and DAN SHEPARD ESSEX — While some might feel a church setting apropos to protecting the Earth, this was not necessarily the intention for the location of the Stepping It Up activities at St. John's Church in Essex.Among the exhibits were fair-traded shade-grown coffee, locally baked goods, compact fluorescent light bulbs and examples of "easy steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprints for the sake of the Earth."There was also an opportunity for signing postcards to congressional representatives to express concerns for the environment.Local organizer Katharine Preston has been involved with eco-justice issues for a long time and felt this was an opportunity to be part of a nationwide effort to bring issues before Congress, as well as a chance for people to educate themselves.John Bingham, adorned in a 1990 vintage Earth Day T-shirt, set up a display indicating many simple things that can be done to preserve the Earth. He felt it was "an exciting day across the country" and had a "huge surge of optimism about what we can do locally and what we can do to lead our Congress."We are coming to the pinnacle of awareness and human cooperation ... this is all about civics and people's behaviors as we can decide to be givers or takers.""Step It Up is inventive and interesting. I think Earth Day has stalled out," commented Steve Frazier, 33, of Keeseville who was checking out the exhibits. "Air quality has been generally accepted, and this will be the next big environmental movement."Ben Collins from Willsboro agreed."Step It Up is more of what you can do.""We're raising the general consciousness and people are talking, and that's good," Preston concluded.
There were signs everywhere and brimming smiles on everyone's faces — global warming was the focus Saturday afternoon in Plattsburgh.More than 100 people attended the rally on the steps of City Hall and about 85 people had signed the global-warming awareness petition on hand.This rally came three weeks after a global-warming talk was held at St. Peter's Church in Plattsburgh to discuss global warming's effect on the earth.Step It Up Plattsburgh organizer Pat Ostrander said he was given the simple focus of taking a picture in front of a prominent place.Many piled onto City Hall's steps as passing drivers honked their car horns in support.Starting to fix the problem can be simple, Ostrander said."It's a matter of inertia and getting enough people on board," he said. "Little by little, it'll get done."Bonnie Miller of Plattsburgh attended the event with her husband, Arnie."I'm strongly concerned our government is not taking any leadership," Mrs. Miller said.Her husband agreed."The world knows we're a big pollutant," he said. "We need to make our government understand there is a problem."Bill McKibben, founder/organizer of the Step It Up campaign, said Wednesday by e-mail that it's important to keep focus on the mission at hand."If we can convince Congress to mandate 80-percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, then we'll be able to get down to the hard, but, by no means impossible task of cutting our use of coal and gas and oil a steady 2 percent annually," he wrote.He continued, "America won't look the same when that's done — it will look much better, filled with stronger communities, stronger local agriculture, durable local energy grids. It's the challenge of our lifetimes."