As the fundamental home of every single person, animal and organism, the health of the Earth is vitally important for the continuation of life itself. This idea may seem quite old-hat, but perhaps you haven’t considered all the ways the health of the Earth tie into different social and political causes. According to Noni Pittenger, co-coordinator of the Environmental Center, the term environmentalist can describe many more people and social identities than your cliché, tree-hugging hippie. Earth Day is coming up quick, and in celebration, the EC will be hosting an afternoon of music, workshops, speakers and activities designed to awaken not only those with dirt on their jeans from tromping through the forest, but also those interested in any kind of social and political justice.
“Earth Day is a really good opportunity to increase awareness of Earth-related issues,” said Pittenger. “The whole thing with the environment is it’s all about justice. It’s about fairness.” The theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration is The Environment and Social Justice, and Pittenger said the events planned for the day revolve around understanding “the justice side of environmental issues.” Hopefully, you will leave the festivities understanding a little bit more about the interconnectedness of the environment to a host of different social issues.
“Environmental justice may be something people haven’t seen yet out of environmentalisms—it’s not your token recycling or conservation,” said Pittenger. However, as the environment is essentially linked to every single person in the world, it is necessarily linked to every single social and cultural situation as well. “Environmentalism is really expansive and touches on everything,” she said.
Pittenger expressed the importance of each person defining the term environmentalism for themselves, and noted that one’s personal definition is shaped by factors like family, society and education. The key to understanding your own personal definition is to recognize just how encompassing the term can be. “One’s personal environmentalism doesn’t always get the same credit as other social identities like political, religion, or sexual identity. Environmentalism doesn’t define people as well in society, but to me, it’s where I found the intersection of what I thought was important.” Pittenger went on to say that even within the EC, everyone has a different environmentalism, depending on their personal experience and value systems.
“A lot of people look at environmental issues as something of the elite—when you’re not worried about survival, you get the privilege to think about the environment,” said Pittenger. However, this is precisely the kind of thing linking the environment with social justice. “Everyone connects to the environment,” said Pittenger. “A lot of people don’t realize the environment can be so diverse. The more I get into it, the more expansive my view gets, and the less I want to define myself by one environmentalism.”
Whether you are interested in deep ecology, eco-feminism, conservation, political activism, or music, the Earth Day celebration includes something sure to strike your fancy. There will be music from local bands Yambique, Estrella, and Clinton Ferron, a kid’s tent with face painting and storytelling, and an opportunity to make recycled art with supplies donated by the RE Store. If you’re looking for something physical and competitive, the EC and the Recycle Center have created a special series of games just to serve that purpose, the “Recycle-Olympics.” You never know, you just might be the rising star of the great sport of blue barrel throwing.
In addition to the recycled version of ancient Greek strength contests, the EC has designed a host of exciting workshops covering a broad range of environmental issues. Indigenous rights, eco-feminism, and student activism are just a few of the topics to be explored. In addition to the workshops, there will be a career panel of environmental professionals to review your resume, and answer questions about professional options within environmental fields. Viva la Campesina, a panel of local, women farm workers, will also give a presentation discussing their lives and experiences.
“I’m really excited about the workshops,” said Pittenger. “You can read all you want, but you don’t always get to participate in the learning process by talking about it, and that’s where you get your spark from.” In the spirit of discourse, the workshops are designed to give you this type of active, personal engagement.
The Earth Day festivities will start at noon on April 22, and run until 6 p.m. All the events will take place on the lawn outside the Communications Building. For all you early birds, prior to the EC’s planned activities, the Center For Service Learning and New Student Services will be hosting early morning activities related to the earth from 8 a.m.-noon on the same day, in the same place, to kick start the environmental motor for the rest of the day. Everything is free and open to the public.
“Environmental justice is what really got us moving,” said Pittenger. Come to the Earth Day celebration, and whether from good music, good conversation, good art, or just fresh air, you too will be part of a movement bumping and shaking the way to a healthier, more just Earth.