Inspiration from a 12-Year-Old

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly           6-12-24

By Leo Walsh

My name is Leo, I am 12 years old, and I am a resident of Ithaca, NY.

My idea is to make the Ithaca Festival Parade a fossil fuel-free event, first focusing on clean energy sources for moving through the parade, meaning the parade participants would build their floats on wagons, bikes, electric vehicles, etc. or they could simply walk!

I acknowledge that many participants come from or build their floats out of town and must drive to the parade, which encourages them to build their float on their car and just drive through the parade.

Artwork by Leo Walsh. Image provided.

Those participants could bring their float in a car but would need to find a fossil fuel-free method of moving it.

I am sure there are some participants who might not have access to electric vehicles, but Bike Walk Tompkins and Ithaca Carshare support this campaign and could help with this problem.  Those participants could consider people-powered options.

You might be wondering, “What about the Fire and Police Departments, who use their signature vehicles as floats?” I don’t know if either of them has eco-friendly options, so maybe they will be the exception to the rule, or maybe they will decide to join us on their feet. I believe this could also promote the Ithaca Fest as having one of the only fossil fuel-free parades in the U.S.

But most importantly we must change our ways, just because things have been a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the right way. For example, us humans have been eating meat for so long maybe we have forgotten to be grateful to the animals we consume and forgotten that we can survive without using so much land for meat farming. But it’s true in some cases that the old-fashioned way was better,

(before humans discovered fossil fuels).

In addition to the need to end carbon emissions, this is also a good idea because it will make the parade more enjoyable for viewers and participants. I have been in the parade before, and I know it is very unpleasant and unhealthy to walk behind a car and breathe in the exhaust for an hour.

Climate change is the emergency that we caused so we should try to clean it up, even smaller acts like changing the parade could influence other cities or inspire somebody else to have an idea, so every act counts.

I collected signatures from people around town including members of… Extinction Rebellion Ithaca, Northern Lights Youth Activism Club, and Bike Walk Tompkins, then sent them to the organizers of the parade along with a letter. They invited me to attend one of their Board meetings to help plan next year’s parade. I hope to bring supporters of all ages with me.

If you wish to come to this meeting or get involved, please contact me at:

Leo Walsh is 12 years old and is a member of an activist group called Extinction Rebellion Ithaca, mostly focused on getting Chase Bank to divest from oil drilling on indigenous land. He also likes drawing and games.

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles