Thursday, October 11, 2007

Green Festival D.C. 2007

Last weekend my wife and I had the priviledge to attend the Green Festival in Washington, D.C. It was our first visit to the Green Festival and we greatly enjoyed the experience. Co-sponsored by Global Exchange and CO-OP America, the Green Festival uniquely focuses on both environmental and social justice issues. It is refreshing to see these two critical concerns dealt with concurrently, as they are deeply related in so many ways. One has to only read of coal miners in South Africa or Cocoa harvesters in South America to understand how sustainable living and social justice interrelate. As we find ways to live in harmony with nature, we in turn find ways to live in harmony with each other. Competition and scarcity drive a wedge between human beings, only as we overcome this reality can we find true harmony with each other.

It was a pleasure to hear a number of notable speakers at this event. Bill McKibben, one of the first to warn us of global warming, and author of many books including The End of Nature, spoke about the green movement and its transition from its early days (labeled Greenhouse Effect) to its current state. He particularly focused on the importance of grass roots movements supported at the local level, as we join together in the most important movement "since Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial." Indeed, I can only wonder how future generations will look back at our out-of-control consumption and consumerism and shake their heads in wonder that so many of us blithely participated in such a broken system.

Jim Hightower gave a rollicking speach about the importance of agitation and confronting the establishment. In his words, "the next time someone calls you an agitator, tell them that is what the center post in a washing machine is called, it gets the dirt out!" Injecting Texan colloquialisms with free abandon, Jim painted a grave picture facing "progressives" who fear for the future of the U.S. Holding our elected representatives accountable and forcing them to consider more than just their re-elction bids was the center of Jim's talk.

Hearing Ralph Nader was a real treat. Perhaps more than any other person in the United States, Ralph Nader has fashioned a career around championing the little guy, while deriding corporations as faceless, dehumanizing entities that have no regard for people. Nader was the driving factor behind the creation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the Freedom of Information Act, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ralph's tone was somber, less energized than prior speakers. He represented a man who has spent forty years fighting for the little guy, only to find ourselves fighting many of the same issues today. While there was still a fire in his words, especially when directed toward corporations, one could tell that the years of fighting big money and powerful interests have taken a toil, and his face and voice betray a cycnicism as he looks at the future of the United States. One can only hope that his legacy will find new champions, and that the sinister forces of greed and power will further succumb to such humanitarian voices.

Aside from the speakers, the main floor of the Washington Conference Center was covered by well over a hundred booths, giving away organic food samples, bumper stickers, and literature. The festival had brought in the premier representatives of the green and social justice movement in America, all carefully vetted to make sure they adhere to strict standards. It was an awesome opportunity to make connections, sign up for mailing lists, and just learn what creative things people are doing out there. One of my favorites was a small start-up company that was making glasses out of used wine bottles, cutting them in half and creating drinking glass out of the bottom portion, and a cocktail glass out of the neck and top. Really useable stuff and a fantastic idea, look for a future post on where to find this glassware on this site.

The Green Festival is now in four cities, I encourage you to check it out. If you can't make the festival due to distance or scheduling, the website is a wealth of information, especially in the exhibitors section where you can find a wide array of green companies across the U.S.