Heroes of Sustainability: Denis Hayes


Now the world’s most widely observed secular holiday, Earth Day started back in 1970 as the brainchild of then-Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who was moved to action by a huge oil spill in California in 1969. Hoping to model the environmental movement after the student anti-war movement, Nelson chose the young Denis Hayes, in his mid-20s at the time, to spearhead the Earth Day campaign.

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-Denis-Hayes.html

Share

Tim DeChristopher Convicted on Two Felony Charges for Protecting Our Planet

As an environmental activist, I was shocked to learn about the prison sentence facing Tim DeChristopher, a university student who falsely outbid energy producers to block their access to precious Utah Canyonlands. As the President and CEO of Dolphin Blue, a company that strives to preserve our planets most precious resources, I cannot help but ask myself the following question: Should DeChristopher serve prison time for protecting our planet against the hopeless polluters who have little or no regard for it?

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Tim-DeChristopher-Sentenced-to-Prison-for-Protecting-Our-Planet.html

Share

Leaked Emails Suggest Firmer Oversight Needed by Board of US Chamber of Commerce

There is growing evidence that many American businesses are attempting to become more environmentally responsible. Some of those businesses are represented on the board of directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. This suggests that the Chamber should eventually move toward supporting…

Share

Transitioning from a wasteful planet, to a sustainable planet

I recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise, where I spent one week on a ship weighing 130,000 tons and measuring 1,004 feet in length. I was among 4,500 other human beings, all being fed food requiring refrigeration, powered by petroleum. Each cabin, of which there were approximately 200 on most decks, had furniture, cabinetry, and various other materials including wood, plastics, and metal. Despite having a TV hanging on the wall of most cabins, the uppermost deck had a 40-foot by 20-foot big screen TV. Why? Because cruise lines use such enticements to get people to leave home, so they can experience ALL the comforts of home.

Upon returning from my cruise, I participated in a euronews forum asking, “What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral, sustainable planet?” First and foremost…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Transitioning-from-a-wasteful-planet-to-a-sustainable-planet.html

Share

Heroes of Sustainability: Andrew Revkin

Making the Earth Front-Page News

Andrew Revkin

There’s a saying in journalism that if you’re getting complaints from both sides, you’re doing your job right. If that’s the case, award-winning environmental journalist Andrew Revkin is certainly doing something right, having weathered plenty of criticism over his 25 years of reporting on everything from Hurricane Katrina to climate change.

To continue reading our Heroes of Sustainability: Andrew Revkin blog, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Heroes-of-Sustainability-Andrew-Revkin.html

Share

Heroes of Sustainability: Bob Willard

Bob Willard, Corporate Straight Shooter

 Some people talk the talk about sustainability — Bob Willard talks it, walks it, and drives it (he has two hybrid vehicles). A longtime businessman, Willard spent 34 years at IBM Canada before becoming a leading expert on corporate sustainability.

 With three books under his belt – The Sustainability Advantage (2002), The Next Sustainability Wave (2005), and The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook (2009) — Willard is among the best at laying out a clear, actionable plan for business leaders to follow in order to institute more-sustainable policies within their companies.

 “Sooner or later, there is a tough message that sustainability champions need to deliver to harried business leaders — the business game they are playing can’t continue,” Willard writes. “It’s been fun, but if they keep playing the game the way they are, everyone will lose.”

 Delivering that tough message is what Willard has made his mission, and to support it, he’s developed hundreds of keynote presentations, numerous webinars, two DVDs, and a Master Slide Set to drive home the point that if we want to have clean air, potable water, nutritious food, and adequate shelter, something has to change in the way corporations do business — and fast.

 Willard’s talent is in quantifying and selling the business value of corporate sustainability strategies to CEOs and other C-level personnel. “Executives might think you are trying to convince them that sustainability is a nobler goal than contending with gnarly business issues like complexity, resource scarcity, and talent shortages,” Willard writes. “It’s sometimes better to back off and reframe sustainability strategies as enablers of executives’ priorities, rather than as another nagging goal to worry about.”

