April Ryles / Sun File Photo

The word "Excelsior" — New York's official motto, meaning "ever upward" — is inscribed above the entrance to Mann Library (pictured). The library serves two of Cornell's contract colleges — CALS and human ecology.

February 12, 2017

Call-A-Thon Pressures Legislators on Climate Change, Immigration

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Cornell students had a firsthand look at the democratic process as they called their representatives Friday afternoon to express concerns over President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban on Muslims and threats against the EPA.

“It is especially important now for Cornell to take a strong, unequivocal stance against all kinds of injustice: scientific, social and climate,” said Gabriela Vega ’19. “Cornell must divest its endowment from fossil fuels and make a bold commitment to carbon neutrality.”

Vega added that she hopes calling legislators will help resist the anti-climate and anti-science foundations of the Trump administration.

“The central idea behind climate justice is that climate change is a social justice issue,” Vega said. “The burden of its consequences are unfairly placed on the shoulders of communities that contribute the least to carbon emissions and that have the least agency to resist its onset.”

Climate change was not the only issue that the group was concerned about. They also called their representatives about President Trump’s anti-immigration stance.

“Trump’s Muslim ban executive order was the last straw for me,” said Elizabeth Chi ’18, president of Climate Justice Cornell — the group that organized the event. “His racism doesn’t endanger me, an Asian American woman, as much as it would some other people of color, but it repulses and affects me nonetheless.”

“The way I see it, Trump’s Muslim ban was indicative, allegorical even, of the disdain and discrimination towards non-white, immigrant, non-Christian and minority lives that already exist in this country,” Vega added.

Climate Justice Cornell saw the call-a-thon as an accessible and efficient means of resistance for students.

“Whether people were there at the table or saw our Facebook event, we thought it was important to do something that isn’t immensely difficult for voicing dissent,” Vega said. “While protesting and marches are great, it is ableist to expect all to be able to come out in support.”

Knowing that representatives are required to keep records of constituent opinions, Climate Justice Cornell asked participants to call their local representatives and senators to voice dissent, even if they had never done it before.

“For many people, it was the first time that they called their representatives. Many of those people were nervous at first, but after they called, they generally seemed empowered and happy about it. We were glad to be able encourage them to do it for the first time,” Vega said.

Vega hoped that the call-a-thon would inspire students to contact their representatives whenever they saw injustice.

“We hope that Cornell students remember that it’s necessary to take concrete actions,” Vega said. “There are people who do not have the luxury or privilege of deciding whether they have time to fight for their rights; for many, it is not a matter of choice but of survival.”