Dozens of local activists from Teaneck and surrounding communities united last week and marched through the streets of the township to push for a shift to renewable energy.
The “March to the Future” was held to garner support for a swift transition to clean energy at a time when most scientists and world leaders agree we are witnessing rapid climate change.
It also aimed to protest trains carrying Bakken crude oil through some of the most densely populated areas in the state.
Teaneck-based nonprofit Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, which celebrated its second anniversary this month, and 350NJ, a local affiliate of the global grassroots climate movement 350.org, organized the event.
Advocates began the march on the Cedar Lane Bridge overlooking the railroad tracks near Palisade Avenue and gathered steam as they carried signs, chanted, and sang songs along the way to the solar panels at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Protesters unfurled banners lettered with slogans such as “Grow green energy in the garden,” and “No, No, 1,000 times No, Bakken oil trains must be banned.” Some participants also held signs in remembrance of oil train derailments, such as the 2013 disaster in Lac-Mégantic, a small town in Quebec that killed 47 people and more recently, a derailment in Mosier, Ore. that resulted in an evacuation within a quarter-mile radius.
Still others displayed posters referring to the crude-oil hauling convoys as “bomb trains.”
After the group concluded its march and met in front of the school, Paula Rogovin, a Teaneck resident and co-founder of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, introduced the guest speakers in attendance.
Anu Hansen, who serves on the steering committee of 350NJ, addressed the crowd huddled under the solar panels and referenced a recent article in the New York Times that suggests climate change is a factor in the heavy rains and severe flooding that devastated parts of Louisiana this summer.
“Climate change is never going to announce itself by name,” Hansen read from the article. “But this is what we should expect it to look like.”
She also relayed an announcement last month by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that it will offer 23.8 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development, a statement that was met with booing from the crowd.
The lease sale was to be held in New Orleans the same day as the rally in Teaneck.
Other presenters included Amanda Nesheiwat, who serves as environmental director for Secaucus.
Nesheiwat said the establishment of green teams and environmental groups is a growing trend in many municipalities, and urged attendees to address their mayor and council and community leaders to talk about sustainability and clean energy.
“Sustainability is the solution to the problems municipalities face every day,” she said.
Secaucus has a number of plans in the works to move towards a shift to clean energy, she said, including the placement of free electric vehicle chargers around town to incentivize residents to purchase electric cars versus cars that run on fossil fuels.
Toni Granato, program assistant for the Sierra Club, also stressed the importance of investing in renewable energy and continuing to nudge legislators and local policymakers to move forward with wind and solar power.
“Wind can supply one-third of our electrical needs in New Jersey,” Granato said.
In fact, Rhode Island “beat us to it,” she said, as it just completed the installation of five offshore wind turbines.
Rosemary Dreger Carey, an organizer with 350NJ, noted the growing momentum for transitioning to sustainable energy comes at a crucial time with the upcoming election season.
She encouraged people to start a conversation with their friends and family members, and “support candidates who will work with the public to usher in a clean economy.”
Rogovin reflected on strides the coalition has made in the past two years and echoed the need for clean energy in a press release.
“We’re so excited to be celebrating the progress we’ve made in alerting the community about the risks and health hazards that these trains bring to our community, whether it’s the risk of explosion to those living in the blast zone, to contamination of our drinking water, or the diesel emissions from idling trains that cause respiratory and other ailments to people living nearby,” she said. “Diesel emissions are a known carcinogen. Given these known risks, we are calling for an immediate ban on these trains through our community and a rapid transition to renewable energy.”