Being at Earth Day Texas over the weekend was exhilarating, tiring, educational and great fun.
The exposition at Fair Park in Dallas was expanded this year to encompass the whole state and fill three whole days with exhibits, workshops, lectures, panel discussions, school tours and school displays, interactive experiences, music, food and fun. There was, indeed, something for everyone and not nearly enough time to see all that was included in the sprawling expo, even though the grounds were open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This year’s theme, New Urbanism, was appropriate for what was termed the World’s Largest Earth Day Initiative, “the place where environmental groups, businesses, academic institutions, professional societies, and government agencies unite to address conservation and sustainability issues and demonstrate innovative solutions.”
It provided all of that, and more. More than 100 green cars, trucks and other vehicles were on display; The National Park Service was on the lawn with interactive exhibits and friendly rangers who shared information and expertise with children and adults alike; the documentary film Racing Extinction enjoyed its Texas premiere over the weekend. Visitors climbed the old Fair Park oak trees (with a little help and instruction), had their pictures taken in a NASA spacesuit, ate traditional “fair food” on the Esplanade while listening to live music and sampled “healthy” food, including home-grown, farm fresh produce and non-dairy “ice cream.”
Trammell Crow, instrumental in creating Earth Day Dallas in 2011, is still the driving force behind the organization that sponsors the public show and conference. Crow noted that this year’s addition of a third day of meetings was intended to “jump start conversations,” in order to reshape “the way North Texans interact with their built environments.”
According to one participant, Dallas wants to dispel the perception that “we are behind the curve in terms of environmental awareness, action and concern.”
Focus on Food and Agriculture
The Centennial Building housed primarily food and agricultural-oriented booths, as well as displays representing educational institutions and non-profits. The Common Ground Stage was the hub for a rotating round of speakers and panel discussions focused on food and agriculture. It was enlightening.
People — lots of people — came to learn about “going green” and sustainability, about conservation and environmental responsibility. They left with seeds and trees to plant, a better idea of where food comes from and how, and a new understanding of the way food, agriculture and education are interrelated. Backyard gardening and farmers markets, food co-ops and community supported agriculture, community gardens and alternative farming methods, urban gardens and the “farm-to-table” movement were all discussed, embraced, explored and “affirmed” as important to the future of the Metroplex.
Bees and bats and bacteria, native plants and climate change, the relationships between health and food and between nutrition and hunger, organic certification and GMO labeling, and numerous other topics were on the agenda and open for discussion.
Local chefs took the stage, and local restaurants passed out samples. School classes demonstrated their understanding of the water cycle, and students shared their experiences integrating classroom instruction with work in school gardens. Local school teachers and administrators shared their beliefs that students become “engaged” and inspired when they can “get their hands dirty” on school farms and greenhouses.
By any measure, Earth Day Texas 2015 seems like a huge success. There were well over 1,000 exhibitors, non-stop programming, many learning opportunities and outdoor fun and entertainment as well. Not even a couple of “threatening weather events” could put a damper on the celebration.
In coming days, we’ll explore in detail some of the food and agriculture topics discussed during Earth Day programming on the Common Ground Stage. There are many interesting ideas to “digest.”