Earth Day speakers get pushback

By Steven Adamo

Comments in the Zoom meeting during Friday’s virtual Earth Day Month Speaker Series criticized Los Angeles Community College District’s Sustainable Environment Institute for the topics and speakers chosen for the event. 

Denise Robb, Political Science professor at Pierce College criticized the event organizers for the event’s programming. 

“Literally 50% of our Earth Day presentation is promoting the killing and eating of animals by two groups that sell the dead animals for consumption,” Robb said. 

Eugenie Lewis wrote in the chat, “I appreciate learning about holistic grazing as an alternative to concentrated animal production. I still would like to learn more about plant-based farming.” Robb added “These two beef presentations on Earth Day make no sense.” 

Beth Abels of Pierce College defended SEI’s speaker choices. 

“Our speakers today have been: an Academic from Tufts, a representative of an industry creating alternative protein organization, and local farmers and ranchers who are working to change food production with the specific goal of improving our climate, soils and to avoid desertification,” Abels said. 

“All looking at ways to significantly redirect us from our current dangerous path.” 

In one of the non-cattle-related presentations, Hanna Barlow of the Good Food Institute said the non-profit focuses on advancing alternatives to traditional meat, like cultivated meat. 

Barlow said the process uses animal stem cells to grow into tissue using bioreactors and growth serums, which mimics the process that happens inside the cow’s body. 

“We don’t need to raise an entire cow for this meat. It would take a few stem cells to create a steak on its own,” Barlow said. 

Ken Pucker, Tufts Fletcher School professor of practice, focused his discussion on the harms of standard practices in the fashion industry. Pucker compared organic cotton to nylon. Even though organic cotton seems like the more environmentally-friendly choice, cotton is a crop that requires large amounts of water. 

Nylon on the other hand, lasts longer but uses fossil fuels to create it. 

“It’s fossil fuels, spun and extruded,” Pucker said. “Polyester is oil that has been treated, extruded into thread and sewn into garments.” 

Pucker said the time and access to information about these issues makes it even more difficult for consumers who want to do the right thing. He believes more companies like Patagonia can still run a successful business while changing standard business practices that cause harm to the environment. 

Other things people can do to offset the harm that fashion can cause on the environment, is to shop at second hand stores, Pucker said.

He said the U.S. Congress can be helpful by passing the Fashion Act This is a bill that could confront issues like chemical use on garments, as well as stolen wages from garment workers. 

George Leddy, moderator of the event and director of the LACCD Sustainable Environment Institute, said “We can’t consume our way out of the crisis we’re in.” 

The  events for the SEI Earth Day Month were in partnership with The Professional Development College of the District Academic Senate.

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