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Whale Tale

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Author: the Inkslinger

Two summers ago, I spent an afternoon on a boat out in the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia. We were looking for whales, and we found them easily. Humpbacks by the score. Leaping and spraying in groups of two and three that came and went for hours. They were massive animals, some as large if not larger than our sizeable boat itself, and their presence was immediately and deeply humbling on that rare level that only the profoundly extraordinary can reach. With nothing but infinite sea surrounding us in all directions, no land to be seen or had, we were a tiny insignificant dot of civilization drifting silently into a world that very clearly had nothing to do with our own. Though the day was bright and the engines could be started in a heartbeat to pull us back to earthly realms, each moment came only with the permission of air and water, sky and cloud. And, or course, the graceful consent of these immense creatures, any one of whom, it was fairly clear, could swiftly sink our little bubble of dry land should they have the slightest inclination.

At one point, I was leaning over the side of the boat simply admiring the remarkable aquamarine water, its shimmering sun-soaked clarity a revelation, when an enormous humpback drifted suddenly up from the brine below and surfaced just three or so feet away. And there we were. She (or he, I don’t know) and I. Face to face. So close I could have touched her with little effort. She drifted with the boat, and for about a minute or so we were utterly eye to eye. I was watching her and she quite clearly was watching me.

I don’t know what I saw that day. I can’t claim to possess the wisdom necessary to truly distill an experience like that into truth, but I can say this with absolute certainty: Those eyes I looked into that day were alive. Behind them was a sentient being. And it was not human. I was peering into an alien world, the door opened by this lone sentinel who was quite unmistakably as curious about me as I was about her.

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Power Shifting

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Author: the Inkslinger

Recently Capital Hill was taken over by students from around the country who don’t want to inherit a world crippled by climate change. Change-It ’06 alumni Jackie Sargent was there and she’s sent us this dispatch from the front lines…

From Nov 2-5, nearly 6,000 students from every state in the nation attended Powershift, the largest national youth summit on global warming, which was held at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students attended workshops and panels and learned all about environmental initiatives and how to make their campus/city/state/nation a more sustainable one.

There were speakers such as Ralph Nader and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. On the last day, students went to the Capitol for a rally and more than eleven hundred students visited their local state representatives to talk about what matters most to them – the environment, social justice, and a better world for all.

Alright, that's the background. Now for my story…

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This and That From Here and There

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Author: the Inkslinger

It’s going to be a little quiet around here during the next couple of days as most of the staff heads to the hills outside Stowe for a two-day retreat. That makes it a perfect time to dump my virtual in-box out on the table and see what seems post-worthy.

A new survey finds that Americans are getting ahead of the political curve when it comes to the climate crisis. 62% think that we’re headed for major trouble if we don’t act decisively and soon. Encouragingly, 40% say a presidential candidates position on this burning issue will be extremely or very important to them. Still, we apparently aren’t quite ready to put our money where our viewpoints are. 67% are against carbon taxes on gasoline and 71% are against taxes on electricity. In other words, we don’t want to pay the price of global warming but we don’t want to pay the price of avoiding it either.

But here’s the thing: with a little investment, we could all cool out. According to a study released last week by the alarmingly named National Security Space Office, we have the technology necessary to build a bunch of giant solar space things that could collect enough energy from the sun every year to supply the entire world with all the power it could squander seven times over. The energy would be beamed back to earth via lasers or microwaves (will we also be able to set our bowls of ramen noodles outside for convenient heating?). Of course, we’d have to build these orbiting juicers and get them up there, but with crude oil closing in on $100 a barrel, giant solar space things are actually getting cost-competitive. Something tells me that if you (ahem) taxed petroleum and other energy sources to account for the environmental damage they cause, we’d be launching them even as I write.

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Change It 2007 VIDEO!

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Author: Lara Petersen

I know it's only just October, but it seems like ages since I was in DC this summer with Greenpeace and 200 inspired students who were fighting for their beliefs and for this precious earth that we all share.

