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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.

Your music, at work for water

By Allie Kosela

When GreenHeroes approached me asking to do a guest post for the Take Action blog the first “action” that came to mind is probably the most fun thing you can do for the environment: listen to music.  Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has started a new groundbreaking project called Swim Drink Fish Music where water advocates and the arts community connect to support local Waterkeepers.

Musicians, like fellow GreenHeroes Gord Downie and Sarah Harmer, have a strong connection to environmental issues.  In fact, if you look at the arts community as a whole, you’re likely to find that many painters, writers, poets, musicians and dancers share a love for the environment.

We think like-minded people should connect more often!  Swim Drink Fish Music (#SDFM) was launched for you to connect you to your waterbody and to the musicians who are working with Waterkeeper groups to protect it.  The online version of SDFM launched in June 2009 and continues to grow thanks to our amazing supporters.  There is no easier way to take action and help protect your water than joining Swim Drink Fish Music.

Thanks to GreenHeroes, you have an exclusive chance to take action.  The first 10 people to email us at hello@swimdrinkfishmusic.com will get a complimentary subscription to Swim Drink Fish Music!

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. President of Waterkeeper Alliance

Robert F Kennedy in IL

Named one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has used his legal expertise to tirelessly defend the health of natural water resources the globe over. Just like our GreenHero Mark Mattson, Mr. Kennedy shows us that people of any profession can make a contribution to saving our planet.

With an impressive list of credentials including a stint as senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council and Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, a long-running radio show on Air America and a distinguished career as a law professor at Pace University where he teaches Environmental Litigation, Mr. Kennedy is tireless in his efforts to raise awareness about this cause. Mr. Kennedy has long had a passion for water, he is an accomplished white water rafter and kayaker and often leads excursions through Canada and South America.

It was Mr. Kennedy’s ability that saw Riverkeeper prevail in the battle to save the Hudson River, soon after, the more than 190 Waterkeeper Alliance members that we know today sprung up all over the world.  It is amazing what one victory can inspire.

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This past January, Mark Mattson of Lake Ontario Waterkeepers sounded off about the proposed Darlington nuclear facility. Take a look below and see what he had to say in opposition to this proposed construction:


Since that time, nuclear power has become a much-discussed issue, near Darlington, but also internationally. Read about what Lake Ontario Waterkeeps had to say in their newsletter of late March:

From the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper newsletter, March 2011:

“The first new nuclear power plant to be built in Canada in decades is slated for review beginning next Monday.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, other NGOs, members of the nuclear industry, and government departments have been preparing for the hearing for years. Waterkeeper’s research focuses on cooling water systems and impacts on fish habitat: the kinds of impacts a nuclear power plant has on the environment during its day-to-day operations.

OPG’s written proposition is so vague and so incomplete that it is virtually impossible to predict all of the environmental impacts of the new Darlington Nuclear Power Plant. OPG does not yet know, for example, which type of reactor or cooling water system it will build.

Waterkeeper’s experts have identified a lengthy list of decisions, information, and data that are not included in OPG’s plan. On the first day of the hearing, Waterkeeper will ask the review panel if the hearing can continue without this important information. If the hearing does proceed as scheduled, we will present our scientific analysis on Monday, March 28, 2011.

Numerous media reports speculate that recent events in Japan may dampen enthusiasm for nuclear power. We expect that intervenors and media will be asking questions about the future of nuclear power in Canada and the potential risks it poses. Concerns about safety and emergency preparedness will likely be foremost in many people’s minds as the Joint Review Panel convenes Canada’s first environmental assessment hearing of a new nuclear power plant. ”

This Site- http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/16101 allows you to download an interview with Mark Mattson from their “Healing the Earth” series. This half-hour interview sees Mark explaining why our lakes are on the verge of collapse. He also talks about the insanity of bottling water, of industrial and urban growth, and the tools citizens have to stop this.

Mark Mattson has used his background in criminal law to successfully run Lake Ontario Waterkeepers beginning in 2001. Their goal is to promote “Swim-able, Drinkable and Fishable Water”. Since then, he has gained a reputation as a dedicated environmental warrior who aims to bring meaning and force to environmental laws everywhere.

By making use of his legal skills and background, Mark has brought much needed attention to Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, has represented the public in both a Provincial and Federal capacity and appeared on behalf of clients before the International Water Tribunal in Amsterdam. Mark is also the proud founder of the volunteer-based Environmental Bureau of Investigation, dedicated to identifying and prosecuting environmental offenders.

He is a great example of how any skill set, coupled with the right amount of passion and dedication, can be used to help the environment and make a real difference. Mark works in conjunction with others who use their skills to raise environmental awareness and provoke action. He has worked with some of our own GreenHero eco-artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Sarah Harmer and Gord Downie. Mark has also worked with hit-maker Broken Social Scene along with many more well-known names through Waterkeeper’s Swim, Drink, Fish Music project.

The Oceanic Preservation Society

Founded in 2005 by marine enthusiast Louie Psihoyos, The Colorado based Oceanic Preservation Society’s sole mission is to motivate people to help protect and sustain our oceans. Like GreeenHeroes, OPS uses film, images and media as a medium from which to motivate people into eco-action. OPS is the creator of Ric O’Barry‘s Oscar winning documentary The Cove. This film has won more than 70 awards worldwide and inspired many people to act to protect the earth’s oceans and its inhabitants, especially dolphins.

OPS is currently working on a new documentary entitled Signing Planet which focuses on the mass extinction of oceanic species. This alarming trend is coupled with raising levels of toxins in the see and wide-spread destruction of coral reefs. Reefs are large indicators for the overall health of a body of water and if they begin to disappear, the consequences could be far-reaching. Through this film, OPS is aiming to once agin spread the word about the danger our oceans face.

You can do your part, even in your everyday chores. Fishonline,org is a great tool for determining how to shop and consume fish and seafood in a responsible, sustainable manner. Brought to you by The Marine Conservation Society, this group works toward the same goals of preserving our oceanic resources. They make it easy for you to help, so make this your first step!