We All Stand Together on the Same Earth

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Tompkins Weekly April 16, 2012
by Joey Diana Gates

Spring is here, bringing with it many familiar traditions: maple sugar festivals, daylight savings time, the opening of farmers’ markets and Earth Day. The 2012 lthaca Earth Day event will be held at the Ithaca Farmers Market Pavilion at Steamboat Landing on Sunday, April 22nd, from Noon to 5:00 PM. Sponsored by Sustainable Tompkins, our theme is We All Stand Together on the Same Earth, in honor of the environmental justice movement.

The national Earth Day, now in its 42nd year, is fueled by the sustainability movement which seeks to integrate environmental stewardship with economic and equity issues. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice advocates work towards “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies …It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

One area where we see the challenge of integrating environmental protection with economics and equity is at the grocery store. The proliferation of organic and natural foods in recent years is the result of many years of work by those in the food movement.  Government subsidies artificially lower prices on conventional produce and processed foods, while the more labor and management intensive organic foods often come with much higher price tags.

At the local level, area groups are taking the systems approach of sustainability in pursuing the goal of providing healthy food for all. At Greenstar Natural Foods Market, a program named FLOWER, Fresh, Local, Organic Within Everyone’s Reach, sprouted in the spring of 2010 in response to member-owner concerns and the resulting food desert created by the closing of the north side P&C Market. According to Alexis Alexander, outreach targeted through local organizations working with low-income constituents yielded 452 members in the program’s first year, 157 of which were new members to the co-op. (The number of people served is actually more when considering that one person will generally shop for a household.) The program, developed in consultation with fellow co-ops, offers a 15% discount to qualifying members allowing them greater access to organic, healthy food.

Sustainable Tompkins has also participated by providing seed money through their Neighborhood Mini-Grants program. In recognizing the need to strengthen our ability to care for one another and the need for fresh, local food, funds have been given to several community garden endeavors. For example, the Black Locust Project of Trumansburg was assisted in the creation of a garden and root cellar. In doing so, school children were taught the skills necessary to not only grow food, but to store it for winter months when fresh was not available except in the grocery stores. More recently, the West Village Gone Green Neighborhood Association was awarded a grant that allowed them to create a community organic garden in the grounds of their apartment complex. These grants and the aforementioned FLOWER project are just some of the actions taken locally to address inequities and allow access to a broader spectrum of environmentally sound food choices, leading to healthier environments around the people they serve.

At Earth Day, educational and fun exhibits regarding other local sustainability initiatives such as renewable energy, green building, composting and even a green daycare will also be on display, as well as offerings of good food and music from a solar-powered stage.  Opening the day will be national performer and interfaith minister Jody Kessler, followed by remarks by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.  Other highlights include performances by One Love, Crow Weaver, Vitamin L, a children’s story and activity from the Museum of the Earth, The Lucky Pluckers and the One Heart Drum Community.

If you or your group would like to have a booth, email Joey at solkitchen1@gmail.com or ring (607) 387-7799.  This event is free and open to the public.

Joey Diana Gates is the Coordinator, Ithaca Earth Day with Sustainable Tompkins.

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