Organizers hope event encourages awareness

Sunday’s activities meant to encourage respect for the natural world
Thursday, April 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:43 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Up to 10,000 people are expected to hit Columbia’s streets with their friends and families on Sunday to celebrate Earth Day 2004.

Once a small event observed by a few environmentalists, the event has become a popular annual fixture in Columbia, packed with information and fun activities.

Far beyond being an enjoyable day out, Earth Day is the first small step toward a greener society.

“Sometimes we are too busy and forget that we are responsible for planet Earth and its people. Earth Day is a yearly reminder,” MU environmental design specialist Michael Goldschmidt said.

Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said people are often trapped in consumerism and face difficulties in making “green” choices.

“The purpose of Earth Day is not to preach at people,” he said. “We don’t want to punish the victim.”

Organizers said they hope Sunday’s event shows people that small gestures can make a difference.

“Wherever you are at, take the next step,” said Jan Weaver, head of Environmental Studies at MU. This can be as simple as recycling your cans or walking rather than driving whenever possible.

“Earth Day will give you plenty of ideas of where to begin,” she said.

Weaver said she hopes the event will also inspire children “to create a sense of wonder in the natural world and thereby an attachment to it.”

Activities will include “Catch a Crayfish,” where children can see the crustaceans up close, learn how they live and how to catch one safely.

Other activities include planting seeds and an “All Species Parade,” where children can make plant or animal masks and puppets.

Organizers hope the awareness raised by Earth Day will carry over into the other 364 days of the year.

In recent years, Columbia has seen the development of pedestrian and bicycle networks.

Looking to the future, Haim suggests people write letters to their community newspapers and local town councils showing support for changes such as green energy.

The organizers hope that people will remember Earth Day’s message long after the recyclable paper cups have been cleaned up.

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