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Blessed Unrest

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I just finished reading Paul Hawken’s new book Blessed Unrest. It is a beautifully written, extensively researched, deeply thoughtful but in the end unsatisfying read. While Hawken talks convincingly about the convergence of the environmental/sustainability movement with the social justice and indigenous rights movements (collectively described as “the movement,”) and the significance of the millions of organizations that have arisen world-wide to tackle the many issues that all these movements encompass, I don’t believe that this alone will adequately address our challenges.

The role and responsibility of business is for the most part sadly minimized and its potential unconsidered.

In the last pages of the book, Hawken writes:

“The only spiritually responsible way I know to be a citizen, artist, or activist in these strange times is by giving little or no thought to ‘great things’ such as saving the planet, achieving world peace, or stopping neocon greed. Great things tend to be undoable things.”

While I understand the sentiment, I disagree wholeheartedly. To face the challenges that confront us today, we need a symphony of commitment and possibility. From those of us that are only willing to make small adjustments to our lifestyle to those of us willing to ensure that the world’s largest corporations become a source of hope and positive impact, only by believing that we can, as Hawken says, re-make the world into a better place, will that possibility come into existence.

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Cariboost Needed Now

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Author: the Inkslinger

Our friend Aaron at ForestEthics
wrote yesterday to let us know about his organization’s campaign to preserve vital caribou habitat in British Columbia in order to save the region’s dwindling herd and a whole bunch of other things, too. Like 6 million acres of priceless wilderness, vast tracts of sacred old growth inland rain forest, and you know… all kinds of irreplaceable stuff that will never be again if the bulldozers and chainsaws show up.

The campaign needs as many voices as it can calling out as one for some conservational sanity up there in BC. IF you’ve never been let me tell you: It’s one of the most magnificent beautiful spectacular magical spiritual places on the face of the Earth. There’s no place like it anywhere else. And why anyone anywhere thinks there’s a better thing to do with it than save it for future generations to know, I simply can’t fathom.

Go here and lend a hand. Now. Today. We signed the business letter. You should send one of your own. Forest Ethics will show you how to do it, and they make it easy to help. The caribou will appreciate it in their way. And tomorrow thanks you.

UPDATE: Aaron just asked if we could post a link to that special letter that ForestEthics is asking businesses to sign. If you own or run a business, please consider joining other concerned companies (like us) in asking Canadian officials to save the caribou and everything to which they're attached for future generations. You'll find everything you need to become a signatory here.

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Intolerable Beauty: The Art of Mass Consumption

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Chris Jordan’s photographic work is featured in this month's issue of Good magazine. His work focuses on consumerism, and it’s true: a picture is worth a thousand words. He has a show of his opening up in New York City this week.


Chassis Yard #1, Seattle 2003

In his own words:

“The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.
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1,200 Change It Applicants!

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Author: Lara Petersen

With less than 12 hours left until the application deadline for Change It 07 I am overwhelmed by the number of students who have already applied.

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Greenpeace to Kleenex: Blow On This

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Author: the Inkslinger

This is funny (unless you're a tree)… A week ago, deforestating tissue-maker Kimberly Clark was in New York’s Times Square filming interviews with passing pedestrians for their new "Let It Out" Kleenex ad campaign. The idea is that people are supposed to tell Kleenex about something that upsets them, tear up over it, and reach for the tissues.

Greenpeace's idea was to secretly equip members of its Frontline street canvas program with hidden microphones and send them in to infiltrate the interviews and talk about what makes them cry, namely Kimberly Clark’s perversely twisted practice of hacking ancient boreal forests to smithereens so it can make an easy buck selling tissues made from cheap (but also priceless) wood pulp.

This is culture jamming at its finest…

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Cleaning House; Finding Frost

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Author: Lara Petersen

Cleaning my apartment thoroughly seems to always require the arrival of a visitor (usually my mother).

And then, rather than starting with the tedious vacuuming, mopping, or even picking up – I often begin by opening a closet or drawer and exploding the contents onto the scene. Basically, I tear the place apart.

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