Why was Barack Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

To begin with, congratulations to Barack Obama on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Obama received the award, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”And while there are some who feel the award may be premature, my belief is that this award is probably delivered at just the perfect time.

Is the award for things that Obama has already accomplished? Is it a recognition of Obama’s power to inspire people everywhere — coupled with his renewal of diplomacy as a means of moving the global conversation on peace forward? Or is there another agenda?

The Nobel committee many times awards the Peace Prize to people it believes can leverage the prize to further the agenda of peace — to add momentum, if you will, to efforts that are in-flight and may not have yet yielded dividends.

From the wikipedia entry on The Nobel Peace Prize:

However, others have pointed to the uniqueness of the Peace Prize in that its high profile can often focus world attention on particular problems and possibly aid in the peace-efforts themselves.

I believe it may be underestimated by many what impact this prize may have on the negotiations for peace that Obama will undertake in the coming years.

If this award allows him to be more effective in using diplomacy in the cause of peace over the next 3-7 years, then it will have a real and lasting impact — and I believe the committee is betting that will be the case.

I’m betting the same thing — for the sake of all who believe in the cause of peace.

In the 21st Century, What Does Freedom of Speech Mean?

The women below are exercising their constitutional right to Freedom of Speech — or are they?


These ladies — who won an international Bridge competition last month — put together their sign in response to questions they got from other teams in the tournament. Members of teams from other countries were questioning how the American government could justify its policies — the ladies just wanted everyone to know that they disagreed too.Well, the United States Bridge Federation disagrees and is now trying to punish them severely — including cutting off their ability to make a living as Professional Bridge players.

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

It’s been a long time since the founders of America put together the US Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

At the head of the Bill of Rights, they chose to put Freedom of Speech as the very first guaranteed right of all citizens. They had lived in a time when speaking out against the King of England was literally a crime punishable by death, so it’s no wonder they felt so strongly about it.

So now, in the 21st Century, have things changed?

With America at war in Iraq and Afghanistan — should people still be allowed to speak out freely? And at what point does criticism of the Government or of the President cross the line? Is there — or should there be — any line that can be crossed to make Freedom of Speech no longer a guaranteed right?

What do you think — should the United States Bridge Federation be able to punish them financially for their actions? And if so, what exactly does Freedom of Speech mean?

Three Projects — AND Three Values

On of the challenges faced by most of us in our modern world is that of ‘Overload’. We have hundreds of cable channels, hundreds of news outlets, millions of blogs — all beckoning us to spend our time with them.

How to deal with “project overload”?

All these things are waiting to sap and drain our most valuable possession – Time.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading blogs like Zen Habits and books like The Four Hour Work Week (4HWW) and Getting Things Done (GTD). They help me better manage my time and tasks so I can make the best use of my time and minimize the stress I deal with.

Practical Ways To Deal With Project Overload

A great example of better time management I’ve picked up are The Low Information Diet from 4HWW. Tim Ferris, author of the 4HWW describes the low information diet as essentially ignoring all news unless it finds its way to you.

He recommends watching no news programs and reading no news websites. None. If something is so important that you need to know about it, you’ll hear about it somehow.

Another interesting approach is the idea of Haiku Productivity from Zen Habits. The idea behind this is that you organize your work into projects, as recommended in GTD, but only work on 3 projects at a time. If you work on more, then you can struggle getting things completed.

By limiting your projects to three at a time and focusing on project completion, you can rapidly get things accomplished — rather than spend all your time on tasks while not actually completing things.

But there’s something missing — Values

I like both these ideas, but I believe there’s something missing in them both. Something important — and that’s Values. If we all simply stuck our heads in three projects and ignored the world around us, then important changes in our world might not get off the ground.

How can we expect people to learn to conserve energy, or reduce consumption if all they think about is the three projects they have going right then?

We can do anything — if we can put our minds to it

I believe that if our society were to set its mind to it, we could tackle many of these challenges. We could develop less better transportation systems. We could reduce what we consume and focus on making more of our consumption sustainable. But in order to do that, the Values of society will have to change.

As a society we’ll have to change our Values to make these things more important to us all. Once society adopts the Values of reduced consumption and sustainable living, I believe we’ll be amazed at how quickly things change. If you look around, in fact, you can see the beginnings of this already.

