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Thank you to everyone who joined us for our 2019 Annual Awards Dinner & Climate Panel! With the frozen waters of the Mohawk River as a backdrop and the winter sun streaming into the historic ballroom, guests enjoyed an afternoon of discussion, exchanging ideas about land conservation, climate change, what we can do, and how our regional conservation efforts are part of a bigger movement to slow the changing climate.
The Awards Ceremony and The Awardees
We began the evening by honoring the individuals who lead conservation in the Capital Region. This year, we honored Ava DeSantis, the Art on the Rail Trail Committee, and Jessica Ottney Mahar for their contributions.
Ava DeSantis was awarded the Young Leader Award for giving outstanding time and energy to advance the mission of MHLC. Learn more about Ava’s fundraising and outreach volunteer work for MHLC by clicking here and scrolling to page three.
The Art on the Rail Trail (ART) Committee was awarded the Dan Driscoll Leadership Award for giving outstanding time and energy to advance the mission of MHLC through their work improving the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail through public works of art. Learn more about the ART Committee by clicking here.
Jessica Ottney Mahar was awarded the Saving Special Places Award for significant contribution to land conservation through her work as Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy and as a community member working to protect land in the Capital Region. Learn more about Jessica by clicking here.
A Word from Congressman Paul Tonko
After our awards ceremony, we were honored with a surprise visit from Congressman Paul Tonko, who has recently been appointed as chair of the Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change. This subcommittee has exclusive jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act and will be at the forefront of tackling climate change and carbon pollution. Congressman Tonko spoke of the importance of land conservation in the fight against climate change, and urged everyone in the room to continue to support the local leaders who are taking a stand against climate change.
The Climate Panel: What Can We Do?
We ended the evening with an exciting panel of climate experts who answered questions and offered suggestions for individual actions each of us can take to slow the changing climate. Moderated by Laura McCarthy, Manager of Conservation Engagement for Audubon New York and member of MHLC’s Next Gen committee, the panel consisted of:
Jessica Ottney Mahar, Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy
Mary Ellen Mallia, Director of Environmental Sustainability at University of Albany
Curt Stager, Draper-Lussi Endowed Chair in Lake Ecology & Paleoecology at Paul Smith’s College
Mark King, Executive Director for the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (sitting in for Sarah Walsh, Conservation Director for the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy).
The discussion was wide-ranging and riveting with each expert sharing experiences and lessons from their career, and demonstrating a variety of perspectives from policy and economics, to ecology and conservation.
Curt Stager launched the panel with startling statistics on the changing weather patterns in the Capital Region over the past thirty years. On the stark reality of climate change, he remarked: “It’s real, it’s here, and it’s us.”
Jessica Ottney Mahar added that she is often asked, “Why does New York State need to worry about climate change? This is a global issue.” To that, she responded: “New York State is a leader, in movement with states like Washington and California, and is setting an example. State actions add up.”
Mary Ellen Mallia addressed individual and corporate action that can expand upon policy at the state level. Mallia shared an ecological economics perspective regarding corporations and consumer choices: “Prices have to tell the ecological truth,” and provided a list of ways that individuals can act right now to combat climate change, including reducing ones’ carbon footprint by maintaining a plant-based diet, and voting your issue. Mallia stressed the “5 R’s”: reduce, reuse, recycle, and two new concepts: refuse and repair. By reducing consumerism, each of us can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
MHLC Executive Director Mark King shared how the Conservancy is working in the Capital Region to combat climate change. “Natural systems and undeveloped land absorb and store carbon through photosynthesis. Preserving land as open space not only is a natural climate solution, by also has the added benefits of creating clean air and water as well as recreational and scenic benefits. MHLC is one of 90 land trusts in New York State and one of more than 1,350 nationally – each working towards similar goals for land protection and thus mitigation of climate change. I’m grateful to each of our climate panelists for sharing their expertise and perspective, as we collaborate to piece together a multifaceted approach that is needed to mitigate climate change.”
All panelists agreed that the single most important way for an individual to slow the changing climate is to spread the word about how one can make a difference—that we must work together before it is too late. For tips on how to talk to friends and family about climate, download The Nature Conservancy’s free “Let’s Talk Climate” guide, available on their website at https://support.nature.org/images/PageBuilder/supporter/LetsTalkClimate_eBook.pdf.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for this special night. Please remember to continue the conversation: talk about climate change with your networks, and encourage others to think about what they can do to make a difference.