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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thank You, Climate Hero

*This was originally published in The Ithacan on April 26, 2015

On April 20th, Heather Doyle plead guilty to her actions at Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export terminal in Lusby, Maryland on Feb. 3, in which she trespassed onto a construction site and scaled the arm of a crane to drop a banner that read, “Dominion get out. Don’t frack Maryland. No gas exports. Save Cove Point.”

Doyle, 31, did not accept probation and instead chose to go to jail. Judge John E. Nunn of the Calvert County Court sentenced Doyle 40 days, which she is now serving. In his statement the judge said he was sympathetic to the environmental movement, but did not understand why Doyle and her fellow crane-climber, Carling Sothoron, needed to scale construction equipment to make their point.

Writing letters and signing petitions only go so far, and in some cases, like Seneca Lake and Cove Point, our only remaining option is to speak with our bodies.

The following is a letter I wrote to Doyle. I wanted to share it on my blog to bring attention to her valiant efforts to protect what she loves, and her self sacrifice for a greater good. I hope sharing this will also bring attention to Dominion’s ill-fated intentions to construct the first LNG export facility on the East Coast.

An Uncertain Future

*This was originally published in The Ithacan on April 18th, 2015.

This blog post is about reproduction, overpopulation and climate change. All three are topics our society needs to become more comfortable with talking about. In the spirit of being more comfortable, I’m going to discuss a personal decision I made, openly, for everyone to read.

I grew up an only child, and I remember sporadically wishing out loud for a little brother. My parents never granted my wish — they ended up divorcing when I was 12 — but they did an awesome job with raising the one kid they did have, even after they split up.

From a young age, the kindness and devotion my parents gave to me inspired me. Like young girls often do, I planned how many kids I would have and what I would name them. While my opinion on baby names has changed over the years, one thing has always remained certain; I want to pay the love my parents showed me forward to a child.

My participation in the Great March for Climate Action over the course of five months changed my thoughts and perceptions on a lot of things. One thing I didn’t expect it to change was my firmly held plans about motherhood.

Syracuse University Divests

*This was originally published in The Ithacan on April 4th, 2015.

On the last day of March, Syracuse University announced it will be divesting — or withdrawing its endowment fund investments — from coal and other fossil fuel companies. The Orange Nation is joining a growing list of colleges and universities who are taking this step, in addition to municipalities, religious institutions, foundations and more.

The movement to divest has primarily been led by college students and broadcasted by environmental activist organization With hundreds of active student organizations across the country, sit-ins, marches and banner drops are becoming more and more common.

The City of Ithaca is on the list of municipalities who have divested, and the Park Foundation — an invaluable financial source for the Park School of Communications and Ithaca College as a whole — is among the list of divested foundations. The college, however, is nowhere to be found on 350’s “Divestment Commitments” list.

The college’s student organization aimed at pressuring administration to take this step, Divest IC, has faltered and become inactive. Without it, President Tom Rochon and the Board of Trustees are off the hook.

Justice Half Served

*This was originally published in The Ithacan on March 25, 2015

Dwain Wilder, Colleen Boland, Sandra Steingraber, Roland Micklem, Susan Mead, Judy Leaf, Jimmy Betts, John Dennis, Michael Clark and Kelsey Erickson. They all have at least two things in common. 1) They are outstanding and involved citizens in both their regional and global communities. 2) They went to jail for their efforts to protect Seneca Lake and expose the problems with Texas-based company Crestwood Midstream’s plan to store highly-pressurized gas in crumbling salt caverns.

Outstanding, involved, passionate and concerned citizens, going to jail. For a violation trespass — not a criminal trespass. They went to jail over something equivalent to a parking ticket.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Travel, Not Transit

This past weekend, I traveled to Selma, Ala. to attend the 50th anniversary events of the Selma to Montgomery march and do some independent reporting. To get there and back, I spent a whopping total of about 64 hours on buses and in bus stations, or about 2.5 days.

