Women's conference centers on earth-friendly communities

By Shelly Rodgers

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The editor of the women's magazine In Context Saturday challenged women to begin building a new civilization in which people connect with the spirit, each other and the earth.

"We can no longer pour trash down nature's throat and believe she will continue to bear her fruit for us," said Sarah van Gelder, keynote speaker at a women's conference held in the UA's Social Sciences building auditorium. "We're in a state of denial that we need to let go of."

More than 350 women registered for the conference, 100 of whom are members of the six-month old organization Women for Sustainable Technologies, said Kathe Padilla, executive director.

"When we first thought about putting this conference together, we dreamed of 100 people taking part," Padilla said. "We never expected this kind of turnout."

Padilla said women at the conference have backgrounds ranging from engineering to homemaking to gardening, and that women experts put on various workshops to teach participants how to build sustainable communities.

Van Gelder said that people today are narrowly focused on themselves instead of promoting the common good of the whole group.

"We are all interrelated with other people and the earth," she said. "The only way we will solve earth's problems is to decide what will work for everyone."

Van Gelder said that women have a lot to offer in accomplishing this goal because women are more intuitive and integrative of the whole.

"These are qualities we need right now as we move into a new era," she said.

Although the conference was designed to nurture women in this cause, several men showed up as well.

"Being with all these women is a little intimidating," said Mylo Groen, an engineer and conference participant. "I think it's an excellent idea, particularly since women can help by being more intuitive with their skills."

Building a solar oven, conserving water, biking in Tucson and reducing air pollution were some of the 27 workshops offered at the two-day conference.

Maggie Gerring, a new member of the organization, participated in workshops to learn about organic gardening, water conservation and landscape design.

"I want to start a community garden where neighbors can help plant and harvest produce," Gerring said.

Erin Kimrey, waste reduction planner for the City of Tucson, conducted a workshop on "recycling in the real world."

During her workshop, Kimrey said that people need to work together in order to build better communities.

"We need to start thinking of harvesting instead of mining, collecting instead of taking," she said.

Women for Sustainable Technologies was founded six months ago by Padilla, Gale Prososki-Marsland, Lauren Clark, Nancy Stevens and Marcy Steinberg.

"The five of us were just sitting around a table having coffee and began to dream about a non-profit organization that would help women to build sustainable communities," Padilla said.

The word "sustainable" is defined differently for everyone, she said.

"It is a word to work with and learn with and make our own definitions," she said.

Sponsors of the first annual conference included: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Recycling Office, Arizona Department of Commerce Energy, Tucson Electric Power and the UA minority engineering program.

Read Next Article