Students for Sustainability host Earth Day Every Day event to raise environmental awareness
Zongshun Zhang forms a seed ball using a mix of compost, soil and some seeds of his choice at one of many tents hosted by SFS partners. More than 20 groups from campus and local communities came together on the UA Mall April 21 to preempt Earth Day.
Students for Sustainability took over the UA Mall Friday, April 21, to celebrate Earth Day and educate passers-by about our local ecosystem, food and water sheds, and the environment as a whole. Thirty-seven advocacy groups, clubs and organizations set up tents and engaged students with ways they can get involved protecting the environment and living more sustainably.
The Mall has attracted crowds in the past with fluffy therapy dogs available for cuddles to detract from the stresses of education, but Earth Day eve drew students, faculty and community members to partake in an array of demonstrations and activities for a fun educational focus.
Co-director of SFS Trevor Ledbetter was one of the four project leads on the Earth Day event.
“With the things that are going on politically right now, it's very important to have these sorts of events,” Ledbetter said. “To get people who aren't politically motivated when it comes to the environment to see that it is an important thing.”
Under President Donald Trump’s administration, there have already been many changes made in environmental policy. The policies put in place under Barack Obama that worked to limit pollution and help slow climate change have been reversed, and funding for environmental groups has been cut drastically.
On April 13, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the “Back-To-Basics” agenda to coal miners in Pennsylvania.
“The agenda reinforces Administrator Pruitt’s commitment to refocusing EPA on its intended mission, returning power to the states, and creating an environment where jobs can grow,” read a press release on the EPA's website.
The agenda outlines the EPA’s plans to cut back on environmental policies that restrict certain aspects of coal mining and other areas, originally set in place due to their environmental impacts.
“The EPA shouldn't be working for businesses,” Ledbetter said at the UA Earth event. “They shouldn't be protecting the economy, they should be protecting the environment, that's their purpose.”
Bitty Fennie, a project lead on the Earth Day event, explained how students can have a say in the fight to protect and conserve the environment.
“Through the way that the climate of politics has been in this country and this world right now, it just makes you feel powerless,” Fennie said. “It makes you feel like there's nothing you can do, and that's not the truth.”
Fennie hoped that the Earth Day event would work to empower students to get involved with groups that exist to make a difference.
“All of the power really lies in the people, and I just really wanted to give an opportunity to give that back,” Fennie said. “At the end of the day, its community building and showing people that they can do it if they want, they just have to take that first step.”
SFS is made up of 11 committees, all of which tackle the goal of environmental change through different perspectives and initiatives.
“It's awesome that we have over half of our SFS committees here tabling specifically about their committee, which rarely happens for us,” Ledbetter said. “It’s usually just one table that represents all of SFS, so it's really great seeing them be able to represent themselves all together.”
One of the committees runs the UA Community Garden, a space behind the parking garage on 1400 E Mabel St. where students and community members grow vegetables and host events. The garden is a place where environmental knowledge is put into action and where students and members of the community can pay it forward.
“The garden is definitely a safe space which now more than ever is something that we kind of need with what is going on in the world,” said Olin Marman, a member of the SFS Garden Committee.
After a recent vandalism incident where vandals broke planters and smashed outdoor furniture causing more than $7,000 in damages, organizers viewed the Earth Day event as positive shift in focus.
“We didn't wallow for very long,” Marman said. “Events like this kind of help to remember what’s important. Maybe we just disagree with a lot of the high-ups in the world, but there are still a lot of people who are doing good things.”
Idrian Mollaneda was tabling at the event on Friday for the Environmental Social Justice Committee, of which he is chair. At the Social Justice table, committee members asked students trivia questions about social justice and environmental issues.
“These questions are to get people thinking about the intersections between environmental issues and social issues,” Mollaneda said. “Our mission is just to raise that awareness and to bridge those institutional gaps between social justice advocacy and environmental advocacy.”
A shared goal of all the organizers of the Earth Day event was to spread awareness about the significance of environmental advocacy, and to attract more students to get involved.
“Tucson is such a great community in that the community really cares a lot about the environment,” Mollaneda said. “I think that really shows here, we have a lot of really passionate people, so hopefully we can rub that off on all the people that come today.”
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