Urban-Rural Linkages in Meeting Climate Change Goals: Case of Ithaca and Tompkins County
Katie Borgella serves as commissioner of planning and sustainability for Tompkins County, overseeing the 11-person department and all its activities. She is responsible for developing and executing an integrated, long-term planning strategy for both government operations and the wider community, with an emphasis in recent years on addressing climate change and housing affordability. Borgella has served in a wide range of capacities since joining Tompkins County in 1993, including strategic planning and program implementation in the realms of the environment, agriculture, energy, sustainability, housing, transportation, tourism, economic development, and land use planning. Prior to joining Tompkins County, Borgella provided civil engineering services to farmers in southeastern Massachusetts for the USDA Soil Conservation Service and to community leaders in the Northern Province of Cameroon for the Community Development Office/U.S. Peace Corps.
Elizabeth Gabriel brings experience in nonprofit leadership, sustainable farming, and food sovereignty. As founding director of Common Good City Farm, she transformed a baseball field into a productive urban farm and grew the nonprofit from the ground up. Her passion for food production, equitable food access, and a collaborative style were seminal to the urban agriculture movement in DC. Gabriel holds a dual master's degree from American University, is a graduate of multiple anti-racism training, and serves on the board of the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County. When she's not working, Gabriel can often be found at Wellspring Forest Farm, the small agroforestry farm she runs with her partner Steve, or in the woods with her dogs.
Nick Goldsmith works jointly with the City of Ithaca and the Town of Ithaca as Sustainability Coordinator, where he implements initiatives to reduce energy use in the community and in government operations. He is currently leading the development of the Ithaca Green Building Code, a proposed law that would set energy efficiency requirements for all new buildings and lead to net-zero construction by 2030. Goldsmith serves on the advisory board of the Ithaca 2030 District and is an active member of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. He holds an M.S. in energy management and a certificate in environmental management from the New York Institute of Technology and a B.A. in mathematics from Brown University. Before joining the sustainability field, Goldsmith worked for more than a decade as a juggler and acrobat Nicholas Flair, providing unforgettable entertainment in venues worldwide.
Recently, national movements have renewed momentum for ambitious climate mitigation targets that, for the first time, also require redressing societal inequality. New York state and local governments like Ithaca have recently adopted their own goals for achieving climate neutrality. These policies have yet to say how they will meet their goals and build support for implementation for societal decarbonization, particularly given spatial, political, and class/race divisions. In this panel, we would like to facilitate grounded, specific discussions around the following questions: What are the implications of ambitious climate goals, perceived as an urban, Democratic agenda for rural communities like those surrounding Ithaca? How can we move towards building integrated, regional solutions that bridge societal divisions? What examples from this region's history or mechanisms provide lessons moving forward? What role can universities like Cornell play in this process?