Gather up food and knowledge

Students were given food — and food for thought — at the Vegan Society’s celebration of Earth Day on Thurs., April 19.

Vegan bagels and cream cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos accompanied a series of discussions led by representatives from local farms as well as environmental and animal advocacy groups in the Great Hall.

For nursing major Matt Phelps, Earth Day is an invitation to reflection and mindfulness.

“Earth Day is basically an event where we get together and we talk about sustainability. We talk about being mindful of Earth’s resources. We talk about veganism, which is very much interconnected to Earth Day and being connected to the planet and how we treat it,” Phelps said.

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology and Faculty Advisor for the Pierce Vegan Society Stefanie Winnard said that club members feel strongly about their mission.

“All of us in the club are very passionate about protecting our environment and trying to save our planet for future generations,” Winnard said. “We especially want to highlight one of the leading causes of climate change, which is animal agriculture.”

Winnard said the effects of animal agriculture also extend to deforestation, water pollution, resource depletion, ocean dead zones and species extinction.

Winnard said individuals have the power to engender change by embracing the personal as political and environmental.

“We want to educate the community on the connection between environmental degradation and agriculture and encourage everybody to adopt an earth-friendly lifestyle like going vegan,” Winnard said. “Going Vegan is the single best action a person can do on an individual level to help the planet.”

Karen Snook, the executive director of Kindred Spirits Care Farm at John R. Woodens High School (JRWHS), said tending to the earth and caring for animals has a profound social and environmental impact.

JRWHS is a continuation school for at-risk youth on Winnetka Ave.

“We have about 130 students who come to us, wounded. There they work with the animals, tend to the gardens. We teach them not only why, but how to grow food,” Snook said.

Snook said the Reseda neighborhood school took over the farm 40 years ago out of need for new space after a fire torched its educational infrastructure. She attributed the 96 percent graduation rate at the continuation school to the students personal investment in their work at the Farm.

“The Mission of the Care Farm is to promote compassion. The whole place is transitioning to a place where the animals and the kids will be treated with respect,” Snook said.

Shaun Monson, a director for the environmental documentary entitled Earthlings, said he suspects veganism will grow as the world’s populous transcends separation.

“As MLK said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’” Monson said.

Monson said part of this “bend” involves shedding generations of ingrained societal conflict and embracing the multidinousness of expression.

Monson said because the energy for life is not self contained, society at large believes killing is necessary in order to live.

“In order to transcend separation, we need to raise the sea level, not a single ship,” Monson said. “The most powerful thing that you can do is raise your level of consciousness.”