Monday, April 18, 2011

Why I Am Promoting an "Eating Green" Conference in Washington DC

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen my tweet promoting the Eating Green: A Conversation about Food, Consumption and Sustainability conference to be held at American University in Washington, DC on Earth Day, Friday April 22, 2011.  To some, it may seem rather random that I would help promote an event taking place in a city where I no longer live, especially since I have maybe only a handful of Twitter followers from that area.  But in fact, I am doing my part in promoting this event for a reason that is much closer to home, and I am about to get as personal as I would on the www and tell you a story.

The Eating Green conference is held in memory of a recent graduate of American University, Andrew Wolf.  Even though I had actually worked at AU at the same time Andrew attended classes there, I never had the pleasure of meeting this inspiring young man.  But one person who did was my sister - interestingly enough, on a bike tour in Canada.

My sister and Andrew were part of a 17-member group organized by the Ottawa-based Otesha Project, a youth-led, non-profit organization aimed to create social change.  The two-month tour involved cycling from city to city across Eastern Canada and visiting various schools and community centers to educate young people about sustainable living.  All members of the tour were volunteers and had raised their own funds to participate.  They all chose to devote two months of their lives to this experience because of their strong conviction in the cause and their belief that they can make a difference in this world.

Sadly, it was during one of the rides that tragedy struck on September 16, 2010, when a tractor-trailer swerved into the wide shoulder of the highway where the group was traveling and hit three of the cyclists.  Andrew was killed instantly.  (And yes, I often think of how it could have been my sister who was killed instead.)

During his life, Andrew was passionate about food justice and had worked tirelessly to educate others about food-related issues, such as how food is farmed, food labeling, and healthy eating.  He worked as a food educator in New York and had just written this article about it prior to his death.  The conference at AU honors Andrew's memory by bringing together people from different walks of life to discuss the issues that Andrew cared most about, to carry on his legacy in some way.

Even though I never got to meet this amazing young man, I feel inspired by Andrew through the work that he had accomplished in his short life.  How many 20-somethings these days do you know who have such a strong, developed sense of ethics and actively advocate for social justice?  Instead of recognizing and celebrating those who serve as positive role models, our society and our media focus on people like former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace who really don't deserve their 15 minutes of fame (or infamy, in this case).  If everyone has even half the drive and dedication that Andrew had toward positive change, this world would be a much better place.

I do not have any illusion that this blog will reach the people of DC and inspire them to attend the Eating Green conference.  My hope is that this post will at least bring some awareness to issues related to food justice and the environment in general.  In my own small way, I'd like to help sustain Andrew's legacy.

How you can help in your own small way:
  1. Please feel free to retweet my message, even if you don't live in DC. Somebody who does might just see it.
  2. If you're not on Twitter, email your DC friends to let them know about the conference.
  3. If you're interested, take some time to read some of Andrew's favorite links on food justice.
  4. Visit a food establishment that is committed to local sourcing and sustainability.  Here are a few in Pittsburgh that have been featured in my blog so far.
  5. If you're a driver, please share the road, and encourage others to do the same.
Thank you for reading.

Andrew Wolf
Sketch courtesy of my sister

Remembering Andrew
Eating Green Conference Info