A Family-Friendly Earth Day
Seventeen environmental activist organizations attended the Charlotte, NC Earth Day Festival on April 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Ward Park, setting up tents around the park to discuss environmental issues, provide solutions, and educate Charlotte residents on environmental justice.
Local Earth Day festivals aim to attract city residents and earth appreciators, with environmental organizations, food trucks, kids-activity stations, performances, and several puppets/people dressed in animal costumes set up around the park. The festival was thrown to commemorate the earth, the land (and the indigenous people it was stolen from originally), acknowledge the climate crisis, and provide several resources and solutions to combat climate change.
The family-friendly celebration hosted performances from the UNC Charlotte Theatre Department, Coastal Carolina, PaperHand Puppets, House of Prayer Band, and DJ Kraftward, all having to do with environmental issues and matters at hand. They played live music, sang children’s songs that opposed littering/irresponsible waste practices, and performed environmentally sustainable demonstrations and speeches.
The performances and activity stations attracted many kids/families. There were also scavenger hunts for the children to complete and win prizes. Overall, the festival was heavily aimed toward attracting kids, specifically for the purpose of educating children about environmental justice and sustainability at a young age.
From one of the organizations that attended the event to educate Charlotte residents, the president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Suzanne Elsberry, said, “We are trying to reach out more to the youth because you know, the youth are our future.”
Elsberry is a part of a grassroots organization of volunteers with a mission to empower the American vote and protect democracy. Their main project is registering voters during events such as Earth Day and educating/advocating for the democratic process. They are completely non-partisan but very political, pushing reproductive rights and eliminating the electoral college to get the national popular vote approved. They advocate for the environment, education, and healthcare.
“If we don’t vote, we don’t have a democracy,” said Elsberry. Their organization is facing the conflicts of redistricting, gerrymandering, and the overturn of Roe vs Wade. Their main goal is to make voting easier. Elsberry became involved in this organization when attending a meeting for democratic women, where a fellow member offered to help her join the league.
One of the more popular organizations that attended the festival was CleanAIRE NC, a climate advocacy, environmental justice, health, and education organization. Jeffery Robins, the executive director, said, “We are an organization that fights for clean air. Our organization is focused on legislative actions and governor executive order actions that impact or improve the climate.”
This organization contributes to sustainability efforts through community science work like measuring air quality indexes and attending events such as the Annual Health & Environmental Justice Conference, incorporating the voices of health professionals and environmental justice community members in the discussion of clean air. Robins recommended locals to join the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders to join the fight– a coalition organization, combining different environmental groups in a nonprofit space to create advocacy opportunities for others.
“Last year, we organized 100 people to make comments to the North Carolina Utilities Commission against the Duke Carbon plan,” said Robins.
Many of the members of organizations that attended Earth Day found themselves involved in the fight for environmental sustainability by going to events similar to Earth Day. Lin Dransoff, the leader of Citizens Climate Lobby-Charlotte, found herself joining her organization after speaking to its members at the Hummingbird Festival a few years prior. The Hummingbird Festival is a week-long festival in August, hosted by Reedy Creek Nature Center, celebrating nature’s hummingbird migration.
Citizens Climate Lobby-Charlotte is an international organization primarily concentrated in the US, with the mission to build political will for climate action among citizens and Congress. The organization has primarily advocated for a climate fee assessed on the makers of climate emissions (not the individual) and the promotion of a dividend equally distributed to citizens. This has been their goal over the past ten years.
“It’s to offset what will be likely be, in the short term, higher energy costs as the producers pass their increasing costs down. The goal is to continually increase the fee so they will turn towards the production of alternative energy,” said Dransoff.
Their reasoning for this goal is that they believe the act of putting a carbon fee in place will be the single action that will give the biggest benefit. They encourage the American people to contact legislators to advocate for a carbon fee and other types of climate action through Congress (bills supporting healthy forests, electrification, the RISEE Act, etc).
Earth Day was a successful, family-friendly, and interactive festival created to educate people about the environment and promote environmentally sustainable actions through individual and legislative efforts. The festival is promoted as a way to celebrate the planet and even though it does, its true purpose lies in spreading awareness and reaching out to regular people about supporting the environment.
The festival is also a great source of connection to environmental justice organizations. Simply attending a local Earth Festival is a favorable way to connect with action-oriented organizations that are consistently involved in combatting the climate crisis. Signing petitions, registering to vote, and becoming a volunteer are all crucial ways to take on the role of an activist through the opportunities provided at a local level.
Charlotte’s Earth Day event may only reach city residents but with its chain of festivals dispersed throughout the globe, it can truly make a difference on an international scale. Sometimes the only way to fight globally is to start locally.
For more information on Earth Day and the organizations mentioned in the article, please visit the home pages linked below!
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