Friday, April 13, 2007

Get out! (updated)

So you've been making some changes in your daily routine -- you almost always remember to BYO bag, coffee mug and water bottle. Maybe you're driving less and/or eating less meat. You know that all the little things you're doing add up, and that you're becoming more a part of the solution and less a part of the problem. But still, there's a faint, nagging disappointment in that you don't really get to see the impact of your efforts, not in a very concrete sense, anyway. You want to be changing the world! With your own two hands! Well, my friend, you are in luck.

April offers an incredible number of opportunities to get out into your community and get your hands dirty in the fight against global warming. If you are in need of some environmental instant gratification (instant grassification?), check out all the events happening this month...


Step It Up is a nationwide campaign made up of hundreds of different groups with one unified message: they want Congress to pledge an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. On April 14, people in cities and towns all over America will get together to show their support for these efforts -- it's very grassroots, and the activities vary depending on who is organizing the local "action," as the web site calls it. You can visit their "Join an Action" page and enter your zip code to find out what people near you are doing, and how you can join in.

Some of the bigger Actions in Los Angeles that sound cool are:
Earth Day on the Promenade in Santa Monica. It's an all-day, free festival that sounds pretty fun, and they promise that it's carbon neutral.

A Convenient Truth - It's Easy to be Green is a forum and resource fair happening at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. The National Resources Defense Council will be offering ideas for greening your home, car and garden, and the California Food and Justice Coalition will provide information on making sustainable food choices.

EcoArt is an art show consisting of eleven active eco-artists who are confronting core environmental issues at the Barnsdall Junior Arts Gallery on Hollywood Blvd.


Earth Day began in 1970, and it came out of the "power of the people" vibe that the Vietnam protests had created. Inspired by the influence that large anti-war demonstrations were having on political policy, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson sought to harness that power on behalf of his own cause -- conservation. He mobilized an incredible number of Americans, 20 million, to participate. Nelson says of his efforts, "The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political arena. It was a gamble, but it worked." Um, yeah, you could say it worked -- we have that inaugural Earth Day to thank for the formation of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

No subsequent Earth Day has matched the scope of the original, but the legacy lives on. With increasing public concern over environmental issues, the social temperature might be just right for a revival.

If you live in Los Angeles, EarthDay LA is where you can find all the various enviro events happening during the weekend. I've highlighted a few below, but there are tons more on their site:
L.A. Works Earth Day Hands On Schools Transformational Project. This is one of those instant grassification opportunities I was telling you about. Volunteer at a South L.A. middle school to plant a butterfly garden and a literacy garden (don't know what those are, but they sound awesome, right?) as well as paint environmental conservation-themed murals.

California State Parks Restoration and Clean-Up. Check the site for projects at a state park near you. Last year, over 4,500 volunteers planted 2,159 native trees, removed over 3,000 bags of trash from parks, beaches and waterways, restored close to 15 miles of trails, and that's just the beginning.

Some "fun for the whole family" options are the L.A. Zoo's Earth Day Expo (Rascal the Recycling Raccoon! paper made from elephant poo!); the Trash to Treasure ECO ART Exhibit (recycled-material sculptures made by Studio City 4th and 6th graders; Ed Begley, Jr. to speak); STAR ECO Station Children's Earth Day (rescued wild animals as well as an educational, entertaining carnival-type event).

[UPDATE] Saturday, 4/21, Create:Fixate is presenting a night called "Down to Earth." It's an art and music event that happens periodically, and this time several eco nonprofits are involved. I found out about this via Flavorpill, which means there will probably be hipsters a-plenty.


BIG SUNDAY is an annual volunteering day co-sponsored by the Los Angeles mayor's office. It's non-denominational and non-political -- a day when Angelenos of all walks of life come together to improve their city. Donate an hour, donate your entire weekend; it's up to you. I counted close to 100 different opportunities in the "environment" category alone, but there are several other categories including "health," "arts & culture" and "literacy."

Search their site for a project that sounds good to you: paint a Head Start pre-school, plant some trees, clean a beach.

If you aren't in L.A. but want to get out and get greening, is a great resource for finding local volunteer opportunities in areas you're passionate about.

Now, get out!

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