 To communicate effectively, Willard uses sales techniques widely successful in business: He talks the language of the decision-makers, meets them where they are, and makes the connection between what they’re already doing and what they could be doing. He has a personal commitment to sustainability, having been turned on to the importance of the issue when, after plans surfaced in his community to build a water treatment plant downstream from a nuclear power plant, he realized that those in charge weren’t looking out for the well-being of the community members. Since then, environmental issues and taking personal responsibility for making a difference have been at the forefront of his life and work. But even those who haven’t caught the sustainability bug the way Willard has would do well to follow the advice he lays out. “The bottom-line payoff comes from increased revenue, innovation, and productivity, as well as risk-mitigation and eco-efficiency cost-savings,” he writes.

 For more information about Bob Willard, visit www.sustainabilityadvantage.com, and read an excerpt from The Sustainability Advantage here.

Share

Heroes of Sustainability: Mathis Wackernagel, Pioneer of the Eco-Footprint

The concept of a carbon footprint — the amount of the earth’s resources a person or institution is using to function — is a widespread one these days. We use online calculators to find it, buy carbon credits to offset it, and know just what will make it go up and down (air travel is bad; energy-efficient lighting is good).

 This measurement that’s such an integral part of the eco-revolution is courtesy of Mathis Wackernagel, a Swiss-born leader in sustainable research. He was a PhD student at the University of British Columbia when he focused his doctoral dissertation on the concept of an “ecological footprint,” then a novel idea that he developed in conjunction with adviser William Rees. Today he heads the Global Footprint Network, a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting metrics for sustainability.

The group works on a much bigger scale than just calculating the output of an individual person or company — instead, it measures nations’ ecological assets and deficits using about 5,400 data points per country per year. This is the most comprehensive look that we have at how humans are affecting the ecosystem of our planet.

 The importance of this work can’t be overstated. “If you don’t have basic tools to understand the resources we use compared to what is available, it’s hard to avoid ecological bankruptcy,” Wackernagel told Treehugger. And if anyone would know, it’s Wackernagel. After years of looking at the data, he is sure of one thing: We can’t keep living like this.

“Globally, it now takes one year and four months to regenerate what we use within one year. We are in a state of ecological overshoot, on an unsustainable path.”

To make a lasting change, Wackernagel believes we must start building cities more compactly, creating communities that have everything we need on a daily basis and methods of public transportation to get to those places. “The assets we create today can be future-friendly or not,” he told Sustainable Cities. “Future-friendly infrastructure — cities and buildings designed to be resource efficient, zero-energy buildings, and pedestrian or public transit-oriented transportation systems — can enable great lives with small ecological footprints.”

 The former director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and past director of the Centre for Sustainability Studies/Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad in Mexico is working to get the word out on his findings, having authored or contributed to more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and a number of books on sustainability, including Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth and Sharing Nature’s Interest: Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability. He’s worked on ecological issues for organizations in North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia, and continues to get out his central message: “The two-word definition of sustainability is one planet.”

 For more information on the Global Footprint Network, click here.

Share

Heroes of Sustainability: Dr. Helen Caldicott and The Ultimate Form of Preventive Medicine

“She showed me what one set-on-fire human being can do to shift the consciousness of the world.”  –Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

Madonna once called to chat. Meryl Streep said, “Helen Caldicott has been my inspiration to speak out.” Martin Sheen says she’s shining “a powerful light.”

A number of well-known celebrities back the work of Dr. Helen Caldicott, but in the world of anti-nuclear activists, Dr. Caldicott’s name is a bigger marquee than all her Hollywood supporters combined.

For nearly 40 years, Australia native Dr. Caldicott has been on a mission to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the changes humans need to make to stop environmental destruction.

