"The world belongs to those who show up," said Herb Engman, a town of Ithaca board member, newly elected Ithaca town supervisor and a retired senior extension associate at Cornell, addressing the several dozen people who showed up, Nov. 3, for the Step It Up! rally. The rally, which was nationally coordinated to raise awareness on climate change issues, was one of hundreds across the country, including another one in Ithaca at the same time at Tutelo Park.
The purpose of the rally was to garner more support to urge Congress to create 5 million new jobs in the development of green technology and new green forms of energy; to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050; and to have an immediate moratorium on coal-fired power plants, which significantly contribute to pollution.
"We can't keep thinking someone else is going to take action," said Maiken Winter, a trainee of Al Gore's Climate Project, visiting fellow at the Lab of Ornithology and the organizer of the event.
One problem with the climate change issue, said Tim Fahey, Cornell professor of natural resources, is that it is an "absent problem," meaning that our actions right now, though we may not realize it, will affect generations far into the future.
"How do we make an absent problem a current problem?" he asked. The answer, he said, is an educational campaign on the climate movement. "People may not realize they are causing suffering to others by driving and flying around the world," he said.
Engman urged the audience to have respect for the land. Citing a tenet of the Iroquois Confederacy, he said, "If you take something out of nature, you have to give something back." He also stressed the importance of action at the local level. He mentioned, for example, that the town board has been building trails and sidewalks to encourage commuters to bike and walk to work. He encouraged people to get involved by calling their local governments to express concerns or by volunteering locally.
The event also included art projects for children and a sing-along musical performance.
Julia Langer '08 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.