From Anti-Problem to Pro-Solution

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Tompkins Weekly 6-23-14

By Bob Rossi

The culture of activism is changing from problems to solutions. One vivid example is New York’s anti-fracking movement, which has more recently focused on solutions like renewable energy for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. In the Finger Lakes region, hydrofracking would be especially damaging to the wineries and local food producers that form the backbone of our local economy. To explore energy solutions that protect our food system, the Sustainable Enterprise & Entrepreneur Network (The SEEN) is collaborating with New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF) to host a special event on Thursday, June 26th: “Celebrate Finger Lakes Food!”

Why does it take years to unite around a positive solution? For starters, it’s quicker and easier to galvanize an army against a common enemy. It can also take years to identify which solution is most effective, affordable, and appropriate for the community. Our most passionate citizens shouting from megaphones on the front lines are buying time for scientists, policy-makers, planners, businesses, and others to invent or refine solutions that our whole community can then rally behind.

In New York, the continued fracking standoff has seen strides in renewable energy technology and the recent launch of NYSERDA’s Green Bank, leveraging 1 billion dollars to capitalize on renewable projects. Says David McKinley, Director of Marketing for Renovus Energy, “It’s remarkable to see renewable energy solutions evolve past passionate and into practical. These are mature technologies and are saving people money right now.” These technologies are also becoming more accessible. According to Jon Harrod, President of Snug Planet, “Prices of solar panels have dropped dramatically. We’re seeing energy-saving innovations in building materials, mechanical systems, home electronics, even plumbing fixtures.”

While we celebrate these solutions, we must continue the uphill battles. Just one lake over, in Schuyler County, Texas-based Crestwood Midstream is proposing one of the largest gas storage and transport hubs in the Northeastern US. Gas Free Seneca’s co-founder Yvonne Taylor points out, “Schuyler County is just south of Yates County, the largest agricultural producer in New York State. The volatile organic compounds created by the truck emissions from this project would be harmful to crops, especially grapes. Do we want to threaten the food basket of New York with this kind of industrialization?”

Sadly, some feel it’s worth it. On Monday June 9th, Schuyler County Legislature voted 5-3 in favor of a resolution to support gas storage. This situation keeps evolving. Scientist and activist Sandra Steingraber will provide an update at Thursday’s event. Permitting is up to the DEC, so this vote is a symbolic gesture that Yvonne Taylor points out has revealed exactly who among the legislature “will listen to the constituents and local business owners in the region.”

Since small businesses help drive economic growth, the growing number of businesses in our region that openly oppose hydrofracking and gas storage projects is becoming increasingly hard for policy-makers to ignore if they wish to remain in office. It is critical that businesses represent.

The SEEN is a local business network united around the belief that business, if done conscientiously, can have a positive impact on our community and natural environment. The SEEN offers programming to help members thrive and hosts quarterly events related to building an equitable, sustainable economy.

Please join us 6pm this Thursday, June 26th at GreenStar’s new venue: The Space. We will celebrate Finger Lakes food and learn how we and our businesses can unite to protect our local food system from the threat of hydrofracking by embracing renewable energy solutions. Sarah Kelsen, NYAF’s Finger Lakes Regional Organizer, reminds us that “clean air, fresh water, and beautiful vistas are fundamental to the Finger Lakes economies, including the booming wine industry, the growing tourism sector, and our incredible bounty of local food producers.”

On Thursday, we will hear from activists, scientists, elected officials, and local food and energy professionals. There will be a small marketplace of food vendors. Enjoy live music including Central New York’s musician and activist Colleen Kattau. For the full lineup and event schedule, please visit or find the event “Celebrate Finger Lakes Food” on the SEEN Facebook page.

Special thanks to event sponsors: Renovus Energy, Snug Planet, and PPM Homes. Renovus Energy is a full scale renewable energy company that designs and installs solar p/v, solar thermal, wind power, and high efficiency HVAC systems. Snug Planet is an award-winning contracting company offering free/reduced cost energy audits and residential and commercial insulation services. PPM Homes is a property management company that helps building owners improve their systems to be more reliable and energy efficient. For more:,,

Bob Rossi is the Director of the SEEN and founder of the CommonSpot, a social enterprise incubator on the Ithaca Commons.

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