A Celebration of Earth that was Beautiful in Nature
By: Denise Lineberry
It was an unusually warm day for late October in Virginia, with temperatures in the low 80s. The weather and the invitation to celebrate Earthfest 2009 attracted approximately 2,000 guests to Sandy Bottom Nature Park on Saturday.
This event was the second of its kind. This year, NASA Langley partnered with the city of Hampton and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"It's a celebration of our home planet, Earth, a celebration of this community and a celebration of learning about what we can do to help this precious Earth of ours," Langley's Director of the Science Directorate Lelia Vann said.
It was expected to rain, but the only things coming down were the pine needles from the hundreds of surrounding trees. The walking trails led guests through nature, vendors, exhibits and entertainment alongside Sandy Bottom Lake.
"What better place to celebrate our environment?" Hampton City Councilman Randy Gilliland posed to the crowd from the stage that featured four bands and one solo act throughout the daylong event.
"Every little tiny step we take can have a huge impact," Gilliland said.
That notion led him to challenge each of his listeners. "Learn one new thing about the environment. If every person implemented one new thing, it would make a substantial impact and then Earthfest would be a success," he said.
Throughout the event, adults and children learned about how they could preserve the environment. At the Virginia Natural Gas exhibit guests gathered to spin a wheel, which would land them on an energy-related question. A correct guess, and sometimes a good effort at a correct guess, won a prize.
The prizes included environmentally-friendly gifts. Sean, a young boy who answered, "Which fossil fuel creates the lowest amount of carbon dioxide?" walked away with an eco-pencil, made from recycled newspaper, for answering, "Natural Gas."
A question that stumped many was "if one in 10 households installed a programmable thermostat that would prevent ______ pounds of greenhouse gas from being released in the atmosphere?" Many guessed and a few correctly answered, "17,000,000."
Others left the exhibit with can koozies and reusable shopping bags, but everyone left reinforcing something already known or learning something new.
Congressman Glenn Nye (D-Va.) elaborated on Gilliand's challenge. "I'm amazed to see how effective conservation measures can make such a big impact," he said.
Exhibits by Christopher Newport University, Hampton's Clean City Commission, Land Conservancy and Master Gardeners, Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Newport News Waterworks, Peninsula Bird Watchers, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Sierra Club, Virginia Peninsula Stargazers, and the Virginia Zoo had guests lending an ear and often, much more.
At a Gem and Mineral Society of the Virginia Peninsula exhibit, children sifted through a bucket of gravel from Aurora, N.C. A nine-year-old boy, Keyante, and many other children took home the shark teeth they discovered as a souvenir.
At an NOAA exhibit, people donned brightly colored survival suits meant for protecting people from hypothermia. On this warm day, they were being used to educate and entertain.
Marion "Mooney" Williamson attracted attention with his "Mooney Buggy," which gets 80 mpg (128.7 kpg) on the interstate. Williamson reinvented the electrolytic carburetor, which produces 445 gallons (1,684.5 L) of hydrogen at 50 cents.
"I'm not interested in making money," Williamson said. "I'm interested in contributing; to gain more mileage for less gas." He is pitching his self-sufficient vehicle concept to Ford Motor Company.
Some were in attendance to teach and share, but many more were there to learn about their environment and to celebrate it.
"Any day devoted to preserving Earth is a good day, for sure," said Steve Jurczyk, Langley's deputy director.
Jurczyk talked with the crowd about NASA Langley's science projects and their contributions to the Earth, including the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) mission.
Those who wanted to contribute to preserving the environment could do so, even if they weren't working at Langley on a science project. They could accept Gilliland's challenge through the education received at Earthfest and contribute their own way.
And thanks to Earthfest it was literally, a walk in the park.
"It's important to bring the community together to show what everyone is doing for our Earth," said Katie Lorentz, Earthfest co-chair and outreach coordinator for the Science Directorate at Langley. "We are really happy to have such a beautiful location. Sandy Bottom is a gorgeous park with so many great resources. It's the perfect place to celebrate our home planet, celebrate nature ... and beautiful weather. It couldn't be better."
NASA Langley Research Center
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor and Responsible NASA Official: H. Keith Henry
Editor and Curator: Denise Lineberry