MOGO Movie Vault: Flow

What would it be like if you had to drink, wash, bathe — any tasks that needed water — with only a small amount of water each day?
What if you had to walk miles and miles to get your water each day?
Water if the water coming out of your tap was a strange color and gave off a terrible smell?
What if a private company came into your community to manage your water supply, and charged you more than you could afford?
What if you had rocket fuel in your water?

Many of us take clean, plentiful water for granted, but a large number of people around the world don’t have that luxury. More than a billion people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.  Many people use the same water for drinking, bathing, washing and sanitation.

There are significant water issues in the U.S., as well. The EPA just announced that rocket fuel in water isn’t of sufficient concern to do anything about it. There are water shortages everywhere. Some communities are turning their sewage into drinking water.

Many of us have read articles or books advocating water conservation: take shorter showers; turn off the tap when you brush your teeth; wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, etc. Books like Bottlemania, Blue Gold, Blue Covenant, and Water Wars have brought attention to the commodification and privatization of water, and the importance of providing clean, safe water for all.

Flow is a film that investigates what has been called the “most important political and economic issue of the 21st century – the world water crisis.” Filmmaker Irena Salinas interviews scientists and activists about the crisis, examining issues such the impact of the privatization of a shrinking water supply, the expansion of “water cartels,” the effect of a lack of water on people around the world, and how people are developing creative solutions to deal with the water crisis.

Flow will be opening in Portland this weekend (October 3) at Cinema 21.

Water is an incredibly precious resource that no one can live without. It affects every part of our daily lives. Check out Flow and learn more about who’s trying to own your water.

~ Marsha

Humans Closer to Maxing Out “Ecological Debt”

According to the Footprint Network , yesterday was “Earth Overshoot Day.” Each day between now and the end of the year is a day in which the world is using more resources than the earth has the capacity to create in 2008. This year humans are projected to use 140% of the resources the earth can generate.

“Globally, we now require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. But of course, we only have one Earth. The result is that our supply of natural resources — like trees and fish — continues to shrink, while our waste, primarily carbon dioxide, accumulates.” ~ Footprint Network

Of course, not everyone is using those resources to the same degree, or at the same rate (even though many are trying). Global Footprint’s National Footprints Accounts data from 2006 shows how many Earths we’d need if everyone lived like a resident of these countries:

  • United States – 5.4 Earths
  • Canada – 4.2 Earths
  • United Kingdom – 3.1 Earths
  • Germany – 2.5 Earths
  • Italy – 2.2 Earths
  • South Africa – 1.4 Earths
  • Argentina – 1.2 Earths
  • Costa Rica – 1.1 Earths
  • India – 0.4 Earths

And, the “biocapacity” being measured doesn’t take into account the needs of the animals and plants all over the world. How much room do they actually need to be sustainable, healthy and happy? Almost no one considers that in their footprint calculators.

Fortunately, we don’t have to sit back and feel defeated at such news. We can decide to pay attention to the impact of our daily actions and take steps to make choices that do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. We can determine what’s most important in our lives and what’s only distraction, noise and perceived obligation or ephemeral desire and choose to nurture the former and release the latter. We can learn to look beyond what our culture has raised us to think is relevant to our lives and needs to what really brings us fulfillment and joy (which usually isn’t stuff). We can embrace the fact that we have enormous power to make a positive (or negative) difference around the world and choose to use that power to help create a peaceful, compassionate, sustainable world that doesn’t live beyond its capacity.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Footprint Network.

Thanks, Treehugger, for the heads up.

Less Plastic: Fantastic! Reduce Your Plastic Habit

Plastics are ubiquitous, turning up at practically every corner of our little round planet, and they’re finding their way into the media spotlight more often. The Ocean Conservancy just had their annual International Coastal Cleanup. Last year they removed more than 6 million pounds of trash from oceans and waterways, much of it plastic. Bisphenol A, which is found in some plastics, has been the target of many a controversy. Bottled water and plastic bags are finding themselves banned by schools and governments. Humans have found plastics so handy — but also so environmentally destructive, and in some cases, toxic to our health.

