Ithaca Holds Climate Walk and Discussion

Over 100 Ithacans gathered downtown Sunday to walk in solidarity with the participants of the New York City People’s Climate March...

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Ithacans march through downtown for Ithaca’s People’s Climate March Sunday. Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Contributor
Ithacans march through downtown for Ithaca’s People’s Climate March Sunday. Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Contributor

By Noah Rankin, via the Cornell Daily Sun, 09/22/14

Over 100 Ithacans gathered downtown Sunday to walk in solidarity with the participants of the New York City People’s Climate March in order to spread local awareness about climate change.

The walk was followed by a discussion led by various community leaders.

The event began with a speech by Jeff Bercuvitz, president of consulting firm Community Innovations, which took place at First Presbyterian Church near Dewitt Park. Bercuvitz emphasized the importance of people of many faiths or no faith to come together with a “genuine spirit of possibility to say we’re waking up, we’re making noise, and we will not be ignored.”

This “waking up” to climate change was signified by several minutes of silence — mirroring the New York City march — which was then ended by the sound of a Shofar, a Jewish instrument made from the horn of a Kudu.

“A lot of people don’t really understand why we actually blow the Shofar,” Bercuvitz said. “We blow it to wake up, to wake up to the moment and with all due humility to think about what we can do to act and what we must do, not waiting for some divine intervention …. even if you’re already very active, what does it look like this week for you to be more fully awake to the reality of what probably everyone here knows is upon us.”

Following this, the congregation walked around the block of North Cayuga Street, East Buffalo Street, North Tioga Street and East Court Street, displaying banners and singing. Sheila Out, an Ithaca resident, said she thought the demonstration was a good alternative to those unable to attend the New York City event, especially for families.

“I didn’t want to sit on a bus for five hours each way to go to New York City, but I really care about this whole issue and I’m so glad that somebody organized this here in Ithaca,” Out said. “Friends of mine were here with their little kids. They’re being brought up right, educated about the issues from a young age.”

Samsuda Khem-nguad ’17 agreed that the local event was a good local show of support for the fight against climate change.

“I think this is good because some people might be critical about how everyone is driving their cars and taking buses to New York City, so it’s really good that we have a local thing,” she said. “I feel like [Cornellians] live close to a very ecologically-aware community and I wish we took more advantage of that.”

Bercuvitz said he hopes Cornell can continue to cultivate a positive, climate-friendly relationship with the local area, saying that the University is “one of the most important leaders among the country working on climate change.”

“There’s commitment to that from the top of the University, there’s some awareness of that for some students. But because of the buying power of Cornell and the quality of farmers we have here, there’s no other college campus that could compete with that,” Bercuvitz said.

After the march, some participants filtered into the First Presbyterian Church to discuss the community’s relationship to the climate change issue.

Linda Levine, a member of the Dryden town board, spoke to the group of the recent success seen in Dryden by passing anti-fracking legislation that she said caused ripples at the state level. According to Levine, the Tompkins area is full of people with skills to make change in environmental politics.

“I came up with this line in talking about our victory at the appellate court level — the highest court in New York State — which officially changed New York State law: we had the best legal minds that money could not buy,” Levine said. “Usually there are so many things we can do. We have writing skills, we have graphic skills and speaking and teaching…cinematography, photography. Whatever it is that you do, it can make a big difference.”

Herb Engman, Town of Ithaca Supervisor, said that he believes that even if the federal and state governments falter at addressing climate change, there is still “terribly important” work to be done at the local level.

“We really need to get the public’s attention to the issue of climate change,” he said. “Some of us locally have almost given up on the state and federal governments, because they just don’t seem to be responding and those we elect don’t seem to be working very hard to be solving these problems. …We’ll set the examples and we’ll get things going, and then try to drag the rest of the system kicking and screaming along with us.”

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