Hello! I am Rowan Van Ness and am the new Program Associate for Environmental Justice through a partnership between the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth and the UUA. I grew up Unitarian Universalist in Washington state and am now here in the other Washington!
After graduating from Smith College with a degree in Economics and a minor in Environmental Science and Policy, I joined AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) in Lawrence, MA, as a Healthy Communities VISTA with Groundwork Lawrence. I managed some of our community food programs and worked with youth on gardening and healthy eating initiatives. I worked on our local community gardens program enabling people to safely grow their own food in an urban, industrial city, and the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which people could “subscribe” to get farm shares each week from a nearby farm.
Many people in Lawrence, like many communities in need, have limited access to fresh produce. People with lower incomes are more likely to have health problems like obesity and diabetes, diseases directly related to food. If fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t easily accessible, or if the only ones you can afford are poor quality, how can you expect anyone to want to eat them? By providing opportunities for people to purchase fresh, locally-grown produce with food stamps and at subsidized rates, by giving people an opportunity to grow their own food in uncontaminated soil, by teaching young people how to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables–these things bring us one step closer to food justice. Click here to learn more about “Ethical Eating,” the 2008-2012 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
While food is really important, I am delighted to be joining the momentum at the Washington Office for Advocacy at such an exciting time. Though the climate change bill in Senate is not front and center at the moment, we are personally hoping that a strong climate change bill will pass in the Senate this term. With global climate change policies up for negotiation this December in Copenhagen, it is so important for the U.S. to create its own strong climate change policies in advance.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passed in the House, but only narrowly (219-212). We need to make sure that the Senate also includes provisions for providing employment and training opportunities in green construction in communities who have traditionally been left behind and funding to the Green Jobs Act. Workers affected the worst by the recession and by environmental degradation would get the training and support they need for green-collar jobs. The most important thing you can do right now is to contact your senators and get them to pass a strong climate change bill.
Welcome, Rowan! I'm thrilled that you're bringing all this wonderful experience to the UUA & I will keep my eyes peeled for your environmental justice action alerts on Advocacy News. Hope you are settling in well to D.C. and the Washington Office 🙂
It was a pleasure to meet you at the UU Ministry for Earth board meeting last weekend. Today, I went to the 350.org demonstration in NYC, wish you could have been there.