Environmental Justice Retreat Alum, Director, Speak at Press Conference

Environmental Justice Retreat Alum, Director, Speak at Press Conference

Tyra DeBoise at the podium, with Pam Arifian (right) looking on.
Photo by John Humphries

Tyra DeBoise, a three-time alum of the Conference's Environmental Justice For All! Retreat, and UCC Environmental Justice Center Director Pam Arifian, spoke at a press conference this week with Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and other labor, religious and environmental allies of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.

DeBoise is a member of the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church in New Haven, and will serve as a youth mentor at this year's retreat, taking place May 19-21 at Silver Lake Conference Center (information and registration here.)

"We discussed the importance of climate justice action, and promoted the upcoming March for Science and the People's Climate March in DC," Arifian said. "Why should our future generations suffer from our lack of climate action today?"

There are four satellite events for the March for Science taking place in Connecticut on April 22, in New Haven, Hartford, East Haddam and East Lyme. Information is here.

The People's Climate March in DC is taking place April 29, and a large contingent of UCC participants is expected. Those going are encouraged to RSVP here

The press conference received a good deal of media coverage, here:

Connecticut climate protection advocates see a future if people want it
New Haven Register, April 18

New Haveners To March For Science — And Jobs
New Haven Independent, April 19

Gearing up to march for science and the planet
WTNH, April 18

DeBoise's remarks:

Good Morning, Everyone.

I am Tyra DeBoise. I am a New Haven resident and attend New Haven Public Schools. For the past three years through my church, I have been a participant in  Environmental Justice for All, an educational retreat focused on gaining greater understanding of  the environment, climate and ecological issues and needs.  Throughout my life from my grandmother and my schools, I have been raised to conserve water and resources by recycling and learning that we share our planet.  I now know that  Environmental Justice means clean air,  water and atmosphere for EVERYONE- regardless of where they live and the color of their skin.

Climate change is REAL, and we have the solutions to make a better future for the next generation.

For a person of my generation who is learning to speak about these issues, it is very frightening and sad to see the progress made and the knowledge gained so easily and quickly destroyed. We need more knowledge and action - not less - to ensure a good quality of life for ALL people.

I am here today because of an excellent teacher and mentor for myself and many others. Pam Arifian through her work with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC is helping  future generations to be knowledgeable and to work towards being environmental justice leaders and advocates. 

Thank you, Ms. Pam.  

Arifian's remarks:

Thanks so much, Tyra. Good morning, my name is Pam Arifian. I am the Director of the United Church of Christ Northeast Environmental Justice Center, which is ministry of CT Conference of UCC. Our mission is to inspire and motivate individuals and communities to restore and sustain God’s Creation in ways that are responsible, faithful and just. The Retreat that Tyra referred to is one of the programs of the EJC, and it is work that I feel deeply honored to be doing.

As a member of the UCC, I believe that God created all of us, one human family, in God’s image. I believe that God also created this incredible planet, with it’s complex and beautiful interconnectedness, and that it is sacred, and belongs to our future generations. In the Bible, it is said that God gave humans dominion over Creation, and I believe our current reality of climate destruction and inequality is a manifestation of that dominion understood as “control over.”

Why should I get to breathe clean air in Northwest Connecticut while my friends in New Haven, or Bridgeport, or Hartford suffer disproportionate rates of asthma from the concentration of polluting industries in their zip codes? Why should I get to enjoy relatively abundant, clean water from my tap when others are being poisoned by theirs? When the water supply for millions is threatened by dirty energy infrastructure? Why should our future generations suffer because of our lack of climate action today?

Climate change is a container issue that will continue to exacerbate all other forms of injustice. It is linked with public health, racism, food and water security, womens’ rights, indigenous sovereignty, with refugees, and more. If we shift our understanding of our dominion over the earth as “responsibility for,” what would our world look like? Why wouldn’t do everything in our power now to create a just and sustainable world that honors all of our human family and the planet upon which we rely?

For all of these reasons, I am proud that the CTUCC and the UCC have identified climate change, racial justice and economic equity as top priorities for the church moving forward. 

I am marching at the People’s Climate March in Washington DC on April 29th because I believe that a new, regenerative economy, that supports a just and sustainable future is not only possible, but that it is essential, and already in the making.  

I’m here wearing a second hat today, that of a member of the Board of the Directors of the InterReligious EcoJustice Network. IREJN has been inspiring and empowering religious communities in CT to be faithful stewards of the earth for over 10 years. IREJN is proud to be a lead partner of the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, and has worked with the Roundtable and other allies to organize the CT Climate Train for the first People's Climate March in NY City.

There are so many ways of using our individual, unique gifts to show up for this work. In this season of rebirth and renewal, IREJN and the UCC Environmental Justice Center encourage people of faith across our state to organize their members to be bold witnesses and leaders in climate action. 

Thank you.
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