EMA July Newsletter: Help Restore LA's South Central Farm

A Life of Environmental Activism: EMA Board Member John Quigley

I played in the woods every day of my young life. This is where my environmental activism took root. I grew up on the east coast outside Washington, D.C. We lived next door to the farm of legendary baseball pitcher Walter Johnson. The land was dozens of acres filled with remnants of old farmhouses, barns and a spectacular array of trees -- Birch, Ash, Cedar, Elm, Dogwood, Magnolia, Maple, Oak, Sycamore – all knitted together by lush understory. My mile-long daily walk each way to school (yes kids used to walk to school in those days) began and ended in this ever-changing natural wonderland. Year by year I’d watch the kaleidoscope of seasons cycle through the green spectrum of summer to the fiery burnt umber, reds, and oranges of autumn to the black and white barren silhouette of winter then to the re-emergence of green buds leading to a bouquet of blossoms each spring.

I loved the feeling of being in the trees and up in them too. I was always finding the best and tallest tree to climb. So much so that kids in the neighborhood started calling me ‘the monkey.' This I took as a high compliment since it was usually uttered while I was perched on a thin branch near the top of yet another tree.

An Earth Day Inspiration 

Third grade was the first time I ever heard of something called Earth Day. At the end of class, they gave us each a small tree sapling to go home and plant. My mom helped me plant my little sapling that afternoon on the edge of the woods. Over time I watched it grow. I remember her taking a picture of me with the tree when I was 17 years old. The once tiny sapling now towered over me several times my height.

When I was in high school the farm was sold and redeveloped as a medical center. It was painful to see that wonderful nature dug up and changed. They left some of the woods on the outer edge but it was not the same. Looking back I can see this is where the seeds of my conservation work with the Amazon, Great Bear Rainforest, Old Glory Oak Tree, America’s Wilderness areas, and other places were sparked. I saw the importance of protecting the last wild places so others could experience the natural wonderlands that formed the joy of my youth. The tree planting experience of the first Earth Day showed me the power of activism to have a lasting impact on others. That one tree I planted grew into an environmental consciousness that has shaped my entire adult life.

Years later I would become the youngest member of the national board of Earth Day serving with Senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970. One evening as he and I traveled by taxi to Capitol Hill he said, "we won't truly turn things around until we've raised an environmental generation". I thought of my tree from the first Earth Day and the person at my school that decided to participate by gathering enough saplings for each student to take one home. How the ripple effect works when one person decides to take action and the impact that has. I'll most likely never know the name of the person at De Chantal School in Bethesda, MD, who somehow heard about the first Earth Day and decided to act, but I am eternally grateful for them. They affected my life in ways they may never have imagined.

Today I look around and ask myself, “have we raised an environmental generation?” and if we have, “Is that enough?”. My answer is yes and no. In terms of awareness we're living in a time where environmental stories, advertising, and conversations are pervasive. They’ve become mainstream. Something we dreamed of and strategized for back when I was on that Earth Day board.

Kids today are highly aware of the importance of protecting the environment, corporations align their brands with the green message, and the clean energy revolution is underway. All are positive signs. But the underlying physical reality of our biosphere, where our basic life support systems are under threat from climate change, species extinction, toxics, plastic pollution, and loss of habitat to name a few, requires a far more urgent, strategic, and highly leveraged approach. This is where EMA can play a crucial role. John and EMA

I first became aware of EMA at its origin while working on Earth Day in the early nineties. There was great excitement about the potential for harnessing the power of the entertainment industry to educate the public and drive environmental change. In its first decade my involvement consisted of attending a few events and collaborating mostly on Earth Day activities.

In the summer of 2000, I had the pleasure of walking into the office of Debbie Levin, who had recently been hired by EMA to breathe new life into the organization. We bonded from the start. I've seen her and the organization grow in exciting ways over time. In the last few years, I've been happy to work with EMA as they stepped up to lead on critical issues such as the call to Ban Fracking, the GMO-Free and #NOKXL (Stop the Keystone Pipeline) movements, and the recent response to the Porter Ranch gas leak right here in LA.

