Billion Acts Of Green: A Theme Of Earth Day 2011

The “Billion Acts of Green” campaign marks its one year anniversary this Earth Day and has arguably emerged as a central theme of the holiday. The campaign was launched by the Earth Day Alliance last Earth Day and has proven to unite people around the world in a shared discussion about simple ways to make the world a greener place.

The Alliance launched a website for the campaign, www.billionactsofgreen.org, where they are asking people to pledge their green acts and review some of the millions of ideas that have been posted.

 The website and its associated application on Facebook allow participants to collaborate and learn from each other’s ideas.  The result has been an allied green initiative based on electronic communication.

“Millions of people doing small, individual acts can add up to real change,” said Chad Chitwood, a spokesman for the event’s organizers, as quoted by Reuters.

Many of the proposed ideas are original and thought-provoking. Some are simple, such as printing on both sides of paper, doing laundry in cold water, beach clean-ups, and using hand towels instead of paper ones. Other pledges indicate a lifestyle change, such as walking instead of driving, eating local and sustainable food, and installing solar panels.

So far more than 100 million acts of green have been logged. The goal is to reach 1 billion before the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development takes place in Rio next year.

Many sponsors have joined with the organization, including the United Nations, U.S. State Dept, Peace Corps, Boy and Girl Scouts, and more.

Earth Day celebrates its 41st anniversary on Friday and thousands of events and campaigns are taking place across the United States and in 192 other countries that now celebrate the holiday.

Photo Credit: globe-net.com

Southern California Tree Sitters Arrested

January 24, 2011- By Jen Noelken

Veteran tree sitter John Quigley, along with three other protesters were arrested earlier this month in Arcadia, California. Construction was slated to begin in the area for a dam improvement project affecting the Los Angeles suburbs of Arcadia and Sierra Madre.  The construction was zoned to bulldoze several acres of century old sycamore and oak trees.  Tree sitters disrupted expansion efforts for a time, but the daylong standoff ended with the removal and arrest of the activists.    

Los Angeles County Public Works spokesman Bob Spencer said the project was approved by federal and state agencies and has been developing for three years.  He goes on to state the project is a must for the Santa Anita Dam, built in 1927, to meet seismic safety standards.  Currently the dam provides drinking water for 56,000 residents in Arcadia and another 10,000 residents in Sierra Madre.  Without the improvements, Mr. Spencer says the dam could become unsafe.  He explains that throughout the years “sediment has built up behind the dam, limiting water capacity and compromising its safety in the event of an earthquake.”

John Quigley, an environmental educator and social activist, is best known for his tree sit during the fall of 2002 through the early part of winter 2003.  During those months Quigley occupied a 400 year old oak tree he called “Old Glory.”  His protest gained community and eventually national recognition with over 20,000 people visiting.  Quigley “has worked with every major environmental organization in the US, served on National and International Boards for Earth Day and is the Executive Director of Earth Day Los Angeles.” 

Quigley, along with other environmental activists, disagreed with the sediment site.  He acknowledged the sediment removal project needed to progress forward, but he said it was a tragedy to pick such a beautiful habitat. 

Located just 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the wilderness area was a popular destination for local hikers and bicyclists.  Nestled below the San Gabriel Mountains near a residential area, the site offered a wilderness park as well.  Many argued that the site could be placed in any number of nearby areas, including a large gravel pit ten miles away.  The clearing project came against several oppositions to stop progress.  Ending last week was a 30-day county order moratorium.  Despite the tree sitters’ best efforts, authorities confirmed a majority of the trees had been removed.

The history of tree sitting protests are unclear, but was successful in New Zealand during the 1970s.  Mikal Jakubal is recognized as the first man in the United States (during the 1980s) to use tree sitting as a form of protest.  Used for a variety of reasons, from tactical to symbolic, tree sitting participants are known to become deeply attached to “their” tree.  An unsuccessful protest can result in emotional distress for the sitter if and when the tree is cut down.

