How Tompkins County Will Serve as a Model for Climate Action

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Ithaca Voice      2-18-16

By Jim Armstrong

Do we retreat into the shadows of fear, apathy, misunderstanding and a an “us vs. them” point of view where we insist we are apart from the natural world?

Or, do we enter a place of hope, positive action, innovation, and a “we are in this together” point of view where we realize we are part of the natural world?

Climate Changers chooses the latter.

A new project of the Center for Transformative ActionClimate Changers provides an uplifting online platform that highlights the many, many individuals across the planet who are taking concrete steps to not only reduce and reverse the negative impacts of climate change, but actually propel us toward a just and sustainable future.


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Through inspiring images and profiles, Climate Changers portrays the people who are making a difference in their daily habits, in their neighborhoods, through their work, and in government. By showcasing a plethora of diverse and replicable responses to climate change, while also inviting visitors to the site to interact with each other, Climate Changers fosters human-scale engagement for a global-scale movement.

The project puts a hopeful, human face on climate change and opens the door to everyone becoming a climate change agent.

Jim Armstrong is the founder and project director Climate Changers. In 1999, Jim founded Good for Business, a communications firm focused on developing purpose-led communications for socially-responsible businesses and organizations.

Jim says:

“Having worked in the world of communications, marketing and branding for most of my life, I realize how powerful words and images can be a force for good. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and it becomes a positive picture when the visual is real, human and uplifting.

“Likewise, true, informative and inspiring words can paint pictures in both hearts and minds of genuine hope and optimism. I’m taking this reverence for words and images and my knowledge and experience in communications and applying it to the climate change challenge.

The goal is to have the actions and individuals that Climate Changers features inform, inspire and ignite others to step forward and take action.”

Climate Changers is grateful that four graduate students at the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs took them on as their Capstone project. They developed a ‘Focus on the Future’ strategic plan that covered fundraising, operations and communications.

The plan will help make sure the voices of the individual Climate Changers represent a deep and real cross-section of humanity and that there is the staff and resources in place going forward to assure Climate Changers fulfills its purpose. The Capstone team of Shamir Shehab, Marcus Franklin, Allison Springer and Vincy Zhu brought vital international and diverse perspectives to the project.


Realizing climate change has no borders, Climate Changers is creating and sharing a diverse, international community of people making a difference. Actions can be big or small.

For example, the Director of Amazon Watch is using the power of storytelling to work at limiting fossil fuel extraction in sensitive regions like the Amazon.

The founder of Big: Blacks in Green is working on reducing greenhouse gas levels in black communities by increasing the rate at which neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained.

The Unilever CEO is committed to sourcing 100 percent of the company’s agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020.

A mother in Ecuador is planting trees to sequester carbon and uses an efficient brick stove with a chimney to reduce the need to cut down trees for fuel.

A computer programmer in Indiana shops at a re-use store.

A first grader takes her lunch to school everyday in a reusable, recyclable container.

Newlyweds join a CSA. A financial analyst constructs criteria for investment vehicles that will channel capital to sustainable water systems.

A prime minister embraces a policy to use 100% clean energy this year and establishes a Minister of Climate Change.

A scientist uses video games to help communicate the impact of climate change.

A tribal leader in South America helps make traditional knowledge of indigenous people an integral part of global climate change discourse.

A conservationist coaxes life from the mudflats of Mexico’s Colorado River Delta. A banker makes low carbon and climate resilient investments bankable in Africa.

A citizen in China convinces government officials to expand and enforce mining regulations that help lead to a region’s river flowing again.


Along with the international focus of Climate Changers comes a local element. The project aims to develop regional Climate Changers components as part of the networked online community. Tompkins County will serve as the pilot region for developing a prototype model for other regions.

The Tompkins County area is ideal for creating a prototype since so much activity is taking place here. The project envisions featuring the efforts of all individuals, organizations and businesses taking action, of which there are many.

Bike Walk Tompkins, Building Bridges, Center for Sustainable Action, Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development, Community Foundation, Cornell and Cornell Cooperative Extension, CurrentCast, EcoVillage, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Gas Free Seneca, Get Your Green Back Tompkins, the Floating Classroom, Groundswell, Ithaca College, Heat Smart Tompkins, Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Center, Ithaca Car Share, Learn@EcoVillage, Local First Ithaca, the Park Foundation, Renovous, ReUse Center, RIBS, Snug Planet, the Sustainability Center, Sustainable Tompkins, Tompkins Cortland Community College, SEEN, Taitem Engineering, Tompkins County Workers Center, Way2Go and Wide Awake Bakery are just a few local examples of Climate Changers candidates.

Local Climate Changers will be presented in a unified, consistent, compelling format that helps reveal their collective impact regarding climate change and serve as an innovative and inspiring model for other regions.

The project will also plan and present virtual summits and local, on-the-ground summits. These summits will strengthen the networked community and provide more focused and intense interaction, information sharing and collaboration catalyzing.

The first face-to-face summit will take place in the Finger Lakes/Tompkins County region and will also serve as a model for summits in other regions. Initially, annual summits are planned, but due to the urgency of climate change, more frequent virtual and on-the-ground summits will be developed. Both virtual and regional face-to face summits will be captured in report form.

Addressing climate change can be met with apathy, fear, hopelessness, anger and denial. The Yale Project on Climate Change report of November 2013 reveals 43% of Americans feel ‘helpless’, 42% feel ‘disgusted’ and 40% feel ‘sad’ about global warming. In contrast, 42% feel ‘hopeful’.

Climate Changers will build on the ‘hopeful’ group by providing them ideas and actions that will help transform their hope into reality. Climate Changers will help the person who feels helpless and sad by providing them with examples of how one person can make a difference —be it small or major — and that they can actually see themselves in that person.

They will see all kinds of people stepping forward in ways that result in greater impact and optimism. Here, individuals will incite others to change, creating ripple effects leading to positive waves of many people taking action because their belief in change is fortified.

Currently, a ‘pre-site’ has been designed to explain and show how the online resource will work. If you would like to know about Climate Changers, would like to be featured as a Climate Changers, or know of potential Climate Changers candidates, please contact Jim Armstrong or call 607.280.7476. If you would like to support the work of Climate Changers please visit our support page.

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or at home (607) 564-6129.

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