In a little over a year, Al Gore has won an Oscar for an "enviro-mentary," Leonardo DiCaprio narrated another, and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee acknowledged that global warming is "real and devastating." The green movement has arrived as a mainstream issue. And, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina as we brace for disasters like it, it's not a moment too soon.
Green Festival, a joint project of human rights group Global Exchange and the "green economy" organization Co-op America, comes to Seattle right on cue.
"It's a day in the sustainable life," says Jenny Heins of the April 12-13 event. Heins, the event's contagiously laid-back regional director, has been working with a near-200-member host committee to plan an event which includes music, organic food, and celebrated speakers like progressive speaker Amy Goodman and Northwest tribal fisheries leader Billy Frank, Jr.
It's Green Festival's first visit to Seattle, but, says Co-op America director Alisa Gravitz, it's something of a homecoming. Nearly nine years ago, as the Battle of Seattle raged, Gravitz got a call from Global Exchange, then in town protesting the WTO presence.
"They asked us to come to Seattle... and have a fair," remembers Gravitz. The pitch was simple: in the midst of the chaos, show people a better way. "The Battle of Seattle was about saying no to what's wrong -- we should also say yes to what's right." Gravitz and Co-op America never made it to Seattle, "but a seed had been planted." In 2002, Global Exchange and Co-op America would produce in San Francisco the event that said yes to what's right: the Green Festival. Drawn by the organic beer and a slew of all-volunteer speakers and musicians, 40,000 attended the first weekend.
"The philosophy behind the festival is that each of us can do things in our own lives, each of us can connect in communities to make the world a better place," says Gravitz. "The purpose is to give the excitement to do that work."
Now Gravitz and the festival have a pan-American team working to organize and promote the event in each of four hosting cities: San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Seattle.
Here, regional director Heins has formed partnerships with organizations and businesses as diverse as Dr. Bronners, Third Place Books, King County, and Amtrak. The City of Seattle provided office space and, Heins says, "a significant financial contribution."
But make no mistake; Green Festival ain't about the money.
Though some funds are generated through ticket sales ($15 for the weekend), the costs of exhibit space, and philanthropic support from community partners, each festival only breaks even. The festival boasts a small army of volunteers who do everything from handle tickets to sort out recycling. And that's not to mention the all-volunteer cast of speakers, workshop leaders, and musicians.
The basic tenet of Green Festival remains the same now as it was when Co-op America was first invited to town: a better way amidst the chaos.
"We're going to have to globally rethink how we use energy, how we grow food," says Gravitz. "And in so doing, we're going to have to come face-to-face with how we reduce poverty."
More information and a schedule is at http://www.greenfestivals.org