On March 22, NYSNA member Nella Pineda-Marcon, BSN, RN-BC submitted written testimony in support of New York City’s Green Healthy Schools campaign. NYSNA is a member of the Climate Works for All Coalition, which helped coordinate the submission of testimony for a preliminary budget hearing on governmental operations. The testimony is below.
My name is Nella Pineda-Marcon and I work as a nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West. I am also a proud union member of the New York State Nurses Association. I serve as a Director at Large (Secretary) and am Chair of our Climate & Environmental Justice Committee. NYSNA represents 42,000 nurses across New York State, including 25,000 RNs in New York City. This includes nurses in all the city’s public hospitals.
As nurses on the frontlines of patient care, we have seen up close the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 67,000 people in New York City have died and countless others have been left wounded, physically and emotionally. We have seen the deep impact that the pandemic has had on low-income communities of color. The disparities are all-encompassing, affecting marginalized communities physically, mentally, and economically. We know that this is just a preview of what lies ahead if we do not take climate change seriously. It is critical that we heed the warning.
Climate Impacts Patient Health
In fact, we have already seen the destruction that climate change and environmental degradation has had on the health of our patients. Increases in heat have contributed to an increase in hypertension. Pollutants are being discharged into our city air, causing a steady increase in chronic asthma conditions in our most vulnerable communities. In addition, these communities also face environmental injustices like contaminated water supplies and tainted soil. They are also the ones that are usually hit the hardest by catastrophic events such as Superstorm Sandy. This is not OK.
We are proud members of the Climate Works for All coalition, a coalition of unions, climate and environmental justice organizations, and advocacy groups. We fully endorse the Green Healthy Schools campaign. Investing $14.5 billion by 2030 (an annual investment of $1.8 billion over the next 8 years) to install solar panels and do deep retrofits will go far in combatting pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In doing this we would want to prioritize those schools located in environmental justice communities. This undertaking would create many good, green, career jobs. We would want the hiring process to put emphasis on those that are traditionally marginalized, such as women, immigrants and people of color.
As nurses we are always making the link between climate and environmental justice and public health. The installation of HVACs in schools is incredibly important. These do not only create cleaner air but increase ventilation that can mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. This has become an even more significant need as we see the lifting of critical protections taking place, such as masking.
Ultimately the Green Healthy Schools roadmap will be a huge driver for NYC to achieve its climate goals. NYC Public schools are known to be some of the largest polluters and account for 25% of all city-owned buildings. Solar panel installations will cut carbon emission by at least 50%.
We must treat this climate crisis like the emergency it is. We must do better for our children, our patients, and our communities. This plan is a solid step forward for the sustainability of New York City and the health of its residents. We also have an opportunity to act as a catalyst for our state, the country, and the world.
Thank you for your time and consideration today.