The Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists is taking a stand for the environment this week as it hosts the first ever Redwood Sequoia Congress.
The event, which began Thursday morning, is attracting three days of speakers and performers, who will be educating others about what they can do to take care of the planet. The organizers say they want to get people involved in government, business and education to work together in this effort.
People are coming from all over the state to participate, organizers say.
“We expect it will broaden the number of people consciously thinking of these matters,” said Ann Fagan Ginger, an organizer of the event.
Ginger hopes conference attendees will back the Declaration of Berkeley 2000, a document which Ginger played a major role in drafting.
The declaration urges the federal government and United Nations to promote and fund sustainable development around the world, rather than destruction of land for instant profit. People attending the congress will sign the declaration, which will be mailed to government officials including President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Gov. Gray Davis and Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.
The congress kicked off in Civic Center Park Thursday morning, where a small group gathered to discuss the role education plays in conserving the environment.
In a brief speech, Berkeley Unified School District Board vice president Terry Doran said he would like every Berkeley school to plant a garden. Doran said that it would teach students to respect the environment and value organic foods, two issues the congress is addressing.
Doran also noted that Berkeley High School is developing an ecoliteracy institute that will offer a series of classes on the relationship between the environment and the economy.
Following a song led by Berkeley resident Dave Welsh, the group walked along Martin Luther King Way and stopped on the sidewalk outside the KPFA studios, while drivers passing by honked their horns in support.
Many of the marchers held signs supporting environmental causes. Three people controlled a giant puppet as the crowd moved to the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists at Cedar Street and Bonita Avenue.
“The central problem to the economic system is that the government is interested in profit, not human needs,” Welsh said. “People need to get together to oppose the degradation of the quality of life in our environment.”
In the afternoon, several guest speakers discussed environmental issues. Michael McAvoy, an academic director at New College in Santa Rosa talked about programs the school offers. Local teachers also spoke about ways to incorporate environment into school curriculum.
All the while, children in the BFUU courtyard made arts and crafts and listened to musicians and story tellers.
The first day of the Redwood Sequoia Congress ended at night with author Gray Brechin speaking about urbanization of the environment.
The event continues this morning at BFUU, located at 1924 Cedar Street. There will be panels held from 9 a.m. to noon and then again from 1-6 p.m. After a 6:30 p.m. dinner, activities will go until 10 p.m. On Saturday the congress begins at 9 a.m. and ends after an 8 p.m. dance. For a complete schedule of the Redwood Sequoia Congress, visit www.tolivenow.com.