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Environmentalists: LI is ‘closest to problem’ of climate change

Eric Weltman, holding sign, at Sisters of Joseph

Eric Weltman, holding sign, at Sisters of Joseph on Sunday, June. 11, 2017, during a conference about climate change. Credit: James Carbone

Environmental activists and religious leaders on Sunday called on Long Islanders to work together to fight climate change.

Speakers at the Long Island Climate Resistance Summit said Nassau and Suffolk counties are especially vulnerable to the threats from climate change — including coastal erosion, rising sea levels and ocean acidification — and encouraged those “closest to the problem” to find solutions.

“If you want a future for your children and your grandchildren, we have to act,” Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of the environmental group New York Interfaith Power and Light, told the audience of about 150 people. “We are the first generation to confront climate change, and we are the last generation that can confront climate change.”

Organizers said they planned the event to help environmental groups collaborate after President Donald Trump proposed slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and announced he withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate change accord. Trump’s proposed budget would cut EPA spending by almost a third. He earlier this month announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accord.

Speakers also urged people to get involved in local government through signing petitions, voting and running for office.

The event, held at the Sisters of St. Joseph campus in Brentwood, featured workshops on government energy policies, alternative energy sources and tips for organizing activists.

Shavonne Smith, the environmental director of the Shinnecock Nation, said climate change is already impacting the “big maritime culture” of the East End because it is threatening water quality.

“There’s a whole neighboring community that depends on these resources as well,” Smith said, referring to towns neighboring the Shinnecock reservation. “Your neighbors need you to spread the word. We have our own work to do.”

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