Climate Week Reflections

Ramsay Adams for the Daily Freeman

The words of the week are ‘climate’ and ‘urgency’. This summer was an unusually and extraordinarily hot one all over the globe; in fact, the U.S alone has seen so many incidents of extreme drought, wildfire, flooding, and other climate-related disasters that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a countrywide online mapping tool to keep track of them all. 

The words of the week are ‘climate’ and ‘urgency’. This summer was an unusually and extraordinarily hot one all over the globe; in fact, the U.S alone has seen so many incidents of extreme drought, wildfire, flooding, and other climate-related disasters that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a countrywide online mapping tool to keep track of them all. 

The Catskills have not been spared; nearly every corner of our region experienced abnormally dry to severe drought conditions this summer. Only a few weeks ago the Naponach Point Wildfire raged in Minnewaska State Park, with all evidence pointing to a lightning strike paired with kindling-dry conditions as the cause of the fire. We are burning our way into a harsh and uncertain future for life on our planet, but we can at least be certain about one thing: we must be the generation that stops our roll towards the brink, and to do so we need to address the climate crisis without delay.

There’s good news on this front for NY State, where we’ve already made a head start on this urgent mission. A decade ago, Catskill Mountainkeeper and our allies made critical headway in keeping oil and gas corporations from fracking for natural gas here by advocating for–and winning–NY State’s historic fracking ban. There is still a lot to be done in keeping us safe from the impacts of dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, and we know there are other major threats to our climate and the health of our families and communities. To this end, Mountainkeeper and our partners at the diverse NY Renews coalition are working hard to bring New York to the forefront of climate action. In 2019 through collective action and leveraging political willpower, we helped bring New York's State’s nation-leading climate bill–the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA)–across the finish line and signed into law. We’re now working together to urge elected officials to pass a budget to fund this bill, which would pivot New York towards investing in a sustainable economy based on renewable energy and environmental justice. 

There has never been a more important time to rally support from the front lines of New York State’s climate movement to leverage the impacts of our collective efforts. When developers of an ill-conceived luxury resort threatened to raze pristine tracts of wild forest in Saugerties, NY, we worked together with local residents to raise the alarm and galvanize opposition to the project and its many devastating impacts. This defensive work to oppose destructive developments and industries must go hand in hand with advocating for protective policies and beneficial infrastructure that benefits the health of our communities and climate. For example, we’re urging the NYS legislature to pass the Birds and Bees Protection Act (BBPA) in the next legislative session. This law would prohibit ornamental and agricultural applications of toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, which decimate bird and pollinator populations, and put the safety and wellbeing of countless Americans at risk. 

Regional advocates know our limitations: we’re not going to stop the Brazilian President Bolsonaro from razing the Amazon, or block construction on each and every oil and gas pipeline by acting alone. Our goal is to do what we can, wherever we can, to empower communities to stand up for their health and the integrity of their local environment. To do this well, we must keep making connections and joining together to fight for positive change. 

This is a great moment to do just that. It’s Hudson Valley Climate Solutions Week, which will feature a plethora of workshops and informational sessions covering everything from how to divest from investments in fossil fuel companies to envisioning and achieving a sustainable and equitable renewable energy future. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the state of our planet’s climate and environment, and we’re not pointing fingers at anyone (except for maybe fossil fuel corporations – they’re “people” too) for pivoting the dinner conversation away from the latest IPCC Climate Change report from the United Nations. But, as old wisdom tells us, there’s no better remedy for anxiety than taking action, and that is exactly what Mountainkeeper and our allies will continue to do, right here at home in the Catskills.

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