Posts tagged climate change

‘Talk of the Town’ Radio with Sustainable Tompkins

Local radio host Juliana Garcia invited ST’s President Gay Nicholson and Board Chair Tom Shelley to join her on February 15 for her weekly ‘Talk of the Town’ show on WVBR.  Listen here to check out our wide-ranging conversation about living more sustainably.

Soil Carbon Workshop Puts Emphasis on Whole Systems Solutions

Managing Wholes ElephantSustainable Tompkins is pleased to co-host a visit to Ithaca by Peter Donovan of the Soil Carbon Coalition from Thursday, February 6 to Sunday, February 9.  Peter is part of a movement to use systems thinking to help us “manage wholes” and find the right scale of intervention to solve problems.

We’ve all been involved in the many tasks of making our community more sustainable and resilient in the face of escalating change.  Everything we are all doing in green building, energy efficiency, resource conservation, and renewables is an essential part of taking responsibility for our shared future.

But we don’t often talk about the dirt under our feet, and affirm its primary role in helping to regulate atmospheric carbon and slow climate disruption.  Yet, a mass effort to move carbon from the air and into the soil is needed to decelerate the rate of planetary warming.  If we did this, we’d also rapidly address a number of linked problems as illustrated in our elephant friend.

We’ve been interested in adding soil carbon storage to our portfolio of climate protection projects for the Finger Lakes Climate Fund, and we’re looking forward to a wider conversation with farmers, land managers, developers, policymakers, and citizens interested in doing all we can to protect our climate.

We hope you will join us for the public lecture on February 6 up at Ithaca College, or the all-day workshop on February 8 (see details below).

To get a sense of how fundamental the carbon cycle is to climate change, please watch this video (in two segments) by Peter.  Then mark your calendar for February 6!

With thanks to our partners Snug Planet, Sustainability at Ithaca College, and the Good Life Farm! Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Solace and Support for Climate Angst

The Green BoatLast spring, many of the participants at our Climate Smart & Climate Ready conference thanked us for the session on Climate Justice and Climate Grief, which had provided their first opportunity for sharing their own reactions to climate disruption and the accompanying widespread climate denial.  Our keynote speaker Mark Hertsgaard recommended we keep an eye out for Mary Pipher’s new book The Green Boat – Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.

The book explores the growing prevalence of climate grief (and anger) that activists are experiencing as years turn into decades without much progress in stemming what increasingly looks like catastrophic impacts within the next 50 years.  Pipher also examines the frustrating phenomenon of denial and why so many humans refuse to acknowledge what is underway and do anything to counteract or prepare for it.

Pipher’s book is a personal story of her own struggle with climate grief and her ongoing “curative” of engaged activism in fighting the Keystone XL pipeline in her home state of Nebraska.  She’s a psychotherapist and author of many books, so of course her instinct was to research, analyze, and share her findings about the “trauma to transcendence” cycle.

Late this summer we organized a book circle for about a dozen local female sustainability activists to explore the themes of The Green Boat and share our own journeys and struggles with the emotions arising from climate change.  Such a rich discussion!  After two sessions, we agreed to create an ongoing venue of support for activists on the first Sunday of the month, hosted by Jalaja Bonheim, author and founder of the Institute for Circlework.  To learn more, contact

Sustainable Tompkins would like to support members who would like to organize and host a book circle on The Green Boat.  If interested, contact

ST Speaks Out on Cayuga Power Plant Debate

Our staff and Board of Directors have followed the debate around the repowering of the Cayuga Power Plant and filed the following comment with the Public Service Commission on August 16:

Sustainable Tompkins is a local citizen-based nonprofit organization working to create a more just and sustainable community.  We are local leaders in protecting our climate and supporting the transition to clean energy through programs such as our Finger Lakes Climate Fund, Finger Lakes Energy Challenge, and the Climate Smart & Climate Ready conference.

Cayuga Power Plant in Town of Lansing. Photo by Bill Hecht

Cayuga Power Plant in Town of Lansing. Photo by Bill Hecht

First, we want to note our support for the people of Lansing as they struggle with the economic impacts of having relied upon the coal plant to support many of their schools’ programs.  Certainly the State should be increasing their school aid and providing the promised Community Support Fund to help local taxpayers deal with the closing of outdated coal power plants.

Second, we add our voices to those protesting the limited scope of the PSC proceedings.  The proposals offered thus far present a false and narrow choice and an incomplete analysis of the full costs and risks that Lansing residents and regional ratepayers are facing.  We support the proposals by Martha Robertson and several others who are calling for a feasibility study of a range of renewable energy sources that could be combined at the Cayuga facility in order to wean ourselves off all fossil fuels.  We also support the idea that if public funds are used to build a new array of generating facilities based on renewables (whatever combinations of biomass, waste, solar, and stored hydro that might be) that the public become an owner and share in the profits.