And there have been conflicting reports about which plastics are safe and which aren’t. (The Green Guide has a guide to which plastics are safer for kitchen use, and which should be avoided.)

John and I have decided that, for animals, people and the planet, it’s best to reduce the amount of plastics we use as much as we can. Here are a few of the changes we’ve made:

  • We’re transitioning over to no plastics for storing food.  Whenever we go to thrift stores, we’re on the look out for glass or ceramic casserole dishes of various sizes.
  • We buy in bulk whenever we can and have all our bulk items in glass containers with good seals.
  • We have significantly reduced the number of plastic storage bags we use, usually only use them for non-food items, and reuse them as often as we can.
  • We try to remember to bring our own reusable containers with us to restaurants.
  • We bring cloth bags whenever we go to the grocery, run errands, etc.
  • We only have two trash cans in our house and the “kitchen” trash is lined with a recycled paper grocery bag so that it can biodegrade in the landfill (eventually). No plastic garbage bags for us.
  • We’ve stopped using cling-wrap and use alternatives (waxed paper, aluminum foil, glass containers, etc.)
  • We have glass bottles that we frequently use for water when we’re out and about. When we do use plastic water bottles, we reuse them as much as is safe and then recycle them.
  • We’re buying less-processed, less-packaged food and items, which means less plastic.
  • We often bring our own special reusable plastic bags to hold produce at the grocery.

Need some additional inspiration to reduce your plastics consumption? My friend, Dani, has joined a challenge to use as little plastic as possible for 3 months. At the end of those three months, she and the other participants will use plastic to create art pieces, which will be on display for the public.

And, I recently stumbled upon the Life Less Plastic blog, which features the journey of a woman striving to become plastic-free.

Many people have begun to increase the type and number of plastics they recycle, but many plastics aren’t recyclable (even if they do have those magic arrows). Fortunately for those of us here in Portland, Oregon, we have an option for recycling those tricky plastics, like those darn drink lids and kiddie slides.

Portland Metro’s Master Recycler Program is having its bi-annual Plastic Roundup on Saturday, October 4 (Lake Oswego, North Portland), and Saturday, October 11(Milwaukie, Hillsboro). They don’t accept everything, but they do accept quite a bit, from bubble wrap, cereal liners, plant containers and dry cleaning bags to laundry baskets, kiddie pools and toys, lids, CDs and DVDs. There’s a list of what’s acceptable on their site.

What strategies have you been using to reduce your plastic habit?

~ Marsha

Get Into Veganic Gardening

With food prices and economic uncertainty continuing to rise and peak oil and global warming conversations finding more play around the office water cooler, more people are looking at growing more of their own food. And, with continued concerns about the health and environmental impact of food, more people are looking for alternatives to conventional agriculture. Certainly organic foods have become almost a household word, if not a household necessity for those who have adequate access.

For those concerned not only about health and environment, but animal protection as well, a new trend is on the rise: veganic gardening. What is Veganic Gardening? Like organic gardeners, veganic fans don’t use synthetic feritilizers, GMO crops, pesticides, and so on. But, in addition, they also choose not to use products that come from animals, such as animal manure, or slaughterhouse by-products like blood, fish or bone meal. Veganic gardeners choose to use plant-based techniques and ingredients so that they’re not contributing to animal suffering or exploitation; but many also like the fact that they don’t have to worry about animal manures or byproducts that may be filled with antibiotics, toxic chemicals or other such contaminants adulterating their food.

Although veganic gardening (which is also sometimes called “stock-free gardening”) isn’t yet a mainstream practice,  it’s starting to make the news, and more information, resources and support are becoming available for farmers and gardeners interested in adopting these techniques. The Veganic Agriculture Network promotes “plant-based farming and gardening throughout North America,” and the UK has the Vegan Organic Network.

