January 30, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 30°F


Commentary: Activists should unite for ecological change

One month ago, I sat in front of the White House, linking arms with half of a dozen other Ithaca College students and more than 20 Ithaca community members. We chanted “Stop the pipeline!” for hours as we watched 1,253 fellow activists get placed under arrest and stuffed into paddy wagons, one by one.

Ren Ostry

The day of our arrest was part of a month-long action to demand that President Barack Obama stop plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which James Hansen, a climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, called the largest carbon time bomb in history. If approved, the pipeline could emit 1.15 billion tons of greenhouse gasses in its lifetime. Add tar sands oil into the mix of fossil fuel monsters, and it’s game over. There is no way to reverse the impacts this would have on climate change. While the proposed pipeline will run from Alberta, Canada, down to Texas, upstate New York is still in grave danger. Methane gas, particularly gas found in the Marcellus Shale, is used to separate the pipeline’s oil from the sand after extraction. If Obama gives this project the green light, it will be unimaginably more difficult to fight fracking in New York state.

Phase two of our demand begins Sunday, exactly one year before next year’s presidential election. This weekend, environmental activists from across the country will go back to protest in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of activists will circle the White House, holding hands to show our power, our passion and our resilience — once again — to Obama. A large contingent of activists worked for the president in his first campaign, and most of us voted him into office. In this direct democracy, we put him into power and now it is time he heed our demand. That’s why we’re calling on more supporters to join us.

A Washington, D.C. police officer places junior Ren Ostry under arrest Sept. 2 at a Tar Sands Action demonstration. Ostry participated in civil disobedience to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline. Courtesy of Mitch Paine

Last week, actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo jumped on the people’s mic in Zuccotti Park to ask Occupy Wall Street activists to join him in D.C. this weekend. Two weeks before Ruffalo’s call to action, author and activist Bill McKibben addressed Wall Street saying, “I hope we can move, just for a day, Occupy Wall Street down to the White House.” Activists are connecting the dots to corporate greed and global degradation. More importantly, we’ve found new platforms to speak out and use nonviolence to voice our demands.

On campus, students and professors have been stepping up and plugging in like never before. We had our first Occupy Wall Street solidarity walkout and have continued to plan actions at Occupy Ithaca College General Assembly meetings each week. And with the anti-fracking rallies, the college Environmental Society’s Sustainability Day activities and the Environmental Leadership and Action Network’s haunted house, it has been a month of action for our college community. This is a call to action and a chance to bridge together movements and disparate communities once again.

The Ithaca contingency to D.C. will leave at noon Saturday from the Baker flagpole on Cornell University’s campus. We will leave D.C. at 7 p.m. the following day. Bus tickets are currently $10, but they’re going fast. Students and faculty can reserve seats at tinyurl.com/ithacatarsands.

For those who can’t make it to D.C. next weekend, they can donate to our transportation fund to help secure a second bus, which would help us bring more students and community members with us. For more information on donating funds, please contact me at the email address below and make checks out to KyotoNOW! Cornell.

Ren Ostry is a junior environmental studies major. Email her at rostry1@ithaca.edu