Our trip started early Saturday morning when we all met at the Tenleytown Metro Station at 11AM. Our excitement for the trip could barely be contained.
We hopped on the red line train and took it to the end of the line–Shady Grove. For me, traveling to the far depths caused extreme happiness.
There, we met our staff adviser Chris O’Brien, the Director of Sustainability at AU, along with the van we’ll be travelling with for the duration of our trip.
The drive up to Ithaca, New York was long, but the scenery along the way helped us pass the time.
We even saw some wind turbines!
Finally, we arrived in Ithaca, where we have been staying with Ren Ostry and her housemates. Ren Ostry and Ben Knowles, two students from Ithaca College involved with Environmental Leadership and Actions Network (ELAN) and The Green Umbrella: NY Youth For a Just and Sustainable Future, welcomed us and have truly made us feel at home. After a van ride, we were very hungry, so our Food Crew consisting of Alex, Chenoa, Jordan, and Scotty prepped for dinner.
While our food was baking in the oven, Ren and Ben taught us an awesome game called Stump. First, players would put nails on a tree stump. The goal of the game is for the player to toss a hammer in the air and with one fluid motion, catch it and try to hit the nail of any opposing player. Hilarity ensued.
If a player hit a nail in the middle of the stump, that player was allowed to make a special rule. Rules consisted of anything from sitting in a shopping cart if you dropped a hammer to doing a yoga pose.
After playing Stump, we watched the movie Dear Governor Cuomowith some students from Ithaca College and Cornell University. The movie is about a protest/concert that takes place in Albany, NY. The purpose? To try to convince Governor Andrew Cuomo that hydraulic fracturing should not be allowed New York.
Today, we woke up early for an action packed day. Our first stop was Cornell University, where we had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Tony Ingraffea, long biography short: he’s a fracking expert. It was such a privilege to meet with him and hear all the insightful things he had to say about fracking. One of the main points he made was that the methane released while fracking in shale (a rock formation) is more harmful for the environment than carbon dioxide. Other interesting topics of discussion included the misnomer of what the word “fracking” truly means; his past working in the oil industry; and the oil and gas industry’s influence on research at universities due to funding .
Afterwards, we were led on a sustainable tour of the campus, led by Cornell’s sustainability director, Dan Roth. We talked about the LEED buildings on campus (buildings that are environmentally friendly), how the university cools its air through lake water, and how the campus is trying to become more sustainable. You should definitely check out Cornell’s sustainability webpage for more info!
Once the tour ended, we heard from Marguerite Wells, the project manager from a community owned wind farm called Black Oak Wind Farm, which is the first community owned wind farm in the East. It was interesting to hear about the process of constructing a wind farm and its potential benefits to the local community. It’s really awesome to see sustainable energies being developed and people investing in them! So far 81 people have invested in Black Oak Wind!
Our last stop of the day brought us to downtown, where we met representatives from the anti-fracking activist group, Shaleshock. We talked about the anti-fracking movement in New York and how it exploded over the last five years. Through grassroots organizing, and concerts, rallies, social media, signage, and protests, the anti-fracking movement in Ithaca and the greater state of New York has really made a name for itself.
We were really excited that we got to meet with all different types of people who have involvement in the fracking industry in some way. From listening to scientists to advocates to businesspeople to campus sustainability coordinators, we had one incredible day.
Stay tuned for updates from the rest of our trip!
Zach Blaifeder is a freshman at the School of Public Affairs at AU, majoring in Political Science. He is from Wayne, New Jersey, likes politics, the NY Mets and riding the Metro.