A Big, Big Legacy With Not A Lot Of Money

Legacy is demonstrated in different currencies – not just money, but in bodies, creativity and spirit.

Creating a movement is one way to build, live and leave a legacy, and here’s an amazing example: Bill McKibben speaking at PowerShift 2011 in Washington D.C. :

(Click here to open YouTube if video does not appear)

As of April 2011 people will have commemorated Earth Day for 41 years – at the first one, 20 million Americans came out to march and rally in support of a clean healthy planet. There are new leaders in the environmental movement. 

Also in April 2011, the third PowerShift Summit was held in Washington D.C.  The first, in November 2007, was a youth climate summit including more than 6,000 young people from all 50 states. They gathered at the University of Maryland for a weekend of training prior to the 2008 elections to learn how to rally for the creation of green jobs and restoring economic and environmental justice.

 In February of 2009, 12,000 young people from every state and Congressional District in the U.S. joined in the second PowerShift event. Over 6,000 of them participated in the largest citizen lobby day in history; thousands more in a successful demonstration to shut down the Capitol’s coal-fired power plant. 

At the 2011 event, a year after the worst oil spill disaster in the U.S., 10,000 youth leaders from around the country held a polluter protest in front of the White House, demanding that the President and Congress stand up to Big Polluters, like BP, and make them pay for their pollution. They also made hundreds of Congressional visits to demand protection of the Clean Air Act and that members of Congress stop taking money from corporate polluters. Using technology and social media, these young people organized numerous flash mob protest events to call clear attention to their message:

 “We and Our Future Matter”

 These events are just part of the work of the Energy Action Coalition. http://energyactioncoalition.org/about The EAC is a cooperative effort joining 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement.  Among their goals are coordinating efforts at the state, regional and national levels in the U.S. and Canada to win local support for their efforts and define their vision of a clean energy economy to solve our economic and environmental crises by moving their own communities beyond dirty energy to clean energy solutions.

 How much more could these young people do with the support of preceding generations who are currently in power (and whose leadership roles they will inherit)? As legacy building goes, these young people are way ahead of their elders.

They see that the infrastructure and support that will provide for their jobs, and careers that help make the world work better, are missing – not being developed because of the vested interests of an older generation addicted to a fossil fuel economy. They see the sad state of the planet they are inheriting, and they’re not happy about it. And they are taking action, even as members of the older generation with those old vested interests try to keep their heads in the sand about the science and what is happening to the planet, as the U.S. House of Representatives Energy Committee did in March 2011 in a formal vote to deny climate change.

Well, Bill McKibben is one of those leaders into whose shoes the younger generations will step – and they are stepping up. Keep your eyes and ears open for Moving Planet September 24, if you want to witness how one person and all the amazing people he inspires are approaching one of the biggest legacy projects ever.  Even better, consider participating so you can say it was part of your legacy, too.

Seems There’s Plenty To Be Done

Not sure where I first found Orion Magazine – read a blurb somewhere and subscribed.  Branding itself as “Amerca’s Finest Environmental Magazine” I’d have to say it lives up to that billing quite well.  It’s also a terrific legacy project (more on that below), that’s right up my alley since my legacy interests are focused on environmental preservation, conservation, sustainability and clean renewable energy technologies. But that’s why a particular article caught my attention recently.  It’s by biologist Sandra Steingraber, entitled “The Whole Fracking Enchilada”, and I it hope catches the attention of many people in generations currently alive and able (and willing) to respond –  for the sake of future ones.

Here’s an excerpt from Barbara’s article – hopefully you’ll see why it got my attention:

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS can be viewed as a tree with two trunks. One trunk represents what we are doing to the planet through atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. Follow this trunk along and you find droughts, floods, acidification of oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and species extinctions.

The other trunk represents what we are doing to ourselves and other animals through the chemical adulteration of the planet with inherently toxic synthetic pollutants. Follow this trunk along and you find asthma, infertility, cancer, and male fish in the Potomac River whose testicles have eggs inside them.

At the base of both these trunks is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways that make it run.”

It seems there is much to be done if we are to shift this planet and its people (not to mention other species) to a truly healthy, life-enhancing environment.  We must move away from our dependency on fossil fuels, and the products of the petrochemical industy and era.  Many legacy level projects could contribute to that end, from the successful women and men of the planet looking for what’s next and ready to give back in some way – large or small – and who are looking for a subject to wrap that ambition around.

