This Earth Day, the Cornell community is continuing its longstanding commitment to sustainability with climate awareness events across campus, Tompkins County and New York state.
On campus, the International Planning Student Organization is partnering with the Organization of Cornell Planners and the Women’s Planning Forum to host a 4:30 p.m. screening of “Once You Know,” a movie about climate change and how climate scientists are aiming to combat it by French filmmaker Emmanuel Capellin. A question and answer forum hosted by Dr. Susanne Moser, one of the four climate scientists featured in the film, will follow the screening.
In addition to the screening, IPSO, OCP and WPF will host an Earth Day festival with activities like Earth Day related ice breakers and a case competition on climate change solutions which will be held at Sibley Hall.
“We are trying to raise awareness by not just showing a film but also applying our resources together to come up with solutions for climate change issues,” said President of IPSO Swathi Suvarna ’23. “In our climate class, we study the importance of communities coming together to act upon policies and plans and effect real change, and as the saying goes, ‘change begins at home’ — in this case, Cornell.”
In another effort to increase climate awareness on campus, Cornell’s GreenClub will be hosting an Instagram giveaway and educational campaign as a pre-launch to their newest initiative, a carbon footprint calculator, which they hope will enable individuals to act on matters of climate change.
GreenClub team lead Demola Ogunnaike ’23 said he hopes Cornellians will educate themselves on climate change during the holiday while remaining optimistic about the future.
“We have one primary message for Earth Day,” Ogunnaike said. “Be optimistic about the future of the Earth. All of us can play a role in combating climate change. Collectively, small actions made by many individuals will make a huge difference.”
Many organizations hope their Earth Day activism can last well beyond those 24 hours. Climate Justice Cornell — an organization dedicated to promoting sustainability through student-run campaigns — has planned events advocating for environmental justice throughout the rest of April and beyond, focusing on learning about and advocating for legislation on climate issues.
On Earth Day, members of Climate Justice Cornell will attend a rally in Albany to support Climate Can’t Wait 2022: a package of legislation that includes 12 bills on climate action policies to be implemented by the state of New York. The event is open to all Cornellians, and transportation will be provided by CJC.
“I believe the most useful thing we can do as students is raise our voices to advocate for climate justice, in addition to seeking opportunities to learn about environmental justice and striving for personal growth,” said CJC General Body Organizer Laila Reimanis ’24.
In addition to student efforts, the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the College Scholar Program are hosting an Earth Day program that includes a visit by renowned environmentalist and photographer James Balog.
In Sept. 2020, Balog was named a Cornell A.D. White Professor-at-Large, a program that sponsors scholars and intellectuals with distinguished achievements in their fields to interact with the Cornell and Ithaca community in visits over a period of six years.
This Earth Day, Balog is sharing his photographs and films documenting climate change with the Cornell and Ithaca communities in a series of events. Throughout the week, Balog has visited middle and high schools in Tompkins County, hosted discussions with students at Cornell about his career and the issues surrounding climate change and held a public screening of his documentary “The Human Element” at Cinemapolis in the Commons.
On Earth Day, Balog will give a short presentation and participate in a panel discussion at Ithaca’s Paleontological Research Institution and Museum of the Earth. The discussion will focus on the current science and impacts of climate change.
College Scholar Program Director Prof. Michael Goldstein, psychology, helped nominate Balog for the position of A.D. White Professor-at-Large and said that Balog is special in how he ties together different fields on the issue of climate change to utilize the arts on a scientific issue.
“Mr. Balog intuitively figured out something that a lot of scientists do not understand –– that people are rarely convinced by a graph; they are convinced by an image that changes their emotions and motivations,” said Goldstein. “In his career as an artist and a scientist, he figured out that he can make a bigger difference by following his artistic impulses and documenting climate change.”
Aside from organized events, Cornellians are finding their own ways to celebrate Earth Day through enjoying nature. Aurora Weirens ’25 said she plans to go hammocking with friends.
But Nimra Shakoor ’23 and Sam Shvets ’24, co-directors of Cornell University Sustainable Design, hope students will remember to not only enjoy the outdoors but also commit to sustainability all throughout the year, not just on Earth Day.
“Earth Day is a great opportunity to get pumped up about sustainability, but it’s not the key to lasting impact,” Shakoor said. “Making a difference is all about small and steady changes to your day-to-day routine, not only one day of enthusiastic action a year.”