This proactive shift in EMA's leadership, and the willingness to go beyond promoting green lifestyle by wading into the most game-changing issues we face, gives me great hope. This is why I so appreciated the invitation to officially join the EMA Board in January. I’m honored to contribute my skills to help EMA truly fulfill its potential to leverage the great communications power of the entertainment industry to accelerate much needed change.

This summer I'm hoping we can leverage that power to help on an issue important to the future of Los Angeles. One that also brings me back full circle to a farm.

Aqui Estamos' (We're Still Here)

On July 12th, the South Central Farmers gathered for the ten-year anniversary of their eviction at the site of the original farm at 41st and Alameda in South Central LA. They unfurled giant letters that covered the 14-acre site with the message 'Aqui Estamos' (We're Still Here) while the image was captured from above. For ten years the land has gone unused after a decade and a half where it fed hundreds of families. The anniversary event was the first time the farmers had joined together on the land since the day of the eviction.

I was one of those evicted on that June day in 2006 after living in the tall walnut tree watching over the land for 23 days with fellow EMA board member Daryl Hannah, Joan Baez, and Julia Butterfly Hill. I will never forget the feeling of community in what Joan called, "an urban oasis in a concrete jungle" as we urgently raised the money to buy the farm (which we did) before the owner changed his mind last minute and declined to sell. The mix of ages and ethnicities present was breathtaking. The food grown right there on the farm was beyond delicious. I've often said that these farmers could grow food in concrete. That's how good their touch with the land is.

This site is the birthplace of the environmental justice movement in Los Angeles and has a long history of importance. Juanita Tate and the Concerned Citizens of South Central rose up to defeat an incinerator in the late eighties. After the civil disturbance of 1992 Mayor Tom Bradley offered the site to the public to grow food to help heal the wounds of racial and economic division. The farmers turned the once vacant lot into the largest urban farm in America that fed 350 families directly, and much more in an area often called a food desert.

The farmers now have a proposal to restore the farm and create a ‘Community Food Hub’. There is also talk of placing the National Environmental Justice Museum (modeled after the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis) on a corner of the site. Certainly, no place in Los Angeles would be better suited for this.

How You Can Make a Difference Here’s what you can do to make a difference. Please send a letter to the LA Planning Commission asking them to consider the multiple benefits of restoring the South Central Farm at the 41st and Alameda location by Tuesday, July 19th.

Currently, there is a proposal from a consortium of clothing manufacturers (PIMA) to build giant warehouses on the site.

This is the last big piece of open space near downtown Los Angeles. Our feeling is those warehouses would be better placed in currently built empty warehouse space nearby.

This call to action is a natural extension of EMA’s commitment to school and urban gardens.

Restoring the farm creates many exciting possibilities. If Los Angeles succeeds in its 2024 Olympic bid athletes in the Olympic Village could be fed farm-to-table directly from the largest urban farm in America.

A fully restored South Central Farm would be a beacon for the new green age of Los Angeles while serving to unite this racially diverse city. A landmark akin to the Watts Tower and the Hollywood Sign that people from around the world would be inspired to come visit.

Let’s make this happen. Let’s restore the South Central Farm.

EMA Board Member Daryl Hannah’s quote about the farm:

“The South Central Farm was a major inspiration for the great success of the urban gardening movement, now, ten years after the farm was bulldozed, it tragically sits a fallow dirt lot. The fourteen-acre farm could have been feeding that underserved community this entire decade. The people living in that heavily trafficked industrial area do not need yet another warehouse or more pollution, they need and want access to healthy life sustaining food. We hope the city will restore the largest urban farm in the country, one of the jewels of Los Angeles – the South Central Farm.”

