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Falling in Love… with Dirt

4:25 am in Uncategorized by jamesboyce

Paul Quinn College has found a way to score big on the football field—without playing a single down.

The Dallas, Texas college, which was founded in 1872, recently abandoned its football program and converted the field into a working organic farm maintained by the students themselves.

The metamorphosis was the idea of Quinn president Michael Sorrell, whose goal was to teach agriculture to students in an urban community that, due to the dearth of supermarkets in the area, has difficulty obtaining quality food.

The ‘We Over Me Farm’ is, as Sorrell describes it, the fundamental core of the institution.

“It shapes the way we view ourselves,” says Sorrell. “It shapes the way we teach our students, it shapes the way we reach out to the community, it provides a very real and tangible example of this notion that we simply can do better and we don’t have to wait for anyone to do for us [what] we can do for ourselves.”

The project has caught on with enthusiastic Quinn undergrads like Ronisha Isham, who has the neighborhood in mind. “It helps the community,” Isham says, “and I’m really big on community service.”

Fellow student Benito Vidaure beams, “I just fell in love with the dirt.”

Slow Films has more on ‘We Over Me Farm’ in a short-form video viewable here. For further reading, see Janet Heimlich’s article in ‘The Texas Observer.’

Don’t Do as the Senate Does – Act Now on Climate Change

2:37 pm in Uncategorized by jamesboyce

2010 has been a year of missed opportunities for the environment. From no progress or worse on the international climate action stage, to a clean energy bill in the U.S. Senate that is still on ice despite the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, it’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands and buy beach-front property on the Bering Sea.

However, the price of resignation is even higher than the price of delay. So it looks like we are going to have to come together and take a look at what we can do about it. I want to invite you to come to New Bedford, MA on the weekend of October 22-24 for the Connecting for Change conference. Before I go further – you need to know that you can save $75 per ticket if you get your tickets before the early birds rates expire on Saturday. Don’t filibuster this – Get them now.

Van Jones is going to be there to talk about how we can address climate change AND revive the economy through clean energy investment and development.

Annie Leonard is going to be there to help us see the big picture of how the global supply chain works (and doesn’t), and what we can do to change that system.

Greg Mortenson is going to be there to talk about what it really looks like to work for America’s interests and long-term security abroad and he’s not going to talk about oil.

There will also be scores of workshops on sustainability for all aspects of the external as well as the internal environment.

But most importantly, there will be more than 1,000 people who are committed to create a sustainable world regardless of the circumstances. If the Senate won’t act, if world leaders can’t get their acts together, if dirty energy companies try to pollute the public debate as badly as they pollute the planet – so be it. We know what needs to be done. But none of us can do it alone. Come to New Bedford, and Connect for Change.

What’s Up with the Rainforest: Collapsing Biodiversity Is a ‘Wake-up Call for Humanity’

2:55 pm in climate change, Energy by jamesboyce

The global community has been sent a series of wake-up calls lately: the environmental crisis spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, unprecedented droughts in China, and a report outlining the disastrous impacts of the world’s collapsing biodiversity. If events like these still don’t send the world into action, I have to wonder what kind of devastating catastrophe finally will. Our environment is an issue facing each and every one of us, thus it will require a proactive response from all corners of the world. Let’s not miss the opportunity for these tragedies to serve as a call of action to both our country, and the global community, towards a focus on a safer, healthier, and stronger planet. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, hope you will help in the fight to ensure that the recent environmental tragedies we’ve seen become a thing of the past.

Sending an urgent call for international action is the UN’s Third Global Biodiversity Outlook Report, stating how "our natural support systems are on the verge of collapsing unless radical changes are made to preserve the world’s biodiversity". The report highlights the main causes behind biodiversity loss, the ecosystems close to the point of irreparable damage, and the role that government needs to play in making this issue a priority. Making the significance of this crisis even clearer, the report also states what we have to gain – "Ending biodiversity loss will help in the fight against poverty and hunger, while improving human health, security, and wealth for the current and future generations".