Add “Three Values” to your “Three Projects”

So while I agree with the ideas behind Haiku Productivity — limiting yourself to three active projects at any one time — I’d add to that “and Three Values”. Reducing your consumption isn’t a project anyway — it’s simply changing your beliefs about what it appropriate. It’s about changing your values.

Here are some examples of values that might be appropriate to focus on:

  • It’s best for me to reduce how much I drive and how much gas I use.
  • It’s appropriate for me to purchase products that have minimal packaging — and the packaging should be recyclable.
  • I should consider altering my goals to make them less materialistic and more focussed on family, community and happiness.
  • I should make an extra effort to recycle — even if it’s inconvenient (like bringing soda cans home from work to reccle them, instead of throwing them in the trash can at work if your work doesn’t recycle).

So as your putting together your GTD Projects, and as you focus on your three Haiku Productivity priorities, also consier adding three values to your list. They don’t have specific tasks associated with them — but they may be even more important in the long run.

Next Actions:

On Blog Action Day — Are You Here to Help?

I write about the environment a lot. Mostly, it’s because I have a lot to say about environmental issues.

Sometimes it’s because I’m scared. Not really scared like the apocalypse is coming, although I wonder about that sometimes. It’s more like we’re all about to graduate from high school and we’re faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of our lives.

Regardless of your stance on the issue of climate change, I think that it’s pretty apparent that we can’t go on living the way we are now. There’s not enough oil in the ground, or trees or water either.

It’s just like in high school when the final bell rang and the doors closed behind us for the last time. We always knew that there were real problems and responsibilities out there. It’s just that now we were out there with them.

Like any graduate, we’ve got some decisions to make about the rest of our lives. Of course, any time you throw “decision” in with “rest of our lives” it means you’re talking about something relatively serious. I’m pretty certain that the future of the human race qualifies. When we’re talking about “environmental issues” we’re talking about nothing less. And that’s enough to scare me.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

When I talk about taking responsibility for our future, there is an illustration that I like to use. I’ve stated this in several ways on my own blog and have even found a fantastic video on YouTube that goes over the concept quite well. It works like this. In the end, we have only four options:

  1. We become stewards of our environment only to find that everything would have worked out just fine regardless. We spend a lot of money needlessly, but no one is really hurt by it.
  2. We become stewards of our environment, spend a ton of money and make sweeping changes across nearly every industry, and find that we just barely miss the tipping point of environmental collapse.
  3. We keep doing what we’re doing and hope that nothing bad happens, and we get lucky because it doesn’t. We spend nothing, change nothing, and die leaving the mess for someone else to clean up.
  4. We spend nothing, do nothing, and watch our planetary ecosystem collapse, taking our economic, political, and eventually our social systems down with it. No food, no medicine, and no government to protect us.

I like this illustration because it shows so clearly that it doesn’t matter what we think of the whole global warming thing. Instead, what matters is that we take responsibility for the environment we live in and depend on. I’d rather take some responsibility and switch out a few light bulbs for CFL’s than deal with the whole apocalypse thing from option four. (I think I mentioned that the apocalypse scares me.)

When we begin to look at our responsibility to the environment, we realize that “environment” is just a code word. It means something broader than recycling your newspaper. Do somebody’s shopping. Or fix a child’s bicycle. No one says you have to be Super Biodegradable Boy or Mega Organic Girl to fend off the apocalypse. Making the world a better place is about doing what we can. What’s important is that we do it.

There’s a television show that I like called Ghost Hunters. It’s about a team of paranormal investigators. (Yes, I’m a geek.) One thing I’m always impressed with is how they introduce themselves. When they meet a client for the first time, as they shake hands, one investigator says, “Hi, we’re TAPS.” (TAPS is the name of their organization.) This is always followed by, “We’re here to help.” This is such a perfect example of the sort of responsibility we need to take for the world around us.

Our world won’t function like it has in the past for very much longer. We can’t afford the consequences of not acting. Perhaps it’s time we start prefacing the decisions we make with, “We’re here to help.”

On Blog Action Day, it’s time to ask yourself as well: “Am I here to help?”

Let’s hope we are.

Mathew Murphy brings us Tech Tuesday each week. Matt blogs on technology, the environment and tea on his website at http://mattscuppa.wordpress.com.

Next Actions:

What Every Citizen Needs to Know NOW About Collaborating with Others On-Line.

