This year, like most years, I spent Earth Day participating with hundreds
of other volunteers at The San Diego Earth Fair. Undeniably the largest
environmental street fair in North America, the event is challenging
on a myriad of levels. From the smell of burning flesh, rantings of
Christian zealots, and the mind numbing traffic, it's clear Earth Fair
2007 was a study in over population.
The environmental ethics of Conservation, preservation and restoration
were well represented by Earth Fair exhibitors. The weather was beautiful.
The park was beautiful. As usual, the event organizers, San Diego Earthworks,
managed the yearly ritual with a smooth hand, and should be pleased
with their effort.
Personally, I'm over it.
A success, the Earth Fair attracts a lot of people, from earnest environmentalists,
NIMBY neighbors, and trendy hipsters to concerned citizens, confused
contrarians and the “God hates fags” people. There just
seemed to be too much of everything. It was hard to focus.
Earth Day originally intended as a “Teach in” lacks the
edge that established it. Watching the crowd, a mixed bag of “Yikes!”
and “Cool,” it was clear something was missing. Amongst
all the people parading through the park, the synergy of connection
was lacking. Nothing clicked.
As a journalist I found myself asking, 'At a time of environmental
awareness, and at an environmental event, why are people still not connecting?'
All the parts were there, but they were overshadowed by the sheer number
of people in attendance. People with kids, people with dogs, people
with kids and dogs, but mostly just people.
Accessing lunch or literature becomes a near Herculean task when more
than 50,000 gather in one place. As always, with more people you get
more mess. Traffic in the morning, trash at the end of the day, and
a chaos of people trying to navigate the maddening crowd in between.
There to manage a stage, and talk about global warming and accelerated
climate change with the Iris Forum, my critical eye refused to take
the day off. Frustrated by the lack of urgency, and an inability to
see earth day as more than a lark in the park, observing fair goers
began to annoy me. I mean really, what do men in naughty nun drag hope
to add to the environmental conversation?
By mid afternoon the glamor of Earth Day had been worn away by the
river of humanity meandering down the Prado. Tired, sun baked, and fresh
off my global warming soapbox, I wondered if any of it really mattered.
Where was the edge? Did any of this make a difference? Was I just too
jaded to enjoy the day? Why wasn't this the inspirational challenge
it used to be.?
Well, as if on cue, inspiration showed up in the form of Sophia Beeson
and Spencer Sampson; two Encinitas residents who walked to the San Diego
Earth Fair from Encinitas. Leaving at 4 in the morning and arriving
at 3:30 PM these young twenty-somethings walked the 30 miles with an
Earth Day or Bust sign on Sophia's back. Spencer carried their day pack.
Finally a connection.
Both were beaming with accomplishment. I was humbled by their example,
as were my colleagues, and anyone else who has heard of their epic undertaking.
The ultimate in environmental role models, Sophia and Spencer impressed
the fine folk of Mission Playground, proving no good deed goes unrewarded,
gifted the weary travelers with some stylish organic apparel.
Henry David Thoreau would be so proud.