Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Adrienne Carmichael, Founder of EarthSave Cincinnati

This past Sunday, members of EarthSave Cincinnati gathered in Newport, Kentucky at James Taylor Park for one of their traditional vegan potlucks. While EarthSave Cincinnati has a tradition of holding monthly vegan potluck gatherings, this potluck was specifically held as a 15th Anniversary Celebration that honored their founder, Adrienne Carmichael.

EarthSave Cincinnati is an organization with a mission of "eating plant-based foods, sharing concerns for our environment, compassionate treatment of animals and improved health." Their vision, as described on their website, states:

EarthSave is dedicated to helping create a better world by showing the powerful impact of our ordinary eating habits and promoting positive alternatives. We educate people about the dietary link to environmental degradation; encouraging sound nutrition, conservation of resources and sustainable agriculture. We show how an animal-based diet, and the factory farming which underlies it, causes enormous depletion and pollution of the natural world, suffering for the animals and danger to our own health.

EarthSave includes people of all kinds taking informed action to heal our lives and planet. Through books, audio and video tapes, speaking tours, local support and action groups, school nutrition and environmental programs, conferences, seminars, workshops and wilderness outings, we encourage a responsible approach to restoring balance, kindness and health to our society.

They hold monthly vegetarian potluck gatherings and bring in various speakers on the third Sunday of the month at Clifton United Methodist Church.

Back in January of this year, I had an opportunity to interview the Chair of EarthSave Cincinnati John Mooter about the organizations views on the incoming Obama Administration. As EarthSave Cincinnati is now celebrating their 15th Anniversary, I had an opportunity to speak with their founder, Adrienne Carmichael, about the history of the organization and what they are planning in their next 15 years.

CJ: EarthSave Cincinnati is celebrating the 15th Anniversary of its founding. Can you give some background on what led you to create an organization like EarthSave Cincinnati fifteen years ago?

AC: I moved from my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1993 for a job. I had been treasurer of EarthSave Louisville and became a vegetarian in 1992 after watching the PBS documentary, “Diet For a New America” by John Robbins and reading his book by the same title. When I moved to Cincinnati I had trouble finding a vegetarian community so I started showing the video to people and asking them to start EarthSave in Cincinnati. No one took me up on the offer, so after a year I decided to get together my own money and go to the EarthSave Annual Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. It was here that I met the previously mentioned John Robbins who is also the founder of EarthSave International. I had an awesome time there and was so inspired that I came home and started the local chapter in Cincinnati. Once I had the idea of starting the group here it seemed like vegetarians came out of the woodwork to participate and we soon had a growing organization. I love the mission of EarthSave and the positive approach of John Robbins. EarthSave’s mission is to educate people about the powerful impacts our food choices have on our health, the environment and all life on Earth. The approach the group has is to empower people and support them in moving toward a more plant-based diet. One of the monthly events we have is a vegan potluck which includes a smorgasbord of homemade yummy, healthy foods that contain no animal products.

CJ: Can you describe some of the most memorable causes that EarthSave Cincinnati has been involved in over the 15 year history of the organization?

AC: The most memorable cause for me that ES Cincinnati has been involved with was the Healthy School Lunch Program which was started by ES International. This program worked with the public school food service to create vegetarian meals for the students. Our group worked with Cincinnati Public Schools to do a pilot program and it was a big success. We brought in Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) who played music and preformed skits, as well as several speakers who talked to the students about their diets and how the food we eat affects the environment and our health and the animals. After the students heard all the information they were served the healthy school lunches provided by their food service and loved it! All servings were sold out in the program. Unfortunately, after the pilot we had a lot of difficulty dealing with Cincinnati Public Food Service in continuing the program. So it ended there but I believe the outreach we did, and that EarthSave International did around the country did make a difference.

CJ: On the website, the stated goal of EarthSave Cincinnati is to "promote eating plant-based foods, sharing concerns for our environment, compassionate treatment of animals and improved health." Can you speak to what you and the members of EarthSave Cincinnati feel is important for others to know about this living this kind of lifestyle?

AC: There are so many reasons to live this way. For starters, it’s a more rational way to eat. It’s important for the health of everyone in our society that we eat lower on the food chain. Animal products are often high in fat and cholesterol which can lead to heart disease and other health issues. Our health care system is burdened with too many incidences of preventable health problems from poor diets which contribute to rising health care costs nationwide. If people are serious about wanting a more functional health care system and lower costs, eating a more plant-based diet is a huge step in the right direction. Vegetables are often cheaper than animal products and provide a more readily available source of energy for our bodies without all of the bad fats and cholesterol that harm our health.

