In “The Little Town that Would Transform the World,” Homelands senior producer Jonathan Miller reports from Ithaca, New York, whose ambitious Green New Deal seeks to deliver drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and major benefits for the community’s most vulnerable members. It’s a hometown story with implications for hometowns everywhere.
The half-hour piece is the latest episode of Living Downstream, a podcast about environmental justice produced by Steve Mencher of Mensch Media and distributed by Northern California Public Media.
Miller introduces us to Ithaca’s sustainability director, Luis Aguirre-Torres, a Mexican engineer (his Ph.D. research was on entropy) with a global vision and an activist’s passion for disruption. Aguirre-Torres is both an insider and an outsider, a veteran of international climate policymaking but new to Ithaca. Since he arrived this spring, he has sought to broaden the climate conversation to include social change agents and people whose lives are likely to be most affected by climate change — and by climate policies.
We also meet Richard Rivera, an outreach worker at Ithaca’s sprawling homeless encampment, who deserves a podcast of his own, and civil rights activist and organizational consultant Laura Branca. Both know how hard social change can be, but both are hopeful that progress is possible. Both also appreciate a local government that doesn’t just see the connections between social justice and climate change, but pushes hard to bring the two together.