Earth Day panel focuses on environmental justice and climate resilience

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April 22, 2024 8:15 PM • Last updated: April 22, 2024 8:36 PM


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MYSTIC — Rahiem Elezer, environmental liaison for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said Monday that the first step toward climate justice is a step forward after generations of consumerist thinking has damaged the environment. He said the goal is to show the environment the reciprocity it deserves.

The second is to address communities that are neglected or targeted by negative by-products and waste, he said. For example, communities where landfills were established in favor of more affluent communities, or tribal communities who were offered leftover property or land they did not want to live on.

He made the comments as a committee convened at Mystic Aquarium’s Milne Center for Marine Science and Conservation to discuss environmental justice and community resilience on Earth Day.

When asked about indigenous practices, Elezar said many practices traditionally focus on returning value to the environment.

The panel discussion also featured Tim Clark, director of the Resilient Southeastern Connecticut program at The Nature Conservancy, an environmental organization. Sierra Patrick, Economic Development Manager for the City of Groton. Lynn Stoddard is the founder and executive director of Sustainable CT, a program that allows cities and towns to become certified by taking steps to become more sustainable.

Patrick, who helped develop the city of Groton’s first community resiliency plan and serves on the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, talks about the importance of engaging with the community, including holding virtual meetings and getting out. talked about. You can also meet people in person or partner with conservation organizations with plant giveaways to encourage pollinator pathways.

In response to an audience question about education, Patrick said it was very important to involve young people and let them lead the discussion.

Clark said a resilient southeastern Connecticut is more like a naturally occurring landscape, and it’s important to design systems that work that way.

“We need to make sure that pollutants don’t get into our waterways. We need to make sure that sewage floodwaters don’t flow into Long Island Sound and pollute the water,” he said. “These are all interconnected systems, and what steps can we take to ensure that these natural systems operate essentially naturally and are able to adapt to everything that is thrown at us in this era of ever-increasing change? I think we really need to understand what steps we can take.”

When asked about the call to action, Patrick encouraged people to contact their local governments to find out how to get involved, and Eleazar encouraged people to contact their tribal nations. Clark encouraged people to find what they are most passionate about and work on it.

Eleiser said the goal is a community-based, collaborative solution.

Mr Clark also stressed the importance of cooperation, saying climate change and sea level rise do not respect municipal boundaries.

When asked about ways to reflect a broader range of voices, Patrick talked about keeping everyone back at the table and making sure everyone has access to the table. She said it’s important to go out into the community and not just hold meetings inside City Hall.

Speaking about the General Assembly, Mike Argo, president of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, said environmental bills being considered in the state Legislature are on CTLCV’s 2024 Congressional Watch List.

“Access to a safe and healthy environment is a fundamental human right that everyone should have,” said Mariam Elahi, president and CEO of the Eastern Connecticut Community Foundation, which organized the event. It’s not just the privilege of those with resources.”

Elahi said all children should be able to run and play in clean and safe parks, attend lead-free schools and drink water without worrying about contaminants.

Susette Tibbs, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium, said the event was “an opportunity for individuals, communities, governments and businesses to come together to create a sustainable and just future for generations to come.” “This is a rally that urges us to pursue solutions that guarantee security.”

k.drelich@theday.com

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