Activists Talk about Reversing Climate Change and the Power of Grassroots Action at Sustainability Conference

By 2050 they’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum.

Montclair residents took steps to help prevent this dire prediction by educating themselves and listening to leaders of New Jersey’s environmental movement and U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill (D – 11th District) at the Northeast Earth Coalition 5th Annual Acting Locally for a More Sustainable World Conference on Saturday, January 25. The event, one of the largest environmental and community activist gatherings in Northern New Jersey, was held at Immaculate Conception Church in Montclair.

Rep. Sherrill, who is Chair of the Congressional Environment Subcommittee, spoke about investing in clean energy infrastructure and mitigating climate change by taking action at the local level.

“I love the fact that the theme of the conference this year is acting locally for a more sustainable world,” said Sherrill. “There are so many ways we can work here in our communities to protect our environment and promote sustainability. Community gardens are a perfect example, I know we have some urban growers here and active gardening groups throughout the district. Gardens reduce runoff, growing native plant species reduces harmful insects and pests and it also reduces water consumption and fertilizer. Urban agriculture is another way to reduce runoff, protect the environment, generate revenue and reduce the energy intensity of our food system. And they are good for our pollinators. These seem like small scale issues to some people, but they are incredibly important,” said Sherrill.

The congresswoman also said she loved Bike and Walk Montclair, which earned applause from attendees.

Jeff Tittel, senior chapter director, New Jersey Sierra Club, was the keynote speaker at the conference. He spoke about the urgent need for NJ Governor Phil Murphy to enact a moratorium on pending fossil fuel projects such as new gas power plants and gas pipelines. There are currently 17 of those projects under consideration.

“The future of our planet depends on what we do now,” said Tittel. “Many major changes have been achieved because of action at the grassroots level.”

Jeff Tittel
Jeff Tittel

Activists at the conference also spoke about local food, sustainable communities, alternative transportation, renewable energy, clean air and water, and climate change activism. Speakers included Jennifer Coffey, executive director, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions; Naima Penniman, internationally known poet, environmentalists and farming activist; Gray Russell, Montclair sustainability officer; Ted Glick, president of 350.org, an international organization that promotes renewable energy and Lyle Landon, co-chair, Montclair Environmental Commission.

Sherrill with Montclair Skateboard Park supporters.

Mayor Robert Jackson and 4th Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, M.D., helped bring the conference to Montclair. Other organizers included: Jose German, Anne Stires, David Wasmuth, Marcia Almeida, Greg Pason, Phil Yourish, Ellen Kelly, Tony Allen, Mary Scotti, Trina Paulus, and Nancy Taiani.

If you’re interested in preventing climate change, visit or contact the Northeast Earth Coalition.

Photos: Annette Batson