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In the making of her webisode, we got an insightful opportunity to sit down with Willa Black and environmentalist David Suzuki, to learn more about how One Million Acts of Green came to be.

Their thoughtful words on an incredibly successful project demonstrate even their surprise at the power of the human network and the amazing effects that come in numbers. Check out ourcampaign page to learn how to act on your ideas!

Photo credit : Devin Lund

David Suzuki: We had tried to engage citizens for several years. We called it the Nature Challenge…People would say, ‘listen Suzuki, I got your message but what can I do, I don’t want to waste time on something that is not significant, I want to change my life and I want to begin to reduce my ecological footprint’. So we partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and asked, how do ordinary people impact the environment so that we can figure out how to lighten our impact?

Immediately, it was obvious that it’s what you eat, where you live, and how you move…We got a list of the ten most effective things which we called the Nature Challenge. I got the list and threw it on the floor. I said, ‘Come on, this is too easy – give up meat one day a week, leave your car at home one day a week’. But, if you get enough people doing these simple steps, UCS said, guess what – it adds up.

The importance of saying a million acts of green is that a million people actually made a commitment. I think that the fact that so many citizens chose to be engaged is a very telling thing that I don’t think politicians can ignore.

Willa Black: I certainly didn’t expect to get a million acts. I think people really had a way more vested personal interest in what they could do and the changes they could make than I ever expected. It is one thing to make people go to a website…It’s another thing to get them to register and to act. It worked for everybody, from a five-year-old child to an 80-year-old grandmother, from a business to a community.

DS: Just think, if we citizens of Canada committed to picking up one piece of garbage a day, that’s 365 multiplied by 35 million, that comes out to a lot of garbage.

My commitment was I will pick up one piece every day, and it’s been a very interesting exercise. I often find when I reach down to do it, there are four or five things, so I clean up a little piece. Just think, one person picking up one piece a day is nothing; 35 million is huge, and it’s those kinds of simple acts that can become very significant.

WB: When you hear what is happening to our world and the environmental damage that is going on, it seems so terrifying and so overwhelming. A lot of people would say, ‘Oh there is no way I can do anything about that’, and what we were hoping to do with a million acts of green, is to convince them [that they can] and it doesn’t have to be enormous.

DS: During the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, I used to run around saying, “Think globally, Act locally”. I really think in the end it turns out that was a mistake…Thinking globally tends to disempower us, making us feel totally helpless. Thomas Berry, one of the greatest philosophers, said we got to change that to think locally and act locally if we are going to have any effect globally.

It’s at the local level where you can actually see the impact that you do and you can arouse a community.

WB: That was one of the great things that the campaign did. Everybody could see what the impact of their contribution was, and they could see the green house gases that they were saving with their acts.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the interview!

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, act on your ideas. Share your story of how you’re ideas into action by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero!

Acting On An Idea
03Jan
2011

Imagine the changes we could see in the world if every person acted on their ideas. For Ciscobusinesswoman, Willa Black, acting on her idea led to over a million changes; a million acts of green to be exact.

When her workplace challenged Cisco employees to come up with an idea to bring the human network effect to life, Willa rose to the challenge, recognizing that major changes could come about by bringing together lots of people.

Willa Black

Photo credit: Devin Lund

After examining her own life and daily habits, Willa contemplated the idea of power in numbers. She imagined changing simple acts in her daily life, such as turning off lights, washing clothes with cold water, carpooling, or planting a tree, and was excited by the potential reverberations if mimicked by a street, a city, and a country of others.

Acting on the principle of Corpoate Social Responsibility, Willa turned a marketing challenge into a green opportunity, resulting in over 4 million acts of green committed, and bringing about monumental change. Got an idea to change the world? Set your ideas into action!

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, act on your ideas. Share your story of how you’re ideas into action by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero!

Happy New Year!
02Jan
2011

We at GreenHeroes are looking forward to the year ahead with more webisodes and take action campaigns to get you involved.

Between now and mid-June we will be introducing you to more GreenHeroes who acted on their ideas to bring about environmental change.

We start the year off with webisodes that show how corporate responsibility and green initiatives cango hand in hand.

January 3 – Willa Black – Willa is a Cisco executive and inspiration behind the successful One Million Acts of Green that in 105 days had Canadians reach the goal of 1 million Green Acts to help the planet.

January 17 – Ray Anderson – Crowned America’s Greenest CEO, Ray turned his carpet manufacturing company into an example of sustainability that also turns a sizeable profit.

January 31st – Shane Price – is Founder of Green Circle Salons an initiative that recycles and reuses waste from hair dressing salons.

