*

Saving the Planet One Story at a Time
menu +

Blog


n 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!

You can find Part 1 of the interview here.

Photo Credit : Devin Lund

David Suzuki: People are realizing that this is something we can’t ignore. The problem is if we keep lumbering environmentalists as those treehuggers, it ain’t going to work. First of all, we have to embrace the corporate sector, which means getting in bed with some nasty people.

We are not going to make it just as individuals; if we don’t have the corporate sector working with us than we can forget it.

We also have to broaden it. If we don’t deal with chronic levels of high unemployment, if we don’t deal with people who have no opportunity of justice or security, if we don’t deal with populations that are under genocide, or terror, or war, they can’t be concerned about the environment.

Just because you are a corporate executive or a Native living in Africa somewhere, you breathe the same air, you are dealing with the same water and we’re human beings. The challenge is this: we have never had to act as a single species. We have no mechanism to respond as a species. We have to work together as a species and that’s very tough.

Nature is very vast and very complex, and maybe if we learn to pull back as we are trying to do with a million acts of green, maybe nature will surprise us and be far more generous than we deserve. Nature will reveal that there are other options. Saying it’s too late doesn’t accomplish anything except to destroy any hope that you try.

I think what we need to do is rediscover our home as the earth, and we can’t keep thinking of the environment as something out there. We are the environment. That rediscovery of our place is our biggest challenge. It doesn’t matter if you are an executive from Cisco, Shell or Walmart; first of all, you are a human being living on this planet. You need air and you need food as an animal. Those are the most important things you need everyday and I think that’s what changes the world, when you realize that.

Willa Black: Understand the potential of what you can achieve. Even the shyest and most disengaged person, everybody can do something. It’s not about being an environmentalist, it’s about being good citizenry. It’s about being role models for your children. It’s about wanting the very best for your planet. It’s about knowing yourself and knowing you can play a part in that.

When we first started talking about a million acts of green, it would have been easy to say no. I’m so glad that we had the courage and that Cisco stood behind us, and I am really delighted that we caught the attention of great global leaders like David who I respect so much, because we all come from different backgrounds. Serendipity brought us together because we all care so much about it, and it does feel good that we were able to make a little dent.

DS: My great hero was my father. He lived a full life, died when he was 85 and when he was dying…he kept saying over and over, ‘David, I die a rich man’. He didn’t have a penny to his name. He was a poor man. All we talked about was family, friends, and neighbours and what we did together, and that’s why his wealth had nothing to do with money or stuff. It’s people. Your real wealth is people and what we do together and especially with our children. So let’s get refocused on what the priorities are in life.

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!

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!

Melissa Shin is the former Managing Editor of Corporate Knights Magazine, the magazine for clean capitalism. Aiming to humanize the marketplace, Corporate Knights covers topics from corporate social responsibility to health and food, to leaders and innovators in the corporate sector.

The magazine makes it easier to synch market decisions with environmental concerns, a topic which Cisco exec Willa Black is familiar with too. Check out her webisode, and visit her campaign pageto learn how to spark your ideas into action!


By Melissa Shin

Former Managing Editor, Corporate Knights Magazine

If the environment were a bank, we would have saved it already.

This amusing yet sobering socialist protest mantra illustrates the misguided view our markets take of the invisible economy—the environmental goods and services like clean air and water that quietly sustain us every day, for “free.”

Not sure what I mean? Watch this:

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

Right now, it takes too long for ecosystem losses to filter down into economic losses. Only when we lose something of “value”—maybe a waterway has been over-fished and the local community can’t make a living, or a crop of oranges freezes because of wild weather in Florida—do policymakers pay attention.

Based on his research from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report, United Nations Advisor Pavan Sukdhev says we need to think about what happens if we don’t have things like clean air, fresh water, or bee-based pollination, and how much we will need to spend on alternatives.

For example, the value of nutrients and fresh water flowing into farmers’ fields can be established by calculating the cost of alternatives such as nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium-based fertilizers and irrigation systems. If we know that, we know how much polluters should be paying.

Slowly, the world is starting to wake up to the reality that if we don’t protect our ecosystem services, we’ll lose them forever and have a huge bill on our hands. As a result, companies are starting to take environmental and social information into account, linking their executive pay toenvironmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

But is it happening fast enough? We need to factor the value of nature into buying decisions and add a line for Natural Capital into corporations’ annual reports and countries’ GDP.

The conclusion of the TEEB report is simple and chilling: do nothing to protect our natural capital, and we’ll lose trillions.


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.

A lot of people are talking tar sands these days, but you might not have a clue what it’s all about. It’s a rather sticky subject, leaving Canada with a not-so-flattering reputation as a big bad polluter.

But as time passes, and consequences are beginning to appear, the critics are being proven right; these tar sands are dirty, and they’re wreaking havoc on our Canadian landscape, its people, and the world at large.

The tar sands, found primarily in Alberta, are a mixture of sand, clay, and petroleum. Because the oil is contained in this mixture, it takes a lot of energy and waste to extract it for use.

Once extracted, the oil is shipped to other parts of the world, predominantly to the US through underground pipelines.

For Clayton Thomas-Muller and his team at the Indigenous Environment Network, putting a stop to production of oil at the tar sands is a number one priority.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KokiUgvlwc4[/youtube]

[/caption]The tar sands is the largest industrial project in the history of humanity, and producing oil from them releases three times as much carbon dioxide emissions as regular oil production. But what many don’t realize is the destruction goes beyond mere CO2 emissions.

The tar sands are one of the fastest causes of deforestation. Add water depletion to the mix (it takes up to 5 barrels of water to produce a barrel of oil) and you’ve got a recipe for an oily disaster.

Those living downstream are living proof of the linkage between health and environment. Exposed to contaminants in their air and water released in the process of extracting the oil, these communities are beginning to show chronic distress from breathing in nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide, including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease, in addition to an increasing prevalence of cancer.

The case is set for what Clayton calls ‘environmental racism’; First Nations people are disproportionately affected, and Clayton will continue to speak out for environmental justice.

Want to have your say? Need ideas on how to put a stop to this dirty practice? Have ideas on improving your community’s health and environment? Visit our Home Lands vs. Tar Sands campaign page!

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.

TOP