Saving the Planet One Story at a Time
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Arbor Alma

By John Bessai

In many cities and towns across Canada and around the world, the trees that we see along the boulevards or in parks form a backdrop that we can take for granted. I like to think  of urban tress as part of an invisible forest.  My short film Arbor Alma, made for BravoFact!, pays tribute to the tree you pass by every day. They are kind of invisible unless you take a second look. Then you think about them a little bit differently and appreciate them more.

Click on the image above to watch Arbor Alma now.

Arbor Alma (‘The Giving Tree’) is a four-minute film that explores the possibility that identity can be formed out of a dialogue between people and how they understand their environment, in particular the role of trees. Viewers are encouraged to reflect on their own relationship with trees and challenged to take notice of the “invisible” forest around them – the trees that are everywhere in the city but are often barely noticed.

The film includes a montage of images – photographs and footage of Canadian urban green spaces as well as displaying iconic forests and trees painted by the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson held in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The natural beauty of our urban trees and forests is highlighted in the movie. The footage, paintings and stills are accompanied by unique musical compositions and contemporary digital photography that are composed as “tree portraiture” and reflect on the importance of trees in our lives.

This film is produced by CineFocus Canada and is available for purchase.

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From the Airwaves

Tzeporah Berman is a featured hero in the Green Heroes episode The Tree of Life, airing again on Saturday May 28th and Monday May 30th on TVO. The episode also features Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and Not Far From the Tree founder Laura Reinsborough. Maathai began Kenya’s Green Belt movement, in which women earned money for planting trees. And Reinsborough is a local food pioneer whose organization prevents rotting fruit from being thrown away. The episode can also be viewed online.

And check out the documentary Harmony, narrated by Prince Charles, who has been speaking out on environmental issues for over two decades. It puts forward solutions for fighting climate change and features a number of inspiring environmental activists from across the world, including Green Hero Vandana Shiva (hyperlink to webisode), who is profiled in the episode Groundbreakers which airs on TVO on Saturday, June 11.

The film also singles out the ongoing (and often-successful) initiative to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, lead by ForestEthics. Todd Paglia and Valerie Langer, both from the organization, are interviewed as part of this segment.

Watch the trailer here and sign up for news about the upcoming DVD here.

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Thanks to Tzeporah Berman’s environmental pursuits, 65 million acres of endangered forest have been protected and companies like Staples and Victoria’s Secret have adopted more sustainable practices. As the Executive Director and co-founder of Power Up Canada, Berman also aims to effect change in federal government climate change policies and laws.

Power Up is a call to action for Canadian political leaders, urging them to take climate change seriously and demonstrate their commitment to fighting it. Power Up points out that Canada is behind other nations, like China and India, in terms of policies aimed at combating climate change, and asks that the federal government “prioritize efficiency, greenhouse gas reductions and building clean energy.” The campaign asks Canadian citizens to join in on the call to action, making it easy with a ready-made form and letter on their website.

The campaign has drawn support from Canadian celebrities like Margaret Atwood, Rachel McAdams, George Stroumboulopoulos and Neve Campbell, and is prominent enough to have warranted a “Green Carpet” gala in 2008. Staying true to the organization’s mission, the guests arrived at the Toronto event in rickshaws and alternative fuel vehicles.

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A high profile Victoria Secret ad was launched to convince the company to print its popular catalogues on recycled paper. Tzeporah used the creativity and catchy slogans of an advertising campaign to bring consumer attention to the purchasers of the forest products she sought to protect.

It was part of a strategy she developed with Greenpeace and later with ForestEthics, a company she co-founded. She would begin by “following the money” and contacting the company to begin a dialogue. If they failed to respond after several months of trying, out came the ads.

“Let your fingers do the chopping” was the slogan used to bring attention to Pacific Bell, who made their phone books out of old growth forests. “Victoria’s got a Dirty Secret” was the heading for this full-page ad that ran in the New York Times after Tzeporah learned Victoria Secret’s annual printing of one million catalogues came at the expense of old growth Boreal forests.

