Environment Column

Bulman: The time to act on climate change is now or never, and other takeaways from the Syracuse People’s Climate March

Morgan Bulman | Environment Columnist

In a sister event of the People’s Climate March, about 1,000 people took to the streets of Syracuse in support of climate science.

As climate change becomes increasingly apparent, it becomes essential for people to adopt a green — or greener — lifestyle.

With a warming planet causing more severe weather, rising sea levels, coral reef bleaching, deforestation and habitat and species loss, gatherings like the Syracuse People’s Climate March on Saturday afternoon highlight the impact of every eco-related decision an individual makes — whether it’s choosing a LED light bulb, riding a bike or turning off the lights before leaving a room — on the entire planet.

A week following the city’s satellite March for Science, about 1,000 people took to the streets of Syracuse again in support of climate science by marching from Franklin Square to the Inner Harbor Amphitheater. A sister event of the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., the local rally featured a speaker series of activists and offered insight on how people can lead more sustainable lives.

Despite the success of the rally, though, getting people to care about sustainability is no simple task.


360-degree footage from the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C.
Asa Douglass Worthley | Contributing Videographer

At the march, Climate Change Awareness and Action organizer Peter Wirth discussed the work of Rachel Carson, who in the 1970s published a series of articles that drew attention to the dangers of the pesticide DDT: a carcinogen poisonous to ecosystems. The series later became known as the book “Silent Spring” and was a catalyst of the modern environmental movement.

“That movement that brought about the EPA, a key administration for mitigating climate change with the National Clean Air and Water Acts, came about as a result of the first Earth Day,” Wirth said at the march. “But we are now faced with a greater challenge.”

The challenge is getting people motivated to act or, Wirth said, to “make a long-term commitment to activism.”

That commitment was made clear at the climate marches held across the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have been marked with controversy and resistance from environmentalists.

Since arriving at the White House, Trump’s administration has been working to undermine former President Barack Obama’s climate mitigation accomplishments. The administration has dealt intense budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and has revisited the controversial construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

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Morgan Bulman | Environment Columnist

“We can’t really wait around for anyone else to make a change because we know we can’t depend on the government right now, right?” said Jamie Bodenlos, an associate professor of psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, at the Syracuse rally.

The crowd responded to Bodenlos with a resounding, “Right!”

“We must be the change we want to see,” Bodenlos said. “Our future generations will need us to do that.”

To be that change, rally goers were offered one big way to be more climate-friendly: to transition from gasoline-run cars to electric-run cars. Clean Communities of Central New York coordinator Barry Carr organized an electric car exhibition at the rally for the public to check out electric car options.

Vehicles at the expo included the Chevy Volt and Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and the coveted Tesla. Owners volunteered to stand nearby, ready to ask questions, and hoods and trunks were popped to give observers a behind-the-scenes look of electric cars with and without motors.

“I think personally those plug-in hybrids will work better for people in central New York because we’re spread out,” Carr said in reference to the region’s population.

In the city of Syracuse, electric charging stations have become more common and are located in several locations including the Westcott neighborhood, Destiny USA and near Clinton Square. Carr said this expansion is largely due to New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s avid support for electric energy.

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Morgan Bulman | Environment Columnist

As observers mingled around the cars and struck up conversations, the event provided a glimpse into the future. The administration continues to fail to adapt to stronger climate policies, which means ordinary people will have to make decisions about sustainability for themselves.

Our generation will likely drive electric cars, follow a quasi-vegetarian diet and charge our homes with renewable energies like wind and solar. In that case, the future is certainly bright.

Morgan Bulman is a graduate student studying magazine, newspaper and online journalism. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at mebulman@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @morgbulman.

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