As for the legacy that is the magazine, it started as the Orion Nature Quarterly in June 1982 as a program of the Myrin Institute, a private operating foundation based in New York. Later, the magazine operation move to The Orion Society, an independent nonprofit, which also conducted additional programming, moved the operation to Massachusetts and obtained 501(c)3 designation for its ongoing work. The magazine has lots of great topics, no advertising, an easily accessible online version and a very reasonable subscription price.  They basically want people to read the content.

The publication’s first Editor-in-Chief, George Russell clearly illuminated Orion’s underlying values, which stand today:  “It is Orion’s fundamental conviction that humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.”

Hear, hear.  Almost 30 years later, his words couldn’t ring any truer. Seems we need to go another direction … very soon.  Will you be one of the enlightened leaders who helps turn this bus, and all of us bozos on it, toward a better destination?

I hope so. All the best to you, Dolly

Legacy-Level Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas

This holiday season, remember the 4 R’s: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Rot. Not words you think of when it comes to the holidays? You can easily begin to incorporate these terms of environmental conservation into your gift-giving plans.

What do the 4 R’s really mean? Many people understand them to be equal alternatives, when really they form a hierarchy. The best first step is to Reduce the amount of material consumed, and therefore the energy used and waste produced in making it. Next in line is to Re-use goods and material that no longer serve their original purpose, but can serve another one with minimal process until their useful is exhausted. This is the one that is probably the least used or most mis-used in what has become a worldwide throwaway society. How many one-use items will you throw away today alone (think coffee cups, other beverage and food containers plastic bags)? Recycling is only third in line — its benefit only kicks in when it’s not possible to avoid consuming new materials to begin with or to re-use them. And while a great thing to do, recycling requires use of additional resources for transportation to processing facilities and for the recycling process itself. Think: “an ounce of prevention vs. a pound of cure.” Finally, Rotting (composting organic materials) is always available but is primarily an activity of the agrarian age gone-by that too few of us utilize. It happens naturally in landfills and our water supply, with little benefit and the need to expend energy to clean or reclaim those resources after compostable items are discarded or washed down a drain. That valuable organic matter could instead be going back into the soil to enrich it.

So, how can you make a difference in this arena, especially during the holidays? Here are some suggestions:

Reduce by just limiting the amount of stuff — plain old consumer goods and consumables — you purchase and interact with this holiday season. Your savings account and waistline will thank you. And you will reduce the amount of packaging and overall energy expenditures involved (including your own personal life energy). Let simplicity be the watchword — meaningful quality rather than quantity in gift-giving. The Story of Stuff also sheds some important light on issues of over-consumption and the true cost of things you may otherwise consider a bargain. When you think you’re getting a deal and can therefore buy more — think again about the hidden costs … and buy less.

There are many ways to Re-use other than to save wrapping paper and make last year’s paper greeting cards into gift tags (although those are good ideas, too). Gifts don’t have to be shiny and brand new to be significant and meaningful. They can be hand-crafted, one of a kind wonders (a different way to say homemade, but heck, what’s wrong with homemade?) Some examples are shown below.

Hopefully, you are already utilizing the environmental conservation practice of Recycling. Of course it’s hardly a new concept. Prior to synthetics, mass production, and particularly the end of WWII, conservation and recycling were the way we lived. Goods made from nylon, real rubber and many metals were rationed and reused. The environmental movement of the 1960s and 70s brought the practice back into “fashion” after the “throwaway society” heralded by Life Magazine in 1955 —. The invention of disposables was a way to free up the modern housewife (and baby, just look how encumbered we’ve become!) Fortunately, Earth Day and the movement that followed created a whole new (old) way to look at what it means to waste, and what we consider trash (which, as they say, is often someone else’s treasure). So when you shop for that holiday party, take your own cloth shopping bags, buy beverages in glass and aluminum containers that can be re-fashioned into new items, and consider using recyclable corn cups and bamboo plates for informal gatherings. The latter can go into your compost.

Which brings us to Rot. Don’t forget being generous to your compost bin or pile. You can easily create the gift some beautiful rich fertilized soil for your plants and garden beds when discarding anything organic — from the morning’s coffee grounds and eggshells to all your veggie and fruit trimmings and peelings. Bigger gatherings, more food = more of this precious organic matter that may go to waste without a consciousness of how valuable it is. Learning how to compost is easy. Even winter and snow don’t need to stop you. Think of it as your gift to the planet and future generations on a very basic level … because it is.

