2015 INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN DAY CELEBRATION IN UTAH

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Poster of the 2015 IMD Celebration

On Friday December 4th 2015, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), students, faculty, community members and friends, gathered at the Gould Auditorium in the University of Utah’s Marriott Library to celebrate International Mountain Day (IMD). This event has been celebrated in Utah every year since 2010 as part of continual joint effort from all interested institutions and individuals to promote the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations across the state of Utah. Another important goal of that event is to raise an awareness among different communities in Utah about importance to share best examples and experiences in SMD across the state with mountain communities globally.

In general IMD celebrations coordinated by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, which is part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. Contribution to the event and its hosting on a local level in Utah was done before by a number of institutions and NGOs in the State of Utah, members of the Mountain Partnership, including Utah Valley University, City of Orem, Gruppman International Music Institute.

With this in mind and as part of the recommendations adopted in the final document of the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (October 7-9, 2015), the UIMF has collaborated with the University of Utah (UofU) to engage all interested institutions at UofU and Salt Lake City area and to host IMD 2015 at the Marriott Library’s Gould Auditorium. Thus, it was the first time the event was hosted outside the campus of Utah Valley University. Support for the event was provided by a number of organizations from Greater Salt Lake area, including the Marriott Library at University of Utah, which created posters to promote the event among other activities.

The theme of this year’s event was “Promoting Mountain Products for better livelihoods” and the program included many organizations local to this mountain city that traditionally provide services for the local community. To be inclusive to the need of so many different organizations, organizers of the IMD celebration broadened the scope of the event and included Community Services as products for better livelihoods. While any discussion of mountains regions needs to include the people and services that reside there, agenda of the event included presentations from eight local groups and a keynote speaker as a highlight of the IMD 2015. Several organizations also presented their products and services on specially arranged tables to the people in the audience.

The event started with refreshments and time allowing for participants and visitors to speak with the various organizations like Onchenda Open Global Group, Edible Campus Gardens, Americorps and Norwex, the Bennion Community Service Center and Office of Sustainability at the UofU. Organizations in presence there were only a small percentage of the many groups that people can choose to become involved with to support sustainability and community goals. Some of these groups also presented that evening were able to share their goals and ideas with all those in the audience.

The formal program began with a welcome by Tony, Medina, President of UIMF and two of us, with explaining goals of the IMD2015 celebrations and reading greetings from institutions, members of MP from Utah, in North America and from overseas: the Mountain Institute, Washington, D.C., International University of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic, Central Asian Institute of Applied Geosciences, Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic, city of Orem, Utah, Gruppman International Music Institute, Provo, Utah and others.     To showcase some of the many young talents the local community has to offer, the evening included a musical performance by the students of Pacific Heritage Academy of Rose Park, Utah, “We are Friends.” The Pacific Heritage Academy is a public charter school authorized by the Utah State Board of Education.

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A musical performance by the students of Pacific Heritage Academy of Rose Park, Utah.

The first presentation was made by Colleen Grant Dick from Onchenda Open Global Food Cooperative. She spoke about Agriculture in the Mountains and how biodiversity and going with the flow of nature will ensure mountain communities survival and sustainability. Onchenda is a start-up social enterprise with the goal of ending world hunger by empowering local farmers, urban/suburban and rural families, would-be edible horticulturalists, and anyone else interested in growing/raising their own organic food and selling the surplus through local online food webs.

The University of Utah supported the event well, with half of the presentations being given by organizations on campus as well as student groups. The first of these groups to present was the University of Utah’s Sustainability Office. Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Marykate Glenn and Alya Hussain presentation was titled “Sustainability Office: What’s Our Product? Engagement” and they talked about the different programs of their office to promote sustainability. Some of these programs include: Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF), Student Energy Ambassadors, U of U Farmers Market and the Edible Campus Gardens. The Edible Campus Gardens teaches students how to create a sustainable food cycle by growing and then selling organic produce on campus. It is also a place where students and community members can learn about food self-sufficiency.

Next presenters, Julia Maciunas and Sam from the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a student group from the University of Utah, talked about the importance of recovering food to feed people in need. The FRN is partnered with Chartwells Dining Services, which provides food services across campus, to receive surplus food donations. The food is then donated to local food pantries in the Salt Lake Valley. Gina Cornia from Utahn’s Against Hunger (UaH) a local food policy and advocacy group spoke about the need to increase access to food through advocacy, outreach and education. Since 1981 UaH has been working to eliminate hunger in Utah.

Ryan Pleune from the Pacific Heritage Academy spoke about the school’s use of Expeditionary Learning as a teaching model as well as social studies and Pacific Islander cultures in order to teach the Utah Core Curriculum. Knowledge of one’s culture is an important aspect of sustainability as it draws on traditions of respect for the mountains, land and sea that are used by all.

Roger Crandall, Brand Ambassador for the Transit Solar Car “Elf”, shared ersonal experience of owning such car in Salt Lake City. This vehicle runs on solar, lithium batteries to power the small electric motor and peddle power. This type of transport causes zero emission, is easy to drive and presents a healthy way of driving for communities and the environment.

Jennifer Jones from the Lowell Benin Community Service Center, another organization from the University of Utah, spoke about the many ways the center involves students in the community activities, and through the partnerships with local community organizations in particular. The Center also is looking for additional organizations that would be interested in partnering with them to provide students, and the University community, different opportunities to build a better society. Sawson Gholami from the Real Food Challenge, another student group based at the University of Utah, spoke about the importance of food justice. The Real Food Challenge is tied to a national movement that aims to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms/factory foods and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources – “real food”.

The keynote presentation of the 2015 IMD celebration was made by Jason Singer Smith, professional climber, speaker and writer. He spoke about his love of the mountains and the importance of nature to our wellbeing. During the main part of his presentation Jason told the story of his abduction by militant group, part of Al-Qaeda in Central Asia, and Kyrgyzstan in particular and how he, and his partners, were able to survive as hostages, escape from captivity and how that changed him immensely. During his time in captivity he learned how trust can be an important aspect of any relationship and how this can be used to escape from potentially dangerous and life threatening situations.

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(L to R) Tony Medina, President of UIMF presents certificate to Jason Singer Smith, professional climber, speaker and writer.

The evening ended with presenting of certificates from the Mountain Partnership to individuals in the audience who contributed to the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference in October 2015 at UVU. Overall this event was a success in engaging new institutions across the state of Utah by members of the UIMF in raising an awareness and advocacy of the sustainable mountain development agenda. As one of the outcomes, some NGOs in attendance consider the opportunity of joining the Mountain Partnership and continue working towards sustainable mountain development. Click here for more information.

 Hosts of the IMD 2015 at University of Utah: Carlos Alarco, University of Utah Liaison, at UIMF and Kamaile Tripp, Salt Lake City Liaison at UIMF