friday, teen organizers gave awards to five “fossil fools” and also called for the city to allocate more funds toward climate solutions that reduce carbon pollution and improve public health, create green jobs, build affordable and safe streets and transportation options and reduce energy costs and waste. In the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-23, $50,000 of the approximately $700 million city budget has been allocated for the city’s climate change task force. 

“Without consistent investment, we can expect the costs of climate change to skyrocket,” Patricia Joseph, a senior at Engineering & Science University Magnet School, said. “But we don’t live in a world of no alternatives.”

Elisa Cruz, a senior at Hill Regional Career High School, and Kawtar Nadama, a senior at West Haven High School, pointed to five “fossil fools.” One of them is Yale University because they offer climate education through academic course offerings without sufficient action, like divestment or electrification, the activists said. Others include the state of Connecticut because of its failure to declare a climate emergency, local business leaders for their failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the city of New Haven because of its lack of sustainability staff. Finally, “sixty year olds” are “fossil fools” because their generation successfully managed local, social and political institutions while failing to recognize their contributions to climate injustice, according to activists.

At the rally, Abiba Biao, a senior at Amistad High School, described how flooding exacerbated by climate change directly impacted her, and called for more funding for flood prevention. 

“I wrote my college essay on flooding,” Biao said. “Every two years, our basement would get flooded and we’d have to move stuff out. Last year our heater got broken and our refrigerators got broken. It was a messy process and there was a lot of water damage, as well.”

By 2050, Connecticut’s sea levels are predicted to rise by approximately 20 inches. New Haven recently received $160 million in federal funding to build a flood wall at Long Wharf, but the NHCM called for the city to address the climate emergency, rather than merely the effects of the climate emergency. 

The NHCM called for the city to allocate more funding for the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, the improvement of public health, growth of green jobs and establishment of equitable transportation. 

Kiana Flores ’25 also spoke on the benefits of electrification at the rally. 

“Doing so is necessary for the health of the planet and our own,” she said. “To reduce emissions, we need to switch as many systems as possible from natural gas to the Connecticut grid, which continues to include more and more renewable energy sources.”

The audience booed when Flores mentioned natural gas. Not only would the transition away from fossil fuels to electricity reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she said, but it would also reduce air pollution and noise while making energy use more efficient. 

When Governor Ned Lamont stopped by the rally and heard the organizers’ calls for more climate change funding in the New Haven budget, he offered his encouragement. 

“Make sure you take that message up to the legislature,” Lamont told rallygoers. “Our biggest commitment is getting our transportation system electrified.” 

Young In Kim, a junior at Wilbur Cross High School, spoke about the NHCM Climate Education Committee’s efforts to pass a climate emergency resolution in the New Haven Board of Education. This resolution would hold New Haven schools accountable for their contributions to climate change especially from school bus greenhouse gas emissions. 

The New Haven Climate and Sustainability Framework outlining key strategies to address the climate emergency in New Haven was passed in 2018. 

Charlotte Hughes reports on climate and environmental issues in New Haven. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she is a freshman in Branford College majoring in English.