Earth Day 2015: Voices Past, Voices Present

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Tompkins Weekly 4-13-15

By Joey Diana Gates and Susan A. Weiner

In honor of the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, Sustainable Tompkins will again host the Earth Day Ithaca celebration on Sunday, April 19, from Noon to 8PM, bringing the community together for a day of education, celebration and eco-activism.

This year the event is co-sponsored by a Tompkins County Community Celebrations Grant and GreenStar Cooperative Market, and will be held at The Space (at GreenStar,) one of the greenest structures in town, featuring local inspirational speakers, musicians, poets, earth-friendly exhibitors, and more. This year the program has been expanded to include the Earth Jam/Poetry Slam, with the voices of today’s poets, rappers, and small music acts to perform 10-minute sets.

Do you remember your first Earth Day? How did you celebrate? This year, community members are invited to contribute their past Earth Day experiences. Perhaps you worked on environmental issues and have a story to tell. Please contact us so that these invaluable memories can be displayed in media form and shared at the celebration and join us for this educational, impactful, and super fun event as we celebrate Earth Day Ithaca-Style!

Looking back, Gerald Torres, Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law at Cornell University and Vice Board Chair of the Earth Day Network, tells us that Earth Day, “…did not spring up overnight. It was built on the ferment in American politics of the day, on the consciousness that was raised over the preceding decade beginning with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and on the emerging environmental ethos of the time. Senator Gaylord Nelson is largely credited with launching the idea of a national “environmental teach-in” to capture some of the energy of the anti-war movement and combined with Congressman Pete McCloskey to begin the planning. They hired a young law student Denis Hayes who assembled a staff of 85 and together they mobilized groups across the country to make the teach-in into Earth Day.”

Locally, Sandy Wold, Wally Woods, and Steve Calkins, now deceased, were the coordinators in the late 1990’s. Then as now, the celebration enjoyed strong community support. Wendy Skinner, founder of Sew Green, reflects on what Earth Day means to her. “For me personally, a comment by Sandra Steingraber was pivotal. She advised that everyone could participate in protecting the planet, utilizing the talents they already possess. My brief inventory included art and design, journalism, events management — and a long-buried interest in fashion. Valerie Rockney was similarly inspired and together we invented Reimagine Fashion and held a marvelously successful refashion contest, culminating in a show at the 2005 Ithaca Earth Day celebration. From that single initial event, SewGreen was soon born. Now eight years in existence, SewGreen comprises a retail reuse store for textiles, a sewing education program, youth apprenticeships and jobs for teens.”

Again per Gerald Torres, “Earth Day is no longer just an American event. It is now the largest non-religious holiday in the world.” Our local event will start with an opening ceremony by Travis Knapp, award-winning musician and organic farmer, as in tune with musical rhythms as he is with the rhythm of the seasons. A champion of environmental stewardship, Mayor Svante Myrick, will follow up with a talk on Ithaca’s latest initiatives. Mayor Myrick has brought recycling bins to Collegetown, opposes hydrofracking, and consistently advocates public transportation. Mark Dunlea of the Green Education and Legal Fund will present on the growing coalition behind the Campaign for 100% Green Energy in NYS by 2030.

Also sharing the celebration will be the People’s Choice ‘Signs of Sustainability’ Awards. Each year since 2006, Sustainable Tompkins has kept watch for “signs” of sustainable decision-making, practice and action emerging throughout our community. All told, 1,617 awards were given out between 2006 and 2013. This year the awardees will be selected through an online poll of community members who nominate those they believe made a contribution in the past year toward making ours a more sustainable and just community. Top vote getters for Individual, Youth, Organization, and Business categories will be announced at Earth Day Ithaca. (See for details.)

Other musical acts include Little Voices Music & Motion a children’s favorite, local activist Eric Banford and EcoArise!, the amazing duo of Angie Beeler and Leon Arguello, and newly debuting Rena Guinn and Friends. In community tradition, visitors can learn about sustainability-related education, services and products offered by local organizations and businesses that share Earth Day values, and enjoy food from Paulie’s Global Kitchen, which specializes in fine local and organic fare. More exhibitors are welcome, with sliding scale registration fees ranging from just $10.00 to $50.00.

At 5 pm, One Heart Drum Circle, an open drum circle based in Ithaca, will present a healing performance. Local drummers are welcome to bring their own drums, shakers, or bells and join in. At 6 pm, cheer on local performers as the Earth Jam/Poetry Slam begins. MC Errth Boy will usher in musicians, poets, singers, and rappers who will give voice to their feelings about the Earth and the issues surrounding its care. In the lineup are Melissa Tuckey, environmental educator Sasha Paris, Poco Bowers and the Young Voices; punk musician Jonathan Hausrath; poet Remstar who will present a sunset salute; singer/song writer and rapper Cozmic Theo, Greensprings Natural Cemetery Represents and wrapping up with Rudy Nuῆez, director of Howl Studios.

Would-be exhibitors are encouraged to reach out for more information and to reserve a spot. Information can be found at: Please contact Joey Diana Gates at or call (607) 644-5525, for more information.

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