The 4 R’s are a back to the future, or maybe forward into the past (?!) concept at its best!

Here are some other specific gift ideas that can keep you in the holiday spirit in a down economy, as well as, add to your environmentally friendly practices:

Spa1. Give Services instead of Goods. You can give a gift certificate for salon or spa services, a car wash, a gardening service (like tree-planting or mulching the planting beds around the house), or organic cooking lessons. You can also give the gift of your own time, energy and expertise. Giving someone a book of coupons representing anything from computer training to your help doing household chores can be a very meaningful … and useful gift.

2. Give the Gift of An Adventure or Event. This is my personal favorite. At this point in my Honeymoon 1life, I’ve got enough stuff. But sharing time and experiences with people I care about means a lot to me. A card redeemable for lunch with a friend is worth a lot. My husband and I create trips and adventures (from local to international) to share with one another — which also supports the economies of the places we visit.

Honeymoon 2Here are a couple of photos from our recent honeymoon / “staycation” in our hometown of Key West. We had great fun being hometown tourists. Yes, we’ve chosen to live in this paradise at the end of a long road (which has its trade-offs folks), but I’m guessing your hometown paradise has great things to recommend it, too. Re-watch the Wizard of Oz if you need more of a reminder.

Gift certificates in the form of tickets to the movies, a concert or a local playhouse can be great fun especially if you get to be one of the ticket holders. This is also true for local attractions — to play golf (or mini-golf), enjoy a water park or spend the day at a botanical garden or museum. Memberships in local nonprofit organizations — producing the gift of involvement — are also an option.

Gold Watch3. The Gift of Personal Treasures. You may have family heirlooms, antiques, collectibles, artwork or jewelry that someone else would treasure, too — especially since it once belonged to you. This is true also of crystal, wood carvings, geodes or similar pieces of nature as art. They contain part of your story and lots of sentimental value, two things you can’t buy anyway.

Baked Goods4. Special or Healthy Edibles. This is when “homemade,” or hand-crafted with heart, is something especially good. Pies, cakes and cookies, barbecue or hot sauce (perhaps complete with the old family recipe) or even fresh or dried herbs from your garden are easy on the environment and convey your heartfelt wishes through the effort you put into exercising your culinary skills. Making up a few batches as gifts probably won’t take more time than trudging to and through the shopping mall, and it will be time more pleasantly spent by you, especially if the weather outside is frightful. And you never know what the effort might produce – see our Legacy Story this issue.

5. Gifts of Social Good – another of my favorites. I decided a couple years ago to make gifts in the names of family, clients and friends, that make a contribution in the world. Farm girl that I am, one of my favorites is Heifer International, an organization that provides needy individuals and families with the gift of sustainability by providing them with numerous farm animals that can then be used to produce commodities like dairy products, wool, honey, etc. — not to mention offspring, which the beneficiary agrees to pass along to another member of the community in effect “sharing the wealth.” Some of the other organizations we support are:

  • www.GENI.org — an organization focused on linking renewable energy resources around the world using international electricity transmission in attempt to answer the question: “How do we make the world work for 100‰ of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?”
  • www.FINCA.org — which provides micro loans that give poor women the opportunity to work their way out of poverty; and
  • www.WomenForWomen.org — which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives. (This one is particularly special to me since my own mother was a survivor of WWII who came to the United States to rebuild her life and work).

Each one is an amazing legacy story of its own, and we’ll tell them here by and by. For this holiday season consider making a donation to one of them, or any other organization that moves your heart, in the name of someone you care about. You’ll be making an important difference at the same time.

Strange Bedfellows: Algae and Big Oil

Bravo on the Enlightened Leadership scale, for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida’s commitment to the environment.  He has introduced Senate Bill 1250 in Congress.  It is the Algae-based Renewable Fuel Promotion Act of 2009, which would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand the definition of cellulosic biofuel to include algae-based biofuel for purposes of the cellulosic biofuel producer credit and the special allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property.

In plain English, that means that producers of biofuels from algae would get a tax break for pursuing their work.  Finally, some sensible support comes to the clean energy industry along the lines of the subsidies Big Oil and Big Agriculture have enjoyed in building their businesses.  (Can you say “corn subsidies”, and “high fructose corn syrup”? – the latter of which seems to be in just about everything these days – both of which started in the 1970’s right around the time the obesity epidemic began … but that’s another story). 

