The University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 will combine music and art with science, technology and business at its first Earth Day Festival to be held on the Biosphere 2 campus near Oracle, Ariz., on Saturday, April 11.
The Biosphere 2 celebration "is all about breaking down barriers between science and art, and bridging the gap between the science and the public," said Biosphere 2 director Travis Huxman.
"We want everyone, young and old, science-inclined or not, to spend a day with us and get a unique look at our natural world," said Huxman, UA associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "I hope folks leave with a better understanding of our place on the planet – how we influence our environment and how our environment provides resources that are critical to our society," he added.
"Biosphere 2 was designed and has been used to help us better understand how our Earth – which is Biosphere 1 – works in maintaining all the necessary conditions to support life," said UA College of Science dean Joaquin Ruiz. "This is not commonplace, for we still have not found another object in our solar system or beyond with proven life or conditions for life," he added.
"Consequently, I think it is very fitting that Biosphere 2 celebrates Earth Day," Ruiz said. "I very much hope that anyone interested in understanding the complexity of our Earth attend, both to learn and to have fun at the same time."
"With Earth Day 2009 at the UA's Biosphere 2, we join thousands of schools across the United States and the world to raise awareness of future generations to make informed decisions on how to protect our planet and use natural resources," said Hassan Hijazi, external relations director for Biosphere 2.
Event organizers have designed a day that should appeal to just about everyone. Events will be held beneath tents and on the lawn beside the 3.14-acre glass-enclosed Biosphere 2 dome between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Youth ages 15 and younger are admitted free. Adult admission costs $20, or $18 for seniors and military.
- Biosphere 2 will showcase new permanent exhibits on solar energy, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and a phenology garden.
"Phenology" involves monitoring plants and animals through changing seasons. Biosphere 2 has partnered with the National Phenology Network to be a demonstration site. Visitors will get a site map of plants being monitored at Biosphere 2 and collect data that will be entered into the National Phenology Network database.
UA physicist and optical scientist Alexander Cronin collaborated with Arizona State University's solar test facility for Biosphere 2's new solar energy exhibit. ASU has provided different types of solar panels for the exhibit, which displays their differing performances and costs.
UA School of Landscape Architecture students and Ronald Stoltz, the school's director, are starting what will be both a demonstration site and research project to determine what 'green roofs' – plants on building tops – are suitable in the arid Southwest. Green roofs are more common in wetter, more temperate areas. Finding plant combinations that are viable green roofs for drier parts of the world is important as the world warms up.
Biosphere 2 has built a new pathway for people to take to the rainwater harvesting system that provides household water to one of its casitas, or small residential units, on the campus.
- Biosphere 2 Earth Day will feature musician Mary Redhouse, a member of the Dine', or Navajo, tribe who was nominated for a 2005 Grammy award for a CD she made with the Carlos Nakai Quartet. Redhouse, a versatile jazz vocalist with a five-octave range, calls her exploratory vocal style "eco-spiritual" because it blends bird and animal calls, multi-octave scat lines and Native chants. A native flute player who also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards, Redhouse will play the flute inside the Biosphere 2 dome.
- Others will perform what Paula Fan, UA Regents' professor of music who helped organize the Biosphere 2 Earth Day program, calls "green" music – "music that's native, natural and recycled." Performing groups include the Kontomble Quartet and the Apocaplypso Steel Band.
The Kontomble Quartet musicians perform music spanning chamber, orchestral, popular and world music. Recently back from conducting fieldwork and research in Ghana, they will perform Ghanaian music on traditional instruments.
The Apocaplypso Steel Band consists of four "pannists" and a drummer who perform without amplification, synthesizer or any non-percussive instruments. Their repertoire extends from standard socas and calypsos to reggae, popular songs and beyond.
- The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum will present its "Live Animal Encounter" between 10 a.m. and noon
- Local businesses will join UA students and faculty in demonstrating commercially available or prototype hybrid cars, electric bikes and scooters, a solar oven, solar hot water heaters and water-saving appliances. A local printing firm that prints only on recycled materials using wind-power will also be represented. Another Biosphere 2 Earth Day sponsor, Waste Management, will provide information on sustainability and recycling programs.
- Steven Derks, a well-known local artist who haunts Tucson's four junkyards for materials and inspiration, will talk about his steel sculpture. Several of his artworks are on display at Biosphere 2.
- Sculptor James Cook of UA's visual arts program and a group of art graduate students will transform what once was a fast food stand near the Biosphere 2 glass dome into a "fast food for thought" stand. They'll engage the public in interactive art that is fun and stimulates people to think about their relationship with the environment.
Graduate student Chika Matsuda, for example, will give away "polarsicles," ice made in treat-sized polar bear molds. Customers can opt to eat the polarsicle, evaporate it in a microwave oven or, after a little thought to global warming, place it next to a desert shrub.
- Researchers from the UA's famed Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research will show how they get centuries-long records of climate change, forest fires and drought from trees.
- Jane Poynter, one of only eight people ever to live sealed in an artificial world, will sign copies of her book, "The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2." While inside Biosphere 2, Poynter co-founded Paragon Space Development Corp., an aerospace firm that builds human life support systems for spacecraft.
- Farmer's market vendors will provide local foods at the Biosphere 2 café during the Earth Day event. Items on the menu include tamales, empanadas, and local grass-fed beef, among other items.
- For green job seekers, experts from government and industry will discuss employment opportunities in the sustainability and green industries sector at a "Green Jobs Panel Discussion" to be held Saturday afternoon. Panelists who will participate are being confirmed.
The UA's on-campus Earth Day celebration takes place on Wednesday, April 22.