Earth Day 2008 Concerts Played, Pledges Made

WASHINGTON, DC, April 21, 2008 (ENS) – It rained and it poured, but thousands of people enjoyed Earth Day on the Washington Mall anyway. A few performers were heard before concert organizers pulled the plugs as thunderstorms threatened.

Vocal problems forced planned headliner American Idol Jordin Sparks to cancel her appearance at the Earth Day Network and Green Apple Festival concert on the Mall, but she would not have been able to sing anyway as organizers shut the concert down at about 4 pm. Scheduled headliners The Roots did not get to play their set.

In New York the festival concert went off as planned and thousands had fun in Central Park. On the grounds of the Central Park Bandshell, art tables were set up with free blank canvas and supplies, so people could paint their vision and bring the completed work back to artist Paul Kostabi to assemble in a 500 foot mural, billed as the world’s longest eco-mural.

But two tree-planters participating in a canoe launch into the Harlem River were arrested Saturday afternoon for trespassing on an abandoned stretch of pier near 135th Street.

Ten people working with Friends of Brook Park, a community organization revitalizing green space in the South Bronx, tried to launch the canoes, loaded with shovels and young trees. The activists were planning to paddle upriver to join an Earth Day celebration when police arrived and made the arrests, citing tightened security due to the arrival in New York City of Pope Benedict XVI.

EarthFair booths line Grand Central Terminal in New York City (Photo courtesy EarthFair)

At Grand Central Terminal in New York, the week-long celebration organized by Earth Day New York, consisting of The Giant Earth Images, and the two-day EarthFair is in full swing with booths featuring organic and natural products and fun activities for the kids.

Toyota brought its nationwide exhibit, Highway to the Future: Mobile Hybrid Experience, to the EarthFair. The walkthrough trailer features a Prius driving simulator to help visitors learn about hybrid technology and alternative fuels even as gas prices soar above $3.50 a gallon.

At Fair Park in Dallas, the concert went ahead as planned in the spring sunshine, although organizers did not get the 20,000 people they had hoped to attract – fewer than 500 people showed up for the event.

At the Santa Monica Pier, Ziggy Marley, Taj Mahal and Juliette Lewis and the Licks played to a joyous crowd of thousands in the California sun.

Elsewhere around the country, people hugged trees, planted trees, made art, took photos and posted them on the Internet, went for hikes, took part in local cleanups and participated in walks and runs.

In Des Moines, Iowa, more than 70 hybrid vehicle drivers competed for the best miles per gallon rating on a 25-mile course in 45 minutes. Each driver paid a $10 entry fee to offset the carbon footprint of the event. The winning car, a Toyota Prius hybrid, recorded 79.1 miles to the gallon.

About a dozen people participated in the Des Moines Walk for Climate Justice, one of Oxfam America’s Earth Day celebrations in 10 U.S. cities. The Walk represents the hardships that climate change creates for people in vulnerable communities.

Earth Day celebration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Photo by Pat Peeve)

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, thousands listened to local musicians, learned about recycling and other Earth-friendly activities, and took part in an All Species Parade. Children and adults in costume and walking floats celebrated the Earth with Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden as Grand Marshal.

Today, more people are concerned about the environment but Gallup’s annual environment poll finds just 28 percent of Americans surveyed say they have made “major changes” in their lifestyles to protect the environment. Fifty-five percent have made “minor changes.”

The environment ranks in the middle of a list of “problems facing the country” that Americans worry about. Forty percent told pollsters they worry “a great deal” about “the quality of the environment,” ranking far below the 60 percent who worry about the economy and the 58 percent who worry about the availability and affordability of healthcare.

Gallup reports that, 34 percent of women but only 21 percent of men say they have made major changes in their lifestyles. Also, 32 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents have altered their habits in an environmentally friendly manner, but only 20 percent of Republicans have.

Earth Day falls on April 22 each year, marking the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the first nationwide environmental protest “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda. “It was a gamble,” he recalls, “but it worked.”

Ziggy Marley and his band entertain Earth Day fans at Santa Monica Pier. (Photo by Yo.Venice)

Many Earth Day events are planned for later this week and next weekend, but some organizations wanted to get a jump on the day with their announcements.

The National Association of Manufacturers, NAM, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced an agreement to help improve the energy efficiency of U.S. manufacturers, who use nearly a third of the energy in the United States.

“Under the agreement, the NAM will challenge its member companies to reduce energy use across all operations by 10 percent or more,” said NAM President and CEO John Engler.

“If the manufacturing industry reduced its energy use by 10 percent, manufacturers would save nearly $10.4 billion and enough energy to power nearly 10 million American homes for one year,” he said. “As we celebrate Earth Day this week, let’s remember that building upon U.S. manufacturers’ leadership in energy efficiency makes good economic and business sense.”

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said, “Environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility – and today I’m pleased the NAM is taking this motto to heart. By making smart energy choices, U.S. manufacturers are helping improve our nation’s energy and environmental outlook.”

The EPA will support NAM members in developing and refining company-wide energy management programs, sharing best energy management practices, providing training and recognizing the energy efficiency achievements of NAM members.

On the government side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said addressing climate change is the most important thing Americans can do in support of Earth Day.

“Almost four decades ago, a group of visionary Americans energized the environmental movement, and indeed our nation, by dedicating a day to this ideal: we must preserve God’s creation, our planet, for the generations to come,” she said.

“On this Earth Day, the greatest challenge facing the United States, and indeed our world, is climate change. Its effects already can be seen in severe weather, coastal flooding, deadly heat waves, and spreading infectious diseases.

“That is why I made achieving energy independence and reducing global warming flagship issues of the New Direction Congress. We enacted bipartisan legislation that increases the efficiency of appliances and lighting and boosts fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time in 32 years. This increase in fuel efficiency alone will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 28 million cars off the road in the year 2020 alone.”

“The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us,’” Pelosi preached. “On this Earth Day, and every day, let us honor the Earth and our future generations with a commitment to fight climate change.”

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