She started her career as a doctor, founding the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1975 and then moving to the United States to become an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff member at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston. But as good as she was at medicine, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident, the pull of preventing nuclear war was stronger, and in 1980, she resigned in order to give her full-time attention to this mission. Her medical roots, however, continue to inform her work. In her book Nuclear Madness, she writes: “As a doctor, as well as a mother and a world citizen, I wish to practice the ultimate form of preventive medicine by ridding the earth of these technologies that propagate disease, suffering, and death.”

Dr. Caldicott doesn’t just talk about her beliefs — she does something about them. In the U.S., she co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization of 23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and nuclear war, and has started similar groups in other countries. The international umbrella organization, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

She has written prolifically on the topic of halting nuclear weapons production, authoring seven books and countless articles. Most recently, she updated her classic If You Love This Planet, detailing trends such as ozone depletion, global warming, toxic pollution, food contamination, and deforestation, but offering hope as she rallies readers of the book to fight for the earth as we know it.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Caldicott has received more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees from universities, and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling, a Nobel Laureate. In 2003, she was presented with the Lannan Foundation’s Prize for Cultural Freedom; she was named Humanist of the Year in 1982 by the American Humanist Association; and the Smithsonian Institute labeled her one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

And like her Hollywood supporters, she’s been in movies — not as an actor, but as the subject. Eight Minutes to Midnight was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981, while If You Love This Planet took home the Academy Award for best documentary in 1982. Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident was created by Dr. Caldicott’s filmmaker niece and won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Direction (Documentary) 2004, and the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Award for Best Documentary in 2004.

Now splitting her time between Australia and the U.S., Dr. Caldicott gives lectures and hosts a weekly radio show called If You Love This Planet, which covers issues such as global warming, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, toxic pollution, hunger and poverty, and species extinction in an hour-long, in-depth format.

A lifetime devoted to educating the public came at a personal cost, leaving Dr. Caldicott with too little family time and a failed marriage. In the end, though, she believes it was her destiny. “I could have stayed at Harvard and done really well. I had a great boss. But I could see beyond pouring stuff into test tubes and treating individual patients. What was the use of caring for my patients so carefully if, in fact, they had no future?”

For more information on Dr. Caldicott, visit her website at www.helencaldicott.com.

Share

Sustainability Heroes: Helena Norberg-Hodge, A Case for Localization

Ladakh isn’t what it used to be.

When Helena Norberg-Hodge first traveled in 1975 to Ladakh, part of India but known asLittle Tibet due to its location on the Tibetan plateau and cultural commonalities with the country, the people were happy, the air was clean, children and the elderly alike were valued, and money wasn’t a concern, as everyone, in essence, lived off the land.

But at the time, Ladakh had recently been opened to tourism and development, and everything changed. Becoming part of the international economy wiped out subsistence farming. Houses once made of mud were now built of cement, the land became more crowded, and the skills the Ladakhis had developed that had served them so well all of those years started to fade into obscurity.

Today, Ladakh shares the problems of many places around the world — the air is dirty, the streams are polluted, unemployment abounds, and people of different religions who once got along peacefully no longer always do. Norberg-Hodge is determined to change that, in Ladakh and elsewhere. The pioneer of localization is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology & Culture (ISEC), a nonprofit that aims to protect biological and cultural diversity.

Norberg-Hodge has earned her credentials, becoming fluent in seven languages (including the difficult local dialect in Ladakh); studying in England, the U.S., Sweden, Germany, and Austria; and working with famed linguist Noam Chomsky.

Based on her time in the northwest Indian community of Ladakh, she wrote a book called Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh that chronicles what she saw when she first arrived, as well as what happened in subsequent years. She writes:

“When I first arrived in Leh, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, cows were the most likely cause of congestion and the air was crystal clear. Within five minutes’ walk in any direction from the town center were barley fields, dotted with large farmhouses. For the next 20 years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. ‘Housing colonies’ of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people. The increased economic pressures led to unemployment and competition. Within a few years, friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years.”