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One of the primary ways that people are banding together to solve common problems is by using the Internet to collaborate with others. Whether the common problems they faces are around the world or down the block, there are great tools to use to help people get organized and work together to solve problems.

This guide will help you understand what the options are and how to move ahead and get organized!

Here are the 6 main categories of tools used and specific examples each and how to get started sing them.

1. E-Mail ‘mailing lists’, On-Line Groups and Forums

Early Internet users focussed primarily on e-mail listservers and newsgroups to share information and collaborate. Today, these two services are generally provided as combined services — meaning users can share information either by receiving e-mails every time someone posts an idea, or they can read posts left for the group through an on-line web interface similar to old-fashioned news groups.

Currently, the two most popular of these services are Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. They provide all the capabilities you need to:

  • Create groups and manage membership.
  • Send and receive e-mails to/from the group.
  • Browse and search or post new messages through a web-interface (similar to using a news group).

The Freecycle Network is an example of a group that’s been wildly successful in getting people to work together world-wide, yet they’re based primarily on local groups who are each using Yahoo Groups.

One problem with these on-line groups is that all group communications are public and stored in the archives at Yahoo and Google.

If your group does not want all their discussions to be publicly archived, a good option may be to use traditional e-mail list server software such as GNU Mailman or Majordomo. These options allow you to host the communications privately and have better control over the discussion archives, although they require reasonable technical skills to manage and maintain.

Many Internet hosting providers give you tools to create and manage e-mail discussion lists — and these can simplify things a lot if you want to host your own. For example, our hosting provider (Site5) gives you the ability to create and manage e-mail lists using GNU Mailman in their user control panel.

On-Line Forums are many times more random in scope than email lists or groups. But still, there are a powerful tool for collaborating with others. This is especially true for websites that want to help their readers share ideas and engage in general discussion.

Most Internet hosting providers provide free forum software as part of their basic hosting packages. Again, as an example our hosting provider (Site5) provides a couple options including phpBB2 and SMF.

2. Wikis

Wikis are great places to collaborate with other people and share important information. Wikipedia, of course, is the best know wiki on the Internet with literally millions of users world-wide.

Here are some other examples of great wikis:

  • DKosopedia
    A collaborative project focused on political and social change organized by the dailykos community.
  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A wiki put together by local bloggers in Southern New Hampshire, USA for people to share knowledge on local food options in their local area.
  • The FlatPlanetProject
    A wiki used by high school students to demonstrate the capabilities of working with others to organize and share information.

One of the really valuable things about wikis is that they stay around for a while. If you start a wiki then move on to other projects, someone else can come along a year later and build on your work. By getting the wiki started, you’ve organized at least part of the available knowledge and given the others a head start.

As with mail lists and groups, you can host your own wiki or find free ones on the Internet. Two of the examples here are built using the free wiki site Wkispaces. If you want to host your own wiki, we recommend starting here with this comparison of wiki software on Wikipedia.

It’s also important to consider the licensing terms you use for your wiki. To maximize the ability for you to cut/paste/copy other work into your wiki (as well as allow others to re-use your work in their projects) we recommend the GNU Free Documentation License. This license allows you, for example, to freely copy and reuse articles from Wikipedia, dailykos or any number of other sites that use the same license.

3. Blogs

One of the best ways to collaborate with others is to launch a blog with a team of dedicated individuals all posting on a specific topic. Some of the best examples of this are political blogs such as DailyKos, Think Progress and Little Green Footballs. These sites have literally hundreds of thousands (or millions) of readers who come there to share ideas, contribute thoughts and help to organize around ideas.

But many of the most effective blogs when it comes to organizing are much smaller and more focussed in nature. Here are just a couple great examples of groups of individuals blogging together for a common purpose:

Here are some other examples of great local blogs:

  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A group of individuals working to promote local food options in their area.
  • Blue Oregon
    A political blog focussed on local political issues in the state of Oregon
  • SM Baykeeper Blog
    A blog focussed on local environmental issues in Santa Monica, CA, USA. One recent post, for example, helped to Coastal Cleanup Day in and around Santa Monica.

While setting up your own hosted weblog isn’t that complicated if you’ve got the skills, many beginners Choose to just use the simple (and free!) services offered by Blogger.com or WordPress.com — either of these choices make it simple to setup and run your own blog quickly.

4. Skype Chat

Skype is a great communications tool for a number of reasons. First it’s free and allows for free calls around the world — but also because of it’s lesser-know chat capabilities.