After Tzeporah spent six months trying to meet with them, the company instead chose to renew their contract with the paper company that used trees from the natural habitat of caribou and other endangered species. Tzeporah took action.

The ad caught the attention of Tom Katzenmeyer, then V.P. of Investment, Media, and Communication Relations at Limited Brands, owners of Victoria Secret. Tom had his “aha” moment, when the campaign spread to his own daughter’s bedroom. Seeing a poster of Tzeporah hanging on her wall, he finally relented, met with Tzeporah, and cancelled the contract. Today, the company uses recycled paper for all its catalogues.


As Tzeporah Berman told George Strombolopolis on The Hour, Everyone remembers their moment, the one that thrust them into action, and set them on a path to realizing a goal and finding a solution to a cause they believe in.

For this GreenHero, it was a summer in University when she returned to a previously lush piece of B.C. forest that had been clear-cut. The green haven that she had enjoyed the summer prior rife with streams and wildlife was now a dusty plateau.

Tzeporah Berman at PowerUP! Canada Launch with Rick Smith, E.D., Environmental Defence and actor Aaron Douglas

In response, Tzeporah mobilized. She was responsible for orchestrating one of the largest displays of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Her 10,000-strong Clayoquot Sound protest in 1993 against a massive logging organization saw her arrested and charged with 850 counts of criminal aiding and abating for which she faced six years in jail.

After being acquitted of the charges, she decided to take a different tactic and moved from blockades to boardrooms. Instead of manpower, Tzeporah invoked the sway of hundreds of voices. She co-founded Forest Ethics and got her followers to call into the head offices of companies that used paper products sourced of B.C. logging. After being inundated by unhappy members of the public, the companies changed their practices. Presently, several large companies including Limited Brands, owner of Victoria’s Secret, and Home Depot work in conjunction with Tzeporah to pursue sustainable solutions and practices for their products and packaging.

These days, she shows no sign of slowing down. Tzeporah is currently Executive Director and of PowerUp Canada the company which she co-founded and works for Greenpeace International as Co-director of their Climate and Energy Program.

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Few events around the world have reached as many people, internationally, as Earth Day has. It originated in 1970, in the United States and is now recognized as the origin of the Environmental movement. Every April 22nd, approximately 1 billion people from over 170 countries take part in projects and events that make change or raise awareness regarding our environment. To read more about the history of Earth day, click here.

Here in Canada, about 6 million people take part in the event every year, that’s about 1/6th of the population of the country. There are hundreds of ways in which you can do your part, whether it’s taking your bike instead of driving, switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, not letting the water run while you brush your teeth, or starting a compost system within your household. Make sure to check out Give It Up for Earth, Earth Day 2011: A Billion Acts of Green, People’s Assembly on Climate JusticeGreen Tech Computer Toss and EarthRun for further inspiration. If you ever felt like you might want a bit of a push in order to start living a greener lifestyle, don’t miss out on the opportunity of joining a world movement and start on Earth Day.

You might also want to see what other people are doing to help out, such as our current Campaign Hero, Ric O’Barry, with  Save Japan Dolphins.

Winners of the inaugural GreenHeroes contest were announced at a
special awards ceremony at Toronto’s Green Living Show Sunday. These
seven category winners were introduced to the audience at the Direct Energy Centre:

Save our Seas and Shores’ Mary Gorman (In Our Backyard Hero)
Pedestrian Sundays’ Yvonne Bambrik (Simple Changes Matter Hero)
Eco-Laundry Room partner, Paul Bichler (Simple Changes Matter)
Carrot Greenroom’s Zora Ignajatovic (Groundbreaking Hero)
Planet Traveller’s Tom Rand (Energy Saving Hero)
Green Realtor, Chris Chopik (Energy Saving Hero)
Eco-Comedian, Josh Rachlis (Unique Hero)

Some of our category winners at our booth

The category winners were also finalists in a special juried competition
for the top prize – an appearance in their own TV episode of
GreenHeroes on TVO. The lucky winner of this Grand Prize was Mary Gorman!

