New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) held a Fall Student Empowerment Conference on Oct. 29 for the “Making Polluters Pay: A Conversation with Rep. Jamaal Bowman” panel.
The conference was held via Zoom, where student journalists asked United States Representative Jamaal Bowman of the 16th Congressional District questions regarding the climate crisis and how students can lead the movement.
NYPIRG is a research group in New York that has been providing, “a unique service of supplementary learning and provided countless students with an enriching and rewarding experience,” since 1973 reads the groups website.
Their mission is to, “give students an array of extracurricular activities and opportunities to participate in important public policy discussions, through which they can learn a wide range of valuable skills, contributing to a well-rounded educational experience.”
Students get the opportunity to work with professional NYPIRG staff and together assist in leading projects and campaigns.
“Making Polluters Pay: A Conversation with Rep. Jamaal Bowman,” was the first of three panels for the day. The conversation focused on Rep. Bowmans Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act.
“For decades, the country’s largest fossil fuel corporations misled the public about their knowledge of climate change. With today’s students staring down the worst effects of the crisis, it is time that the companies that created and hid this crisis pay to combat climate chaos,” reads the panel handout.
“During this discussion on environmental justice, student journalists from across the state will interview New York Congressional Representative Jamaal Bowman about what is happening at the federal level, the fight for corporate accountability, and what grassroots advocates can do to take on and defeat some of the most powerful interests in the world,” describes NYPIRG.
The panel consisted of three student journalists; Radwan Farraj, Staff Writer for The Brooklyn College Vanguard; Richard Perrins, Assistant News Editor for The Daily Orange out of Syracuse; and Zoe Woolrich, News Editor for The New Paltz Oracle and was moderated by NYPIRG Project Coordinator at the Hunter College Chapter, Ayesha Schmitt.
Questions were discussed between student journalists and Project Coordinator Ethan Gormley on Oct. 22 and finalized on Oct. 26. Representative Bowman was asked the six finalized questions, two per student journalist, and answered them all in the 30 minutes of allotted time provided.
Some questions asked were as follows: “What are opponents to the Make Polluters Pay concept arguing, and how can this Make Polluters Pay concept ensure that polluters are not able to shift additional costs or penalties on to consumers? Lastly, have you found much support from your colleagues,” asked Perrins.
“Looking at the communities that have been most affected by climate change and pollution for decades, how can we ensure that the communities most damaged by polluters are being looked out for and focused on in the fight against climate change? Have you seen or worked with communities who have been most affected by climate change and pollution?” asked Woolrich.
“What role do CUNY, SUNY, and independent university students have in addressing the climate crisis, making polluters pay, and advancing your work on this issue,” asked Farraj.
Following the panel each student was asked to join a breakout session of their choosing. Breakout Session 1: Updating New York’s Bottle Bill X Media Outreach; Breakout Session 2: Dangers of Fossil Fuel Infrastructure X Relational Organizing and Breakout Session 3: Transforming Transit for Resiliency X Organizing 101. Each breakout session provided students with more information about NYPIRG campaigns and how to apply an organizing skill to the work done for said campaign.
The following panel, “Healthcare Needs in New York,” began at 2 p.m. and discussed: “With worsening economic inequality and a major public health catastrophe impacting the state, many students are concerned about access to health care and how they could possibly afford it. In this discussion, we will tackle the path to universal healthcare, the impacts of the pandemic on students’ mental health, and health services on college campuses,” reads the description provided by NYPIRG.
This panel was also followed by three breakout groups. Breakout Session 1: Public Health Advocacy X The Power of Narratives; Breakout Session 2: The Intersection of Higher Education and Health X Social Media; Breakout Session 3: New York Health Act X Coalition Building.
Following this panel was the third and final panel of the day entitled, “Election Day 2021: Redistricting on the Back of the Ballot” held at 4 p.m.
“Voting has begun in New York. While voters weigh the candidates for local offices, there are also five important questions on the back of the ballot. Voters will approve or disapprove five changes to the State Constitution. The most controversial is one that changes New York’s redistricting process. Join the conversation on the pros and cons of the proposal with NYPIRG’s Blair Horner (pro) and the League of Women Voters’ Jennifer Wilson (con) as the discuss Ballot Proposal #1,” reads the description.