Grass roots groups in support of Arbor Day

The Arbor Day celebration brought together environmental organizations, clubs and a small, yet enthusiastic crowd.

By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Mickie Shaw/The Valley Star

The Valley College Urban Forest Committee, in collaboration with the ASU and Sierra Club, held this year’s Arbor Day celebration to a medium-sized response.

Alongside that week’s Club Day, the Arbor Day event was held in the Student Union Plaza on April 24. At least nine organizations, from Heal the Bay and Citizens’ Climate Lobby to Amigos de los Rios, gathered their tables next to school clubs while providing information to the few dozens of students nearby on what they do and how they help the environment. The event served free breakfast and lunch by 2ClassyGals that included pastries like bamia, potato pirozhki, mini nazook and lahmajoun.

The celebration also coincided with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Around 9 a.m., the event kicked off with a short speech by speaker Medea Kalognomos — a member of the Armenian Educational Foundation and the co-president of the Committee for Armenian Students in Public Schools — to commemorate the public holiday.

“Genocide should be recognized to give respect to the victims, to accept their dignity and to give an end to their trauma,” Kalognomos said, quoting a Turkish scholar.

During the roughly four-hour event, organizations held tables to promote their work and get others interested. A spokesperson for Heal the Bay said that they take data of the trash they pick up on beaches and send that to lawmakers, who then can make the appropriate provisions. Subsequent data can then be used to determine if those laws are having the intended effect. Youth-led political group, Sunrise Movement, works to promote the Green Deal and endorses representatives that support their position, as well as unify other young people to stop climate change.

“We also work with local environmental organizations, especially community organizations,” said John Kerin, a Sunrise Movement member. “One in particular is STAND-LA … it’s a community organization of low-income people who are living near oil wells in the city where there are toxic fumes and all sorts of health hazards.”

Clubs had their own way of celebrating Arbor Day. The Unity Club had passersby eat grapes so they could be symbolically linked to the earth. The Art Club gave away recyclable pots with seeds so that students could grow their own plants. The Broadcasting Club sold reusable metal straws for $4, with the proceeds going towards KVCM, the school radio.

“The event has a nice vibe to it,” said psychology major Gabriella Sanchez. “It’s good that there’s not a lot of people, but I wish more people took an interest in things like this. It’s here, so why not take advantage of it.”

Around 11 a.m., after announcing winners for a writing competition, the event gave a surprise award to geography professor Claudia Hasenhuttl for her contribution to the environment.

“Trees have always been my thing. I started to work with trees when I was at CSUN, and us being a tree campus was one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” Hasenhuttl said. “We have more vendors this year than we had in previous years. Every year, it seems to grow just a little more, so it’s starting to catch on.”

Afterwards, a pomegranate and apricot tree were planted in the plaza. According to Eco Advocates President and event planner Eddie Kaufman-Morrow, those trees were selected due to being from Armenia and their usage in ceremonies.

“We want to collect like-minded individuals to start thinking more together, that our problems are not just social problem,” Kaufman-Morrow said. “They are also environmental, climate justice problems.”

Around 1 p.m., a movie screening of “Wall-E” was held in the Lion’s Den. The event ended later in the day with Kerin hosting a Climate Justice Q&A and a dozen people in attendance.

The Eco Advocates Club is working with the Sierra Club to hold a meeting on May 7 to discuss the Green New Deal, the Sun Valley Gas Plant and how to lower your electricity bill. It will be from 5 to 7 p.m. in Monarch Hall.