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February 9, 2023

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 4:52 pm

Recently, a couple of Cornell students have chained themselves to a tree to protest Cornell’s plans to build a parking lot off of University Avenue, which would involve paving over a wooded area that has come to be called “Redbud Woods.” Other than chaining themselves to the tree, the protestors have been holding up signs reading “Honk to save Redbud Woods, ” or other similar sentiments, setting off a cacophany of noises.

Chethan seems to recall that at times the signs actually read “Honk if you love democracy!” a decidedly different sentiment than “Honk to save a bunch of trees, ” casting doubts on my impression of Ithaca as a tree-hugging hippy-town. Ok, not really; Ithaca most certainly is a tree-hugging hippy-town.

Now, far be it from me to denigrate all those who love nature and trees and hippies as, uh, hippies. I consider myself a bit of an environmentalist myself. But I’m also a pragmatist, and the parking situation at Cornell is, frankly, abysmal, especially for students. Also, as per the Ithaca Times, the pro-trees groups have rather cynically named the area “Redbud Woods” only after Cornell announced that they planned to raze the woods. This seems to be similar to making the face of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the cuddly caribou rather than the frozen tundra (as what promises to be a lengthy aside, it’s all a matter of framing. I am, in fact, against drilling in the wildlife refuge, but just as it benefits conservative groups when people refer to it as ANWR thereby disassociating it from the idea of “wildlife refuge, ” it behooves environmental groups to make what amounts to a frozen wasteland as cuddly as possible. Similary, “Redbud Woods” sounds better than “bunch of trees you probably never knew existed in your drunken walk up and down University Ave.”).

So given all of this, where do I fall? I’m not really sure. I think that the University could certainly use more parking area, but I’m also in favor of sustainable development. How about trading the trees in the parking area for planting new ones (or transplanting old ones) to some other locale?

I suspect that a majority of Cornellians prefer the parking lot too: today I saw a counter protest set up next to the chained students with signs that read, among other things, “Honk if you love PARKING!” Needless to say, they rather out-honked the hippy contingent. Fairly amusing, if you ask me.

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