Sponsored Post – from Earth Day Austin
Written by Janis Bookout.
Janis Bookout is the Executive Director of Earth Day Austin. The Earth Day ATX festival will take place on Saturday, April 13th at the campus of host and sponsor, Huston-Tillotson University. Production of the festival has changed hands, and Earth Day Austin is the new, independent, and locally-based nonprofit behind the festival. For more information, visit EarthDayAustin.com.
Last night I dreamed I was in my moonlit backyard digging the earth to make a pool. At a certain point I decided to get into the hole I dug, which was a strange experience. Eventually the hole magically filled with water — a natural pool emerged.
I woke up wondering what in my psyche inspired the dream. Was this a reflection of my fear, or a metaphor for growth? As any wise event planner would tell you, you must always operate with a healthy level of concern. You must keep asking yourself the question, ‘What’s missing?’ until the answer is… ‘nothing.’ And even then, surprises do happen, and that’s when we shine.
The Earth Day ATX festival is going to be AMAZING. Butterfly walkthrough. Cooking demos. Rainforest listening experience. Climate workshops. Electric motorcycle giveaway. Stevie the EV-lovin’ T-rex. Pop-up local bookstore space. Incredible music. We will even end the festival with a DJ dance and clean-up party. So much more. And the exhibitors are pouring in, the program is lining up.
We are laughing as we go because what we are accomplishing is reaching the level of ridiculously cool. That said, it has not been without risk. We’ve all been working like crazy on a (growing) shoestring budget, making miraculous things happen daily with a wealth of support from the community. Robert Nathan Allen of Little Herds is helping us put together an incredible community-built feature showcasing an innovating food system and the circular economy. Austin Energy EV has championed the “Mobility Ecosystem,” where people can explore and learn about the various options. Yellow Bike Project will help us give away bikes again this year. The Saul Paul Foundation will partner with us to create the musical experience. Brandi Burton and the Climate Action Team are coordinating the climate workshop tent. And the Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association is assisting us in having interpreters at the festival. There are many more partners I have not mentioned.
And then there is the staff. Liz Belete has been my partner from the beginning, working with me to build the foundation for this event while both of us worked several other jobs. Shane Johnson has rallied the community to create incredible collaborative spaces and ensure they are inclusive. Fatima Mann is putting together an incredible volunteer experience as well as developing programs that move you, figuratively and literally, all the while reminding us to take care of ourselves and drink water. Jeff Dye is giving nonprofits and companies the opportunity to participate, and bringing in the revenue to feed the festival. (I almost said “fuel the festival,” but feed is much better.)
And there is not enough room here to share with you just how much I love our Board of Directors. I am about to send out a press release about them. Ruben Cantu. Dr. Collette Burnette. Jonathan Barona. Karen Magid. Jim Walker. Angelica Erazo. Meme Styles. Daniel Llanes. Andy Kim. And of course, Reed Sternberg. Their hard work and guidance has been beyond supportive.
The time to be grateful is right in the middle of the fulfillment of your vision, just at that point when it’s dirty and scary. We and I have no right to expect the support we are getting, and we are extremely grateful. This kind of support is not earned, it’s a gift. And a magnificent one.
As I bask in the weird aftermath of my dream, one thing is very clear to me — it’s time to go on the record about what we are building with this new nonprofit, Earth Day Austin. We are working to expand the festival as one of Austin’s best and most inclusive events — regularly asking ourselves: How will we make the benefits of sustainability available to more people? How will we create a wonderland of exploration into environmental stewardship for people of all ages and backgrounds? How will we create real opportunities for people to embrace new actions that make a difference?
But our mission goes beyond that as well. Throughout the year, we intend to facilitate projects that forward solutions that are both holistic and systemic — community driven solutions that can only come from working with a broad range of stakeholders, including formal and informal leadership. Our vision includes focusing on four topics – evolving toward an equitable and sustainable transportation ecosystem; addressing the challenges of regional water use; addressing the resilience of our entire community and our support for the resilience of others, like our coastal neighbors; and allowing our food systems to emerge as the most nurturing, sustainable and efficient in the country.
We see so many groups doing incredible work in these areas, and the vast majority will be at Earth Day ATX on April 13th. As a generalist organization that creates a venue for all of these groups to meet the public, we see the opportunity to assist in bringing them together for key visionary and planning conversations that allow inclusive community solutions to arise. We have no right to expect those results, nor do we “deserve” to play that role. But we are digging in anyway, taking the risk with the intention that what we are creating is a wellspring for the community.
In my web search on dream interpretations for digging ground, my favorite suggested it is, “related to the dreamer’s hard-working nature and ability to solve problems in the shortest period of time,” and about trusting one’s intuition. “You always listen to your intuition when it comes to making a move that will contribute your future.”
Pick your metaphor and feel free to send me your interpretation of my dream, but here is the narrative I am weaving – I want my life to have been used for a future in which all people get to experience the beauty of life. Right now, that looks like bringing the community together for a magical event we have no right to expect, but will cherish in our hearts for years to come. It’s worth the work, and may just lead to a wellspring of community engagement.
Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.