ECO's Second Dialogue: Putting Action Into Climate Action!

Speakers of different backgrounds, but with a shared passion for leading sustainable initiatives, shared its difficulties and successes...


By Daniel Szabo (Biological Sciences '18) and Keanna Chang (Human Biology, Health and Society '18)

Cornell staff, faculty, and students along with Ithaca community members gathered around the speakers to exchange ideas on how to put action into climate action

This semester, the Environmental Collaborative (ECO) hosted a series of dialogues each with its own theme and purpose. Themes addressed relevant issues on campus and aimed to attract students not already involved in environmental sustainability on-campus who may not have realized how these topics fit into their professional field. The incorporation of students with different backgrounds and interests strengthens the sustainability movement as a whole.

The theme of the second dialogue was “Putting Action Into Climate Action!”, a development on the previous theme, “Getting People on Board about Climate Change!” Speakers of different backgrounds, but with a shared passion for leading sustainable initiatives, shared its difficulties and successes. Emma Johnston (Government '16), co-founder of ECO, as well as the Student Assembly’s Executive Vice President, began by sharing her freshman experience where Cornell staff told her “passion is not enough.”

The dialogue continued after the group discussion.

Hearing such, she realized that though students feel strongly about issues, they become quickly disillusioned with the “red tape” of Cornell’s administration. With only four years on campus, students building relationships with administration are constantly facing short periods of slow change.

Is it possible to make any lasting impact with this environment? Johnston certainly thinks so - if students are prepared to make appropriate adjustments. Concessions are a necessary component of dealing with other parties to ensure that the changes made are institutionalized. She also encouraged the clarification of roles of students and administration as an area plagued by miscommunication and inefficiencies. Along with the other two speakers, Johnston shared her opinions on how to overcome obstacles that prevent student initiatives from taking root.

Erin Moore, Cornell’s Sustainability Engagement Manager, spoke from an administrative perspective with similar suggestions. Through her Think Big, Live Green campaign, she supports a new campus culture that has sustainability as an integral part of Cornell. Moore suggested that to engage the community in environmental initiatives, one must first acquire a sophisticated understanding of that community’s background and interests. The transient nature of a college community, such as Cornell, makes it challenging for sustainability programs to be implemented.

Moore’s talk segued into the final speaker, Dominic Frongillo, a Cornell alum who served as the youngest deputy town supervisor in Caroline, New York. Dominic initiated the Energy Independent Caroline project, which coordinated three “Lighten Up!” campaigns and distributed energy-saving light bulb to a total of 20,000 households. Dominic attributed large, community improvements to a mixture of hard work, diligence, and believes that public service is a great way to influence local policy and actually get major changes done. In high school, at Cornell, and as a professional, his activism at all points of his life made him relatable to all the audience.

Each speaker found the commonality in how seemingly insignificant citizens or students can make big impacts happen. All three promoted cooperation and perseverance in order to make a difference. Knowing what has worked in the past, it’s time to take action for the future!

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.