Cornell Celebrates Earth Day, Focuses on World Hunger

April 23, 2002
By Marc Zawel
Sun News Editor

Mother Nature’s apparent lack of cooperation could not put a damper on yesterday’s 33rd celebration of Earth Day here at Cornell.

Although much of the day was scheduled to take place outside on Ho Plaza, rain and cold temperatures pushed many of the events, which included speakers, tabling and music among other activities, into the Memorial Room inside Willard Straight Hall.

“I thought the day was fairly successful given the circumstances,” said Yiwei Wang ’04, an Earth Day organizer. “I really wish we could have had the celebrations outside though because I think that would have attracted many more students.”

Organizer Christina Schiavoni ’02 agreed.

“Despite the less that ideal weather, today’s Earth Day celebration was a major success. There wasn’t a bad turnout in the Memorial Room,” she said.

The days events began at 11 a.m. in the Straight when environmental organizations such as the C.U. Vegetarians and the Cornell Greens set up information tables in the Memorial Room.

“All environmentalists should be vegetarians because factory farming is the most destructive environmental factor today,” said Ahyicodae ’04, a member of the C.U. Vegetarians. “The meat industry has a tremendous impact on pollution through things such as river run-off and we want students to know about this.”

“The Cornell Greens are currently working on a corporate campaign against Citibank since Cornell is tightly connected to Citibank through investment,” said Dana Perls ’02, a member of the Greens. “We want to bring to light some of the projects Citibank invests in and make students aware of them.”

The Cornell Greens are currently collecting students’ signatures for Eco Pledge, an organization seeking to address environmental concerns in large corporations. “Our Eco Pledge drive is a campaign for graduating seniors,” Perls said. “We want seniors to commit to not working for specific non-environmentally friendly companies upon graduation. We want Cornell students to leave here with a social consciousness.”

While interested students picked up pamphlets from various tables, students and local activists spoke on a variety of environmental issues.

“The speakers were all great and informative,” Wang said. There was also poetry reading and music throughout the afternoon. “The speakers were really powerful, and the music and poetry were quite uplifting,” Schiavoni commented.

At 5 p.m., a Hunger Banquet sponsored by Phi Sigma Pi fraternity and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) took over the Memorial Room. The dinner between drew 60 and 70 hungry Cornellians whose $4 tickets benefited Ithaca’s local chapter of Women, Infants and Children.

“This is a local charity that provides food coupons and food subsidies to single women and mothers,” said Crystal Jacovino ’04.

The meal was sponsored by The Station, Taste of Thai, Lucatelli’s, P&C Food Store and Wegman’s.

“The banquet went extremely well,” said Ryan Dickerson ’04, the fundraiser’s organizer. “We got a lot of really great food donated and we are very happy how things turned out.”

Some students were surprised at how the hunger banquet was run.

“The beef stew was hearty and delicious, yet the small serving left me famished and unsatisfied,” said Jake Schtevie ’03, referring to the small portion of food he was originally given to illustrate the problems of world hunger.

“Where’s the rest?,” asked Jack Van Arsdale ’05, commenting on his Dixie cup of tuna fish served over rice at the dinner.

“We wanted students to get a taste of what it was like to live in an undeveloped country,” said Jamie Heinzen ’04, a server at the banquet. “We have enough food to feed everyone but there are still so many people hungry. Even in developed countries there are people malnourished. We need to correct this.”

After students were temporarily put in the shoes of famished individuals in undeveloped countries, they were treated to a full-buffet of dishes donated by local Ithaca restaurants.

“We hope students gained an appreciation and respect the problem of world hunger now,” Heinzen said.

“We combined Earth Day and the Hunger Banquet this year because we wanted to help each other and get the word out,” said Helen Lee ’03. “By collaborating the two events, publicity was much more effective.”

The day concluded at 7 p.m. in the Anabel Taylor Auditorium with the State of the Earth Address sponsored by the Center for the Environment and the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy. The event drew five speakers who spoke to a handful of students on a variety of environmental issues.

Philip McMichael spoke on globalization, followed by a talk on global treaties by Leland Glenna. Jane Mt. Pleasant spoke on indigenous agriculture and attitudes toward the environment, while the final two speakers, Mahesh Rangarajan and Anke Wessels, spoke on the environment and the legal responsibility of countries to protect it.

“The address [looked] at the ‘big picture’ with topics ranging from globalization, to hunger and food security, to climate change and international agreements,” Schiavoni said.

Students and activists had mixed reviews of the Day.

“For being Earth Day, it really wasn’t very nice out,” said Mike Pessiki ’04.

“Celebration is the way we give gratitude for what the Earth gives us,” said Tony Del Plano, an Ithaca resident and local environmental activist. “As grim as the situation looks right now for a sustainable world, [this] celebration recharges our need to hope for a better world.”

“I think the Earth Day celebration really elevated peoples’ awareness of environmental concerns,” said Andy Schnitzel ’05.

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