Sunday, December 30, 2012

Acts of Kindness

During this holiday season, I'd like to share stories and photos from "22 Random Acts of Kindness". (

These uplifting stories highlight the tremendous capacity for compassion and giving that we share as humans.

Enjoy, and the very best for 2013.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chasing Ice

Since hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard of the US several weeks ago, the theme of resilient communities has been at the forefront. Coupled with resiliency the impact of climate change has been the underlying theme. One of the greatest challenges of understanding climate change is seeing the connections of episodic weather patterns over time. In addition, witnessing the changes on our planet has been difficult to grasp.

The movie Chasing Ice, Directed and Produced by Jeff Orlowski and featuring the stunning photography of James Balog provides a stunning record of the impact of climate change as reflected on the vanishing ice around the globe. The film conveys the beauty and horror of witnessing melting glaciers in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland among other locations. We learn about Balog's and his team's determination to document the vanishing ice while photographing the melting ice under very harsh conditions over several years.

The melting ice caps and calving glaciers provide a visible and powerful way of seeing how rapidly our planet is changing. And we see how real these changes are and what actions we must take. The website provides useful resources on how to support the scientific work and how to get involved.

Similar to Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, which elevated the climate crisis to a global level, Chasing Ice will likely follow suit in alerting us about the incredible impacts of our fast changing climate as seen through the melting of glaciers. The movie succeeds in illustrating the passion of James Balog in his quest to tell the story of the vanishing ice, and why we all should wake up and do what we can to reduce the impact of the climate crisis.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Whidbey Geodome Project

One of the most awe-inspiring events at this year's Bioneers conference (Oct. 19-21) in San Rafael, California was the Whidbey Geodome's Earth Portal. As a special project of New Stories (a non-profit supporting emerging stories as a tool for understanding humanity), The Earth Portal provides an immersive multimedia experience where we can take a journey from the Earth to our solar system and beyond to infinite galaxies. The Geodome reminds me of the classic Charles and Ray Eames "Powers of Ten" film where we can play with scale.... only in this case we pull away from the Earth, our galaxy and way beyond to an amazing perspective on our place in the universe. The technology is also very well-suited to learn about the many of the ecological issues that we're confronting here on Earth including climate change, fracking, loss of biodiversity, etc.

Everyone who watched the show with me was awestruck by the remarkable perspective that the Geodome delivers. This is a remarkable tool for schools to inspire students (and adults!) about our planet and ways of understanding our role in the universe. Because it's portable, it can be set up temporarily at schools, conferences, fairs, etc. For the past six months, it was set up in Seattle as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the World's Fair.

I look forward to hearing more about the Whidbey Geodome as it becomes better known and experienced by everyone. Check it out!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Google Maps Takes to the Sea

Recently, I learned that Google maps are now being developed for the world's underwater world. Treehugger's article, "Google Unveils Stunning Underwater Street View" (9/26/2012) describes Google's partnership with Catlin Seaview Service to map underwater environments.

Underwater views range from Hawaii, to the Great Barrier Reef to the Philippines. For example, see the Google Maps Ocean collection. Remarkable how the technology that has rapidly spread on land for directions and landmarks is now taking to the sea.

I hope the fascination with these ocean maps helps to motivate enthusiasts to take action to get in the water and protect marine biodiversity.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homo Evolutis?

Recently I watch a TED talk by Juan Enriquez: "Will Our Kids be a Different Species." which touch on bind-bending ideas related to human evolution and biotechnology. It's remarkable to think how rapidly science is taking us to the future. Particularly with respect to stem cell research. How, for example, scientists have taken skin cells from a mouse and been able to recreate a duplicate mouse. And how other organs such as livers (as well as bladders and tracheas) are being reproduced from skin cells. So perhaps we can reproduce any body part or an entire person in the future. And what if we're then able to download peoples memories and implant those memories into another person. These are mind-bending scenarios which quickly bring up a whole slew of moral and ethical questions.

In the bigger picture, we have technology moving at lightening speed with minimal awareness by the general public of these types of experiments being conducted. It's also remarkable to think, as Enriquez points out that perhaps we are in the cusp of a new human species— one being adopted by our kids and lived by our grandkids. His description of the astonishing increase in autism rates just in the last ten years brings up issues and some anxiety about what may be causing this change.

