Queens lawmaker takes ‘Tuvalu Challenge’ delivering Earth Day address from the Rockaway surf

Tuvalu Challenge
State Senator James Sanders took the Tuvalu Challenge delivering his Earth Day address from the Rockaway surf. (Photo courtesy of Sanders’ office)

As promised, state Senator James Sanders took the Tuvalu Challenge and delivered an Earth Day speech on the significance of climate change while standing knee-deep in the Atlantic Ocean surf in Rockaway Beach.

Sanders drew his inspiration from a similar demonstration conducted in the South Pacific last November by Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe to raise awareness across the globe to the increasing threat of climate change.

Tuvalu Challenge
Sanders was inspired by a speech delivered by a Tuvalu government minister in the South Pacific last November. (Photo courtesy of Sanders’ office)

“Climate change is not simply just for a foreign country. Climate change is something that threatens all of us,” Sanders said while maintaining his balance in the waves. “We need to divest from fossil fuel and use more alternative energy like solar and geothermal and, of course, the power of the waves. We do not want to get swept up by this in the future. Why is this happening here? Because whatever is going to happen to New York City will happen here first.”

Sanders explained that he introduced the Green New Deal on the state level and that the city has a long-term plan to create clean energy. Watching from the shoreline at Beach 73rd Street were curious community members and Sanders’ colleagues in government, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, who noted the upcoming 10-year anniversary since Superstorm Sandy tore up the Rockaways.

Tuvalu Challenge
Community leaders and elected officials joined Sanders at Goldie Maple Academy in Far Rockaway for a tree planting. (Photo courtesy of Sanders’ office)

“It is important that we prioritize climate safety and fight back against environmental racism every step of the way and any which way we can,” Anderson said. “Senator Sanders’ leadership today in speaking about how climate change is impacting the quality of life on the peninsula is important. Flooding is becoming normal; the different weather pattern changes are becoming normal, and so is the quality of air continuously decreasing as we have airplanes flying over and air pollution. Also, Black communities are more likely to have environmental negatives.”

Tuvalu Challenge
Sanders and Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson cross shovels at the tree planting event. (Photo courtesy of Sanders’ office)

After taking the Tuvalu Challenge, Sanders emerged from the surf and joined community leaders in planting a Hackberry tree at the Goldie Maple Academy. Sanders said the tree would add beauty and help shade the park for the next 100 years and the tree they planted is the first of what will be 10,000 trees in District 10 as part of a new program he is initiating.

“It is always important to have trees in communities like ours since we are constantly fighting a chronic illness such as asthma,” Brooks-Powers said. “As someone who has asthma, continuing the effort to make New York a leading example to the rest of the world is important to me. We must make an effort to leave the environment in a better place than we currently have for kids around us.”