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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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do humans cause climate change? Let's vote.

Our country is currently being shaken to its core with ongoing social rights issues, like racial profiling and police brutality, unequal treatment of women, gay marriage and immigration. Can you imagine what would happen if our representatives sat down to vote on whether homosexuals are born with their sexuality or if they choose it? Or what if there was a vote deciding that, despite hard numbers clearly demonstrating women are paid less than men for the same work, this was not actually the case?

The idea is absurd. Votes are supposed to be taken when deciding on a course of action, not on choosing reality... right?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

53 miles to Ithaca

I remember my first day on the Climate March like it was yesterday. I was dropped off at the Taos visitor's center where I was to meet up with the Marchers, who were arriving into the city from their day's walk. Hail was falling from an angry grey sky and the cold wind bit right through my clothes. I went inside the visitor center to take shelter while I waited.

...Then they fight, and then we win

*Originally published in The Ithacan on December 23rd, 2014

My lungs burned from climbing up the quarter mile of stairs, and the cold December air I inhaled soothed them momentarily, but then intensified the fire as I exhaled.

I smiled as I came around the corner of the gorge wall, the distant rumbling I had been hearing erupted into a gushing roar as Lucifer Falls came into sight. With a sigh I leaned against the icy wall of the trail, which wound along the cliff faces like Ithaca’s version of the Great Wall of China. The spray of Lucifer Falls that landed on the gorge walls froze in brilliant swirling ice sculptures, fashioned by the hand of nature herself. Thousands of feet below me, the water crashed into a lovely aquamarine pool, a chilly mist rising off the surface.

I took another deep breath, enjoying the sting of the frigid air. If things had gone as I planned this week, I’d be in jail right now, not enjoying a hike in Robert Treman State Park. The longer We Are Seneca Lake’s campaign to stop Crestwood Midstream’s ill-fated project to store methane along the lake’s western shore drags into the winter, the stranger our court proceedings get. Just two weeks ago, if I had gone before the judge, I’d surely be in the slammer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Learning the Jails

I've never had much experience with jails. I was briefly introduced to a holding cell in Washington D.C.'s Anacostia police station in March of this year after refusing to move from the White House sidewalk while protesting the KXL Pipeline. I stood in there for ten minutes with five other female college students before I was processed and released.

However, I now find myself quickly becoming familiarized with the procedures and expectations of Schuyler, Chemung, and Yates County Jails as the We Are Seneca Lake civil disobedience campaign continues into December.