Today, ISEC works to lessen the dependence on the global economy with programs that promote decentralizing and diversifying economic structures. Through books, presentations, lectures, seminars, reports, articles, videos, and more, the organization educates people on the benefits of acting in an ecological, sustainable way. Just one example of an ISEC program, the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh was formed in 1994 to raise the status of rural women and strengthen local culture and agriculture. There are about 6,000 women from 100 different villages involved in the Alliance today, which facilitates annual festivals celebrating local knowledge and skills, including traditional spinning, weaving, and the preparation of indigenous food; regular clean-up campaigns to encourage community responsibility for the environment; and programs aimed at resisting some of the more detrimental elements of non-Ladakhi culture that have seeped in.

The world is changing and Ladakh will change with it, but if Norberg-Hodge has anything to say about it, the place she’s come to know and love so well will retain those qualities that made it special in the first place — and she continues to work to make that true everywhere.

To learn more about ISEC and Norberg-Hodge’s work, click here.

Share

Sustainability Heroes: John Perkins, Economic Hit Man Turned Eco Do-Gooder

Through Tom Kemper’s years of walking his own journey to sustainability, he has discovered, and counts among his many “sustainability heroes”, the present-day leaders doing great good for our planet and its occupants. The first hero which we’ll introduce is John Perkins. Others will soon follow.

“When you look at the world we humans have created, you may conclude that it was created by sleeping people, because awake, aware, conscious people would manifest a very different world. We have entered one of the most important periods in human history. … We have the opportunity to lift ourselves to new levels of consciousness.” –John Perkins

Many people’s lives changed on September 11, 2001. John Perkins’ was one of them.

He had spent years as an economic hit man, someone who convinced poor countries to accepthuge loans for infrastructure projects they couldn’t afford, then guaranteed that those projects were contracted to U.S. corporations. Once the Third World countries were overburdened by debt from loans that were much too large to begin with, the U.S. government and those aid agencies allied with it could control the countries’ economies and resources in ways that served their own good.

But after the terrorist attacks on that fateful day, Perkins decided enough was enough and ended his vow of silence about his life as an economic hit man. Pushing away the threats and bribes, he penned Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, spilling his insider knowledge on the way this system operates. His work is not without detractors, some of whom claim his story is implausible, far too conspiratorial. Perkins remains steadfast in his claims, and has followed up Confessions with The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption, which offers further evidence of the negative impact global corporations have on these disadvantaged Third World nations, and Hoodwinked, which takes a look at how we got into the financial mess we’re in today (hint: it has to do with the fact that economic hit men even exist).

Being an economic hit man, however, is far from the only thing Perkins has done in his career — he’s also run a successful alternative energy company; become an expert on shamanism; and written eight books, including The Stress-Free Habit: Powerful Techniques for Health and Longevity from the Andes, Yucatan, and Far East and Shapeshifting: Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation.

Perkins became a champion for indigenous rights and environmental movements beginning in the 1990s; of significant interest was working with Amazon tribes to help preserve their rain forests. Using money he’d earned as an economic hit man and applying it toward nonprofit ventures, he was able to assuage a bit of the guilt that came from his past life.

Today, Perkins works with nonprofits worldwide and his own organization, Dream Change, which aims to help people better their own lives while keeping the sustainability of their communities and the planet in mind.

These days, Perkins doesn’t travel all over, sweet-talking and cajoling the leaders of poor countries into building airports and dams their taxpayers can’t finance. Instead, he has a goal of a different sort. On his website, he sums it up as this: “My mission is to do everything I possibly can to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world for my grandson, Grant. To accomplish that requires the creation of such a world for every child born on every inch of this planet. For the first time in history, we are all interconnected. We share the same crises, including climate change, overpopulation, species extinctions, diminishing resources, and rising prices for the things that are essential to our lives. And we all understand this; we are all communicating with each other, through cell phones and over the Internet. We know that there will be no homeland security until we recognize that the entire world is our homeland.”

To learn more about Perkins, visit www.johnperkins.org.

Share