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Reading Resources for The People’s Salon: Conversations that Matter to Your Future

This spring, Sustainable Tompkins will be hosting four conversation salons on the topic of climate change.  You can learn more about each topic by reading our weekly Signs of Sustainability column in the issue of Tompkins Weekly that comes out the same week as each salon.  You can also explore the topic by checking out some of the books, articles, and videos in the list below.  The list isn’t comprehensive of course, nor curated, but you can find a starting place at least for learning more about each session’s topic.

For those interested in learning about climate change, we invite you to scroll through a slide presentation on Global Warming Basics created by ST Board member Dick Franke and his wife Barbara Chasin.  Feel free to share with others who perhaps haven’t had the time to get familiar with the evidence and the chemistry of global warming.

April 17 Salon:  Why are we stuck in climate denial?

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The Climate, the Market, and the Commons

Climate change presents a troubling predicament.  Unlike the ozone hole, which was addressed relatively quickly, the threat of global warming continues to advance while humanity remains strangely paralyzed in responding to the various risks of climate impacts – even as those risks become certainties.  Maybe it is time we really talked this through.  

Sustainable Tompkins is launching The People’s Salon: Conversations that Matter to Your Future with a shared public inquiry into the climate dilemma.  “The Climate, the Market, and the Commons” will be the theme for a series of conversation salons held on Thursday evenings, 7-9 pm, on April 17, May 8, June 5, and June 19 at the Sustainability Center, 111 N. Albany St., Ithaca.

Lautrec salonWe face a complex global problem with no easy local solutions. Even though we will all pay the costs of climate change to some degree, most people are not active in efforts to protect our atmospheric Commons.  How can we change this dynamic?

Perhaps the place to start is to talk with each other and try to address some of the complexity we are facing.  We need to develop a better understanding of why we are so slow to respond, how the structure of our economy both creates the problem and offers solutions, and what (exactly) are we, The People, going to do about protecting our shared future.

At the salons, three speakers familiar with each topic will kick start the conversation before the audience is invited to share their own viewpoints, questions, speculations, and proposed actions.

At the opening salon on April 17, Nancy Menning (Philosophy & Religion) of Ithaca College, and Dave Wolfe (Horticulture) and Lauren Chambliss (Communication) of Cornell University, will outline some of our motivations for remaining in denial about climate change, and offer insights into how we might dismantle what seems to be a key barrier to mobilizing to slow climate change. Read more…

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The People’s Salon: Conversations that Matter to Your Future

 The Climate, The Market, and The Commons

 Thursdays at 7:00 pm, The Sustainability Center, 111 N. Albany, Ithaca

April 17:  Why are we stuck in climate denial?
May 8:      Can business and technology save us?
June 5:    Will government intervene?
June 19:    Is it up to the citizenry?

Every day, the planet reports in with another example of a climate in disarray.  Predictions of near and long-term damage to our economy, our health, and basic life necessities are growing louder and more alarming.  Yet, we seem strangely paralyzed in responding appropriately to the threat.

Russian salon


We need to talk.  We need to develop a better understanding of why we are so slow to respond, how the structure of our economy both creates the problem and offers solutions, and what (exactly) are we, The People, going to do about protecting our shared future.

The conversation salons will begin with brief sketches by thoughtful citizens of some of the main perspectives on each topic before we open up the discussion to all salon attendees.  Come prepared to listen, to be challenged, and to make your voice heard.  Watch for our column in Tompkins Weekly and on our website for a briefing on each salon’s topic.

For more information, email


Signs of Sustainability
Showdown at the Climate Corral

Tompkins Weekly 4-14-14

By Gay Nicholson

At the end of March, lines were drawn in the sand and gauntlets thrown down.  On the same day that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released their latest warning about the rapid escalation of climate disruption and its ever-widening impacts, ExxonMobil came out with a shareholder report assuring investors that it has every intention of extracting and selling their vast oil and gas reserves, and that they doubted any government would be willing to stop them.  It seems we have reached a showdown at the Climate Corral… and its not just ExxonMobil and the IPCC inside that arena. Read more…

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Spring into Sustainable Mobility!

Tompkins Weekly  4-7-14

By Chrisophia Somerfeldt

Have you ever wished you could do something radical—yet not overwhelming—about climate change? Here’s one idea: turn off your car. More specifically, turn off your ignition when parked and stop unnecessary idling. You can save money, reduce emissions and protect the health of kids, all at the same time. Read more…

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‘Ecotopia’ Society Was Ahead of Its Time

Tompkins Weekly 3-31-14

By Richard W. Franke

In 1975 a tiny company called Banyan Tree Books in Berkeley, California, published Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston. Twenty-five publishers had previously rejected the manuscript. This slim science fiction volume of 167 pages eventually sold over a million copies in twelve languages. More recent editions advertise it as “The first dramatic portrait of an ecologically sustainable society!” The author, Ernest Callenbach (1929−2012) claimed he got his ideas from reading Scientific American and Science magazines. Read more…

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How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally

By Miranda Phillips

With artic ice melting at great speed, and climate disruption happening a hundred years sooner than expected, climate change is promising to be the biggest challenge of the 21st century.  Not often talked about, at least in mainstream media, are the psychological and spiritual aspects of this challenge – among them, fear, guilt, and grief that make it difficult for us to act and act fast. Read more…

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Fracking: What Are We FOR?

 Fracking: We Know What We’re Against. What Are We FOR?
by Maura Stephens

As antifracktivists, we are often accused of being against fracking but not offering any alternatives to “natural” gas. That’s completely wrong. Our NO message is adamant and comprehensive, to be sure: Read more…

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Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers

by Derek Cabrera

What is the Crisis?

My colleagues and I surveyed the faculty of Cornell University to identify how scientists from different disciplines thought about the most pressing crises facing humanity[1]. Respondents brainstormed 116 diverse crises, sorted, and ranked them in terms of importance and solvability. We applied multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis to their answers to the simple question, “What is the crisis?” Read more…

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