Other heroes to watch for in the coming year

Ian Clifford (creator of the Zenn Electric Car)

Emily Hunter (MTV eco-journalist and daughter of Greenpeace’s co-founders, Robert and Bobbie Hunter)

Ric O’Barry (star of the Academy Award winning documentary – The Cove)

Also featured are profiles of Green Giant, David Suzuki, Musician Bruce Cockburn, Owl Magazine Founder, Annabel Slaight, Clayoquot Sound hero Tzeporah Berman, and Bullfrog Power founder,Tom Heintzman

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

By Tyler Davie

There are places in the world where stitching a Canadian flag onto a backpack may not be such a good idea for travellers. In Guatemala, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other countries, Canada’s image may be associated with contaminated water supplies, eviction, and even death threats. What these communities have in common is their location above large reserves of valuable minerals, and the development of those reserves by Canadian mining companies.

75 per cent of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada, and they generate four per cent of Canada’s GDP with significant funding from the Canada Pension Plan and Export Development Canada. Just as in the Alberta Tar Sands, there is an environmental and societal cost to resource extraction.

For example, the processing of one ounce of gold, worth about $1,200, can produce 60 or 70 tons of waste including contaminated water that can kill fish and cause rashes upon contact with human skin. Mining companies encountering tension in communities in which they operate have hired security forces composed of ex-military members, and continuing tension between security forces has resulted in violence.

Environmental damage at the Porgera Mine, Papua New Guinea

Bill C-300 was a private member’s bill put forward by Liberal MP John McKay in February 2009. It would have had the ministers of foreign affairs and international trade investigate complaints against the international operations of Canadian mining, oil, or gas companies. Consular services and financing from Export Development Canada and the Canada Pension Plan would be withdrawn from a project from which a complaint found to be true arose.

On Oct. 27, 2010, Bill C-300 was narrowly defeated by a vote of 134-140 in its third reading in the House of Commons, after vigorous lobbying from the mining industry and criticisms from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, CPP, and EDC.

The bill would have filled a policy void left in the wake of unimplemented recommendations from a Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade report in 2005 and a 2007 roundtable report drafted by members of industry, the government, and NGOs.

Tyler Davie graduated with a B. Sc. Hon. in electrical engineering from Queen’s University and is currently studying journalism at Humber College.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

Sandra Steingraber is the author of Living Downstream, newly published in second edition by Da Capo Press to coincide with the release of the documentary film adaptation.
This essay is one in a weekly series by Sandra – published at www.livingdownstream.com – exploring how the environment is within us. For more on the interactions between health and environment, and to take action, visit Clayton Thomas-Muller’s page, Home Lands vs. Tar Sands.


By Sandra Steingraber

When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1979, at the age 20, I drafted a list of goals. The first thing I would do, once I was sprung from the hospital, would be to pay a visit to Claire’s Boutique in the mall. There I would get my ears pierced. Next, I would hit the university library. There I would answer the question, Why me?

Neither task was difficult to accomplish, but one had a more predictable outcome than the other.

The ear-piercing achieved exactly what I thought it would: it upset my mother. Her reaction—arising from the particular religious practices of her German-American family—allowed me to be angry with her. And anger allowed me to rebuff her attempts to bond with me over what she saw as a shared medical experience.

I couldn’t have walked away from her otherwise. Mom was in treatment for breast cancer. There she was in her wig, her platelet count decimated by chemotherapy, distraught about my earlobes. I had predicted this. I knew that she would see the earrings as an unnecessary mutilation. As if we don’t have enough problems already, Sandy, that we can’t control.

Those words provided the pretext I needed to storm out of the house and head back to college, forty-five miles and a world away. I had lost the script to my life. I knew how to play the role of the supportive, unrebellious daughter alongside my mother’s brave performance as a cancer patient who could calmly accept bad news and carry on. But I didn’t know how to be a co-cancer patient.

In the library, I turned my attention to the medical literature on bladder cancer. What did we know about causation? Questions posed by my diagnosing physician—had I ever worked with vulcanized rubber?—led me to believe that environmental exposures must be part of the collective story.

They were. There was a trove of data going back to the nineteenth century. Dyes, rubber manufacturing, chlorinated water, air pollutants, dry-cleaning solvents: all were linked to bladder cancer. If not mine, then somebody’s.

But, outside of the isolated world of epidemiology and toxicology, there was very little recognition of this evidence. The word carcinogen never appeared in any of the pamphlets on cancer in my doctors’ waiting rooms. The medical intake forms I was forever filling out asked detailed questions about the history of cancer in my family but none about, say, chemical contaminants in my hometown drinking water.

I’m adopted. The wells periodically contain trace amounts of dry-cleaning solvent.

As we approach the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day—and the forty-eighth anniversary of Silent Spring’s publication—we are still far from a mature acknowledgement of cancer’s environmental agents. But there are signs of an awakening awareness. Provinces and municipalities across Canada have banned the cosmetic use of pesticides on the grounds that they are linked to childhood cancers.