One of the more famous North American tree sits took place during the 1990s in Humboldt County, California.  Julia Butterfly Hill sat in a redwood from December 10, 1997 – December 18, 1999; a total of 738 days.  The 180 foot, 1,000 year old redwood, Hill affectionately named Luna, was scheduled to be cut down by the Pacific Lumbar Company.  Her efforts successfully brought recognition to the plight of ancient forests, along with saving Luna and a three acre buffer zone. 

Tree sitting’s effectiveness is highly debatable.  Though the act does draw valuable attention to an environmental issue, often development companies successfully remove the person or persons.  Tree sitting typically involves trespassing, making the act illegal.  Lawsuits are filed against both tree sitters and their support crew, since tree sitters cannot survive without ground support. 

Bali School Immerses Students in Green Living

January 17, 2011- By Jen Noelken

John Hardy and his wife Cynthia planned to retire quietly from their jewelry business until Al Gore ruined John’s life.  After watching the former U.S. vice president’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Hardy decided he didn’t want to simply retire.  Instead, the movie propelled the couple to take an active role in doing their part for the environment.  In 2007, John and Cynthia sold their jewelry business and started building the Green School in Bali, Indonesia. 

Green School was a concept idea come to fruition by the Hardy’s strong belief in doing your part for society and the environment.  The focus of Green School is not new – to change the way young people act toward the environment, but the school’s approach is unique.  According to Hardy and the school’s teachers, Green School “is unique in that it completely immerses children in a world of sustainable practices throughout the school day.” 

Embedded in the lush vegetation of the Ubud region of Bali, Hardy used bamboo to construct virtually every aspect of the school.  The school’s structure, but also many of the school’s furnishings, such as desks, chairs, and chalkboards were constructed from bamboo.  The school is free of walls and air conditioning, relying instead on jungle breezes.  With two dozen buildings for teaching, bamboo bridges extend to allow easy access from one area to another.  Surrounding green space offers a soccer field with bamboo goalposts, a grassy playground area, vegetable patches, and a streaming river.      

Green School’s beautiful façade is just a bonus to the work done under the bamboo roofs.  Sustainability is at the forefront of lessons.  With a strong belief in stimulating young people to consider what needs to be done to save the earth, curriculum was developed based on the four intelligences.  Cynthia explains that Green School is not only based on IQ, it also focuses on KQ, which is the physical, EQ, which is the emotional, and SQ, which is the spiritual.  Through the four intelligences learning is done through active doing. 

With around 200 children, from 40 countries, Green School has the resources to teach grades kindergarten through tenth.  Within the next year (by 2012) they hope to expand through grades eleven and twelve.  Classroom curriculum focuses on three main objectives:  Essential Studies, Green Studies, and Creative Arts.  Essential Studies include English, Mathematics, and Science.  Green Studies offers hands-on lessons which progress as the children age to Nature Studies, Study of Ecology, Environmental Studies, and Studies of Sustainability.  Creative Arts includes art, crafts, music, drama, and story-telling to name a few.

John and Cynthia said it is necessary to teach kids fundamental courses, but it is also vital to teach kids the practice behind everyday sustainability.   For example, students are taught how to harvest their own food to open awareness and appreciation of the effort used to produce food.  The students are also taught mind-body exercises, like yoga, to help teach discipline, self-awareness, and the concept fit body / fit mind.

The school emphasizes and practices sustainability, but a computer lab and fully functional library is available.  Courses are based off an internationally recognized curriculum allowing kids to transition into any number of colleges or universities.  According to the Green School homepage, the school “provide(s) a curriculum that combines holistic, hands-on experiential learning with academic rigour.”   

John and Cynthia feel the school has been successful, but they feel there is still a long road ahead.  They said the classes are too small with little or no choice on subject content.  The couple says success will be reached when a waiting list is needed, but more so, when everyone involved in the school is happy and complaining for the right reasons.