Organizers counted more than 1000 people marching from Franklin Square to the Inner Harbor for a Syracuse version of the People's Climate March Saturday. It coincided with a large march in Washington, as well as several hundred similar events in other cities.
After a brief rally in Franklin Square the procession began down the Onondaga Creekwalk. The group ranged in age from retirees to young children and families, bicyclists and groups of high school and college students.
Many carried signs decrying policies that propose funding cuts to the EPA and other entities that study and act on environmental protections. Others advocated for science in policy making, saving the earth for the future, and the severity of possible impacts from climate change. Still other signs directly criticized President Trump, some insulting and others calling for impeachment.
Speakers at an Inner Harbor rally that followed addressed climate impacts from rising seas to melting permafrost, from increased drought and wildfires to entire islands already in threat of going underwater. Hamilton College Environmental Studies Director Peter Cannavo says the issue could lead to the earth's sixth great extinction.
"Climate change may be the greatest threat to civilization today, yes, even more than terrorism. It's an environmental issue, a social justice issue, an economic issue, a security issue; it's a moral issue. And all of Donald Trump's bluster can't wish it away. we need to build wind farms, not walls."
Syracuse University Professor of Law David Driesen works with the CNY Solidarity Coalition on the issue. He suggests changing the discussion on climate change to climate disruption.
"This is about Florida going underwater. This is about wildfires. This is about the spread of infectious disease. This is about more intense hurricanes. This is about drought in areas where people are already suffering from malnutrition. This is about disruption, not just change, not just warming."
Some of those impacts are things seen here in Central New York. Speakers talked about increased flood insurance requirements for property owners along Onondaga Creek due to an increase in storm severity; an increase in pollen due to longer growing seasons of plants and trees that emit the substance, leading to worsening allergy and other respiratory diseases. Grindstone Farms owner Dick DeGraff is seeing weather swings and unpredictability. That can mean less water for crops or large temperature swings.
"One of those includes seeing frost in every month of the summer, fortunately not the same year. But I've had frost July 8th; I've had typically frost in June.... Chances are, as last year, we're gong to lose some fruit."
A number of speakers discussed possible mitigating actions that could be taken. Ethan Bodnaruk of Citizens Climate Lobby asked people to back a carbon tax, a proposal that attaches a fee for the use of carbon with dividends going back to consumers. Chris Carrick from Solarize CNY discussed the increase in solar power use and its potential.
"Did you know that twice as mush solar was installed last year as the year before? Did you know that more solar and wind was brought online last year than natural gas? We are on the cusp of a revolution. And let me tell you the companies and the interests that don't want to see that revolution are coming out in force to stop it. That's where we come in."
Hobart and William Smith Professor Dr. Jamie Bodenlos asked people to make changes in what they eat. She singled out the production of beef as particularly resource intensive and damaging to the climate.
"In fact animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, that is more than the combined exhaust of all transportation which accounts for only 13% of emissions."
One of the best received speakers was not a scientist or expert, but rather a Tully High School Senior. Elizabeth Grace Ferguson shared her fears for the future, for losing some of the beauty she grew up with in the Tully Valley.
"It's so scary to have to quesiton the morality of having children later in life due to the environment we will be living in years from now. I wouldn't want my children to breathe in the countless amounts of toxins. I wouldn't;t want to deprive them of springtime night walks I had with my father since the age of five to find gorgeous salamanders and frogs."
She asked, Millennial to Baby Boomers and Gen-x, to do whatever people can. Car pooling, riding a bike, composting might all add up to help. Peter Wirth with Climate Change Awareness and Action wants everyone to see their role in combating climate change as well.
"If we want to succeed we have to make a long term commitment. We can't fix it by just going home and changing a few LED light bulbs. Americans have one of the highest per-capita energy usage rates in the world. We need to make changes in our consumption habits and how we use energy."
The People's Climate March took place on the day that marks the 100th of the Trump Administration.