Skype allows chats to be bookmarked and returned to at any later time. And the chats, once created, don’t die unless someone specifically kills them.

This allows for the creation of on-line chats where members can stop in any time and review messages they’ve missed. They can also drop in to say a few things, then leave — knowing the other chat members will pick their posts up when they get on-line.

This is especially good because it’s free and available world-wide. I personally work with groups of users on Skype chats that involve people from all over the world. We drop in and out and work together on ideas. It’s a great medium worth checking out.

5. On-line document development and sharing.

There are a number of ways to author and share documents on-line. The one I use most and like best is Google Documents. It’s easy to use, is always available, and makes it easy to share documents with other people.

I use this personally to work with other writers on posts to this weblog — even though those writers live in different states or around the world anywhere.

Another on-line document sharing service I’ve used that I liked a great deal is Backpack, from 37 Signals. Backpack provides another simple way to organize and share information as well as other features such as document storage, to do lists, and ways to organize information.

6. Basecamp

While my exposure to Basecamp (another 37 Signals product) has been minimal, I’ve seen enough to know it’s powerful and easy to use — although it’s not a free option. It’s good for larger groups that need to organize material to be delivered on a schedule.

Here are a couple quotes from individuals I know who are in love with the Basecamp:

Shea Gunther (StumbleGod and co-author of Ecotality Life):

“I’ve been using Basecamp for the past two years plus and frankly wouldn’t want to imagine my internet life without it. It’s an awesome tool for organizing teams of bloggers. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it just works.”

Chris Baskind (Author of LighterFootstep.com):

“We use Basecamp to handle all of our project planning for Vida Verde Media. One of the coolest uses we’ve come up with is coordinating our writer’s cooperative. We can set deadlines, track contributions, and share files — it really holds us together. It’s a great tool for decentralized workgroups.”

Next Actions:

Make It Real

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We can all envision the world as a better place. Each of us can imagine a better life — better government, better living habits, better environment. We can all imagine these — but can we make them real?

“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”

–Pauline R. Kezer

Many of the challenges of the 21st Century will be big. Issues like Global Climate Change can seem so overwhelming. They can make you feel powerless. But there is still always hope.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

– Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand-born mountain climber and Antarctic Explorer. Famous for being first to successfully climb Mount Everest)

So take the better world of your imagination, and take a step today toward that place. Take some sort of action. Talk to someone, change a personal habit, write a letter. Do something.

Or better yet, join with a group of others who are like-minded. Commenting on this blog or others like it is a good way to start — its connects you with other people who, like you, have this better world in mind.

Remember, you as an individual can change the world — there are examples of the power of individuals everywhere. But banding together with others who are like-minded can magnify your impact.

So take a step today — a small step or a large step — but take some step. Take a step toward making the better world of your imagination real.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

– Lao Tzu (Chinese taoist Philosopher, founder of Taoism)

The 21st Century is here. The world is in our hands — and we are up to the challenges we face, I know it.

But to get to the better world of our imagination, we need to begin. We need to begin to make it real.

Next Actions:

The Six Classic Books on Organic Growing

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It’s Sunday night and I’m on my laptop to begin this passionate subject – Organics!

My mind was whizzing with random topics and bits of information to write on this column. I realized then that the best way to start is with history. The past can reveal so many hidden secrets that the world is now re-discovering.

It is only a matter of a hundred years that such change has occurred — and thankfully grandmothers still exist to tell us to treat a cold with honey and basil!

For every problem we recognize with our current living system that is incompatible with nature, we need to look into old knowledge banks.

Our ancestors, wore clothes, cooked food, had shelter and traveled extensively, sans technology. We struggle to do the same in this generation of automatic, disposable culture without harming the environment.

Organic farming is rooted in ancient knowledge passed down through generations.
–David Suzuki

Hence I’m going to suggest some reading material to begin with. The books are by pioneers who were disturbed by the technological high and finally found their ways to a better and greener living.

Though the books are based on Agriculture, we need to understand where our food comes from and make right choices. Personally, reading them has taught me to respect the existence of matter, living and non-living in this chain called LIFE.

The One-Straw Revolution – Masanobu Fukoka
A Japanese Agricultural Scientist was in dilemma with his spiritual principles and the science he was practicing. He left his job and went back to his father’s farm and practiced Agriculture. The author takes you through a journey of revelation. He went on to become the Father of Natural Farming and Do-Nothing Farming. This book is a must for all those who wish to understand the difference of Organic and Conventional Agriculture.

