From May 8 to May 13 Union celebrated its fourth annual Adirondack Week, organized by the Kelly Adirondack Center.
Over 600 attendees came to eight events that were featured Monday through Friday on Union’s campus, showcasing two different art exhibits and two speakers. All events highlighted pride in the Adirondack area, as well as efforts to maintain the Adirondacks.
The first event was a student hiking trip at “Sleeping Beauty Mountain” on Sunday, May 8. The seven mile hike was complete with views of Lake George. Participating student Talha Janjua ’19 described the hike as “a beautiful experience. I hadn’t realized how close I was to such natural beauty.”
On Monday, May 9, the Adirondack Center hosted a panel discussion in Old Chapel labeled “State of the Arts in the Adirondack Park.” The panel was led by ‘Adirondack Life’ creative director Elizabeth Folwell, artist and art educator Sandra Hildreth and architect Nils Luderowski.
Then, on Tuesday, May 10, Union welcomed Sierra Club President Aaron Mair to present a talk titled “A Deeper Shade of Green.” Mair is the first African-American president of the Sierra Club – one of the foremost environmental preservation organizations in the United States and has been active in organizing recreation activities and lobbying public officials in support of expanded wilderness areas and National Parks. The Sierra Club has over 2.4 million members and supporters. Mair has also been involved in everything from advocating for PCB industrial waste cleanup to working to close down a solid waste incinerator in the low income community of Arbor Hill, New York.
The main theme that echoed throughout Mair’s talk was the importance of building a diverse and inclusive environmental movement.
Mair’s family has held on to what was formerly slaveholding land for six generations, and has the distinction of being in the 1 percent of African-Americans that have continuously held on to the land that their ancestors once worked on as slaves.
Mair’s connection to his family ancestral land has shaped his career in grassroots environmental activism.
During his talk, Mair emphasized that the best way to get involved in the formulation of better environmental laws that benefit everyone is to not walk away, and instead be politically engaged.
Mair believes that nature should be able to bring all people together regardless of their race, class, or family background. He has fought to make this happen by advocating against policies that will inhibit the enjoyment of nature, which traditionally disproportionately affects minority communities and the socially disenfranchised.
Mair hopes that the Sierra Club will play a more active role in addressing environmental equities and lessen the separation commonly seen especially in the past between the roles of environmental organizations and civil rights organizations. Mair ended with the cautionary note that one “cannot protect the environment by degrading humanity.”
That Wednesday, May 11, speaker Tony C. Anderson presented “How I Failed the Youth Climate Movement and why the New Movement Must Succeed” in the Nott Memorial.
Anderson is a social entrepreneur, a sustainability nonprofit consultant, a Compton Mentor Fellow with the Compton Foundation and Executive Director of The Let’s Retrofit A Million Education Fund.
He lives by the motto “All human institutions, man-made or natural, must align to the frequency or prana of ‘sustainability,’” which sets the theme for his philanthropic actions and talks.
One of Anderson’s most notable achievements is supplying low-income neighborhoods with over 130,000 energy efficient light bulbs & water kits, saving a total of $15.1 million.
During the movement of 2006-2013, 25,000 youth nationwide collaborated to establish a change in domestic and international climate policy, yet ultimately failed to construct long term solutions.
Anderson focused his talk on what factors led to the failure of this movement and the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, as well as what changes must be made to be successful in the next youth climate movement.
On Thursday, May 12, curator Abi Simkovic gave a guided tour of the exhibit “Grassroots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the 20th century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement” in honor of environmental activist Paul Schaefer’s dedication to protecting the Adirondacks.
The exhibit is a collection of papers, letters, photographs, audio recordings, legal filings and photographs of and about Paul Schaefer and John S. Apperson that have been archived at Union.
During Simkovic’s tour, she shared with the audience three things that she had learned from the project: “The first is that neither the breadth nor depth of these collections can be minimized.
John Apperson and Paul Schaefer were prolific men whose imprint on the landscape of wilderness preservation is seen all over New York state and the United States as a whole.
It was their stalwart activism that fought the uphill battle and brought the preservationist environmental philosophy into New York’s legislation. The second lesson was a deeper understanding of the concept of grassroots activism. Grassroots activism is not about crowds of followers rallying behind a leader. Grassroots activism is about connection and empowerment.
Great organizers and leaders, like Apperson and Schaefer, connect to and empower others to become leaders themselves.
Both Schaefer and Apperson exemplified this, dedicating their lives to connecting with, educating, mentoring, and empowering others into becoming fellow defenders of the wilderness.
The third is that a key to their success was their ability to create and collaborate with diverse coalitions for the accomplishment of an important goal.”
Annette LeClair, Librarian and Head of Technical Services for Schaffer Library, comments, “The Grassroots Activism exhibit celebrates the completion of a major grant awarded to Union College to organize and make accessible the collections of two leading conservationists, John S. Apperson Jr. and Paul Schaefer, whose papers are held at the Adirondack Research Library at the Kelly Adirondack Center.
The reach and impact of their work cannot be overstated; the two men truly and courageously lived their conservationist convictions.
For nearly a century they not only inspired a passion for the Adirondack wilderness but organized a variety of sustained and successful efforts to preserve it.”
The Adirondack Fair took place in Reamer Campus Center on Friday, May 13. The Fair included representatives and booths from USustain, ADK Mountain Club, Adirondack Folk School, Southern Adirondack Audubon Society, Adirondack Raptors, The Jefferson Project at Lake George and the Kelly Adirondack Center.
Adirondack Raptors allowed students to hold an owl, while the Adirondack Folk School displayed a hand-carved canoe.
Following the fair was a reception at the Kelly Adirondack Center, exhibiting how the Schaefer family home had been transformed into an academic institution.
“The 4th Adirondack Week at Union College was a complete success,” says Caleb Northrop, Special Assistant to the President’s Office and Kelly Adirondack Center.
“Next year, we look forward to working directly with various departments and faculty members for our Adirondack Week events.”