Monday, October 19, 2015

Rochester, NY’s role in Climate Change

Figuring out how to engage the local media (and thus the public) while planning local action around the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris has been a great challenge. Someone quipped that in order to get media attention on a march for Climate Change we would probably have to do something really crazy.

That’s a little over the top, but it does dramatize the frustration those concerned about Climate Change feel. Why won’t local media pay attention to Climate Change? We’ve marched in force through downtown Rochester in support of Pope Francis’s message; we’ve conducted a well-attended forum on addressing this issue for our local candidates; and we even orchestrated a rally in front of City Hall last year representing many diverse organizations to show solidarity with the busloads of folks attending the People’s Climate March last year.

But our local media didn’t show up for any of those events. That means that local concerns for Climate Change, a worldwide crisis that includes Rochester, occurs in an insulated silo where the public continues to believe this crisis is merely a special interest. It means our local elections will say nothing about addressing Climate Change locally. It means we’ll continue to address the probable consequences of Climate Chang in our region—more flooding, more harmful algae outbreaks, and more whacky weather—by doing the same things. 

Rochester is not engaged with Climate Change, even though, as an old industrial community, we’ve played a significant role in causing this crisis. You can say we didn’t know then that our fossil-fuel-burning way of life would warm the planet, but you cannot say it didn’t help warm the planet. It’s science. Now that we know that we’ve played a role in causing Climate Change, we should play a role in its solution.

From November 30th to December 11th, the COP21 Paris Climate Conference will determine our fate. Here’s the skinny:

WEBZINE "Have you ever heard about "ocean acidification"? Did you know that 20 to 30% of animal and plant species are under threat of extinction? To learn all about COP21 main issues, browse through our webzine and download the following fact sheets." -from COP21/CMP11 for a universal climate agreement"

Communities all around the world are working on local events just before the COP21 treaty to get our leaders to act.

“This will be our message as we take to the streets on 28-29 November: Keep fossil fuels in the ground — really, just stop digging and drilling — and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.” Global Climate March

But in Rochester, here’s the problem: What kind of an event will get sufficient media attention to get Rochesterians engaged on this issue? A march? A rally? A public forum? A concert with a major rock star? Street theatre—like maybe a fake die-in where folks lay down in the streets demonstrating a bleak future if we continue business as usual? Standing along the railroad tracks with signs about dangerous crude oil being transported through our communities on rickety rails and railcars designed for corn syrup, not highly volatile fossil fuels? A vigil with candles and prayers? A program on how to divest from fossil fuels from a prominent business man who has already walked this walk? (We are already planning this program. Stay tuned.) A lecture followed by a film like “Merchants of Doubt” to prove climate denial has been an orchestrated, heavily-funded lie? Blue ribbons in our trees to show solidarity with Paris? Flash mobbing our media outlets to wake them up? Giving away free cell phones? (Just kidding, we don’t have that kind of money.)   

A relatively small group of local folks wouldn’t have to stand on their heads and spit nickels to get media attention if the local media had been doing their job all along: connecting the dots on the local consequences of Climate Change. And now, as the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic damage closes quickly, Rochester’s role in Climate Change threatens to be a pathetic lack of responsibility if we cannot reach our media.

Time passes.  

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