If you live in the Portland, OR, area, you may be interested in joining the Veganic Gardening Group recently started by a Nortwest VEG board member. The group is very welcoming and even accepts people like me, who have an ancestry of black thumbs and wish to reform them.

Gardening is a great way to get in touch with the natural world, become more self-sufficient, spend time outside, connect with others and acquire tasty, local, economical food. Veganic gardening gives you all that and plenty of other MOGO (Most Good) benefits for people, animals and the planet.

~ Marsha

Are You Sold? Explore the Hidden Costs & Influences of Ads

Many of us think that we’re not that influenced by ads. We’ve developed our brand loyalty over the years due to in-depth research, careful study and solid choices of the best types of products that meet our needs, right? Um, yeah, sure.

Try these two little quizzes. The first one doesn’t even show you the logo; it just describes it in a couple of words. Can you name the company the logo belongs to? (Note: answers are in the 1st comment.)

A. Swoosh
B. Dripping coffee cup
C. Peacock
D. Golden arches
E. Big red spoon
F. Fruit w/ bite taken out
G. Mountain w/ stars above peak
H. Giraffe head
I. Silhouette rabbit’s head w/ bowtie
J. Red roof w/ name of company below

What about these taglines. How many can you name? Some of these are decades old. (Answers are in the 1st comment.)

1. The happiest place on earth.
2. Must see TV.
3. I’m lovin’ it.
4. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
5. Where’s the beef?
6. So easy, even a caveman could do it.
7. What’s in your wallet?
8. Just do it.
9. A diamond is forever.
10. Finger-lickin’ good.

How many of these companies could you identify? How many of these companies do you actually purchase products or services from? Even if you had trouble with some of these, I’m sure there are plenty that you could list. How many people can list whole slew of TV characters or company logos or taglines, but can’t tell you what continent Iraq is on or who the U.S. Secretary of State is, for example?

The point isn’t to make anyone feel embarrassed; it’s to point out how ubiquitous marketing and advertising are in our lives, and how susceptible we can be to their messages, without even knowing it. Our culture inundates us with marketing and advertising every day; almost every where we look, someone is telling us we won’t be happy or successful or sexy or worthy unless we buy what they have to offer.

But, not only do we often neglect to pay attention to advertising’s impact on us and our habits, but we also often don’t consider the hidden messages, suffering, oppression and exploitation that are inherent in many ads and their products and services.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, advocate or concerned citizen, here’s a little activity you can do yourself (or with your kids, friends, family, students, workmates, etc.) to help analyze ads.

Take one or more (age-appropriate) ads, and ask these questions:

a) What product or service is the ad selling?
b) What deep need or desire is the ad appealing to? (i.e., Does the ad appeal to your desire to have love, happiness, wealth, beauty, friendship, security, etc.?)
c) Who is the intended audience, and what do you suppose their reaction to the ad might be?
d) Who is excluded by the ad? (i.e., what classes, races, body types, gender, etc.)?
e) What suffering, exploitation, or destruction is hidden from view? (In other words, what suffering to people or animals does the production of the product or the generation of the service lead to and/or what destruction to the environment does the product or service cause?)
f) How does the ad affect your personal desires, self image, beliefs, and consumer choices?
g) What would life be like without the product or service that the ad is selling?

Here’s an example that I used in my presentation at the peace and justice conference last weekend (this activity is from IHE).

Here’s the ad. Below are the questions and potential responses. (In case you can’t read the ad text, it says: “Need to lose a little weight before your wedding?”

a) What product or service is the ad selling?

Slim Fast

b) What deep need or desire is the ad appealing to? (i.e., does the ad appeal to your desire to have love, happiness, wealth, beauty, friendship, security, etc.?)

Acceptance, to be loved, to feel good about self, to be thin & fit, to be happy, to get a man.

c) Who is the intended audience, and what do you suppose their reaction to the ad might be?

Women, especially brides-to-be, especially brides-to-be with body image issues. It might also be (to a lesser degree) for men who have certain expectations about women’s body types.

d) Who is excluded by the ad? (i.e., what classes, races, body types, etc.)?

