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The “After” Life Series–From the Real Food Challenge to the Fracking Challenge

Laura Stephenson is a recent environmental science graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing in environmental and community health. She is currently an intern at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Laura writes the “After” Life of an Environmental Studies Student series, telling stories of the activities and endeavors of environmental science and studies students after graduation.

It all started with an Environmental Justice course. Taught by Dr. Flora Lu (now a professor at UC Santa Cruz), the course was the impetus for Jordan Treakle and a small group of his classmates to form FLO Foods–UNC-CH’s “Fair Local and Organic” food group. The group’s main task is to introduce locally and fairly sourced food into UNC’s dining hall. FLO’s formation was Treakle’s and his cohorts’ response to Dr. Lu’s course–more specifically to a speech given by Gary Grant of the Citizens of Tillery on the injustices of the hog farming industry–to its employees, animals, and surrounding environment.

Since starting FLO, Jordan has taken the role of Regional Field Organizer for the Real Food Challenge (RFC) for the Southeast, and has organized students, professors, and farm workers across the region to get more “real” food into campus dining halls. February marked the 2nd annual Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit, which I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs.

Southeast Real Food Challenge at UNC-CH's campus

After he graduated in May, and his job as a regional field organizer ended in August, Jordan began applying to jobs that built upon his interests of his education and experience. His favorite part of the RFC job was planning different educational events in order to develop a sense of community and build the mission of the RFC. This led him to apply for an organizing position with the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), whose goals are to facilitate “strong family farms and rural communities, close connections between consumers and producers of food, encourage environmentally sound farming, as well as safeguarding agricultural biodiversity.” RAFI also happens to be based about 20 minutes outside of Jordan’s Carrboro home.

Jordan will use his organizing skills to educate NC farmers on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing. Commonly referred to as fracking, hydraulic fracturing is defined by the EPA as “a well stimulation process used to maximize the extraction of underground resources – oil, natural gas and geothermal energy.” Recently, shale (the rock that indicates natural gas) has been found to run through the Piedmont region of NC. What this means for communities is probably best shown in the documentary Gasland–compromised drinking water and subsequent consequent health problems.

According to Jordan, fracking has already affected regions on the Northeast and Midwest–and like many environmental injustices, it has affected some of the most disadvantaged parts of our society. RAFI has employed Jordan to get the word out to Piedmont area farmers and other community members whose land runs along the shale. This will surely not be an easy task, but Jordan is certainly one of the best to organize and communicate with people regarding this environmental issue.

Posted on: September 22, 2010, 11:52 am Category: The "After" Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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