2009: Suh-weet!

On the plate for the New Year? Activism and exclamation marks!

Organic guru Steven Zien (left) and Pesticide Watch’s Paul Schramski at Organic Capital.

Organic guru Steven Zien (left) and Pesticide Watch’s Paul Schramski at Organic Capital.

Courtesy Of Paul Schramski

Welcome to Green Town, a new column by Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess, which will rotate every other week with Green House, her bi-monthly musings on SN&R’s green building project.

I’m a big fan of exclamation marks. I totally overuse them!

Kind of like the grassroots activists of Relocalize Sacramento!, who attach an exclamation mark to the end of their name because it goes with the group’s tag line: “It’s an imperative.”

Yep, I’m down with that! The imperative of which they speak, after all, is the fight against climate change and the growth of sustainable communities, beginning right here at home. The group encourages local food production, conducts water studies, gives away seeds, hosts plant starts and helps eliminate junk mail. In early December, the group received recognition at the second annual Organic Capital celebration at the Young Ladies Institute Hall in Midtown. Suh-weet!

I won’t bore you with event details, describing how about 75 of us gathered in the intimate space and feasted on scrumptious raw, vegan food prepared by local chef Richard Hemsley, the guy behind Pure Joy Cafe on Fourth and N streets. Or how I always get shy in social situations, but a lovely lady who recently opened a spice shop engaged me in conversation about making one’s own herbal bath salts and oils, which eased my nerves. You see, I’ve become slightly obsessed with natural beauty products and … oops, I bored you. Hey, it happens!

During the festivities, Paul Schramski of Pesticide Watch presented the first eco-leader award to Steven Zien, an “organic guru” who’s regarded as one of the most respected green landscapers in the United States.

“He’s radical in that he’s forcing us to accept a new American dream,” Schramski said—one in which our gardens, parks, schools, homes and workplaces are free of toxic pesticides.

Zien’s been redefining this dream for quite some time. During college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the 1960s, he majored in soil biology and studied under professors who had one-track minds when it came to farming—it was chemistry this and chemistry that. Zien’s professors laughed at him when he decided to write his senior thesis on organic farming. Except for one, and that’s all it took. The student wrote what would become the first paper on sustainable agriculture at a university that now boasts a large program focused on this subject matter.

Despite Zien’s numerous accomplishments over the years, he’s also had his share of disappointments, including an unsuccessful attempt to stop the pesticide spraying of the Japanese beetle in Sacramento 25 years ago. While accepting his award, he described how not too long ago he saw a mom pull out a picnic blanket at a city park as her three children rolled around on the grass, not realizing the lawn had been freshly sprayed with pesticides.

In addition to Zien and Relocalize Sacramento!, Assemblyman Dave Jones, Glenda Marsh of Neighbors Advocating Sustainable Transportation and activist Davida Douglas also received recognition.

All in all, it was a delightful evening; however, in the spirit of reflection, I’d like to offer a piece of advice: The cliquishness of our local green scene has got to stop! We have the organic and anti-pesticide crew, the green-building advocates, the employees of environmental government agencies and the green foodies. Sure, some mix and mingle, but for the most part, I swear the only person who shows up at every green event in Sacramento is Assemblyman Jones (or a representative from his office). Hello, people, y’all have to support one another!

Where was I going with this?

I think what I’m trying to say is how much I liked the hippies at Organic Capital! Real hippies, the ones who stereotypically smell like patchouli and body odor, who dress exclusively in thrift-store finds and who are kind of hard to converse with because they’re either way too mellow or way too intense. Not to say everyone there was a hippie, but those few in attendance reminded me that even though our society mocks hippies, these freethinkers continue to serve an important role in environmental progress.

I’m bouncing around all over the place! So I shall end with a simple wish: that 2009 once again be full of inspiring activists and environmental victories for Sacramento and, hey, while we’re at it, the world.