Students Lead Town Hall with Senator

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal answered questions about climate and environmental issues posed by Loomis Chaffee students on March 30 during a Youth Climate and Environment Virtual Town Hall hosted by the school and attended by more than 200 students, teachers, and other guests from high schools and middle schools across Connecticut.

The event was jointly organized by Loomis Chaffee Climate Action, the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Blumenthal thanked students for the hands-on work they have been doing to enact change. He noted that environmental laws and enforcement of those laws are not enough to meet the climate and environmental challenges at hand. From earlier efforts to stop pipelines in Long Island Sound to the preservation of open spaces, Sen. Blumenthal noted, “activism and advocacy from everyday Americans, ordinary citizens made all the difference in the world.”

Asked about the government’s role in addressing climate and environmental crises, Sen. Blumenthal responded, “I think the government has a moral responsibility. … We are talking about saving our planet … and the people who inhabit it.” He emphasized that the government has a responsibility to all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status. That ideal, he explained, is the motivating force behind the Environmental Justice Act for All, which, among many initiatives, would provide funding sources for communities in transition from energy sources that create greenhouse gases to those that do not and would enable residents to sue entities that use federal funds and engage in environmental discrimination.

The senator also spoke about the challenge of building consensus in the United States about climate change. He said consensus and bipartisanship on this issue are possible, noting that in Connecticut and other states, both Republicans and Democrats support environmental activism to combat climate change. He contended that partisanship about the issue at the federal level comes from the Republican party in Congress. He also noted, however, that progress on climate and environmental issues requires both parties to create legislation that acknowledges the economic impact of environmental policies on various industries and offers positive alternatives for jobs lost.

Sen. Blumenthal went on to address questions about environmental racism; the economic model of energy grids and energy price-gauging; and the power of climate emergency declarations on the local, state, and federal levels. Responding to a question about the food industry’s negative impact on the environment, Sen. Blumenthal noted that meat, milk, and egg production alone account for 14.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. He encouraged students to focus “very, very intently on these food issues,” because young people not only control what they eat, but also can influence what their parents buy. He also put responsibility on the government to redirect its agricultural investment to environmentally friendly and healthy agriculture.

The six students who led the discussion were juniors Jordan Korn and Ryan Fortani and seniors Simone Moales, Charlie Morrison, Sophie Rodner, and Karishma Lawrence. The panelists are involved in a wide range of student leadership roles on campus, including service as environmental proctors and  membership in Loomis Chaffee Climate Action, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, the Pan Asian Student Association, PRISM (People Rising in Support of Multiculturalism), and the Loomis Chaffee ESG Fund, a fund that focuses a portion of the school’s endowment on advancing environmental, social, and corporate governance within the companies in which the school invests.

“This event is a great example of our students’ efforts at becoming more engaged citizens,” said Eric LaForest, the Keller Family Director of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good. “I am really proud of our students for their engagement and leadership, and I know that this event and all of their other efforts will continue to shape our school culture and inspire younger students to advance the cause and find their own causes in the months and years to come.”

Watch the recording of the Youth Climate and Environment Virtual Town Hall with Sen. Blumenthal.