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Earth Matters

Earth Matters: Reflections on Earth Day at 50

What Does Earth Day Mean to You?

Earth Matters focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living.

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Happy Day, Mother Earth! … Okay, today may not exactly be joyous (what day is it anymore?), but it is momentous: Earth Day is 50. To celebrate half century of awareness of all issues green, community members are sharing their thoughts on a diverse range of environmental topics, including air quality, the urgency of climate change, recycling, fossil fuel  divestiture and electric cars; expressing their appreciation for the natural world, frustration at governments’ responses, and ideas for making the Earth a better place.

Nyack News And Views thanks Nyack 2030 and the Nyack Library for their outreach to create Earth Matters‘ coverage of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Earth Day 100 is Counting on Us

This Earth Day, facing another sort of “silent spring,” I’m naturally falling back on old practices of my childhood: waiting for a sunny day to do the laundry so that it can hang out on the line; sweeping the floors with a broom for daily cleanups, between vacuumings; not wasting a scrap of food.

We’re all in the same boat, right? Wrong. A lot of folks’ boats are sinking fast. If you can keep paying your cleaning person or regular babysitter, at least for a while, do so. Pick a local feeding program to help with whatever you can spare, even if it’s just a few bucks.

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And our national health emergency has provided cover for the Trump Administration to further demolish our environmental protections. If you can’t keep up with all your usual donations and memberships to environmental and climate-protection organizations, pick one and help out as best you can. Earth Day 100 is counting on us.–Susan Hellauer, Earth Matters Founding Columnist



In this very difficult time, I hope that Earth Day will sharpen our sense of urgency, but also rekindle hope and energy. The coronavirus crisis makes us feel powerless; we’re forced to wait it out. By contrast, the environmental movement requires us all to take action. This emergency is a kind of code red warning that we must alter our relationship with the natural world. Right behind (and related to this crisis) is the incredibly urgent climate crisis. Working locally on the climate crisis offers every one of us the ability to make a real difference on the defining issue of our time, the great task of our generation. What we do in these years will determine whether we pass on a habitable planet to future generations. We can, and we must, take action now.–Peggy Kurtz, Rockland Sierra Club Leader

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Earth Day and the Breath of Life

This Earth Day, we find ourselves inside-out. The pause to control the spread of coronavirus has forced our attention to the indoor environment at a time when our focus is usually on the great outdoors. Air quality has a whole new meaning when seen through masks and ventilators, from crowded parks and sidewalks, or from the confines of our quarantined homes.

It’s not like we needed another reason to be concerned about air quality. Like Covid-19, air pollution risks are synergistic with pre-existing conditions, particularly asthma and heart disease, leading to an estimated seven million additional deaths worldwide each year. Nyack, like other communities on major commuting corridors, is especially affected. The gains we’ve made in vehicle emissions standards have been largely offset by the way traffic grows as we expand highway capacity and commuting distances and lengthen supply chains.

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While we take this time to catch our breath on this topsy-turvy Earth Day, it’s worth keeping our eyes open to the upsides of a more local, decentralized, evenly paced world. Let’s build on our newfound skills in remote working and learning to ensure that we re-start the economy on more energy efficient, air- and lung-friendly footing, inside and out.–Carolyn Cairns, MPH, Adjunct Professor of Environmental and Sustainability Science

It’s Time to Go Fully Electric

Nyack EV Charging Station

Nyack’s EV charging station

Here’s something we weren’t talking about on the first Earth Day (or even three years ago): going fully electric. But now it’s time! New York has passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Action Act, and the New York grid is shifting to more renewables. As more of us purchase green electricity for our homes, we will increasingly want our heating, cooking, and vehicles to go all electric. Even if you aren’t ready to buy a heating system, air conditioner, or stove, or start driving an electric car, now is a good time to get to know more about what’s out there–the pros and cons, all the incentives, the real bottom line. Here are a few handy resources to get you started:

  • Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Guide, with all the current incentives by zip code
  • Some pros and cons of induction cooktops
  • And an article about what you need to think about when considering heat pumps.
  • And for those who do need to replace an air conditioner or refrigerator soon: here are the easy basics on HFCs–known as  super pollutants–and what to look for when you need to make a purchase or repair.