I chose to use buses for two main reasons: they are cheaper than flying, and they have a lower carbon footprint than flying.

But, isn’t it worth spending a little extra money to get to the destination faster, with less hassle? Is sacrificing time and comfort really worth minimizing abstract environmental impacts? This week-long adventure to Alabama and back, full of surprises and uncertainty around every corner, taught me that a positive, open state of mind makes all the difference.

Life After the March

*This post was originally published in The Ithacan on March 5

In my Principles and Practices of Sustainability class on Monday, we discussed ecological design. Toward the end of her presentation, my professor showed us pictures of a large factory building in the UK that had been repurposed into a sustainable community housing project called "BedZED." The average UK citizen lives a lifestyle that would require 3 earths in order for everyone to live that way. People who live in BedZED require 1.7 Earths.

As she flipped through pictures of the residents working together in a large kitchen, of the community dinners full of smiling faces and of people playing Frisbee together outside, my stomach knotted up.
“What do you think?” She asked. “Could you live there?”

There were little laughs around the room. Students raised their hands and expressed concerns about privacy and personal space.

“What happens if you don’t like someone? You can’t get away from them.”

I smiled to myself and thought, you work your problems out, face to face, and you love them anyways, just because they’re human.

It’s been over five months since the Climate March arrived in D.C. It’s been about two months since I came back to college, and I am still adjusting. Moments of restlessness hit me at least once a day. I never left the United States, and yet I seem to be experiencing something akin to culture shock.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cove Point protectors go to trial

Jimmy and I were standing off to the side of the hall, out of the way of foot traffic. We each had a shoulder leaned against the wall, and I had my hand on his arm as we leaned toward each other and talked quietly between ourselves. There was so much I wanted to say, but out of the corner of my eye I could see two security officers talking to each other and looking our way. Our time was short.

After some deliberation, one of the officers came over and interrupted our conversation.

“You two done here?"

It was hard not to respond with anger. I turned to the officer, still holding Jimmy’s arm.

“I’m about to leave, and I don’t know how long it will be before I see him again. We’re just saying goodbye.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy said. “I was just seeing her out.”

“Well, the door’s that way,” the officer pointed with one hand and put the other on his hip. He was unmoved.

Postponed ... Again

*This post was originally published in The Ithacan on Feb. 21

On Dec. 3 of last year, a tall 24-year-old Cornell University graduate with wild, curly blond hair was called up to the bench of Judge Raymond Berry in the Town of Reading. Kelsey Erickson was being accused of committing a violation trespass on Nov. 17 at the main gates of Crestwood Midstream, a gas storage company looking to store massive amounts of explosive gas in unstable salt caverns beneath the shores of Seneca Lake.

Left to right: John Abbe, Kelsey Erickson, Michael Clark, Jane Kendall, myself, and Jimmy Betts

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Find the Time

On Friday, after working seven hours downtown at The Ithaca Voice, I hiked up South Hill back to campus and walked straight into the Fitness Center. I removed my jewelry and tossed it into my backpack, pulled a harness on over my dress pants and got my belay certification at the rock wall.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oil workers on strike

Walking across the country is a great way to see some amazing and unforgettable scenery. But depending on the route you take, you may come across some horrifying sights.

My five-month journey on foot from New Mexico to Pennsylvania last year wasn't all New Mexico red rock and Colorado mountains and rolling Iowa hills. It also included walking alongside cattle feedlots, touring industrial parks and passing through oil refineries.

On September 9, 2014, the March left southeast Chicago and crossed from Illinois into Indiana at the very unceremonious "State Line Avenue" road sign. Almost instantly, it seemed, we emerged into the industrial belly that is Whiting, Ind. Barbed wire fences, large tankers with obscure contents, towering smokestacks billowing smog and a Super Wal-Mart to put the cherry on top.

Soon, we were walking through Whiting's BP oil refinery, BP's largest refinery and the sixth largest refinery in the United States. In 2012, BP agreed to pay $8 million for Clean Air Act violations at this refinery, according to Oil and Gas Online.