I like how Enriquez presents the facts and lets his audience come so their own conclusions. He makes me curious and want to learn more. You might also enjoy another one of Enriquez's TED talk "The Next Species of Human," where he discusses the economy and it's relationship to our evolution.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bridging Climate Change: Science and Psychology

Two articles in the last couple of weeks present important aspects of the climate change issue. The first is Bill McKibben's piece in Rolling Stone Magazine, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math: Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is." (July 19, 2012), and the second is David Robert's article, "Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, and how it could." (July 27, 2012) in Grist.

McKibben points to very sobering statistics and the dire consequences regarding the global temperature rise, the fossil fuel still in the ground and planned for extraction its implications for all life on the planet. McKibben also points to making the fossil fuel industry accountable by putting a price on carbon. As he says:

"There's only one problem: Putting a price on carbon would reduce the profitability of the fossil-fuel industry. After all, the answer to the question "How high should the price of carbon be?" is "High enough to keep those carbon reserves that would take us past two degrees safely in the ground." The higher the price on carbon, the more of those reserves would be worthless. The fight, in the end, is about whether the industry will succeed in its fight to keep its special pollution break alive past the point of climate catastrophe, or whether, in the economists' parlance, we'll make them internalize those externalities."

On the psychological side, Roberts investigates why the climate issue has failed to gain substantial traction. Roberts alludes to a paper in Nature Climate Change called “Climate change and moral judgment,” by Ezra Markowitz and Azim Shariff, of the University of Oregon Psychology and Environmental Studies departments. Among the reasons cited for why climate change hasn't gained traction: climate's abstract aspect, its difficulty to understand, and its unintentional consequences. Some of the strategies for more effective communication about climate change include: using existing moral values that appeal to a wider audience, emphasizing the burdens instead the benefits for future generations, and highlighting positive social norms and the importance of peer pressure.

There's much to digest in these two articles. Both do a good job of bridging the science, psychology and strategies for solving this critical issue.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Climate Change and Faith in Humanity

I recently saw a speech that Senator John Kerry delivered which does a great job of encapsulating the context and background of the climate change issue. (video at: Kerry traces the commitment that the US Administration made in 1992 at the Rio Summit to take a leadership role and how that has failed to materialize over the last 20 years. He also refers to David Orr's book, Down to the Wire, which does a superb job of outlining the choices before us with regards to climate change. Now that the Rio+20 Summit has concluded, there is no binding agreement signed. It appears that the real leadership on many environmental issues and particularly on climate change is being taken by cities from around the world that recognize the importance of implementing climate adaptation strategies. There have also be advances made by parts of the commercial sector that see the importance of economic savings in these strategies.

In a larger context, a colleague sent me a link to an encouraging set of photos describing acts of heroism and kindness. These stories titled, "Restore Your Faith in Humanity" provide an uplifting view of the positive capacity of the human spirit. Check out photos at:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Climate Change Education

Understanding climate change is challenging. Many people feel that because they are not scientists climate change is beyond them. In fact, part of the challenge in understanding climate change is that it's one of these complex issues, like the "green economy," that can quickly become overwhelming. Although having a science background is certainly useful to get an in-depth scientific understanding of the climate change issue, everyone can get educated about the environmental, economic, and social implications of this important global issue. Then, we have a better idea of ways in which to act.

To this end, I want to point to two websites that I've found particularly useful in understanding and keeping up to date with topics related to climate change.

1) CAMEL (Climate, Adaptation, Mitigation, E-Learning); An incredibly well-reserached, free, resource for educators.

2) Climate Communication. A comprehensive site covering the science, current info., action steps, etc. related to climate change. Concise and well-researched.

With the enormous amounts of information about climate change, it's useful to identify a couple of sources that provide accessible, clear information.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring of Sustainability Teleseminar Series

One of the greatest areas of interest in the sustainability movement (and many other areas) has been how to scale and spread the word about innovative ideas. The Spring of Sustainability series, a free event developed by the Shift Network and the Sustainable World Coalition, has done a great job in exploring how to best deliver interesting interviews and teleseminars on sustainability topics. Starting on March 26th and running through June 22nd, the Spring of Sustainability team has attracted a wide range of leaders and visionaries in business, education, activism, government and related sectors. The daily half-hour interviews and daylong teleseminars provide a consistency and depth that is magnificent.

