“Experience the Unexpected” is the theme of this week’s Earth Day Texas, and judging from the parade of events and activities that started Wednesday and will extend through Sunday, it’s easy to see why.
The world’s largest Earth Day celebration will transform Dallas Fair Park, with its Depression-era origins and Art Deco architecture, into a futuristic showplace of ideas and innovations for preserving the planet — as well as plenty of outside-the-box entertainment offerings.
You’ll be able to get a scuba-diving tutorial, check out eco-friendly cars, tour miniscule houses, watch prize-winning documentaries and even demonstrate your prowess at milking a cow. Mini-race cars propelled only by the sun will dart around a raceway at dazzling speeds. More than 1,200 college and high school students will resolve some of earth’s most serious challenges in what is billed as an “an environmental hackathon.”
EARTH DAY TEXAS WAS FOUNDED IN 2011
Founded in 2011 by Dallas businessman and environmentalist Trammell S. Crow, this year’s Earth Day Texas is the largest ever and is more like a long weekend than a single day. Stretching for five days to encompass the world’s officially designated Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, the Texas observance will host hundreds of exhibits and is expected to draw at least 150,000 visitors, up from 130,000 in 2016.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry will attend Earth Day Texas on Friday in his new role as U.S. Secretary of Energy, a position that makes him responsible for national energy conservation programs. Perry will be the featured speaker at a luncheon for business and legal leaders at Fair Park’s Texas Discovery Gardens. He also is scheduled to take a mid-morning tour of Earth Day exhibits.
Many of the events are geared to families and young people, and dogs are “absolutely” invited, according to an Earth Day fact sheet, although the four-legged visitors must be on a leash and their owners are expected to carry paper bags for clean up duty. Visitors also are encouraged to take mass transit or carpool or, better yet, ride their bicycles.
While the five-day expo and eco-conference will exude a festive atmosphere, its over-arching objective is rooted in mankind’s biggest challenge — saving the planet — and most of the activities, in one way or another, are designed to support that goal.
“We’re not just the world’s largest Earth Day event,” proclaims the Earth Day Website. “Join the environmental movement that the world needs right now, unobstructed by politics and fueled by your community.”
“We want to make Earth Day Texas the clear leader in conversations about conservation and the future of our planet.”
Earth Day Texas CEO Ryan A. Brown said the Texas event could set an example for the nation in “creating a platform” for cutting-edge technology and innovative environmental policy.
“We want to make Earth Day Texas the clear leader in conversations about conservation and the future of our planet,” Brown said earlier this year.
Accordingly, much of Earth Day’s strategy is aimed at channeling an immense amount of brain power into environmental problem-solving through forums that range from discussions by well-known experts to hands-on activities by students and ordinary citizens.
EARTHXPitch is a popular competition in which participants can win cash prizes for making the best “pitches” for projects to bolster conservation, sustainability, and environmental education. Formerly known as EarthTank, the idea-fest is being returned and expanded to include veterans, primary and secondary schools students, civic organizations, and nonprofits.
Organizers are returning the popular Green Speaker series that will include more than 225 experts, ranging from elected officials to scientists and environmental activists, to discuss topics as diverse as climate change and bee pollination. The lineup includes retired Gen. Wesley Clark Sr., oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and marine conservation activist Paul Watson.
TINY HOUSES DRAW BIG INTEREST
A sure crowd-pleaser will be the neighborhoods of tiny houses — those constructed at only a fraction of the size and cost of standard residential dwellings — that drew thousands of spectators when they were on display at last year’s Earth Day. Three villages of tiny houses are being featured at this year’s Expo for a fee of $5 per person.
Those who might be considering downsizing from their ranch-stye home in suburbia can pay $99 to attend Saturday or Sunday workshops for a tiny home tutorial on how to form tiny home communities, searching for available land, zoning considerations, and related topics.
Earth Day’s inaugural film festival will include at least 18 feature films, 33 shorts and five virtual reality projects exploring the full panorama of ecological challenges, ranging from plastic pollution to the deteriorating quality of the world’s oceans and rivers. EARTHxFilm also includes film-making workshops and classes and a total of $6,000 in cash awards for the winners of competitions designed to encourage a new generation of environmental film-makers.
An alternative fuel vehicle summit (AFV) will make its debut at the 2017 Earth Day, featuring more than 50 vehicles powered by alternative sources such as natural gas and electricity. The summit will also include discussions by clean-power experts.
EARTHACK IS A 36-HOUR HACKATHON
Also making its debut is EARTHACK, in which more than 1,000 students and high-tech professionals will apply their computer skills in a 36-hour hackathon to produce innovative solutions to environmental problems. Brown, the Earth Day Texas CEO, said the new program is designed to “create environmental solutions that can be implemented on a global scale.”
Adult visitors looking for a break can enjoy a “responsibly brewed craft beer” at a “sustainable beer garden” and the younger set might indulge in face-painting or the “petting zoofari,” which offers a chance to “get up close and personal” with exotic annimals.
Attendees can also receive scuba tips at GoDiveNow’s mobile pool or inspect a “real severe storm chaser” at the Doppler on Wheels Exhibit. And Southwest Dairy Farmers are offering visitors a chance to “experience the dairy farmer life by milking a cow” at their mobile dairy classroom.
For a full schedule of events, visit the Earth Day Texas website.
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