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The Climate Carnival is coming!

Columbia County is throwing its first ever climate carnival on Saturday, July 16th. It’s happening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Columbia County fairgrounds in Chatham, N.Y. But as I write this I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop at the Supreme Court. So many shoes have dropped lately that I’ve lost count. But this is an important one.

The Court is readying to release one of its last major decisions of the term – West Virginia vs. EPA. Since previous decisions by this court don’t offer much confidence they’re likely to side with tree huggers get ready for them to curb the government’s ability to regulate the climate, throwing a major win to the fossil fuel industry.

Being of the occasional “can’t do” mindset, this is one of those depressing decisions that prompts the question: Why bother? Why recycle? Why compost if the Supremes supermajority is ready to leave our increasingly precarious future to the kindness of Exxon and the Koch Brothers?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. I posed it to Tistrya Houghtling, the town supervisor in New Lebanon, NY, a climate activist, and one of the Climate Carnival’s organizers. New Lebanon is a Bronze-certified Climate Smart Community, the first one in Columbia County. That means it’s a leader in local climate action.

Fortunately, Tistrya is way more optimistic about the power to affect change than I am. In fact, she believes that a radical right wing Supreme Court, in cahoots with polluters in the name of Constitutional “originalism” (that’s my characterization not hers) makes local action and events such as the Climate Carnival all the more imperative. In other words, think global but act local. “It’s not about forcing but encouraging,” people to do the right thing, she explained, citing the climate carnival’s mantra – “Celebrate. Educate. Motivate.”

Climate activism has a decided tendency to lurch towards the solemn, the self-righteous, even the boring. This promises not to be one of those events. There won’t be any clowns, I’m happy to say, but there will be jugglers.

“Is he juggling little Earths?” Deb Castellano, marketing pro and an event volunteer asked Tistrya. The supervisor reported over lunch at the Fiesta Café in Chatham that she been contacted by a juggler.

“That would be fun,” she acknowledged. “I should tell him to get little globes.”

There will be food trucks and live music. And for children as well as adults the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum is coming with their birds of prey exhibit. It features hawks, owls and falcons all of whom it can be assumed with be in fine feather, whatever their long-term climate prospects.

I’m particularly excited about all the free stuff for reasons I’ll enumerate shortly. The carnival features a free store – admission to the carnival is also free – where attendees can help themselves to donated gently used clothing, small appliances, and kid’s stuff including clothes, toys and things like bouncy chairs. For more information about making a donation visit the carnival’s website, Climatecarnival.org.

There’s also going to be a repair café where twenty experts with the fine motor skills required to sew holes in sweaters, fix broken jewelry, and get your pricy Nespresso machine working again will be toiling from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s not essential, but the event’s organizers suggest those who want to take advantage of the volunteers’ expertise sign up for the repair café in advance at the carnival website and upload a picture of your problem item to be repaired so that the pros can stock the proper parts.

I’m most excited about the bike-recycling program, not because I hope to score a new bike but because I’m donating one. Several years ago I was awarded a bike in recognition of five years service at the Wall Street Journal. I can’t remember what all the choices were in the catalogue but I went for socially responsible transportation. Those employees who’d hit the ten and quarter-century marks were awarded commensurately more splendid gifts. Unfortunately, the section of the newspaper I wrote for went belly up after only six years so I never got to avail myself of the better booty.

What I failed to learn was that the bike arrived disassembled, cost more to assemble than a new bike, and never really worked. My wife wanted to get rid of it but I refused, considering it a symbol of gainful salaried employment after a career spent mostly as a freelancer.

Less sentimental than me, my spouse regarded a broken bike as proto-garbage and suggested that our garage’s limited space could be better served storing things that worked. I wasn’t planning to budge until the climate carnival came along. May Wong, a talented bike repairman will fix it and some lucky recipient will go home with a good-as-new bike with a provenance rooted in demise of print journalism that he or she will probably never know about. Which is just as well.

As I finished writing this commentary the Supreme Court’s expected ruling came down. The court sharply limited the federal government’s ability to stave off climate catastrophe. Come to the carnival. Show your support for the planet.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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