Santa Barbara could not have asked for a better weekend to host its 40th annual Earth Day Festival, the two-day event promoting ecological and humanitarian efforts. Between the beautiful weather and an appearance by James Cameron, this year’s event, said attendees and organizers, topped previous years’.
The shade of the trees in Alameda Park provided the perfect setting for the festival, keeping families and dogs cool while they strolled the booths. Popularity has caused the event to grow, and it’s now expanded across two blocks of the park. Approximately 18,000 people attended on Saturday and an estimated 15,000 people came on Sunday. “This year has been phenomenal,” said Alan Irwin, praising the Community Environmental Council which hosts the nonprofit event each year. As a booth volunteer with Edible Santa Barbara magazine, Irwin has attended the Earth Day events multiple times. “[This year], it’s a broader base of people and better volunteers. I’ve been more impressed this year than in previous years.”
The highlight on Sunday was the presentation of an award to director and Santa Barbara resident James Cameron for the environmental consciousness in his work and his efforts to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. As anyone who has seen the movie Avatar can guess, Cameron is interested in preserving natural habitats and the indigenous peoples who live in them. “The point of Avatar was to use the visual effects, to use the 3D, to use the spectacle and all that to draw people into the theater, and touch them in the heart, make them think about these things,” Cameron said.
Cameron and his wife recently returned from Brazil where they fought to prevent the building of the world’s third largest dam, a plan that would displace approximately 25,000 native inhabitants. In his speech, Cameron questioned why the greater population of the world does not understand the importance of sustainability and denies the existence of a problem. “[But] not here in Santa Barbara. We know what to do — we’ve got our heads screwed on straight,” Cameron said. His main message was the importance of understanding science and ignoring campaigns to slander the facts, as this is the only way to fix the environmental problems going on under our noses.
For anyone inspired by Cameron’s speech, the variety of booths offered a number of eco-friendly living solutions, whether it involves transportation, clothing, food or home improvement. Local businesses displayed their environmentally friendly products or gave consumers tips on how to make their homes more sustainable. The green car show modeled sustainable public transportation vehicles, solar powered cars, bicycle shops, and even Segways. One shining example of stylish sustainability was a Porsche that a San Marcos High School class converted into an electric vehicle. Not only is the car eco-conscious, the project was celebrated as a great way to inspire young adults.
This festival was not just for hula-hooping and swaying to the rhythm of the various bands that played, although that was an enjoyable part of both days. Information on a number of important topics was at the people’s fingertips, including tips on how to improve your garden and how to volunteer for children with learning disabilities. Children’s activities around the park made the festival a great place for families to spend the day and let their kids play an instrument or make a t-shirt.