Mary was inspired to take action to stop oil and gas development in
the Gulf of St. Lawrence after the Canada-Nova Scotia Petroleum
Board issued two leases for oil and gas development on both sides
of spectacularly beautiful Cape Breton Island where she lives. This
unstoppable hero’s story will be profiled in an episode of GreenHeroes
on TVO next season.

To find out more about the contest winners and to nominate yourself or someone you know in this year’s contest go to: http://www.GreenHeroes.tv/gallery

Who is a GreenHero? For John Bessai and Joan Prowse, creators
of the TV series and web channel GreenHeroes it is someone with a
good story to tell, someone who acted on an idea rather than waiting
for someone else to do it, and who applied “out of the box” thinking
to help solve an environmental problem. Despite adversity and critics
they are succeeding in their goal and are now sharing their experience
and insight with others. GreenHeroes is a selection of great stories about people turning apathy to action.

On March 31st, GreenHeroes producer/director  Joan Prowse was on stage at Revival to launch the GreenHeroes’ channel on  Mediazoic’s new Internet radio network. Here is the GreenHereos radio channel, take a listen to our very own GreenHero musicians and hear to great music by Ed Hanley, Chris BirkettJamie SparksDonna Britton and Ado. Soon to come will be Buffy Sainte-Marie and Lesley Pike!

Chris Birkett played at the event and was accompanied on the electric guitar by Dan Ross on a couple of melodies.  Chris was then joined by  Ed Hanley to play Birkett’s new song Wake Up: A Call to Action. Though the duets were completely improvised, the expert mélange of acoustic, electric guitars and tabla was fantastic.

Dan Ross and Chris Birkett playing together.
Chris Birkett

To check out the full performances at the Mediazoic Launch Party, cclick here. Our GreenHeroes’ performance begins about 25 minutes into this live stream.

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The Nature of Things on CBC-TV – Sunday April 3 @ 7:00 PM ET

Save My Lake examines the situation in Lake Winnipeg where plant and fish life is being choked out by algae blooms. The algae problem has been a concern for years, but its causes are varied and complex, and resources haven’t been mobilized adequately to solve it.

There are many different types of algae. Some algae are actually poisonous, but most algae blooms are harmful because they absorb oxygen from the water, starving other marine life of a vital element. Most algae blooms are caused by nitrogen-rich animal and human waste flowing into the water system. Lake Winnipeg receives agricultural runoff from the entire Red River after it flows through North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba. Meanwhile, raw untreated sewage from the city of Winnipeg contaminates the Red River during spring flood season.

Marsh beds are normally allowed to aerate periodically as part of nature’s cycles. Manitoba Hydro has contributed to the problem in Lake Winnpeg by maintaining water levels at stable levels to maximize electricity generation. Dutch pioneers who originally drained marshes in the North American Midwest could never have anticipated the long-term consequences of removing these natural “filters” from the ecosystem to create new farmland.

Water management is one of the potential looming environmental crises of the new millennium. Groups like Ducks Unlimited are helping to curtail the algae problem by reclaiming wetlands for fowl hunting, but a more concerted effort is required. The multi-government dynamic of water management creates political inertia, but governments won’t solve our water crisis without public impetus. Citizens must also be willing to re-evaluate the 20th century “flush-and-forget” approach to biological waste.

Save My Lake is a 1-hour documentary special produced by Toronto-based Stornoway Productions.

GreenHeroes is launching an on-line radio station tomorrow! For full details see www.mediazoic.com and our previous post. Check out our Joan Prowse chatting with Mediazoic’s Greg Nisbet about the connection between music and eco-activism.