Please send your letter to:

To:  Jenna Monterrosa jenna.monterrosa@lacity.org  and William Lamborn  william.lamborn@lacity.org CC: Mayor Eric Garcetti mayor.garcetti@lacity.org  Council member Curren Price Councilmember.price@lacity.org Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov,

Further reading:

¡Aquí Estamos! The Movement to Reclaim the South Central Farm

Will South Central Get Its Farm Back?

EMA Spreads Some National Park Love With #NPS100: Give Back Day

There's a strong case for the statement, "National Parks are the United States' best idea." Not only do our National Parks provide public spaces for recreation, scientific study, and artistic inspiration, they protect and shelter some of our country's most vulnerable flora and fauna. Nearly every American has fond memories of visiting our many parks as well as aspirations to travel and see more. For these reasons, and many others, EMA celebrated our Park Services Centennial by giving back to a program that gives so much to every one of us.

According to the Sierra Club's website:

"For 100 years, America’s parks have provided opportunities for Americans to explore nature. What started with one park, Yellowstone, grew into a system of 35 national parks and monuments by the time the National Park Service was established in 1916. The tremendous popularity and clear value of protected public lands has continued to drive the creation of new parks, bringing the number today to more than 400 parks. There are park areas in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C."

To honor NPS's big 100, we joined the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association for #NPS100: Give Back Day. We met on a misty Saturday morning at Franklin Canyon park in Beverly Hills to get our hands dirty and learn more about our National Parks. In typical EMA fashion, we brought some star power to the event to show that everyone from celebrities to kids can give back to our parks. EMA Board Members Karrueche Tran & Darby Stanchfield joined our new friends Thomas Middleditch and Amanda Crew of the hit HBO comedy "Silicon Valley" to plant native species.

Our nature-loving celebrities, along with park rangers, and volunteers, put on gloves, picked up their shovels, and started planting native plants such as sage. Thanks to the rain the soil was soft for digging, and a healthy layer of mulch helped retain the moisture. Why native plants? According to the Audubon Society, "Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals." Further, native plants are better equipped for local weather conditions, which in our case means prolonged droughts.

After working the soil, everyone retreated to the pleasantly dry and covered meeting area for food and speeches. The speeches focused on how important our National Parks are and how this is a critical time in shaping the next 100 years. At the moment, our Park Services are severely underfunded and face a plethora of new challenges. For example, the fossil fuel industry is aggressively seeking to drill near the boundaries of many parks, disrupting the natural beauty and putting the parks at risk of major spills and leaks.

With our parks in peril, it's important the media and entertainment industry plays its part in informing and educating the public. Through no fault of their own, most people assume our National Parks are protected, pristine areas that will always remain that way. With climate change, pollution, and special interests collectively threatening our parks, we must all work together to protect them. Whether it be through park work days, sharing information on social media, or asking your elected representatives to properly fund NPS, your efforts make a difference.

Watch the video from our #NPS100 Give Back Day here!

Learning to Let Go and Love at the LA Premiere of Josh Fox's New Movie

From our annual Awards show to our Celebrities for Change Gala in Dallas, there is no denying that EMA knows how to bring a little Hollywood to the environmental scene. This was certainly the case for the Los Angeles premiere of director Josh Fox's new film, "How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can't Change". EMA co-hosted the event with HBO, Center for Biological Diversity, and Food and Water Watch at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. In addition to the screening, and an impromptu banjo performance by Josh, EMA President Debbie Levin moderated a panel discussion with EMA Board Members Ed Begley, Jr. and Frances Fisher, as well as actress Shailene Woodley and documentary filmmaker Chris Paine.

The movie was a solar-powered roller-coaster ride of emotions. We don't want to give anything away, but we'll mention that by the end credits everyone was singing and dancing along to The Beatles' "All You Need is Love". That isn't to say the movie doesn't hit on some heavy topics. According to the official website:

"In How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can't Change, Oscar Nominated director Josh Fox (GASLAND) continues in his deeply personal style, investigating climate change – the greatest threat our world has ever known. Traveling to 12 countries on 6 continents, the film acknowledges that it may be too late to stop some of the worst consequences and asks, what is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?"

