Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Climate Justice Activists participate in a demonstration in front of the Physical Sciences Building.

March 4, 2021

Activists Use Art To Raise Awareness For Climate and Community Investment Act

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Those who walked up the steps next to the Physical Sciences Building early Wednesday evening were in for a surprise — CCIA, the acronym for the Climate and Community Investment Act, was spelled out across the ground using climate advocacy art and posters, a mosaic of independent art contributions. 

Student climate activists said they hope this display will raise support for the CCIA, which will raise $15 billion each year by taxing corporate carbon dioxide emissions to create green jobs and sustainability projects, such as community-owned solar power and electric vehicle infrastructure, according to NY Renews. The CCIA will also provide financial assistance to the lowest-earning 60 percent of New Yorkers to pay for energy utilities.

“[The CCIA] addresses economic racial and environmental disparities, and that’s exactly what we need,” said Eva Milstein-Touesnard ’22, who had helped organize the display.

Activists Zasu Scott ’22 and Hannah Brodsky ’22 emphasized the importance of addressing the effects of climate change on marginalized communities. Milstein-Touesnard said she hopes that as people learn more about the CCIA, they will spread the word to their friends and family about the bill and write letters to their representatives.

“Corporate greed cannot decide our future,” Scott said. “We have been divesting from working class neighborhoods for decades, and we need to put our money where our mouth is. We can’t just talk about climate justice, we need to do it.” 

Scott is a member of Climate Justice Cornell, NY Renews and Sunrise Ithaca, while Brodsky is involved primarily with Climate Justice Cornell. 

“One of the great aspects of the CCIA is it takes money from people who are causing pollution and is redirecting it to communities that are affected, to address the impacts of climate change,” Brodsky said.

Eight students, including some affiliated with Climate Justice Cornell, worked together to assemble the mosaic. Milstein-Touesnard collected rocks to keep the posters from blowing away in the February wind, while Eric Gu ’23 took photos of the mosaic with a drone.

While Gu is not involved in climate activist groups on campus, he said he believes climate change is an important issue and was glad to have a chance to advocate for change.

Milstein-Touesnard, who is involved with Climate Justice Cornell, Sunrise Ithaca, NY Renews and Our Climate, coordinated the art display. While the display was originally planned for inside the Physical Sciences Building, the students decided to change course rather than disturb their studying peers.

“It’s not a protest. It’s more like a demonstration,” Milstein-Touesnard said. “The aim wasn’t to be super disruptive, because we’re not targeting the University. We’re targeting the state legislature.” 

The Wednesday demonstration stands in contrast to previous semesters — at past Climate Justice Cornell events, when organizers were protesting University actions, activists have occupied buildings and blocked roads to advocate for fossil fuel divestment.

Students from a variety of groups, including Climate Justice Cornell and the Sunrise Movement’s Ithaca chapter, as well as local high school students and Ithaca artists, contributed art for the display. Some submitted their art online, while others gave their art to Milstein-Touesnard in person.

Milstein-Touesnard and other organizers said they wanted to make this art action as safe as possible as the virus remains a risk, while also allowing as many people as possible to participate. A small number of organizers put the display together, while others submitted pieces of art.

“We can’t take direct action in the same way as we could in non-COVID times,” Brodsky said. “Art is a really great way to show our energy, and to allow people who are remote to participate.”