Letter to the Editor: The New Paltz Extinction Rebellion

We members of the New Paltz Extinction Rebellion invite you to take action, either with us or with others acting from the urgency of the climate crisis. We use peaceful, non-violent direct action to force society’s policymakers to urgently address the worsening climate crisis.

 Founded in England last year, the Extinction Rebellion movement is growing globally without centralized leadership, driven by ordinary people acting from necessity. New Paltz is among the Hudson Valley communities with a chapter of the Extinction Rebellion. We are non-partisan; we are parents, grandparents, students and workers frightfully aware that these are scary times that need extraordinary actions now to avert irreversible calamity. So we act.  

Many news outlets covered our “Die-In” and Stand-Up Shouting protest during Congressman Antonio Delgado’s (D-NY 19) recent visit to SUNY New Paltz. People may be wondering why we resorted to such action. 

The short reason is the world is on fire, metaphorically and literally, while policy makers practice business as usual. We are trying to force change, because doing nothing, or doing politics as usual will be catastrophic. Climate driven extinction is already underway, termed by scientists the Anthropocene Extinction, a human-caused mass die-off threatening life on Earth. It is accelerating and will get even worse if feedback loops kick in, for example, with extremely potent greenhouse methane being released as permafrost melts.  

We are not villainizing Congressman Delgado, but fighting the poisonous system that values money and the status quo over the planet’s ecosystem. Our actions at Congressman Delgado’s event were done to highlight how elected officials ignore or play down the crisis to protect the status quo. Rep. Delgado is perhaps better than politicians who support a president claiming climate change is a hoax. But as a mainstream representative, he is raising money from special interests who are creating the crisis (www.opensecrets.org). His largest contributors are employees of Akin Gump, a lobbying firm closely connected to fossil fuel interests. They have collectively given him over a third of a million dollars since he first ran for Congress in 2018.  His next largest contributors are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Only 10% of Rep. Delgado’s contributors are small donors, in amounts under $200.  

Thus, Rep. Delgado acts timidly,  downplaying urgent danger. At SUNY New Paltz, and elsewhere, Rep. Delgado said we must rein in climate change by 2050. Yet, last fall, even before he was elected, UN scientists declared we only had 12 years, until 2030 to avoid damage that would become catastrophic and irreversible. As a Rhodes Scholar, lawyer and Congressman, he is surely aware of this. Why stay silent about this crisis? What influence is stronger than avoiding disaster?   

In short, Congressman Delgado is an example of politics as usual and that is now unacceptable. We are justifiably terrified by what is happening to the planetary ecosystem while those in power pretend business as usual is working. 

So globally and locally, the Extinction Rebellion is peacefully, yet determinedly and even disruptively acting to alter our trajectory and avert calamity, especially for our children. Our four demands are simple: governments must 1) tell the truth about climate crisis, 2) act to remediate the crisis, 3) create a citizens’ assembly to make policy decisions related to climate matters and 4) prioritize policies toward people being harmed the most by climate changes.            

We in the Extinction Rebellion regret if our actions around the globe end up interfering with daily activities. Consider that millions of Californian’s have lost electricity for days because their utilities were purposely shut down the power grid to avoid fires connected to climate change, even as fires are causing hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes. That is real disruption, and only hints at what is coming from continuing business as usual. So we will continue to act and perhaps be disruptive to create momentum toward positive change. Not all our action will be disruptive, and you don’t need to get arrested to help, but there is need for everyone to pitch in, at whatever level they feel they can participate. More information about the Extinction Rebellion can be found at www.xrrebellion.nyc. Also watch for upcoming meetings on campus. 

We feel anger, sadness and grief as the disruption and growing horror of a massive global extinction proceeds. We refuse to sit idle as threats to our very lives and future grow worse. The Declaration of  Independence says that when governments act in ways that threaten people, “it is [the People’s] right, it is their duty to throw off such Government and provide new [ways] for their future security.” Extinction Rebellion are patriots for the planet. Join us in fighting for life. 

Signed, Margaret Human, Jim Gordon, Steve Greenfield, Soojin Son, Anna Sones, Galo Vasquez, et. al..