Marcy Denker, Sustainability Coordinator for the Village of Nyack


Wed, April 22 at 7p

Rivertown Film and ROSA 4 Rockland present a free streaming of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Earth Day, April 22. This two-hour selection of 13 family-friendly short films about the natural world is curated from the nation’s largest environmental film festival and will be locally hosted and streamed live, rather than shown in it’s normal home at the Lafayette Theater. Of special interest this year is “A Living River,” about life in the Hudson River, by NY Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster. This is a free event, but you must register in advance at

The Silver Lining to Quarantine Life

As awful as Covid 19 is, perhaps on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day we can reflect on some of the positives resulting from this horrific pandemic. Air pollution has been greatly reduced as people are not driving as much. Because of the bathroom tissue and paper towel shortage, humans are using and wasting less paper. Young and courageous Gretchen Thunberg addressed the United Nations demanding that world leaders do something positive to save the environment. As it did not seem that any action was resulting, maybe, just maybe, Mother Nature expressed her wrath by introducing a virus that unfortunately was at first also ignored. Coronavirus has been horrendous to humans, but it’s resulted in some positives for the environment–Candace Pittari, Co-founder The Maturely Motivated Players

Recycle Right, Reuse, Compost

This Earth Day, we may find that our perspective on the environment, and all it provides to us, has changed. For many, spending more time at home means more time exploring and connecting with nature. There are many things we can do at home to create positive environmental change, which was the catalyst for the Earth Day movement originally. Although waste collectors and the Solid Waste Authority have been able to continue providing waste disposal services, we can all benefit from putting less at the curb. Prevention is the best solution for managing waste. The less we create as a community, the lower the cost to our pockets and the environment. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Recycle Right: Don’t place unacceptable items in your recycling bins.
  • Reuse: find a new use for something old. Repair: try fixing a broken item before replacing.
  • Compost: start a compost pile. Litter pick-up: put litter in its place.

To learn more about Solid Waste Authority programs and protecting the environment, follow us on social media @GreenUpRockland or visit–Kerri Scales, Director Of Education And Outreach at Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority


Compost bin for yard waste, made from pallets

The COVID Crisis Exposes the Shame of Climate Change Excuses

On Earth Day in 2020, we know what it looks like when governments and corporations take a threat seriously. We don’t quibble over percentages of GDP growth or injury to shareholders. We act. We shut down systems that are making us sick and find creative alternatives. We re-examine cop-outs long presented as self-evident truths: telecommuting doesn’t work; low-income workers don’t deserve a living wage or sick leave; broadband is a luxury for those who can afford it; government should be so weak, you can drown it in the bathtub; the stock market matters more than human life.

Our massive national response to the pandemic gives the lie to every excuse about climate change mitigation. We are capable of fast, effective counter-strikes against a deadly enemy, and were even before the peak of the crisis. Our work now is to help everyone understand that climate change threatens far more lives than COVID-19 does. It’s just that the death rates climb more slowly in a climate catastrophe than in a pandemic.– Julie Goldberg, former Democratic candidate for NY State Senate and Rockland County Legislature

It Takes a Village to cover our villages.

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Gratitude Towards Mother Earth

Every step we’ve ever taken, every breath, every meal and glass of water, every piece of clothing and shelter, our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones: everything is from Mother Earth. She provides it all, including beauty. When we see and feel this relationship as a reality, we can’t help but value her and understand our place in the natural world. And we know we have to do better. She deserves as much as we can do for her every single day. This Earth Day, let’s recognize and treasure our relationship with her and commit to loving and sustainable choices.–Mikki Baloy, shamanic healer and author

Earth Day at Home

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and this is unlike any other Earth Day we’ve celebrated. In the past, Earth Day has been marked by acts of service to our environment. From cleaning parks and streets to planting trees and flowers, we celebrate the Earth by making sure we do everything we can to preserve it. This year, however, the best thing we can do on Earth Day is stay home. While COVID-19 has changed the way we work and interact with one another, we have also seen its impact on the environment. The reduction of air pollution all over the globe, at least temporarily, has shown us the impact we have on air pollution. It is my hope that when we begin to gather once again, we will continue to push for a reduction in carbon, cleaner water, and overall become more environmentally conscious.–Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee

Strawtown at Your Doorstep!

Introducing an at home nature activity series for parents & caregivers with a little time, for children with a lot of time, for all seeking quality time.

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The green spaces around your home are full of daily surprises that both delight and educate. The Strawtown team has prepared some of our favorite activities to help you make the very most of your time at home. These artful activities aim to inspire children to stretch their imaginations, and invite families and individuals to experience the tranquility of nature.