Lastly, we strongly urge the PSC (and every citizen debating this issue) to look at the entire cost of each proposal over the long run.  We have to factor in the immense costs to public health and our economy from the environmental damage caused by extreme methods of fossil carbon extraction.  No analysis is complete without looking at all the costs as well as the disparities between who benefits and who suffers from our choices. Read the rest of this entry »

Are you Climate Smart & Climate Ready?

Sustainable Tompkins has been working hard over the past five months to coordinate a major regional conference on making our communities more climate friendly and climate resilient.  Under the leadership of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a coalition of Cortland and Tompkins County nonprofits, colleges, businesses, youth groups, and local governments has formed to support ongoing planning and action on climate mitigation and adaptation.  The Climate Smart & Climate Ready conference will take place April 18-21 at multiple venues in Cortland and Ithaca.  The  conference will focus on how our local governments, institutions, residents and businesses can both lower fossil carbon emissions and prepare for multiple impacts of a turbulent climate regime. Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Tompkins Helps Celebrate 50th Anniversary of HOLT Architects

Sustainable Tompkins was honored to be asked to co-host, along with the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, the 50th Anniversary Celebration for HOLT Architects on February 22. The keynote speaker for the anniversary celebration was Ed Mazria, the visionary and courageous leader behind the 2030 Architecture Challenge to build only zero carbon buildings by 2030.

Gay at HOLT Anniversary

Gay provided opening remarks to a large audience at the Hanger Theater composed of HOLT clients and local sustainability advocates. Sustainable Tompkins has partnered with HOLT in the past when they helped us put on our Health and Sustainability conference in 2007, and they are currently sponsoring and helping to design sessions of our Climate Smart & Climate Ready conference to be held April 18-21.

We appreciated Ed’s encouragement to the architects and engineers in the crowd to remember that they hold great power in helping to determine how effective our response to climate change will be.

As Gay emphasized in her remarks, this is no time for business as usual. And in fact, there is no more business as usual because even if we continue to build in the same old way and move around in the usual way, the outcome is no longer “as usual.”

The philosopher Holmes Rolston calls this a “hinge point” in human history. We have set in motion planetary changes and have entered a new era of human-induced major shifts in the ecosystems that support us. Thanks to visionaries like Ed Mazria and leaders like the folks at HOLT, we have only to implement the restorative power we already possess.

Renewable Energy Focus of February 25 Event

Join Sustainable Tompkins and the League of Women Voters for an evening discussing the power and potential of renewable energy in solving our energy and climate crisis.   Read the rest of this entry »

Local Climate Partners Rally for “Chasing Ice”

Even as we might be tempted to relax and enjoy this mild December weather, New Yorkers understand we have to invigorate a collective response to the multiple threats that climate change poses to our security and our economy.

Under the leadership of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Sustainable Tompkins is working with a coalition of Cortland and Tompkins County nonprofits, colleges, businesses, and local governments to support ongoing planning and action to make our region more climate friendly and climate resilient.  The Lifton climate coalition has been meeting to plan a major regional conference focused on how our local governments, institutions, and businesses can both lower fossil carbon emissions and prepare for multiple impacts of a turbulent climate regime.  The ‘Climate Smart & Climate Ready’ conference will take place April 19-21, 2013.

We invite you to join us in this regional conversation at the Ithaca premiere of ‘Chasing Ice’ at Cinemapolis on Friday, December 21 at 6:45 pm.  This award-winning documentary by James Balog was created from years of time-lapse filming under the extreme conditions of the planet’s polar regions.

Originally a climate skeptic, Balog encountered the undeniable evidence of global warming on his first visit to Iceland in 2005.  What he saw made him realize the scope of the greatest risk that humanity has ever taken, and he decided to launch the Extreme Ice Survey and capture multiple years of arctic climate change on film.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sweltering Heat and Drought

Sustainable Tompkins Climate Change Blog

 Sweltering Heat and Drought:
Has This Year Been Exceptionally Warm and Dry?

By Benjamin Brown-Steiner

At home and across the nation this summer has felt unusually hot and dry. More than half of states are experiencing moderate to severe drought. Is this weather exceptional? Is it a sign of climate change?

The first step in answering these questions is to find credible data about Ithaca’s weather and climate that can be used to answer this question. I’ve gathered data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center [1], and [2] in order to find out what’s going on. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Sustainable Tompkins at Green Fest, August 5-7

Meet up with Sustainable Tompkins at Green Fest August 5-7, 2011 at Alfred University in Alfred, NY. On Saturday August 6th, from 4-5 pm, join Gay Nicholson for her workshop: Finger Lakes Energy Challenge: Taking Responsibility for Our Fossil Fuel Consumption. Most of the folks showing concern about gas drilling are also interested in living more sustainably – but how do we prove it? How can we demonstrate that we “walk our talk” when it comes to opposing drilling for natural gas? This presentation will showcase Sustainable Tompkins’s Finger Lakes Energy Challenge, an online platform to demonstrate your commitment to reducing fossil fuel consumption (and give you the tools to do so). Read the rest of this entry »