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
By the conventional practices and hazardous pesticides like DDT, we destroy several eco-systems that thrive and survive in farms. This natural historian writes on how pesticides have affected birds and the environment. She chose to call her book so, as the birds of the Spring season, were no longer heard chirping.

Ancient Roots, New Shoots : Endogenous Development in Practice – Bertus Haverkort, Katrien van ‘t Hooft & Wim Hiemstra (eds)
The Present global problems of poverty, ecological destruction and loss of cultural diversity call for innovative solutions. This book presents a number of field experiences of endogenous development, or development from within, in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. With a good balance of theory and practice, this book can be immensely useful to development practitioners, researchers and policy makers, especially in the fields of rural development, agriculture, natural resource management and health

An Agricultural Testament – Sir Albert Howard
The author worked in India when the country was still under the British Empire. He came to spread the use of chemical fertilizers but after 25 years, left with the understanding of nature. By working with poor farmers he understood a great deal of traditional farming practices in relation to the soil fertility that a healthy eco-system survives on.

Agriculture: An Introductory Reader – Rudolf Steiner
Steiner is the father of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture that revolves around the science of the cosmos that play a major role in the time crops are planted. This natural science is related to Vrikshayurveda (Sanskrit term to mean the Plant Life Science or the Science of Plant Life) – (Vriksha = tree + Ayur- Veda = science of life). In the Organic Revolution, Bio Dynamic Agriculture is gaining more ground and is the present trend.

Look to the Land – Lord Northbourne
Northbourne coined the word “Organic Farming”. Chapter 3 contains the differences between Organic Farming and Chemical farming. He teaches that the farm is an organism, a living entity that has a balanced organic life. The eco-system is interdependent and every creature has a role to play in this balance. He was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s work on Agriculture. To Northbourne Organic Agriculture determines the quality of food we eat, “Food of better quality is food which has vitality, individuality, freshness; food which is grown right, not only food that looks right; food which is effective as a vehicle of life and is not either mere stimulant or mere filling”

Next Actions:

5 Critical Resources for Understanding ‘Corporate Personhood’

Corporations in America are recognized by the government as having many of the same rights as people. They are actually considered ‘people’ for legal purposes in many situations.

Corporations claiming ‘freedom of speech’ are among the largest funders of elections and campaign advertising in America. And, as a result, they influence politicians to put corporate power ahead of the needs of citizens.

This article has a list of resources at it’s end — but let’s start by understanding how bad things have gotten.

To begin with, fear of corporations taking over America’s government has been with us from early in America’s history…

“Unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will in the end find that the most important powers of Government have been given or bartered away, and the control of your dearest interests have been passed into the hands of these corporations.”

– Andrew Jackson, farewell address, 04 March 1837

How bad has it gotten? Well, the current US Government has pushed corporate power to new levels.

Today, corporate or business interests are the main funders of elections, the main controllers of the media, the most dominant forces over our governments … (and) the fastest commercializers of governmental functions, including military services…

– Ralph Nader in a letter to President GW Bush, April 29, 2004

It’s gotten much worse recently. Corporations exert power over almost every area of life.

The goal of the corporation is to maximize the profit of their shareholders. That’s it. If the value of a rain forest can be maximized by turning it into paper napkins, that will be the goal of a corporation.

“The belief is common in America that the day is at hand when corporations… after having created a system of quiet but irresistible corruption – will ultimately succeed in directing government itself. Under the American form of society, there is no authority capable of effective resistance…”

– Henry Adams, 1870

Can they be stopped?

No — they can’t be under current law. The laws today give them the right to worry only about themselves and to directly lobby government and support candidates that will help them in their quest to put profits first.

These corporations and their trade associations are relentlessly obtaining from governments more and more privileges and immunities which as “artificial persons” are severely tilting the balance of power and wealth against real people.

– Ralph Nader in a letter to President GW Bush, April 29, 2004

In an essay on the New Values of the 21st Century, we argued that a core value of society should be: “People are more important than Corporations”.

Abraham Lincoln, the great US President, kept this country together during a civil war — but worried afterwards that the corporations that profited from the war could pose an even bigger threat:

“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

– US President Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Here are 5 Resources to inform you on this issue. Armed with that knowledge, we can inform others and work to establish this as one of the core values of the 21st Century Citizen.