Men, people of color, people who are gay, people without a lot of money.

e) What suffering, exploitation, or destruction is hidden from view? (In other words, what suffering to people or animals does the production of the product or the generation of the service lead to and/or what destruction to the environment does the product or service cause?)

Examples:

Three primary ingredients in the product are:

  • milk = hides the suffering of dairy cows and veal calves, as well as the environmental impact of raising cattle; hides the discomfort of those who are lactose intolerant
  • sugar = hides the habitat destruction inherent with sugar plantations, as well as the frequent worker mistreatment
  • cocoa = hides the connection of chocolate to slave labor/child labor
  • aluminum can = hides the destruction of the environment that comes with bauxite mining, as well as the toxins from the chemicals/dyes used to make the can’s label
  • Unilever = the product is made by Unilever; Unilever also owns Dove (see info about the impacts of palm oil), as well as Axe body spray (well-know for its sexist commercials).

f) How does the ad affect your personal desires, self image, beliefs, and consumer choices?

Self-esteem, need this product to be healthy, thin and loved.

g) What would life be like without the product or service that the ad is selling?

Fine. It’s really unnecessary to my life.

Try it yourself with some of the ads you see. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you become aware of all the messages surrounding you and your family.

~ Marsha

It’s Time to Broaden Our Conception of Peace

(Please note: My apologies for the lack of posts this last week; I was preparing to present a workshop at a peace conference and didn’t have time to post anything.)

This last weekend I attended a peace and justice studies conference here in Portland, and led a workshop called “The World Becomes What You Teach: Manifesting Peace Through Humane Education.” It was my first peace conference, so I didn’t know quite to expect.

I enjoyed hearing from a variety of speakers. Some of my favorites were Jo Ann Bowman and Kayse Jama, who talked about the importance of addressing and discussing race in the peace movement, and of eliminating barriers that prevent people of color and people without a lot of money from participating more fully; Catherine Thomasson, who talked about the connection between global warming and war (and actually mentioned veganism!); Colonel Ann Wright, who was a career army vet who tendered her resignation because she couldn’t support the attack on Iraq (she also talked about the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape in the military); and Zahra AlKabi, an Iraqi native who gave an impassioned explanation of why Americans must do much more to stop the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Of course, it was saddening and disheartening to hear about all the violence and destruction and suffering that war brings to people all over the world. But, what I also found sad and disheartening was that I heard almost no one mention peace in any context other than as the antithesis of war. There were a couple of mentions of a connection to the environment. But, I didn’t hear anything about how peace is connected to media and marketing, or to animal cruelty and oppression, or to consumption, or other larger issues of social change. Isn’t peace more than just non-war? Isn’t it also non-violence of all kinds upon all beings? Isn’t it also non-oppression? Isn’t it also non-exploitation? Isn’t it also an awareness of the connections to poverty, hunger, pollution, food security, sexism, speciesism, and so on? Isn’t peace a positive and proactive and conscious pursuit of a humane world?

I also noticed that, while there was much focus on the evils of various governments and militaries and other systems, there was very little mention of the power of our own choices to make a positive difference. Part of my workshop included an exploration of the impacts of various products on people, animals and the planet, and an analysis of the different kinds of hidden suffering, destruction and oppression that the products in ads perpetrate on people, animals and the earth. I’m not sure that many of the members of my audience had even considered such connections.

People seem to equate peacemaking with demonstrations and rallies and protesting and pressuring the government to change. Certainly change at the governmental level is essential to a peaceful world. But so is recognizing the effects of our daily actions on everyone around us. The choices we make influence what happens to people, animals and ecosystems all over the world. If people don’t have adequate food, water, shelter, education, work and meaning in their lives, there certainly won’t be peace.

I think it’s time to broaden our conception of peace to include peace and justice for all. And to integrate the pursuit of humane daily choices as an important part of our peacemaking.

