Sustainatopia: Art Basel for environmentalists – Sun

They’re fatter than footballs, fanning the Atlantic Ocean depths with red-and-white stripes and huge, spiked fins capable of delivering a deadly venomous punch to underwater prey.

These are lionfish – the name fitting because, like lions, they’re ferocious predators – and they infest the waters off the Bahamas, the Keys and even Fort Lauderdale. They’re killing entire coral reef systems, native Florida fish and, with them, the local fishing industry.

But 15th Street Fisheries in Fort Lauderdale has a rather delicious solution for the lionfish invasion off South Florida’s coast: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.

“They taste really, really good,” says Clark Drum, the 18-year-old grandson of 15th Street Fisheries co-owner Ted Drum. “It’s white meat, tastes almost like a hogfish, and they look pretty funky on a plate. Lionfish aren’t sport fish, but anyone who dives in our saltwater fishing community sees them all the time, tons of them.”

Together with 15th Street chef Lenny Judice, the Fort Lauderdale fisherman created an event to combat lionfish with culinary means. Next Friday night, the dockside restaurant off the Intracoastal is hosting “Lion Eyes – Eat the Enemy,” a predatory-sounding title by its own right but one that carries a sustainable cause: ridding South Florida of the nonnative menace by inviting hundreds of people to chow down on platters of lionfish seviche. The lionfish eat-off, of sorts, is expected to draw north of 100 eaters, and proceeds will benefit the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a Key Largo-based organization that conserves marine ecosystems.

“Lionfish are gluttonous eaters, and eat prey in excess of half their body size, and eat a variety of recreationally and ecologically important species, such as juvenile grouper and snapper, and crabs and shrimp, which we depend on for our commercial market,” says Lad Akins, who’ll lead a discussion of the lionfish threat during the feast with Alexa Elliott, whose PBS documentary “Changing Seas” documented the invasion. “More importantly, they eat small parrotfish, which graze on algae to keep it from overgrowing on the corals. It surprises people to hear this, but it’s the first time an invasive marine fish has become establishing in our waters.

“But they taste good,” he adds with a chuckle, “and this is a great incentive to remove them.”

“Lion Eyes – Eat the Enemy” is part of a larger lineup of environmental-themed events next week – and 50 in total – that are collectively called Sustainatopia, a weeklong festival and conference running next Thursday through April 25. John Rosser, a Fort Lauderdale freelance sustainability consultant, created Sustainatopia three months after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 to corral speakers from more than 40 countries to tackle, among other things, Haiti relief efforts, urban core poverty, world recycling and water distribution in rural Colombia.

“The first conference was successful, but, afterward, I just had this weird, empty feeling like we were preaching to the converted,” Rosser says. “We had to have a broad-ranging festival, like an Art Basel, to be a tremendous catalyst. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. This allows for the celebration of art and environmentalism, for young, cool people to be saving the world in fun and intricate ways, with film and fine art and eco-fashion.”

Rosser’s comparisons to Art Basel may sound like wishful thinking, and, indeed, he expects to draw 15,000 people this year, according to the event’s website, compared to the 50,000-strong glut of art fans who descended on Miami Beach last December. Rosser even mirrored Sustainatopia after Basel’s fragmented layout, hosting its three-day conference at Miami Beach Convention Center but staggering its art events across the sprawl of Miami, with the exception of “Lion Eyes” in Fort Lauderdale.

Sustainatopia kicks off next Thursday with “Revolution!” a party for young social entrepreneurs at Miami Event Space, 7610 N.E. Fourth Court, with proceeds benefiting nonprofits Net Impact, the U.S. Green Building Council, and Young Women’s Social Entrepreneurs. On April 20, the University of Miami is hosting Green U, a day of panels about social justice and Earth Day, with a screening of environmental films and a display of alternative vehicles. That night, the Miami-based Rhythm Foundation is presenting its monthly Big Night in Little Haiti, a Caribbean-themed concert and display of arts and crafts at Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center, while Cafeina Wynwood Lounge, 297 N.W. 23rd St., is displaying “Reclaiming Miami,” a showcase of environmental works by Lucinda Linderman.

On Saturday night, revelers head to 17th Street and Lincoln Road for Carnivalia, a green-themed parade featuring Brazilian drum music, a procession of marchers covered in black garbage bags to resemble a giant oil slick and circus performers decked in blue body paint (and tails, no less) like Na’vi from “Avatar.” Elsewhere, Miami club Villa 221, 221 N.E. 17th St. is partying like it’s 2099 with décor that envisions an underwater Miami.

Sunday finds bikers pedaling for the environment at Tour de Grass, a cycling event at Everglades National Park, an EarthFest gathering from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside Coral Gables City Hall and Rant @ Sustainatopia, where environmentally minded activists can mount a literal soapbox (made of organic materials, of course) at ArtCenter/South Florida and wax strongly about America’s unfriendly eco-practices. The Impact Conference caps off Sustainatopia from April 23 to April 25.

 

Sustainatopia 2012

When: April 19-25

Where: Various locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties

Cost: Various prices, $350 for VIP ticket

Contact: Sustainatopia.com

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