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East Bay 'Climate Change' Halloween Display Goes Beyond Traditional Tricks Or Treats

BERKELEY (KPIX) -- Halloween isn't just about trick-or-treating or donning elaborate costumes for a night of partying. There are some who have a more socially-conscious way of observing All Hallows' Eve.

In Berkeley, there is Julie Twichell.

"I care a lot about the environment and I like expressing it though art, especially activist art," she said.

Twichell decorated her home not with ghosts or zombies but with the specter of climate change. To her, fossil fuel is the real bogeyman and the display in her front yard shows an oil spill -- created from black plastic sheeting -- running from a tanker ship and pipeline to the curb, with a sign reading "Drains to the Bay."

Across the front of the house are pictures of wildfire flames with signs reading, "Climate Chaos" and "Mega Droughts."

"I like Halloween and this year when I thought ... what's the scariest thing going on? My God, climate change is really very scary so I wanted to make a statement about that," Twichell explained.

The other side of her yard shows a more hopeful picture, with butterflies in trees and a sign saying, "Sustainable Future."

The display is meant to make people think and it seemed to accomplish that for Rosalie Lamb who stopped to take a look at it.

"It's painful. It's true and it's painful," Lamb said. "So, I mean, I don't like being scared that much but this is worth being scared about."

There are those who find no fear at all in Halloween. The Mexican community knows it as "Dia de los Muertos" or Day of the Dead and a major celebration took over International Boulevard in Oakland Sunday afternoon. Ernesto Hernandez Olmos created a booth to let people hang paper flowers next to skulls which, he said, helps people accept the transition from life rather than fearing the end of it.

"It's a completely different way to see when we die or when we pass, actually. You don't die, you pass," Olmos said. "It's the transformation they call 'the ancestors' and this is an energy, it's not something bad."

In the Mexican culture, images of skulls and skeletons are presented in a light-hearted way and elaborate costumes and makeup that may seem ghoulish are actually a tribute to loved ones who have passed on. It's a way of honoring and remembering them and it means a lot to Oakland resident Gicelda Hernandez.

"It's everything. It's sadness, it's happiness, it's joy. I'm going to get all emotional now!" Hernandez said, her voice cracking. "It's everything. You get sad. You get angry because they're gone. You get happy because you have all those memories with them."

The Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico for centuries but there are similar traditions in other countries as well, including India and Egypt. Halloween can mean different things to different people. For some, it's a time of remembrance of those who died; for an environmental activist, it's a way to make a point.

But it's also OK to just dress up and get some candy.


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