Interestingly, Exxon and BP are beginning to invest in this arena according to the Business Exchange forum Clean Techies.  As the Clean Techies article notes, these oil production companies know from whence support for fossil fuel production comes, and hopefully reailze that to continue to command market share in the new clean energy space they’ll need to change from a focus on taking every last drop of oil out of the earth. 

We can only hope.

Recommendations From A Rocket Scientist

My own legacy includes a focus on my value for the preservation of nature.  There is currently legislation in the United States attempting to deal with global climate change – which is, in fact, happening; and which, whether you believe is caused by human activities, will only be solved by human activities.  Or rather changed behavior.

If you value the natural world, part of your developing legacy might be to regularly involve yourself in legislative issues affecting it and participating more actively in representative government. You don’t have to run for office to do this.  One way to do it is to become more informed and then making your views – concerns and recommendations for action – known.

There is legislation currently pending before the U.S. Congress dealing with climate change, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, known as ACES.  What each of us with this legacy interest can do is learn more about it, AND ask our representatives to create meaningful law that benefits people and not special interests, better yet demand it. 

A list of important items to include in that law was compiled by Jim Hansen, himself an actual rocket scientist – someone who I’m sure knows a lot more about all this than I (and most people, including our legislators) do.  His latest views, concerns and recommendations were recently published at the Huffington Post blog.  He also wrote a very clear summary of what needs to be done at the first of 2009, published at the online magazine Grist.  Another source of good information is at 350.org

You can read the views of Hansen and others, and then use that information to write something to your congressional representatives.  Here are links to find where to write representatives in the U.S. Senate and House.

Go for it!  Be the change you want to see!!

An Environmental Tipping Point

Are you a leader, at least in your own sphere of influence, who cares about the environment? One of my favorite places is where I live in in the Florida Keys. When traveling for work, it’s hard to leave and is always a great place to come home to. But I’ve made it a point, no matter where I’ve lived, to find the best of the natural environment to immerse myself in – my cathedrals and places for spiritual connection (and fun – I believe joy to be a crucial component of spirituality).

The Keys, surrounded by ocean as they are, are causing me more concern lately. The more I learn about the environment and ecosystems, the more I realize that the Keys – like other places in the equatorial / tropical / subtropical belt around the planet, and the polar caps for that matter – are currently our “coal mine;” and here, the canaries are our coral reefs. Corals are little living animals, and those canaries are gasping – with some species of corals having been reduced to 6% of their former cover.

If you consider yourself a leader, or would like to, who cares about the environment, I wonder if you’ve seen this video, Wake Up Freak Out, from many months ago?  More about the illustrator and film’s background can be found at http://wakeupfreakout.org.  Where is that environmental tipping point anyway? When considering our coral reefs, all I can say is, it must be around here somewhere …

In my work, I am coming into contact with more and more individuals from Generation X (which encompasses the 44 to 50 million Americans born between 1965 and 1980, largely in their 30’s and early 40’s and on the whole, more ethnically diverse and better educated than the Baby Boomers – over 60% of Generation X attended college) and particularly Generation Y (also known as the “Millenials,” born in the mid-1980’s and later, these folks are in their 20s with numbers estimated as high as 70 million and include the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce). Do you know them?

I’m going to guess that Leo Murray, the illustrator of this film, is a Millenial.  Here’s an interview with him.   And another.  He’s smart, informed, talented … and very concerned.  And yet still seems lighthearted.  He may well still distrust anyone over 30 – if that sounds familiar to you.  In that, he may remind you of folks you know who used to feel that way (and who may still).  I, for one, find myself totally alarmed on some days about what’s happening environmentally. I have to actively look for places to find hope for the future, which I have not abandoned – mainly because of this generation (of voters, I might add).

Hmmm. Ready to up the ante on that reduce-reuse-recycle-and-rot effort, carry your own cloth grocery bags (or take your groceries to the car in your cart and pack them there if you forget?), drive less, unplug an appliance or two when not in use or write a few more letters to your representatives?

No need to reply to me, but feel free to talk to a few more Millenials and other folks who run things (leaders) … or pass this along.  Your planet, and my spiritual sanctuaries, thank you (as do I).