Earth Week 2011: Children of the Corn

April 3, 2011

The theme for this year's Earth Week is Food: You are what you eat. Do you know what you are? Playing off the horror flick “Children of the Corn,” we hope to draw attention to the serious food issues facing us today, including the prevalence of corn in our food. Corn is used in food thickeners, stabilizers, flavorings, and fillers, and it is most often found in foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a cheap and easy way to sweeten food. The average American consumes 41.5 lbs of HFCS per year. Health risks associated with increased consumption of added sweeteners such as HFCS range from weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition, and increased triglyceride levels, which can boost your heart attack risk.

Some studies have shown that there may be health impacts from GMOs. For example, a corn's genes can be altered so that the crop is pest resistant, resulting in a genetically modified organism (GMO). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) do not mandate the labeling of genetically modified foods, making it difficult to know exactly what we're eating.  Over 80% of processed food in the U.S. contains GMOs. Some have been linked to adverse health impacts including toxic and allergic reactions in humans and infertility and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. The long-term effects of human consumption of GMOs are unknown and have not been studied. This year's "Children of the Corn" theme is meant to encourage us to question what exactly it is that we’re eating and what it might be doing to our health.

Several events will be held during Earth Week, beginning Monday, April 18th. For more details, please see the calendar (PDF) and event listings below; all events are free and open to the public.

Monday, April 18

CARBON NATION Film Screening

5:30–7:30pm, Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery (KCBD) Lecture Hall, Rm 1103

Interested in climate change solutions? Come watch Carbon Nation, a locally produced, solutions-based film that shows how tackling climate change can boost the economy, increase national and energy security, and promote health and a clean environment. Meet a host of entertaining and endearing characters along the way, including Cliff Etheredge, wind farmer and west Texas cotton farmer; Bernie Karl, geothermal pioneer and wild Alaskan; Van Jones, civil rights advocate turned green jobs organizer and advocate; Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld, the ‘father of energy efficiency;’ Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute; and Richard Branson, Founder/CEO of Virgin Atlantic Airways, among others. Carbon Nation is a film that celebrates solutions, inspiration and action. Refreshments will be provided.

Tuesday, April 19

Yoga on the Quad

7:30-8:15am, Main Quad Circle

All levels of practitioners are welcome to begin the day with an invigorating yoga session taught by Nicole DiBacco, a certified instructor from Ratner Athletics Center.  Learn to link movement with breath as you build strength and increase awareness, working towards relaxation and rejuvenation! You're encouraged to bring your own yoga mat, though a select number of mats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. This event is weather dependent. Please contact Hannah with questions.

Wednesday, April 20

Ecology and the Book

2-4:00pm, Regenstein Library, 1st floor Special Collections Research Center

In honor of Earth Week, the newly renovated Special Collections Research Center hosts an exhibit of rare books and manuscripts pertaining to the theme of ecology. Enjoy this selection of works ranging from eighteenth-century herbals with vibrant botanic illustrations, to a first edition of Walden, or Life in the Woods, to the University's collection of American Environmental Photographs. Refreshments will be provided.

Thursday, April 21

Keynote: Adam, Malcolm, Martin and Food: Inalienable Resources

6pm, Swift Hall Common Room, 1st floor

Speaker: Brandon Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington Park Consortium

Food is a fundamental requirement for human existence, yet healthy, sustainable food is not easily accessible to many people around the world and here in Chicago. What are the political and economic ramifications of how we produce, distribute and consume food? Does food access and quality speak to issues beyond health and the environment? The arguments around these issues are complex and varied. We will look back to the pantheon of American civil rights leadership and discuss how food might be considered a civil rights issue. The Honorable Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about human rights and social equity as requiring access to fundamental or inalienable resources—these resources being not the province of one person or class but the duty of society to secure for all. Is food an inalienable resource? What would Adam, Malcolm and Martin say? RSVP to this dinner and speaking engagement by Friday, April 15th.

This event is co-sponsored by the Spiritual Life Office at Rockefeller Chapel.

Friday, April 22

Earth Fest

11am - 2pm, Main Quad

Food, fun, and Earth-friendly! Come to the largest outdoor green festival for a live music performance by Robbie Fulks, to begin at 12pm. Seating available for a picnic lunch!  Free lunch from Hannah's Bretzel for the first 50 people! Plant your own herbs, sample local and organic food, and check out sustainable businesses from around Chicago!  Bring your used clothing and accessories to donate to Encore, a local resale clothing shop. This will be your last chance to vote for your favorite Earth Week Video!

Lab School E-Waste Drive

2:30 - 4:30pm, Kenwood Mall

Bring old or unwanted electronics, including desktop computers, notebooks, monitors, keyboards, mice, PDA's, surge protectors, and cables. The University's Information Technology Services will assist in the secure collection of these items and will safely recycle or donate them to charity.

Saturday, April 23

62nd Street Community Garden Volunteer Work Day and Potluck

10am - 6:30pm, 62nd St. & Dorchester Ave.

The community garden at 62nd & Dorchester Ave. will host a volunteer work day from 10am - 5pm, followed by a potluck celebration of spring! The garden needs help moving soil to sunnier locations, recovering pedestrian paths with new wood chips, and fixing damaged fences. Upon completion of these projects, the garden has plans to also install a pergola for shade and a brick grill for future garden gatherings.  Volunteers are welcome to arrive anytime between 10am and 5pm to help with the aforementioned projects. Those unable to volunteer during the day are encouraged to join the 5pm potluck with a dish to share!