Contributed by Guest Blogger, Megan Zampogna:
Southern Tier Activists for Peace and Equality hosted the Earth Rally at Allegany State Park on March 11. The group wanted to educate people about the hazards facing the environment, in particular, those created or worsened by the actions of this presidential administration.
Issues of concern include the cuts to the EPA staff and funding, the repealed Steam Protection Rule, the advancement of the Keystone XL, Dakota Access and Northern Access Pipelines, the support of fracking, the attempted opening of federal lands to selling, the freezing of the Endangered Species Act, the reversal of the ban of lead ammo on national parks and wildlife refuges, and the potential affect on wildlife and land with the possible US-Mexico border wall. We were also hoping to offer actions or steps for everyone to take to fight against this assault on the environment. We chose to have the event at the Allegany State Park because of it’s centralized location and the symbolism of being on the very land we were trying to protect.
The day of the rally, a winter storm warning was issued and we were worried about the attendance of the audience, as well as the speakers and performers. Amazingly, only two musicians canceled; one was traveling back from the Native Nations March in Washington D.C. Over 100 people attended the event. The walls were decorated with paintings of nature scenes and animals, along with posters and signs that different people brought and hung. Cattaurugus County for Clean Water had a table set up with information and a sign up sheet. There was also a table with postcards for people to send for Ides of Trump, as well as one with information on the Northern Access Pipeline.
The day began with the band not Norman playing classic rock songs as people began to arrive. They also played songs between some of the speakers. Stephen Robar, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, spoke about how this administration’s policies will affect the environment. Elizabeth Ludvik discussed local ecosystems and how to create sustainability in your own backyard. David Schummer, Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Ethics, explained Ecofeminism. Jake George, from the Seneca Nation of Indians, played a drum and sang Native songs, some of which had been written locally.
Maria Maybee of the Water Walkerz described growing up on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation and playing in the contaminated Cattaraugus Creek as a child. She talked about her inability to have children because of the exposure, and the medical problems all of her family members have experienced. Both Jake George and Maria Maybee expressed their heritage’s belief that water is a connector for all life and must be protected. Next there was a break where Mary Schlossler led the audience in stretching and breathing. She explained that we are all connected to the Earth we stand on. Gary Abraham was somewhat controversial as he discussed the downfalls of using wind power.
Stephanie Kiyak, former Dunkirk Council Member-At-Large, expressed that she had no political background when she ran for a government position, but felt she could make a difference. She was elected twice and led a city-wide ban on fracking. Joe Gibson from Clean Air Council and Diana Strablow from Sierra Club were the last speakers. They explained the negative effects the Northern Access Pipeline would have if built and what we can do to stop it.
Perhaps the most local and immediate issue addressed at the rally is the Northern Access Pipeline. A last hope is that Governor Cuomo will stop the pipeline. We encourage everyone to call his office at (518) 474-8390. Press extension 1 to speak to a representative.
There are also two events being held to protest the pipeline and draw attention to it. The Significant Impact Walk is being held at two adjacent properties that are facing eminent domain for the pipeline. This means their land will be taken against their will for the pipeline. This demonstration is on Sunday, March 19th, from 2pm – 10pm at 12820 Benton Road, Sardinia, New York.
The second event is a major rally being held in Albany urging Governor Cuomo to take action. “No Northern Access Pipeline! Protect Clean Air and Clean Water!” rally is Monday, March 27th from 12pm – 2:30pm and will meet at DEC building and end at the State Capitol. Both events can be found on Facebook.