In most communities today, Earth Day celebrations attract small audiences and a fraction of the attention that Earth Day celebrations did four decades ago. The concerns that led to the original Earth Day have not gone away. They are, if anything, magnified several times over, but the crowds continue to dwindle, and in many towns Earth Day today is hardly recognized.
Not so in Dallas. This year, for the third year in a row, Dallas is hosting an Earth Day celebration to rival all Earth Day celebrations. More than just a platform for expressing concerns about pollution or climate change, Earth Day Dallas has turned into a showcase for the Green Economy. And, judging by the attendance, people in Dallas are buying it. Two years ago, attendance at Earth Day Dallas topped 45,000 people, the second largest Earth Day celebration in the entire country. Last year attendance exceeded 58,000.
This year, crowds of up to 65,000 are anticipated for the two-day outdoor event, held April 20-21. As the sponsors boast, it's a "Texas-sized" event. The event, which offers free admission, is being held at Fair Park in Dallas. The event will attract hundreds of exhibitors to its Eco Expo and the exhibitors will include nonprofits, governments, hospitals and universities, but it's the scale of the business sector's involvement that sets Earth Day Dallas apart from celebrations in other major cities. Dozens of local businesses sponsor or participate. Corporate sponsors of this year's event include local television and radio stations and such nationally recognized names at Home Depot, FEDEX, GEICO, and AT&T. Earth Day Dallas has become the major place to go for all things green, from greener transportation to greener homes, gardens and communities.
The founder and principal driving force behind Earth Day Dallas, Inc. is Trammell S. Crow, a local environmentalist with the business experience and acumen that is required to pull off an event of this magnitude. It's only a two-day event, but Crow hopes it will promote what he calls "every day environmentalism." He understands the need for action on climate change and other environmental concerns, but he also knows that any green revolution has to be led by consumers who are demanding -- and buying -- more energy-efficient products.
To build crowd attendance Earth Day Dallas brings in featured speakers and entertainment. Last year's event featured a book signing by world renown physicist Michio Kaku and former first lady Laura Bush talking about her Taking Care of Texas Initiative. This year's program features Leilani Münter one of the top ten female race car drivers in the world and an environmental activist. Since 2007 Münter has been adopting an acre of rainforest for every race she runs. This year's program also features a 5K run and lectures and demonstrations on everything from yoga to urban farming.
It's not enough anymore to draw out the hard-core environmentalists on Earth Day. In an over-populated, over-subscribed world, we have to mainstream the commitment to conservation and environmental action. A sustainable world will require all of us to change our lifestyles and think more conscientiously about our impact on the environment.
Earth Day Dallas does not offer all the answers, but it's posing some of the right questions and generating a healthy public response. Organizers of Earth Day celebrations in other cities should take note.
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