Then there is the issue of sustainability and responsible farming practices. My husband and I shop at Findlay Market every week and find the most beautiful, healthy, sustainably grown food available. There are so many markets in town now that people have no reason to shop at huge corporate stores that take away money from our small businesses and take very little interest in environmental issues. We need to be supporting local farmers who are making a real effort to farm responsibly and ethically.

Finally, there is the mistreatment of animals. These are living things with functional nervous systems, who feel physical and emotional pain like the rest of us. They live in complete misery for their short lives and then get sent off to slaughter. I won’t go into the whole story, but I would encourage everyone to research commercial farming practices. It’s disturbing, to put it mildly. I also believe it affects us on a deeper level to be eating something that has gone through so much suffering.

CJ: Around the time of the inauguration of President Obama, I spoke with the Chair of EarthSave Cincinnati, John Mooter. One of the topics that we discussed was the hope that your organization had for the new Administration to promote the values that your organization finds important. President Obama has been in office for almost nine months now. Are you encouraged when you see the President and First Lady take actions like planting a garden at the White House, or do you think that the Administration should do more to encourage citizens to move toward sustainable farming and eating habits?

AC: I’m encouraged, but I also hope to see more steps forward. Setting a good example, like planting a garden at the White House, is great, but I also feel our government should take a bigger role in regulating factory farming and addressing the human and environmental health issues associated with these practices. I highly recommend that people go see “Food, Inc.” We need to educate ourselves on what is happening with our food in this country. Right now, it is an ignorance is bliss situation. Most people don’t want to know because they know it is bad and they will have to make changes in their diets if they learn what is going on. However, more and more people seem ready to open their eyes and look at what is actually happening to these animals and the food that comes from them. How many more meat recalls are we going to have before people stop voting with their forks for unsustainable, disease-spreading animal products?

CJ: How has the City of Cincinnati changed over the last 15 years in regard to the attitude toward sustainable eating habits and commitment to green spaces? Do you think that the City is doing a good job at encouraging citizens to eat locally and to support local growers?

AC: I am so happy to see a lot of people at Findlay Market every time I go there. We have several friends who are local farmers and they are selling a lot of produce, bread, herbs, flowers, etc. When I first moved here and was eating a vegan diet, I had a very difficult time finding local organic food. There were just a few health food stores that I knew of and very few farmers’ markets. This has changed dramatically in this city to where there are markets all over town now. So yes, I think the city is doing a good job of encouraging citizens to eat locally and buy locally, but we need to stay on this path of a more sustainable food system and encourage the big corporations in town to support more sustainable practices too.

CJ: When I spoke with John Mooter back in January, he spoke about EarthSave Cincinnati's efforts as an educational group...bringing in speakers to talk to the group about a plant-based diet, city gardening, etc. Do you hope to see EarthSave Cincinnati continue in this direction or do you for see more of an activist/outreach role for the organization moving forward? Any partnerships with other activist groups that EarthSave is considering?

AC: I would like to see the group doing more outreach and continuing to have their amazing speakers monthly at the vegan potlucks. It’s an awesome place to be introduced to other people who are concerned about sustainability issues.

CJ: One of the areas in which EarthSave Cincinnati has been outspoken has been on the issue of promoting healthier school lunches within Cincinnati schools. Can you talk a little bit about the role of corporate interests in determining what food and drink products get placed in schools and how promoting healthier options can combat this influence?

AC: Well, the kids are going to eat whatever they learn is good from their elders, what they see in advertising, and what is there in front of them when they sit down to eat. I believe that the profit base for these corporations needs to change. It’s not sustainable, healthy or good for anyone to be drinking sodas full of high fructose corn syrup or eating pizza and hamburgers from fast food chains. If these companies are going to play a role in our children’s lunch rooms they need to change their products to be in line with our environment’s needs and those of the children in our schools. Best case scenario, we would keep these products and companies out of our schools altogether. Our tax dollars shouldn’t be paying for corporations to serve our children junk food just because it’s the cheapest option right now. All we are doing is passing the buck and paying more in health care when our kids end up obese and diabetic and suffering from heart disease down the road.

CJ: Within this past year a group titled "Protect our Water" has formed locally over the concern that the Cincinnati Water Works is being considered for a sale to an independent Water District. Does EarthSave Cincinnati have a position on who should control Cincinnati's water supply?

AC: I am not familiar with that movement and I am not sure where EarthSave Cincinnati stands on that issue.

CJ: Finally, what do you hope to see EarthSave Cincinnati accomplish over the next 15 years? In what direction do you hope to see the organization go?

AC: I’d like to see the organization get more attention like you are giving us here in the Beacon. The education that the group does is critical to our environment and health. I’d like to see us take on the school lunch program again and continue our awesome potlucks.

CJ: I thank you for your time.

This piece is crossposted here.

The above photo is courtesy of here.

1 comment:

Grumpy said...

I'm not buying. Give me a cheeseburger any day.