Thursday, April 24, 2008

Did You Know It Was Earth Day The Other Day?

It's Not Easy Being Green:
Green Apple Festival Celebrates Earth Day



In the clear Spring sky, the sun shone brightly on the majestic lion. As he stretched and sunned himself on the perfectly placed boulder, lazily glancing at his surroundings, I found myself wondering if this king had any awareness of what had become of his kingdom. I'm often conflicted at zoos. On the one hand is the feeling of pity for the displaced animals relegated to their makeshift habitats, and mild indignation at humanity for creating such a fa├žade. On the other is the knowledge that this lion could instead be starving to death in its natural setting, or facing death at the hands of a poacher, so perhaps the zoo may very well be the ideal kingdom after all.

This particular dichotomy is not all that uncommon, to be sure, but it was likely overlooked on Sunday, April 20th, at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Though the lions were relegated to the background, the zoo was an appropriate setting for the third annual Green Apple Festival. Together with the Earth Day Network they presented a free day of music and eco-awareness exhibits as part of a national, eight-city push to draw attention to climate change and the human impact on the environment. Speakers included freshly-shaven Bears QB, Kyle Orton, a few corporate sponsors, and Senator Dick Durbin, a staunch environmental activist who gave a rousing speech displaying his passion for the topic. Musicians included Meshell Ndegeocello, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and headliners Three (comprised of Grateful Dead drummer, Bill Kreutzmann, Allman Brothers bassist, Oteil Burbridge, and Max Creek guitarist, Scott Murawski).

Given the combination of an outdoor Earth Day festival and live performances from jam bands (not to mention the date conveniently being 4/20), the crowd was comprised primarily of…hmmm…what's the word? Oh, right: hippies. Our friend the lion had a clear view of tie-dyed tees, white kids with dreadlocks, and hacky-sackers, all noodling for the Earth, and a whiff of the crisp, late-April air was filled with patchouli, body odor, and other recognizable scents associated with hippies and the aforementioned date. Unsuspecting zoo-goers gingerly steered their strollers through the crowd, and headed to less perilous territories such as the Lion House or the Bear Habitat.

Wondering among the festival's exhibits I was incessantly handed flyers promoting products or events designed to fight climate change. Wisely, most were made from recycled paper; Chase Bank definitely won the award for greenest flyer, as the entire thing was manufactured from seeds – in fact, it came with instructions to plant the card in soil and watch its wildflowers bloom. Unfortunately, despite the sponsors being clever enough to at least display the "printed-on-recycled-paper" logos on their flyers, many ended up strewn along the ground. And the zoo itself continued to sell water in plastic bottles, and trashcans were far more accessible than recycling containers.

This new paradox sits rather nicely next to my earlier dichotomy. As I cynically sift through my collection of business cards and flyers (not to mention my 14 laser-printed pages of press material), I have hope that the other attendees will also recycle or reuse. I have hope that zoo groundskeepers sorted the litter that remained, rather than dumping it all into the same trashcan. I have hope that the call for change not only rang true, but also inspired people to action. I have hope that my skepticism for the corporate sponsors is unfounded. And I have hope that the lion's kingdom can be saved by the same human hands that have been pushing it towards extinction.

-J2

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