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Pondering Food Politics

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 12:33

Randy Johnston, a former professor of accounting at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who will speak at the East Hampton Library on three consecutive Saturdays starting this week, moved to East Hampton Village in April and has been trying to raise awareness about environmental issues ever since.

“When I first came here, I walked around, and it blew my mind that there was not a single recycling can on the streets,” he said, citing one of his major frustrations with his new hometown. At a village board meeting in June, Mr. Johnston urged the trustees to rectify the problem. “I think we’re way behind the times here,” he said.

He also asked the board to reconsider holding its annual fireworks display because of the noise, and air and water pollution, created by such an event.

At a town board meeting this summer, he called for improvements to the recycling center on Springs-Fireplace Road. “That’s a disaster over there, with all the contamination of the bins,” he said. “I told the board, ‘You need to have somebody working there to control this.’ ”

The most rewarding part of his academic career, Mr. Johnston said, had been teaching an ethics class to business students. As part of the course, he encouraged them to do research about topics such as factory farms, and the depletion of fisheries due to bycatch (the killing of fish not intended for consumption). The students would discuss the ethics of such practices among themselves.

“Students would tell me the class had changed their lives, and that they had given up eating animals and fish,” said Mr. Johnston, who is a vegan. 

He will lead a condensed version of that class at the library on Saturday at 1 p.m. and on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. His presentation is titled “Food politics: How both ethics and choices impact earth and its inhabitants.”

After leaving the world of academia, he said, he decided the best use of his time would be to make people aware of the consequences of their choices. “Do I want to teach accounting and make good money again? Not really,” he said. “I’d rather do this and make a difference in the world.”

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