I had an opportunity to be part of the daylong Spring of Sustainability's "Thriving Communities" teleseminar--- As a panelist on one 2 hr. session: "Big Picture Context: Global Aspects of Thriving Communities" hosted by Thom Hartmann, with fellow panelists including: Jeff Vander Clute, Claude Lowenz, Michael Lewis and Vandana Shiva; and to co-host with Larry Tackett another 2 hr. session: "Tools for Action: What Can You Do?"in which we invited panelists including: Tina Clarke, J. Manuel Herrera, Charles Eisenstein, Michelle Long and Sobonfu Some and to share their experiences and insights into how we can take action to create more livable communities.

The technology allowed for a lively interactive discussion with participants from the US and overseas calling in and asking questions. The pace of our panel also allowed for reflection and insights that were welcomed by panelists and participants. All sessions were recorded for downloading and listening. An additional panel discussion: "What Works" was hosted by Kevin Danaher.

It's great to see the internet/phone technology accommodate a lively routable discussion and Q/A session for so many people from around the globe. I look forward to seeing more of these types of educational programs with access to a large number of leaders in the sustainability movement for people living in all parts of the globe.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring of Sustainability

I've been enjoying listening/participating in the Spring of Sustainability program. Organized by The Shift Network and Sustainable World Coalition, this program started on March 26th and goes until June 22nd. This venture includes a season filled with speakers, presenters, panelists and interviews with the leaders in the sustainability movement. It's an opportunity to get a perspective of current and forthcoming trends and innovations related to education, energy, green building, social media and much more. The flexibility of being able to call in or listen and view powerpoints/images online and then have small group break-out sessions is fabulous. This gives participants an opportunity to discuss the points made in the interviews/panels with others from around the world.

These types of programs show the power of leveraging communications technologies and the blend of the traditional phone with the internet to bring people together and share ideas. It's also been interesting to hear about how topics such a climate change are being presented and received by the general public in different parts of the US and abroad.

Having this program extend over three months gives everyone a way of integrating the material and listening to recordings if unable to join in during the live shows. The next step would be to extend this virtual community by having local gatherings and events in the locations where participants are calling from so everyone meets in person.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Education and Ebooks

For hundreds of years we've been using traditional paper books to convey information. The computer revolution is now coming full spiral with the new computer tablets and smart phones. Apple's recent release of the iBooks app is leading the trend towards exploring new ways of learning, and will likely revolutionize how we read and share information for years to come.

iBooks is changing how we design and read textbooks. It includes: new ways of bookmarking, animations, videos, audio, a dictionary among so many other features. The iBook Author app takes it a step further and allows writers, teachers, students to create books that combine all these multimedia capabilities.

I'm thrilled at the possibilities of this technology to excite kids about learning and envision this wave as the beginning of a shift in how we communicate. The speed with which ebooks are taking hold is astonishing. The cost and materials savings in shifting from paper to electrons is undeniable. Ebooks keep information more current (less outdated textbooks in schools), and allows for students with different learning styles to engage more fully with the topics covered.

Keep an eye out for the "ebook wave" as it crests and schools add more "living textbooks" to their classroom. And as prices drop, their demand will increase. There are some great ebook educational titles coming out, and I was pleased to hear that The Sustainability Revolution was recently selected by Apple to demonstrate the capabilities of ebooks on the iPad platform in academic settings.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Seed Banks and Biodiversity

A week ago, I came across an interesting TEDx talk delivered by David Milarch who heads Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a non-profit dedicated to cloning the world's ancient trees to preserve their genetic structure. In propagating these ancient species from around the world, including giant sequoia, coast redwoods, etc., they hope to create a living library that preserves the genetic structure of these trees and help scientists, perhaps generations from now, learn about their unique qualities that have stood the test of time. One of the questions that comes up is the importance of respecting the habitat integrity of these species so that if/when they are re-planted they remain in their original habitats and not in other regions where they are not originally found.

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive work also brings to mind other seed storage initiatives including the Millennium Seed Bank Project launched by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2000 and the Svalbard International Seed Vault in Norway. These efforts underscore the importance of protecting the biodiversity of life on earth and taking action to restore the damage that has been done by saving seeds and preserving the genetic diversity of the planet. These programs also point to taking seed saving back to the local level by doing what farmers and gardeners have done for thousands of years in saving seeds. These local actions will enhance the resiliency of seed saving initiatives rather than depending solely on international mega-seed bank programs.

David Milarch's TEDx Talk:
Related Links:
Plant Genebanks: Food Security. Geoffrey C. Hawtin and Jeremy Cherfas. ActionBioscience
The Moon Trees. David R Williams, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center