Two quotes I love by noted peacemakers that illustrate these points:

“To stop any suffering, no matter how small, is a great action of peace.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Peace is not a goal to be reached but a way of life to be lived.” ~ Desmond Tutu

~ Marsha

15 Ways to Cultivate a More Humane Life

There are a ton of tips out there for making green choices — choose compact fluorescents, drive less, buy organic, use cloth bags, etc. These are all terrific, simple things that most of us can do; but, it’s also important to examine the bigger picture — to have a vision and connection and purpose in helping create the world we want. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a definitely start: here are 15 ways to cultivate a more humane life:

  1. Seek out inspiration and knowledge and support. Read widely and deeply. Find role models whose bits of wisdom you can use. Find inspiring and meaningful quotes and other tidbits. Surround yourself with inspiration and supportive people. The humane journey can feel lonely, but there are a lot of us out there; we need to connect with each other and learn from each other.
  2. Go vegan, local, organic, whole & unprocessed, seasonal, fair trade non-GMO as much as you can. Our daily food choices have such an enormous impact that they deserve special consideration.
  3. Build community in your neighborhood. This could mean something as complex as developing and living in a co-housing community, or something as simple as getting to know your neighbors, holding a neighborhood potluck, or borrowing and lending tools. We love and respect what we know. When we know each other, we have a better chance of treating each other better and of being more concerned about the impacts of our actions on others.
  4. Love your enemy. Finding compassion for those whose actions we abhor is one of the most challenging tasks we can ask of ourselves. But it is so essential to explore others’ point of view, and to develop tolerance for those who don’t share our views.
  5. Learn skills for communicating well with others. You can’t build a humane community if you can’t listen. Cooperate. Build bridges.
  6. Teach others & share the joys and power of what you’ve discovered, without prostelytizing. If you can show people that they can live humanely and still meet all their needs and find happiness and fulfillment, you have the potential to influence their future choices.
  7. Extend your circle of compassion to all beings. See non-human animals not just as biodiverse species to be respected, but as individuals each deserving respect and equal consideration.
  8. Reduce your footprint. You can still be a 3 R’s fan and have a huge footprint. Hybrid cars, giant eco-houses and green travel to faraway countries are all greener ways of living, but they all still have a significant impact on the earth. We can reduce our impact and live a meaningful, joyful life.
  9. Pay attention to the impact of media and advertising. A lot of our need for stuff comes from people telling us we’re not healthy-whole-sexy-successful-worthy-intelligent-interesting-normal unless we buy a bunch of products or choose a certain lifestyle. Make sure that you’re making your choices with awareness and intention, rather than because you’re feeling inadequate or fearful or lonely or bored.
  10. Expand your global awareness and connection. Make room for everyone. We North Americans pat ourselves on the back for our eco-friendly choices, but we still consume the earth at an alarming rate, leaving much less for our brothers and sisters around the world. We also need to be aware of the choices our corporations and governments make in regard to other countries, and speak out when those choices are poor ones.
  11. Examine your lenses. As activist Laura Moretti says, “That’s the nice thing about beliefs. Just because you’ve put your faith in them doesn’t make them true.” Learn to view the world through a humane lens: see the impact of your choices, the influence of your words and interactions with others, the example you set for children. Ask yourself if the choices you make every day (and the influences of those choices) reflect the kind of world you want for yourself and for future generations.
  12. Do some small something every day to make the world a better place. Celebrate the small victories and habits.
  13. Stop every day and count your blessings. Remember the journeys of your neighbors, especially those around the world who have much less. If we pause to be thankful, we’re less likely to feel deprived and thus need to have more.
  14. Exercise your own power and responsibility. It’s not up to the government or scientists or industry or technology to fix things. We each need to step up. We also can recognize the power each individual has and use that power wisely.
  15. Expand your creativity. There are so many ways to solve problems and to fulfill our needs without depriving or destroying others. Explore them.

What would you add to the list?

~ Marsha