Locals Protecting Our Planet

The theme for Earth Day 2017 was environmental and climate literacy. Photo by Jeannette LaPointe.

Both sides of the Hudson River celebrated Earth Day this past Saturday, making the community aware of environmental battles the world is facing today, along with protesting for the cause.

On the west side of the river in New Paltz, Interfaith Action, the Caring for Creation Committee of the Reformed Church of New Paltz and the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition (NPCAC) hosted the 15th annual New Paltz Earth Day fair. Hosted on the grounds of the Reformed Church of New Paltz, the Earth Day Fair was spearheaded by organizer and Interfaith Action member Jim O’Dowd in 2002. 

Last year, in 2016, the fair became an interfaith event, O’Dowd said, with members and fellow organizers of the event including the Reformed Church, the Jewish Congregation, the United Methodist Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church among other New Paltz houses of worship.

“[This event] is unified in caring for creation and the environment,” O’Dowd said. “Although the leadership of all the great world religions have spoken out about the environment, somehow it doesn’t come down to a grassroots level — so we’re trying to promote care for the environment as a moral and as a spiritual practice.” 

There were dozens of vendors and participants eager to teach the community about environmental issues such as climate change and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and produce. Some of these participants included the Community Compost Company, the Nyquist Foundation, New York State Solar Farm, the New Paltz Garden Club and Hudson Valley for No GMOs. Other vendors sold fresh produce and other organic and eco-friendly treats, such as Sow Good Bakery, Phillies Bridge Farm Project and Grass & Grit Farm.

Some of the funds raised from the Earth Day fair will go toward funding buses for SUNY New Paltz students wanting to participate in the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. this Saturday, April 29. Suzanne Flaum, coordinator of the NPCAC, said that the funding for this excursion is meant to serve the organization’s multifaceted mission of educting and raising consciousness around climate change and environmental issues. 

Samrat Pathania, a member of the NPCAC, agreed with Flaum while also addressing the importance of environmentally conscious events like the Earth Day fair.

“[At this event], I get to see all these great things that so many people are doing and it’s very energizing,” he said. “As individuals, we can’t work on everything. There are so many aspects of the environmental issue, and it’s great to see what other groups are doing. If we all put our heads together, we can get to that place where we will have the solutions, and we will be able to create the world that we actually need.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, a team of local volunteers in Poughkeepsie assembled several hundred impassioned citizens to demonstrate a need for a greater involvement of science in the creation of public policy. The event began at Mural Square on Main Street, and then marched across town to Waryas Park on the Poughkeepsie waterfront. 

The Hudson Valley March for Science in Poughkeepsie was one of over 600 sister marches entitled a “March for Science” that were taking place worldwide. Similar marches drew an estimated 20,000 protesters to New York City and 40,000 to Washington D.C. In Poughkeepsie, hundreds of participants kept to sidewalks instead of taking over the streets, but stretched up and down the hill on the half-mile march.  

The Tin Horn Uprising brass band kept the march’s tempo upbeat with jazzy renditions of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and other classics in spite of the foggy weather. To conclude the march, families were invited to participate in a delightfully nerdy Teach-In at the river’s edge. At the Teach-In, tables were set up with scientists and experts who wore shirts telling participants to ask them about their areas of expertise, ranging from climate change to genetic engineering to the hexadecimal system.

One tabling participant was Frances Fox-Pizzonia, the Vice President of Education and Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley. As an activist for this event and the Women’s March, she noted the power of marches to affect political change.

“I see people coming out to all of these events. I see the same faces,” she said. “We’re all integrated in terms of wanting to show how all of our issues really overlap. It mobilizes people, it brings people together, it validates those of us that feel strongly about our mission. Marches can help us continue to be empowered, and energize us for the fight ahead.” 

If you are interested in joining the NPCAC in the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. this Saturday, regular tickets are $60 and $25 for students. To purchase tickets or donate visit newpaltzclimateaction.org and click “Tickets for People’s Climate March.”