The European Union has banned carcinogens from cosmetics. Here in the United States, calls grow louder for reform of the flaccid Toxic Substances Control Act, which has proved itself unable to eliminate suspected carcinogens from the marketplace. And I can now find the words carcinogen and environment in the waiting-room literature.

But, for me, the most telling sign of the times is this: my hometown hospital invited me to give a lecture on environmental carcinogens before an audience of physicians concerned about the proposed expansion of a hazardous-waste landfill. Mom came with me. I was the one wearing earrings.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

TIME TO STOP ASKING AND START ACTING

BY JOAN PROWSE

Producer/Director of GreenHeroes

Most people have heard of the Alberta Tar Sands. I was particularly struck by how far reaching Clayton’s message has been when I was in Germany at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers TV conference at the beginning of the month.

People I met there, including TV producers from Europe, the UK, Australia and the U.S. were well aware of the travesty taking place near the tiny town of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Photo credit : David Dodge

Awareness leads to action. While I have never seen the Tar Sands first hand, I edited the pictures forGreenHeroes Episode 5 – Oil Changers and was frankly overwhelmed that we could rake havoc on such natural beauty.

I’ve been to the Athabasca River and Canada’s North. This pristine part of the world, and the people and wildlife living there, needs protection.

Photo credit : David Dodge

I urge everyone this holiday season to share Clayton’s webisode with others. I also encourage you take part in our campaign by doing one of the suggested actions.

Mother Earth will thank you for it.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

We’re lucky at GreenHeroes to have some amazing talent behind every webisode we showcase.

This week’s webisode on Clayton Thomas-Müller features the musical beats of Plex, an award winning hip hop artist and producer originally from Edmonton, Alberta.

He was inspired as an artist to write the song below, called “Spare Change”, based on his experiences growing up near the tar sands and experiencing the interconnections between the oil industry and people’s lives.

The track highlights an inherent sensitivity behind his musical façade, and a deep interest for social welfare and positive change.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpfKu7NXD_U[/youtube]

“Although I believe it’s important to honor our past, mankind needs to focus on our future and the time to act is in the present. Clayton Thomas Muller may be the man to lead us into a new era of peace and harmony with the planet. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, healthy communities matter. Share your story of how you are affecting the health of your neighbours and your local environment, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

Rebecca Gerendasy is executive producer and co-founder of Cooking Up a Story (CUpS), one of the first online television series and video blogs about people, food, and sustainable living.

CUpS offers a variety of original, short form video programming, and written posts that examine our food system, up close and personal. Cooking Up a Story features some of the leading thinkers and doers in the sustainable food movement, people such as Dr. Vandana Shiva as profiled in this post.


BY REBECCA GERENDASY

Executive Producer & Co-founder of Cooking Up a Story

In this video interview, Dr. Shiva explains the science of agricultural biotechnology (genetic engineering), and the dangers it poses to the world’s food supplies. Trained as a physicist, Vandana Shiva is one of the world’s leading environmental and social activists defending the rights of poor indigenous peoples, and helping to preserve native cultures.

As a woman, and a pioneer in the sustainable food movement, she has courageously taken her stand among the peasant farmers of India, and indigenous people throughout the world, as a fierce defender of nature, and of women’s rights.

This is more than about the safety of agricultural biotechnology products, as Shiva points out, it’s also about the ability of all of us to have a choice of the foods that we eat, for our farmers to be able to freely use their own seeds, and to grow food in the manner that they choose.

In developing countries like India, biotechnology introduces higher costs of production to the farmers, and makes them highly dependent upon a small number of companies to purchase their seeds, and required chemical inputs. Increasingly, farmers whose crops fail to produce anticipated yields are propelled into a cycle of debt that cause, at least some, to commit suicide.

Dr. Shiva continues to bring to the fore, among the most pressing concerns facing society today: the rights of developing nations to develop their own food sovereignty; conservation of the biodiversity existing in nature; the incorporation of newer agricultural methods to sustainably advance food production while preserving key indigenous farming practices; and ultimately the right of a people to enjoy shared access to their own seeds, to farm in ways that conserve finite natural resources, and to advance the economic and social health of their local communities and nation states.

– Rebecca Gerendasy, Executive Producer and Co-founder, Cooking Up a Story


You can watch all 3 parts of Vandana’s CUpS here. To plant the seed in others and to help actively promote her mission for a sustainable food production system, visit our campaign page!

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, you can plant the first seed: Share your story of how you’re planting seeds for change in your community, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

Vandana Shiva’s work is all about preserving the heritage and natural function of our planet, so when we saw trailers for the film DIRT! The Movie, we drew an instant connection. It turns out that Vandana is featured in the film (alongside another GreenHeroWangari Maathai), a documentary that tells a whole different story about the brown stuff under our feet.

