By Cady Inabinett, News editor
Montevallo students and town residents gathered on Main Quad on April 21 for Earth Fest—an event hosted by UM’s Environmental Club as part of Earth Week festivities. The event featured local environmental organizations and advocacy groups, arts and crafts activities and food trucks.
Environmental studies professor Dr. Susan Caplow, who helped organize Earth Fest’s events, spoke on the event’s turnout, saying, “It’s really exciting to have this event and see so many members of the community here. I’ve seen a lot of families and like people of all ages.”
“It helps bring the larger community together around environmental issues because environmental studies is just one academic program, but every student has a stake in environmental issues,” said Caplow when asked about the importance of hosting events like Earth Fest. “You know, we all need clean air. We all need healthy food and clean water and all that stuff. So it’s really important to have elements that are not just about environmental studies, but are about environment in general.”
Caplow credited students involved with the Environmental Club and the Sustainability Committee in helping plan the event, pointing out that students had invited all the groups that attended.
“I think it was really nice to have the groups be invited by students because it makes it clear that this is a student-led event,” said Caplow.
Junior environmental studies major Alexis Jacob helped organize the event as a member of the Environmental Club. Jacob was enthusiastic about event turnout, saying, “A lot more people ended up showing up, so I was really excited with the turnout.”
Bringing awareness to climate change was one of Jacob’s main aims when organizing Earth Fest.
“I hope this bring more awareness to local climate change because it’s not a topic that I knew about until I got to Montevallo. So, I hope that, you know, that people are more aware and conscious of their decisions with, like, waste, water,” she commented.
Jacob said the Environmental Club aimed to appeal to a variety of interests and topics, saying, “I guess it was first ideas, like, what are some artistic ways, what are some, like, factual, like, learning ways we can make this event happen. So, like, mostly, like, what are some great ideas.”
A variety of organizations were represented at the event, such as local bike-sharing program ValloCycle and nearby Oak Mountain State Park—with Jacob saying that she hoped each organization presentive different perspectives—in addition to arts and crafts activities, such as dying tote bags.
UM students also represented environmental organizations from throughout the area. Bri Balasky, a junior environmental studies major and direct service intern with Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, known as GASP, represented the organization. GASP focuses on combatting fine particle pollution and improving air quality in Birmingham, especially in northern Birmingham—whose communities Balasky described as underserved and underfunded.
“I hope more Montevallo students are concerned with the polluted air in Birmingham because everyone deserves clean air and everyone deserves a healthy and safe environment, and that’s part of our mission,” they said. “And I feel like the people at Montevallo are very passionate and I feel like they’re very empathetic as well and I think this will hit home.”
Balasky went on to speak on the impact events such as Earth Fest can have on the Montevallo community, saying, “The climate is changing very quickly and it’s kind of urgent and, like, fun little things like this really do help a really big problem.”
Event attendee Olivia Soileau, a sophomore English major, spoke on the effects of the event, saying they had been visiting different organizations’ booths to learn about their causes.
“I just feel like I need to be more, like, plugged in as far as what’s happening in Alabama environmentally because it feels like you’re kind of just alone out here,” Solieau said.
To Solieau, the local focus of Earth Fest was important, as they said, “Not to be, like, cheesy but change happens with the young people. And, like, I think a lot of people want to help they just don’t know how or they don’t have the awareness of what they can do or what the most pressing issues, especially, like, in Alabama because it starts local.”
Freshman environmental studies major Reed Butler also talked about the community building aspect of the event, saying, “I’m a member of the environmental club and I thought it was a great idea and a good way to build the community up around here and raise awareness.”
As for the future of Earth Fest, Caplow said, “I want to keep doing this and make it even bigger and make it even better.”
She said this year’s Earth Fest has been a part of relearning how to run events since COVID-19 restrictions have been loosened. For next year, she hopes to reinvite food trucks—which made their first appearance at the event this year—and invite more partner organizations to host tables at the event. Ultimately, she concluded, “There’s lots to do.”