After the film and unscheduled dance party ended, Debbie asked a series of questions that allowed everyone on the panel a chance to talk about climate change. From politics to activism, the discussion covered it all, giving attendees plenty to chat about during the post-screening cocktail party. We were inspired by how many people asked the panel how they could get involved in the movement and help combat climate change.

EMA would like to thank Josh for creating this important movie. We admire the director's compassion and commitment to the movement, which are both things climate CANNOT change in him. Further, we'd like to thank our panel speakers and to everyone who came out to watch. It was such a fun and inspiring evening!

The movie is now playing on HBO! Make sure you spread the word on social media.

EMA Healthy Family Trusted Partners

We're happy to announce these four brands as our newest EMA Healthy Family Trusted Partners. Click here to learn more about our EMA Healthy Family Seal.

  • BONA
  • U konserve
  • Clover Organic Farms
  • Naturepedic

Member Profile: Shana Thom

“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” – Alice Walker

I have a strong internal compass and see myself as a cultural steward, a passionate activist, and an unrelenting advocate in my desire to inspire and educate others.  This is where my excitement for EMA comes into play.  As a pioneer in linking the power of celebrity to environmental awareness, I am incredibly inspired by the organizations mission and the opportunity they’ve created to leverage the power of personage in an effort to reach millions of people for such a noble purpose. In addition to educating and activism, societal change organizations like EMA inspire others to pursue their ideas and solutions in whatever form that may take. If we can build platforms that enable more people at every age to think and behave like change makers than we stand to forge stronger connections across cultural boundaries, particularly with business and government, and facilitate the rapid circulation and sharing of solutions at the global level. I truly believe that each of us embodies boundless creative energies and vast amounts of potential.

EMA’s sheer scope of potential for mobilization and their access to educate and advocate at such a high level gives them powerful opportunities to create large scale transformational change~ it is one of the organizations most prevailing attributes and something that gets me really excited and encouraged.

Like EMA, I am extremely passionate about making a mark on the world. I see glaring deficits every day that keep me up at night and it’s been within that preoccupation and fascination that I’ve come to understand more about what makes me tick. I want to educate and inspire so that collectively we can advance solutions to environmental problems in order to make life better for the planet and for the people who live on it. I created a small project through Instagram,@save_this_beautiful_place, as an outlet and medium through which I can inspire hope for a more sustainable future.

Over the last 8 years I’ve worked in medical robotics helping to advance minimally invasive approaches to surgery and it’s had major implications for the good of hundreds of thousands of patients globally. This undoubtedly has been rewarding and has given me some excellent tools professionally but I am inspired to up the ante. I am going back to school to get my Masters in Social Entrepreneurship at USC starting this summer and couldn’t be more excited! I want to continue to pursue and create solutions for the issues I am most passionate about~ all of which revolve around the health of our planet and its people.

My goal is to create and catalyze sustainable change; to attack environmental issues with creativity and optimism, and to educate, activate, and support those forces in our community who want to do the same. Being a member at EMA is an amazing opportunity to align with and be a part of an organization that I believe in, so that I too, can help catapult their vision and create public value.  I am honored to join forces with other creative problem solvers so that we can harness our ideas.

SAVE THE DATE: The 2016 EMA Awards are Happening October 22nd!!

It's almost that time of year again! Help us celebrate eco-messaging at our 26th annual Environmental Media Awards happening October 22nd at Warner Bros. Studios. Revisit and reminisce over past EMA Awards on our website.

2016 EMA Awards Call for Entries

Great news! We've officially launched our entries page for the 2016 EMA Awards happening October 22nd. Call for entry closes on Friday, July 22nd.

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