Mobile journalism class reports on Columbia Area Earth Day Festival

Sunday, April 22, 2012 | 7:38 p.m. CDT; updated 9:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The Stephens College Children's Choir, taught by Violet Vonder Haar, perform at the Columbia Area Earth Day Festival.

Members of MU's "Emerging Technologies in Journalism" class took to the streets of the Columbia-area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. Armed with iPhones, the students reported straight from the festival. Here's what they produced:

Cool Weather, Good Music at Earth Day 2012
By Jared Grafman

A cloudy sky and cool weather didn't stop hundreds of people from celebrating Earth Day in Columbia on Sunday. Dozens of canopies and tables were set up along Elm Street and 7th and 8th streets to Locust, and various bands performed throughout the afternoon on an elevated stage in Peace Park. 

The Stephens College Children's Choir, taught by Violet Vonder Haar, performed on stage early in the afternoon. The children wrote their own songs and, with Vonder Haar playing the guitar, sang them to an audience of about 75 people scattered around the stage. 

The group returned this year for its second Earth Day celebration.

 The choir members had been preparing for Sunday's routine since January, in their weekly half-hour classes with Vonder Haar.

"I love being able to teach the students something that they can carry into their adult lives," she said. "They wrote the songs. If they care about something, they can work hard and accomplish it."

Video by Jake Godin

From tango lessons to roller derby girls, it seemed like there was no end to the number of different activities among the stands. Not even the occasional light shower could dampen the peoples' mood.

Earth Day Activism
By Drew Warden

Environmental activists and conservation-minded Columbia residents gathered in Peace Park and the streets surrounding it today to participate in Columbia’s annual Earth Day event. Vendors included commercial stands selling items such as tie dye shirts and goat’s milk soap, and the educational stands offering information about how to reduce one’s carbon footprint and how to keep rivers clean and healthy.

For activists like Paul Searless and David Sautner, however, Earth Day was about more than just the environment. For them it was an opportunity to spread their message.

Searless and Sautner, both members of the Occupy COMO movement, used the event to disseminate newsletters and talk to people about the need for a more equitable society and a separation between the government and business interests.

“The playing field is not level,” Searless said. “And we’re trying to show people that.”

More importantly though, the activist wanted these problems to be discussed. He said he thought that the most important thing was “getting people to talk about the issues.”

The group situated itself on the edge of Peace Park near the intersection of Elm Street and Seventh Street. All the members took turns passing out pamphlets, and those who were taking a break sat on a blanket in the grass.

Searless said they all decided that paying for an actual booth was just too commercial. Sautner emphasized this further and said that it went against the ideals of the movement.

Members of the group acknowledged that their message might not be heard by as many people as it could have. Searless said the weather had definitely scared some people off and that the crowd was smaller because of it.

The "Occupy" movement as a whole has its roots in the Arab Spring movement of last year, Sautner said. He said that just as those organized resistance groups strove to change their governments, he hoped to enact change in the way U.S. governments operate.

“What we are trying to achieve is revolution through civil disobedience — peaceful resistance,” he said.

He likened their group’s methods of protest to those used by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Sautner said that ultimately they want to put “power back in the hands of the people, not the shadow government."

As he offered information to people passing by he stressed the need for radical change. He rocked back and forth on his feet and gripped the newsletters tightly in his hands.

“We don’t want reform,” he said. “We want revolution.”

Amy Couch, Glyn Coakley, Jared Grafman, Drew Warden and Yao Fu, all members of the class, took photos of the festival.

Columbia Residents Celebrate the 42nd Earth Day
By Yao Fu 

The clouds and cold wind didn't hurt people's passions about celebrating the Earth Day Festival. Hundreds of people gathered together in downtown Columbia for the 42nd annual Columbia Area Earth Day.

Including entertainment performance, street fair, food vendors and the kid's park, the Earth Day Festival provided attendees with various opportunities to learn about knowledge of nature, animals, geology and our environment. People walked from booth-to-booth, buying organic food, homemade soaps, flowers and plants while kids learned about the categories of recycling rubbish by playing games.

Booth owner Tom Kasgoli sells various traditional Native American leather works, including beaded, embellished bags, and braided leathers. All of these works were made by himself.

"I hope to promote our traditional cultures through these artistic works. If we have profits, sometimes it will be used to help Native American (life conditions)..." he said.

Mel West, 88, is the director of Personal Energy Transportation (PET) MO-Columbia. He chooses Earth Day to present the PET wheelchair. Coordinated with 93 countries, the lives of hundreds of people who are unable to walk were changed by their wheelchairs. This type of wheelchair which can be used without electricity or gas, is a demonstration of the theme of the Earth Day.

Many attendees have been coming to this annual event for several years. "It's a great way to educate community and raise people's awareness. Children can learn a lot of things during activities and games. How to protect our home, how to be friends with nature ... It's really important. Also, people have fun at the same time," a visitor said.

Video by Katherine Beul and James Parham

Video by Yao Fu

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