As the United Nations World Meteorological Organization warns that the Earth continues to somersault towards irreversible climate change consequences — Cornellians are composting their food scraps to minimize their carbon footprint. When food ends up in landfills, it has the potential to emit methane, a greenhouse gas — which contributes to global warming.
As people continue to huddle indoors, avoiding their usual daily commute to work and school, it is inevitable that humans’ dramatic new relationship with the world would have a major impact on the state of the environment.
Another Earth Day has come and gone. The lengthy Instagram stories of natural wonders have timed out and with their expiration has also gone most of the Earth-friendly sentiment they delivered for a day. Some of my friends in the Ecology House, where I live, complain about people who give the Earth shoutouts over social media on Earth Day but only continue with the same wasteful lifestyles the next. While I have noticed this phenomenon with certain people, it’s not the biggest problem I see with Earth Day. The holiday celebrates our planet and advocates better treatment of it, but it also ignores our treatment of Earth’s cherished non-human constituents.
On a breezy Thursday afternoon, I breathed in the brisk spring air as I took my routine walk across the Ag Quad to Trillium for lunch. With a hurried pace and pumping heart, I mentally prepared to re-enact the Hunger Games in order to secure a spot in the line for the burrito station and a highly coveted seat. Before I could reach Trillium, however, something peculiar stopped me in my tracks. Tucked in a corner of the Ag Quad were clusters of people bouncing between a row of small tents. I immediately recounted the dreamy, warm days of early September, spent having leisurely lunches with friends while sprawled across red checkered picnic blankets on the grassy quad. The Cornell Farmers Market was back for spring, and I could not have been happier.
The EICDA addresses carbon pricing, a sustainability measure that the IPCC deemed necessary to reduce carbon emissions in a recent report. This is expected to create 2.1 million jobs and higher quality air. The bill also features a component to promote domestic growth.
As the Ivy League institution that is ranked number one in the country for sustainability according to the Princeton Review, it is no surprise that Cornell goes all out for Earth Day. So much so, in fact, that the entire month of April has been dubbed “Sustainability Month” for the 10th year in a row. Upwards of 80 events have been held in various locations around campus over the past month — from lectures, to film showings to fashion shows — all committed to spreading awareness about environmental issues and future directions for sustainability. One of the most successful events included “ECOuture,” a fashion show hosted by the Cornell Environmental Collective that took place on Saturday. The show displayed clothing made from completely sustainable materials in order to shed light on the social and environmental justice issues embedded in the clothing industry.
I grew up in Ithaca, graduated from Cornell 34 years ago, and return this weekend to participate in the Ivy Policy Conference which concludes on Sunday, the 48th Earth Day. That confluence of personal, educational, professional and societal milestones gives one pause to consider just how much I personally, and we collectively, have learned about the health of the planet, and about our ability — and most importantly our interest — to help it. The dire situation that the planet is in peril is not in question. Human caused climate change is a fact (sorry, fake news enthusiasts), and it is causing increasingly costly impacts on everything from agriculture, to forest health, to human health. That is not to say greenhouse gas emissions and global warming is the only environmental crisis: plastic pollution killing marine species; dumping water and air toxics in predominantly poor and minority areas; our addiction to pesticides; and our seemingly obsessive fixation on consumerism, are but a few of the other challenges we face.
Students from approximately 20 different campus sustainability organizations set up tables on Ho Plaza yesterday, offering information, educational activities and free giveaways to a large congregation of passing students and staff in honor of Earth Day.