This story is of Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility–from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.

But ultimately, the film is a call to act. Stating that “dirt is very much alive”, in spite of our industrial disconnect from it, the filmmakers and those they document understand that what we’ve destroyed, we can in fact heal. “The only remedy for disconnecting people from the natural world is connecting them to it again.” Producer/Director Gene Rosow shares his experience meeting Vandana Shiva in the making of the film.


“VANDANA SHIVA: THE SOUL OF SOIL – NOT OIL.”

BY GENE ROSOW

Producer/Director, DIRT! The Movie

Nearly every time I’ve screened DIRT! The Movie with an audience – more than 50 times – people ask or comment about Vandana Shiva. She is a “Green Hero” and a “Brown Hero” as far as soil is concerned, and clearly a star of the film. People are inspired by her intelligence, activism and tireless work to bring about a sustainable future.

In preparing the film which is inspired by William Bryant Logan’s wonderful book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, I searched for a wide range of subjects in order to be as inclusive as possible in terms of gender, culture, geography, and knowledgeable perspectives.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8_dN5YWnyc[/youtube]

When I discovered a quantum physicist who expressed a profound spiritual connection to the land, I knew Dr. Shiva could play an important role in the film. I was impressed by the depth and clarity of her ideas as well as her skills and determination to organize people towards bringing about a sustainable future.

Happily, when I met her to request that she appear in a film about dirt, she agreed with enthusiasm, humor and an outpouring of amazing suggestions about subjects and locations in India; these indeed became the basis for filming there.

Each location she suggested offered a powerful story and stunning visuals: From tropical Kerala in the South to Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya institute nestled into the foothills leading to the Himalayas. Wherever we filmed, she was a blur of positive energy, amplified by the adoration of her by those who understand what she is doing and even by the opposition of those who challenge her.

Whether filming a warm and very personal interview in a field lit by golden afternoon light, documenting Dr. Shiva sharing her knowledge about the benefits of biodiversity and organic farming with a gathering of village women dressed in spectacular colors, or working with other advanced thinkers who gather and teach at Navdanya, I was continually astonished by the sheer power of her being and generous spirit.

I feel honored to have been able to include her in the film and to spend time with her in the course of filming.

Vandana told me in her interview that we need to shift our consciousness so that we value soil, not oil. A shift in consciousness towards a more sustainable future means we also will cherish and value the amazing people who will get us there. Vandana Shiva is one of those heroic people.

– Gene Rosow, Director of DIRT! The Movie


For more information on the film and the story behind it, visit their website.

You can sow a seed in your community by hosting a DIRT! screening! Plus, visit our campaign page for more ideas on how to take action with Vandana Shiva for a healthy and sustainable food supply.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, you can plant the first seed: Share your story of how you’re planting seeds for change in your community, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

Jari Chevalier is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, producer and journalist whose work is about healing psyche and society.

On March 1, 2010, she recorded a podcast on the remarkable work of Vandana Shiva, a celebrated eco-feminist, grassroots activist, research physicist, author, and international advocate for alternatives to global corporate hegemony.

Around the world civilian rights to food and water are being eroded by the patenting of life forms and by privatization of water systems. Some farmers have been hit with lawsuits for patent infringement, while they were planting heritage seeds.

The outspoken, multi-talented Vandana Shiva spoke with Living Heroabout these and other issues of capitalist globalization.


BY JARI CHEVALIER

When I first heard Vandana Shiva’s voice it was like listening to Mother Earth herself.

Brilliant and forceful, she spoke of diversity, the integrity and renewability of seeds, natural water tanks we call aquifers and the rights of all the living to fresh water.

She spoke of the creative power of ordinary people to determine the conditions of their own lives.

I heard in this voice a no-nonsense truth-seeker and truth-speaker setting us straight in terms of soil and oil, an eloquent and rousing visionary whose speeches and writings were meant to teach her listeners how to nourish both present and future, a research scientist and tireless organizer/activist who never forgets how Gandhi got things done.

I heard passion, care, warmth and devotion. I read several of her many books and then invited her to appear on Living Hero. I am so very pleased to invite you to share in our conversation:

“. . . there is a higher moral order that requires that we save seeds, because we are caretakers of the biodiversity of this planet,” says Shiva.”

A few months after our phone talk, Vandana came to New York to lead the Sisters of Earth conference with her sister Mira Shiva. Gratefully, I was invited to attend all four days on a press pass. Here is the link to our special Living Hero program bringing you the conference experience.


To learn more about the Living Hero podcast project and to browse the full list of their guests with links to all the interviews, visit our website. To learn how you can take action and plant a seed in others, visit ourcampaign page!

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, you can plant the first seed: Share your story of how you’re planting seeds for change in your community, by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

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