Hundreds of demonstrators demanded action on climate change from the Trump administration as they filled the Downtown Ithaca Commons Saturday morning in Ithaca’s Climate March in tandem with climate marches across the country.
Cornellians added their voices to the mix, both in Ithaca and in Washington, D.C.
The march, occurring one week after Earth Day, was held on Trump’s 100th day in office to protest “his attacks on our climate, our air, and our water,” according to the group’s page.
Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho climate change has got to go” rang out from demonstrators of all ages as they marched down the Ithaca Commons from the rally to The Space at GreenStar.
During those first 100 days, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to roll back Obama-era regulations on fossil fuels, seeming to many that the Trump administration is prioritizing economic growth over environmental concerns, according to CNN.
The event began with a statement by Gay Nicholson, president of Sustainable Tompkins.
“We are here to fight grave injustices,” she said. “We can’t just leave it all to a few reps and activists … This problem is just too big. We need an immense movement that stays engaged.”
Nicholson was joined by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125), who voiced her concerns for environmental action and past legislation — action that she said has not addressed the issues effectively.
“I was going to start by saying we need to stop meeting like this, but then I thought, no, we have to keep meeting like this,” she said, laughing.
“I think it’s important that we all get together, and see that we are not alone, we are all still very concerned, we are all still very energized, and we are all going to keep fighting together,” Lifton added.
Lifton discussed policy like New York’s ban on fracking, a process that produces enormous amounts of fugitive methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, which Lifton said is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in a twenty-year window.
She argued that this policy does not go far enough, since fossil fuel emissions still contribute to environmental decay. For Lifton, this ban ultimately shifted the problem to other states rather than finding a permanent solution.
“When we allow major pipelines and other major infrastructure to be built in New York, we are de facto encouraging fracking in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and other states,” she said.
“We must switch off fossil fuels. We must bring down methane and bring it down quickly because that fugitive methane goes into the atmosphere that we all share, and it doesn’t respect state boundaries.”
While the speakers made such statements during the rally, Ithacans waved protest signs reading “There is no Planet B,” “Pro Green, Anti Orange,” and “Warming Warning!” in the crowd.
Lifton added that immediate action is required not only on the national level, but the local as well.
“There will be no businesses, no jobs on a dead planet,” Lifton said. “Mother nature is not negotiating with us on this. Action here at the local level is especially important today. This is not high-tech, this is simply stopping the harm.”
One demonstrator in the crowd, Mary Woodsen, a science writer for Cornell’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, said that she was protesting because “the new normal isn’t normal.”
“There are so many people living in areas directly affected by climate change, and I feel like we’re going to see climate refugees someday,” Woodsen said. “I don’t know if I’ll still be alive, but chances are I will, and it horrifies me.”
Spirit of Protest Travels to Washington D.C.
While Ithacans flooded the Commons downtown, some Cornellians traveled to the nation’s capital to protest the Trump administration on its home turf.
Maya Chang Matunis ’20 described participating in the event as “invigorating.”
“I feel honored to have participated in the People’s Climate March in D.C. with my friends, fellow Cornell students, and hundreds of other Americans concerned about the future,” she said. “Marching on Saturday … made me feel powerful and useful, like part of a tide that, as so many signs at the march read, is steadily rising.”
Matunis said she observed that the ambiguity of climate change escalates when studied from an “ivory tower” — inspiring her to take to the streets of the nation’s capital.
“The issues are intertwined and tangled and messy, systemic and racialized, politicized and overwhelming,” she said. “However, it is more important than ever that we stay aware and alert, even when it seems difficult. It is more important than ever that we hold up the people around us, listen to and love them, and walk with them — metaphorically and physically — until we find solutions.”
Matija Jankovic ’20, who has been an active protester in Boston, agreed with Matunis’ sentiments, saying that he saw Saturday’s march as an opportunity to “contribute to political demonstrations in the spaces where they are most relevant.”
“Saturday’s march definitely stands out, in that it was actually taking place at the capital where so many of these environmentally destructive policies and initiatives are originating” he said. “I think it’s important that progressively-minded people maintain a political presence in public spaces, and even though events like Saturday’s march generally don’t result in immediate changes, they make the moods of the public visible.”
“Climate change is an incredibly important issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, so I’m glad that some of us from Cornell were able to make it down to D.C. to join the effort,” he added.