1. The award-winning documentary movie, The Corporation.

2. Thom Hartmann’s great book on the subject, Unqual Protection [amazon link here].

3. An interview with Thom Hartmann where he discusses the subject of corporate personhood.

4. Here’s a great article from truthout.org, The Supremacy of the Super-Citizen.

5. This article on Alternet describing how the citizens of Humboldt County passed their law against ‘corporate personhood’.

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Global Warming and Personal Leadership: A Picture Essay

Our world is changing. The results of our consumption and over-population of the planet are being felt in many ways — and one the most dramatic and dangerous is that our world is getting warmer.

For example, one way to tell is that glaciers all over the world are melting…

The Glaciers are disappearing
While many of them have been melting as long as anyone can remember, now they’re melting much faster than they ever have…

Speaking of melting, so are our polar ice caps…

The Earth is Melting!
If this keeps up, we could find our oceans overflowing their shorelines. Cities that are now near the oceans could find themselves underwater. This could really happen.

So why don’t we all do something about it? Why do some people joke about global warming…

Some try to make light of the situation
Well, a lot of people are profiting from things as they are. They own corporations (or stock in corporations) that would lose lots of money if they were forced to confront all the issues. These people don’t want to lose money! Some of them could literally lose millions! (Or Billions!).

Since they have so much money they can influence the government and influence public opinion.

But even so, there are things you can do. There are steps you can take…

Your Bike is a Global Warming Solution!
It may not be too late to make a difference. People who read blogs like this one have to be leaders — we’ve researched the issues and we’re learning what to do. More than that, WE CARE! We Care! We care enough to make a difference.

And when we take steps to change our habits, we inspire those around us. That’s the definition of leadership — and responsibility.And if we don’t do anything….

Before it's too late
The world may change around us more than we can handle. The changes may come too far and too fast for us to handle. If the changes are too dramatic, who knows how bad things might get? No one knows.

But what’s the most important reason to change?

Because in the end, our future depends on it.
The most important reason to change is for the next and future generations. There are children in our care today that need us to act. They need us to protect them and make sure the world is safe for them.

If things get bad, and it turns out we could’ve made a difference — what will you tell them when they ask? What will you say? Will you be able to tell them you did your best?

Think about it. Then do something about it. Lead by example, and others will follow.

The Paris Hilton-ization of the Green Movement

I’ve been following Paris Hilton’s remaking as an environmentalist recently, and it’s been fun to watch.

Recently she made an appearance at the premier of the movie the 11th hour, and was given a brand new hybrid car by Ford:

“I’m getting a car from Ford, a hybrid one. They gave me one. So, I think driving hybrid cars is the new way to go, and recycling.”

“I just want this world to be a better place for my grandchildren. I’m scared with what’s going on in the environment, so I hope people will help and make a difference. Everyone can.”

It’s gotten to the point where it’s news now if Paris is even seen riding in a hybrid car.

To many thinking people who are truly concerned about the environment, this may seem like a sham — it’s clear she has a brilliant publicist who has arranged for all the pictures, the appearance at the screening for the 11th hour, the discussions on the new hybrid car and everything else. Her image needed a makeover after her jail sentence, and waving the environmental flag has proven pretty effective for her.

But the flip side of this is that environmental awareness has clearly benefited from her association. Environmental issues have been in the news as a result of her talking about them. More importantly, these issues have been brought to an audience that hasn’t been focussed on them up to now.

It’s a symbiotic relationship — environmental issues help her by ‘recycling’ her image. She helps environmental issues by getting them into the papers and on TV. Not everyone will agree, but I think this has been fantastic — at least as a beginning.

Like many relationships, it’s clear from the beginning that this one will have trouble lasting. In time, she’ll face questioning about her energy-extravagant lifestyle of flying all over the world. She’ll face questions about the enormous size (and energy requirements) of her homes. There are so many aspects to her lifestyle that are so far beyond being environmentally sound that inevitably even the celebrity press will probably notice.

And if the press doesn’t notice, then we should push them to. We should push them to ask her about her energy wasting lifestyle. Bloggers should research and publish the facts behind the size of her homes and the energy they require. We should push back and bring the real issues out.

After all, every relationship has two sides — and the relationship between Paris Hilton and the Environment is no different. Those who speak for the environment should start making their voices heard as well.

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