By Alia Wilson

Many wonder just how green the University of California’s expansion will be. The sixth annual Campus Earth Summit, hosted by the Student Environmental Center, hopes to reconnect with the city of Santa Cruz to create and improve upon ways for the university to build and function in a more efficient and sustainable manner.

In addition to green building, the event will address issues concerning food systems, waste prevention, campus gardens, indigenous rights, biofuels, curriculum, and transportation. It will take place on Friday, March 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Stevenson Event Center, with a projected total of 250 to 350 participants.

Vlad Metrik, co-chair of the Student Environmental Center, feels that the current rise in environmental health concerns and media coverage of global warming illustrates the urgency to address some of those topics that will be covered by discussion groups and speakers.

“We’re seeing what we can tangibly do on campus,” Metrik said. “The goal of the campaign is to ideally have this campus be an exemplary role model to the world for what it means to be carbon neutral.”

According to Metrik, the Summit serves as a forum where students and the university can collaborate with the city to unite and share ideas on how to improve the sustainability of the campus.

“Everything that’s happening is within this divide between town and gown,” Metrik said. “This is the one chance that students put on an event that faculty, staff, and city members can have a say to make the next steps to form a vision to solve everyone’s problems. In the years to come this topic will be addressed more and more where more outreach will be given to the city.”

Guest speakers will include Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal, California Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), City Councilmember Cynthia Matthews, UCOP Sustainability Specialist Matthew St. Claire, UC Santa Cruz student leaders, and keynote speaker alumna Melissa Nelson.

Carly Galarneau, one of the organizers of the 2006 Campus Earth Summit, told City on a Hill Press (CHP) that the Summit has grown quite a bit since its creation six years ago.

“It has gone from being a marginal student activist movement to working with administrators,” Galarneau said. “Now they want to work together, so it is much more collaborative than it once was. Actual change is taking place that is getting everyone to be on the same page about policy so that it can be implemented.”

Galarneau explained that university policy has been implemented based on the involvement of its students. UCSC’s Food Systems Working Group achieved its goal of encouraging campus dining facilities to provide organic foods, which now constitute 20 percent of food served. They are currently writing a sustainability policy for the entire UC system.

The importance of food choices – where it comes from and the way it is prepared, stored and transported – will be covered in Nelson’s presentation, “Returning to Our Food Sheds: Practical Sustainability through Place and Taste.”

“Food is the link between the environment’s health and human health,” Nelson said. “We need to step out of the agro-ecological business cycle, and into the local food shed… basically getting more community gardens and giving people the skills to grow local resources even in their own backyard or back patio.”

Nelson elaborated that UCSC is a microcosm that can start making local changes for practical sustainability, and said she is excited to be able to come back to the campus where she earned her degree in Integrated Ecology to share what knowledge she has gained since graduating.

Aurora Winslade, one of the creators of the Earth Summit, said that the event provides a chance for everyone to get together and discover what actions are necessary to solve the issues at hand.

“If we can learn as students how to shift our university into a sustainably-run institution, we can take those skills out into the governments or businesses,” Winslade said. “Which is absolutely needed [given] the crises that we are in today.”