Receive a new weekly activity in your inbox (no-cost!). PLUS the Strawtown Companion Guide to Nature, Art, and science learning experiences! More info and registration at


Government Must Step Up

This is an Earth Day like no other. As our lives are consumed with daily news of death and dying from COVID 19, we worry about how to protect our families, our communities, our nation. We are grateful for the many who put themselves in harm’s way to care for the ill, to bring us food, to ensure that we obey the rules of social distancing, to teach our home-bound children–and so much more. Working from home as I am now, I look out my windows and see a world of beauty—daffodils in full bloom filling me with joy at the golden color and triumph at their spread. I can see shrubs and bushes coming to life and my neighbor’s magnificent forsythia In full bloom. I wonder why the many deer that have been traversing my yard daily for scores of years in ever-greater numbers—heading north in the morning and returning late afternoon—have not been seen for weeks. Something has changed. Do they sense that something bad is happening? Are they self-quarantining?

rockland climate alliance

“Are We the Last Generation?” County Legislator Harriet Cornell addresses the Rockland Climate Alliance’s May 24 protest in Nyack. Photo courtesy Rockland Climate Alliance

Our lives have changed, but the solace and enjoyment of the outdoors become ever more important. We want to be walking, running, or biking; we want to spend time in public parks which have always been a place for many to play sports, to picnic, to hike, to explore—and now access is limited. Protection of our open spaces, our national parks—long supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations—has eroded. Funding for the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is under attack—a fund which provides funds and matching grants to state and local governments to acquire important land and water sites for the benefit of all Americans. Last Fall, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report stressing the critical role lands play in addressing the climate change crisis.  Not only did I sponsor a bill calling for Congress to pass full, dedicated funding for this Conservation Fund, but also sponsored the creation of a $30 million fund in  Rockland County’s 2020 Capital Project’s budget to acquire and protect lands, watersheds, and forests to benefit all our residents and to protect us from the climate extremes and catastrophic weather events that come from climate change.–Harriet Cornell, Rockland County Legislator (Nyack, Upper Nyack, Central Nyack, and part of West Nyack, New City, and Valley Cottage)

Lobby Your Representatives

After the 2016 election, I decided to put energy into fighting climate change. I went to a joint meeting of Rockland Sierra Club and 350NJ-Rockland at the Nyack Library and learned there was a Divestment Committee. I jumped on that band-wagon.

As a little kid in the 1950s, I would “help” my father chart stocks he wished he had the money to buy. The stock market was a popular topic of conversation in our household. Many decades later I joined a stock club and was back into that childhood moment. Soon after that Nyack Library meeting, I began divesting our family’s stock portfolio of fossil fuels, and became active in Divest NY, which is devoted to getting the NY State Common Retirement Fund, valued at $200 billion, to divest. I’ve been involved in that effort for three years. Both Ellen Jaffee and David Carlucci were sponsors of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act before I knew it existed. But I did play a role in getting Ken Zebrowski and James Skoufis to become sponsors. And I continue to lobby other state legislators. Because I receive a pension from the fund, I’m in a position to speak for pensioners–which turns out to be a point of view legislators care about. I play that card in a cool 3-minute video just produced. Here’s the link (please share it!):

You can help our effort by reaching out to Westchester legislators we are currently lobbying (below). Please say “I am proud my representative(s) (Jaffe, Zebrowski, Skoufus, Carlucci) and six Westchester representatives are among the 33 senators and 50 assembly reps who are sponsoring the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, A1536a. Please join them and become a sponsor – Earth Day is the perfect time!” You can also call or tweet Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and tell him you want him to divest (he has the unilateral authority to do so). 518 474-4044; @TomDiNapoli.–Mimi Hoffman, Climate Change Activist

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First Name Legislator Phone Email Twitter
Andrea Stewart-Cousins (518) 455-2585 @AndreaSCousins
Amy Paulin 518-455-5585 @AmyPaulin
Gary Pretlow 518-455-5291 @JGPretlow
Tom Abinanti 518-455-5753 @TomAbinanti

There’s More We Can Be Doing In Our Own Lives… Like Composting

I’ve always taken Earth Day for granted. This year, I’m changing my tune by, well, creating a little earth of my own. I’ve been dismayed by recent reports about the enormous amount of food waste and its effect on the climate: so many compostable items end up in landfills, where, starved of oxygen, they create not just carbon dioxide but also methane, which is at least 20 times worse as a greenhouse gas. So, if we’re not going to go the admirable route of S. Korea and implement a national program that reduced food waste by 95%, we can all do a Google search, watch a DIY video, or ask a friend, and learn how easy it is to compost fruit and veggie scraps in our backyards. You’ll be proud of the little bit of earth you’re creating, and the big Earth will thank you.–Joel Newton, S. Nyack resident and chair of the NSC Waste Management or Materials Management Workgroup

Read Earth Matters every Wednesday on Nyack News And Views, or sign up for the Earth Matters mailing list.

Earth Matters  focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living. This weekly series is brought to you by Maria Luisa Boutique.

Earth Matters is produced with help from Nyack 2030, a coalition of community partners working to address the climate crisis locally and forge a path to a resilient and sustainable future. For more information about Nyack 2030, contact Village of Nyack Sustainability Coordinator Marcy Denker.

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