Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Conservationist of the Year - Lynda Schneekloth

By David Kowalski
Conservation Committee Member
Adirondack Mountain Club - Niagara Frontier Chapter (ADK-NFC)

The ADK-NFC Conservation Committee honored Lynda Schneekloth with the “Conservationist of the Year” award at the Chapter's Annual Meeting and Picnic on Saturday, June 11, 2016.

Lynda Schneekloth was a founder of the Friends of the Buffalo River, which later became Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. She continues to serve as a Board member to this day.  She also serves as Advocacy Chair of the Western New York Environmental Alliance, and is Professor Emerita of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. Lynda recently completed two terms as chairwoman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. In her various leadership roles, she is frequently sought out by news media to comment on environmental issues.

In 2015, Lynda Schneekloth took the local lead in the global fight against climate change, initially enlisting help of Sierra Club members. It was a seminal year for climate action. In June, Pope Francis published an Encyclical letter addressed to all people about climate change and the injustices it creates. In December, the U.N. International Conference on Climate Change was slated to take place in Paris.

Building on the Pope's powerful messages, and in preparation for the Paris talks, Lynda wanted to raise awareness about the urgency to address global warming pollution and climate change, and the need for a justice-based transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

Lynda Schneekloth led the effort to create a Western NY campaign called Rise Up for Climate Justice. What was new and different about the campaign was that it was not targeted exclusively to environmentalists. It was for everyone, since climate affects everybody and everything. The campaign successfully engaged not only environmentalists, but also faith groups, indigenous peoples, students, unions, artists, social/economic justice groups and politicians.

Representatives of all of these diverse groups spoke at, and participated in, a Rally for Climate Justice held in Niagara Square. About 400 people attended the rally. 60 organizations, unions and churches as well as over 2300 people signed a Climate Justice Pledge calling for bold climate action by elected officials and all people.

Lynda wanted to send the pledges to the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. She arranged to have the names of signatories printed on a continuous paper roll. With the help of a shortened curtain rod, Lynda made and attractive metal scroll. When unwound, the paper was 42 feet long!

So how would the scroll get to Paris, get inside the high-security Climate Conference, and into the hands of someone who mattered? Well, Lynda is a professional planner. At a ceremonial Gathering of 200 people, Lynda presented the scroll to UB Law students who happened to be going to the Paris Climate Conference with their professor. They brought the scroll into the Conference, and somehow connected with the Executive Director of the National Sierra Club. The students told him about the significance of the scroll and the diversity of pledge signers. The Executive Director accepted the scroll and said, "This is how we will win."

Minutes after receiving the scroll from the representatives of Buffalo, the Sierra Club Executive Director was slated to meet with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State and top climate conference negotiator, to convey to the U.S. Delegation the hopes of the American people. And because of Lynda's scroll and her leadership, the voices of Western New Yorkers were heard in Paris!

The Paris talks were successful in that over 190 nations agreed that it was time to take action in order cut global warming pollution. The Rise Up for Climate Justice campaign ended in 2015, but much more work needed to be done to fight climate change. The campaign evolved into a coalition, which includes members of the diverse groups cited above. In 2016, Lynda took on the leadership of the new coalition, the Climate Justice Coalition of WNY.

The 2016 Conservationist of the Year Award was presented to Lynda Schneekloth on behalf of the Adirondack Mountain Club - Niagara Frontier Chapter for:
"Conceiving and executing a successful campaign that inspired diverse groups of people to call for action on climate change and for a just transition to renewable energy, and her ongoing leadership of the Climate Justice Coalition of Western New York."
About the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK-NFC): ADK-NFC, with some 1000 local members, subscribes to and supports the mission of The ADK, both in the Adirondack Forest Preserve and in Western New York including Allegany State Park. Components of the mission include conservation, advocacy, recreation, education and stewardship. Join us to support this mission and to share our joy and knowledge of outdoor activities. Visit our website at ADK-NFC.org

1 comment:

eagleye said...

Congrats to Lynda for a well-deserved award. The story about the journey of 'her' climate action (pledge) scroll from Niagara Square to the CLimate Conference in Paris is an inspiring example of the tidal impact that even a small pebble can have when strategically tossed into a large pond.