However, as the UN calls for "a new vision for biological diversity for a healthy planet and a sustainable future for humankind", a new shopping mall boom in Brazil is becoming the latest threat to the Amazon rainforest, with four of the five largest cities in Brazil have made plans to build American-style shopping malls by the end of next year. This trend reflects not only Brazil’s increasing economic growth, but also the challenge in "creating a model of sustainable economic development that includes the people who live in the forest". But combining economic growth with environmental values is not impossible. Made clear in Kenya, where the Kakamega Environmental Education Program (KEEP), a community group with leaders who were once poachers, has "worked out alternative incomes from the forest in a bid to save this fragile ecosystem".

In China, Yunnan’s severe drought is one more reminder of the future climate threats we can expect if we continue living the way we do today. According to scientists, "the crisis marks one of the strongest case studies so far of how climate change and poor environmental practice can combine to create a disaster", specifically, the impact of large-scale deforestation and poor water management. But researchers are being adamant learning everything they can from this year’s doubt, in hopes of being "better prepared when the next natural disaster strikes".

Closer to home, not everyone is sharing the commitment to learning from the past. While the oil spill in the Gulf may have brought a heightened focus to the broader issue at play – the danger that our dependence on fossil fuels creates for both our coasts and our health – BP doesn’t seem to be addressing the concern. As seen by the oil company’s announcement that it would continue its plan to build an oil sands pipeline to the British Columbian coast – a project which creates the "risks of a major oil spill, endangering salmon, bears and all wildlife" that calls the Great Bear Rainforest home.

Let’s not wait for another environmental crisis to hit before we realize the severity of the issues facing our planet. The predictions of what lies ahead for our ecosystems and our health is not set in stone; so call on yourself, your community and your leaders to make the choices that will set us on the path for a sustainable and brighter future. Visit our Facebook page to continue the conversation and stay informed on the latest issues facing the Rainforest.

Feeling Dirty?

6:39 am in Uncategorized by jamesboyce

We all know that we need clean air and water to live. But what many of us DON’T realize is that there is another resource we depend on just as much to survive: dirt. Yes, that stuff you played in as a kid and obsessively clean off your car. Believe it or not, dirt is an essential element to our existence on Earth, and DIRT! The Movie aims to teach us all about it. This acclaimed documentary goes beyond preaching about the dangers of pollution, educating the viewer on why we need dirt to survive, how it affects our daily life, and what we can do to improve it.

Every person on Earth, regardless of age, race, or social status depends on healthy dirt to survive. However, it is one of the elements of our planet we take most for granted. DIRT! The Movie does a great job of mixing facts, personal anecdotes, and animation to create a film that educates as well as entertains. Experts from all over the world weigh in on just how important dirt is to us, and they do so in a way everyone can understand- no scientific mumbo jumbo. The animation is clever and cute while remaining relevant, and lets be honest, how could you NOT love little Digby? (If you don’t get it, watch the movie)

Although the film does a great job describing why dirt is important to human kind, the real takeaway from this film is that everyone can help to restore it to a healthy state. The movie highlights people from all different ages and backgrounds. A young couple owns their own organic farm that provides vegetables to inner-city people. Children attend a sustainable school and learn about composting. Inmates learn the environmental and personal benefits of gardening. A woman in the Bronx creates her own green rooftop. The possibilities are endless and range from small lifestyle changes to huge worldwide movements. But it is clear after watching DIRT! The Movie that people from all walks of life can really make a difference.

It is that balance of teaching as well as motivating the viewer to take action that makes DIRT! The Movie unique and fun. In fact, that sense of involvement has been pushed beyond the movie into local communities with DIRT!’s program that sets up screenings all over the country. On the DIRT! The Movie website, it is simple and free to create your own screening to bring the movie to your own town or find a showing near you. These screenings make the dirty, fun, and relevant DIRT! The Movie available to people everywhere, and hopefully also creates an impact so that people can work toward restoring our dirt to a healthy state, and save the planet in the process.

Want to learn more? Check us out on Facebook.