Group has been working to end herbicide use by the University of California campus system
Here's an excerpt from an inspiring interview with a woman who is making a real difference to her university's environment. It's well worth reading in full at the URL given.
Interview with Mackenzie Feldman of Herbicide-Free Campus
Independent Science News, 4 Nov 2019
[excerpt only reproduced below]
Mackenzie Feldman, Founder of Herbicide-Free Campus has been working to end herbicide use by the University of California campus system. This May, the University announced a ban on glyphosate citing “concerns about possible human health and ecological hazards”.
ISN: What events caused you to protest chemicals on your campus?
Recently at the 2019 Brower Youth Awards (video), I spoke about some of the defining moments that catalyzed my activism. During my time at UC Berkeley, I took an environmental biology class taught by Dr. Ignacio Chapela. On one of our field trips, Professor Chapela told our class that herbicides like Roundup were sprayed on campus. I was shocked, and I wanted to do something about this. I wrote a research paper on this subject for class, titled “Can the Campus of UC Berkeley Be Turned Into an Herbicide-Free Campus?” but didn’t know what to do from there.
As I reflect back now, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I found the moment that would propel me into action. I began to exercise my activism after a personal experience made me realize I had no other option. During my time at UC Berkeley, I was a student-athlete on the Beach Volleyball team. When I showed up for practice one day in the Spring of 2017, our coach cautioned us not to chase after the balls if they rolled off the court because the surrounding area had just been sprayed with an herbicide.
My teammate Bridget Gustafson and I were shocked, and spoke with the Athletics Grounds Manager to ask what herbicide was applied and how often. He told us that he sprays the Monsanto product “Ranger” once a year all around our courts. Ranger contains 41 percent glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. I knew that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) had determined that glyphosate would be added to the list of Proposition 65 chemicals known by the state to cause cancer.
Additionally, glyphosate has been identified as a contributor, even at low doses, to autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, ADHD and many other illnesses.
I was shocked that we were being exposed to chemicals in our everyday environment. This realization, combined with my passion for protecting the environment is what set my activism into motion. I wrote about this day at the volleyball courts in an Op-Ed for The Daily Californian, which garnered much attention to the issue, and from there, our campaign was born.
ISN: Tell us about your campaign to ban all synthetic herbicides on your campus?
Soon after this day at practice and the article was published, Bridget Gustafson and I decided to start Herbicide-Free Cal, a campaign to ban herbicides at UC Berkeley. To be clear, the campaign is about banning all synthetic herbicides, not just Roundup. More specifically, this campaign is about teamwork.
Step 1: We have put a lot of our efforts into developing personal relationships with the groundskeepers on campus. When we met with the Athletic Grounds Manager, he agreed to stop spraying near our courts as long we could figure out how to manage the weeds without herbicides. So our team began having weeding days before practice. As we expanded our efforts campus-wide, we worked with the UC Berkeley ASUC Student Government to put together an herbicide-free student team, and together we began to hold educational events and host weeding “work-days” where students pick weeds or mulch with the groundskeepers. We also passed a Resolution stating that we wanted an herbicide-free campus.