a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for November, 2007

Forget the Doom and Gloom – Heal Gaia

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

If you happen to catch the recent article and interview in Rolling Stone, “The Prophet“, you may have felt like calling in sick for a few days – or more. In an in depth and impressive piece by Jeff Goodell, James Lovelock, one of the most eminent and innovative scientists of our time, gets more than gloomy about the future of civilization. “Our future,” Lovelock says, “is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail.”

Although I know the extent of what we’re facing with climate change, I’m not convinced of any one absolute for the future. Still, my idealist nature took a hard blow after reading this interview. My normal state of optimism was thrown significantly out of whack. Thankfully, the letters of response, printed in this week’s RS issue 1040, helped me get climb back in the saddle. Wise words from one reader below:

“I do not get how Lovelock could suggest that we lock ourselves up in a tech bubble disconnected from the rest of the biological world. I will not be joining him to wither away in stagnant recycled air. I will be fighting the good fight with millions of others as a healer of Gaia. We will work to sequester carbon in ecosystems, not just in dangerous, uncontrollable sea-algae blooms. We will work to create truly renewable energy. We will capture fresh water and recharge aquifers. Lovelock should stop sowing seeds of hopelessness among the young people. Why not plant a garden?”

– John House Wilson, New Paltz, NY

Thanks John. I owe you one. Tao

Join the Conversation – and party on

Monday, November 19th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Many of us tree-hugging, Sustaina-geeks are excited about what we’ve learned about saving more and consuming less and about the change we’ve created in our lives. And we want to share the news with our friends, family and communities. It seems so simple, but we often find ourselves hesitating to speak out. And, if we do, we are afraid to do it too often, too loudly or especially, too proudly. Actions speak louder than words, I tell myself.

I just returned from a week in a place where speaking out about sustainable habits was not, let’s just say, in my best interest. I was told to just “let it go” for one week. I gave it a good try, but found out that it’s just too late for that – it’s inside me. Not guilt, not sacrifice, not judgment – but pure, unadulterated joy, determination and optimism about what is possible for our future – if we do the work now. The party has started and I’m not going home.

In timely fashion, my fellow blogger and sustaina-superhero, No Impact Man, reminded me of something important in a recent post, where he says, “Both individual action and voter action are stronger if we talk to others about why we make our choices and become part of communities that reinforce those choices. And also, some of us are better at or more inclined to one type of action or the other. It’s all good. And, in my belief, both is better than either (and certainly better than neither).”

Many people feel that making small changes in their habits and lives cannot make a difference. I disagree in at least two ways. First, it’s a numbers game – and numbers do matter. A gallon of water saved by a billion people is, well, a whole lotta water. If one hundred people install a new light bulb…if one million people use one less plastic bag…..and so on. Second, ask yourself just how your actions make a difference in your own life – what does it feel like to live even a little more consciously? Then listen closely.

The answer may surprise you, thrill you and excite you and change your life for the better. And once it does that, I dare you to tone it down, stop hoping or keep quiet. I can’t.

Really Really Free Market

Friday, November 16th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

The Really Really Free Market is a grassroots project organized directly by the people for the people – not as a political statement, but as a “demonstration of the value of sharing”. People come to share and accept goods, services, food, stories and music, creating an event that builds support for what community – and life – is all about. Coming together in a public space, giving what you don’t need and taking what you do, it is a model of a society based on cooperation rather than competition.

“The Really Really Free market is a living example for how to reduce
the excesses of consumerism while at the same time creating a space for
community.” Said Vinci Daro, Really Really Free Market organizer.

After creatively, successfully and peacefully maneuvering its way through town regulations and bureaucratic hurdles by communicating with officials and local businesses, Carrboro Really Really Free Market has become a welcome monthly public event. Their successful endeavor has since encouraged other NC cities to join in.

My first visit to Really Really Free was surprisingly fun and moving. I unloaded a few of my unused items almost directly into the arms of grateful neighbors. There were smiles and thank yous in all directions. Some people were giving haircuts and others were reading stories. There was a line forming for good, hot food. Yet, this was not, and did not feel like, a charity event – everyone was giving and receiving equally – no catch. Afterall, what’s more fulfilling than being able to provide something useful to another person?

For more information about The Really Really Free Markets, visit

Entourage – calls it like they see it

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Minneapolis, MN

HBO is not exactly Discovery Channel – most of the shows display decadent and destructive lifestyles above and beyond the rich and the famous. Still, we watch and they wink. But not without catching an opportunity to – occasionally – tell it like it is. Last season of Entourage included this exchange…

Nick: “Ninety degrees this time of year – can anyone really debate global warming at this point?”

Ari: “You should have thought of that when you took your dad’s G-4 to Jamaica last year.”

Nick: “You Try flying commercial with 12 pounds of ‘cush’. But those days are behind me, Ari.”

Ari: “The polar ice caps are grateful, Nick.”

Change is in the air(waves).

Vanda’s Voice – get a foothold on health

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

“The way we live is destructive to the body; there is no respect towards its needs and demands. We destroy, little by little, that precious, complex, vital vessel of life we received at birth. All religions encourage self-sacrifice, but when we are ill we pray to God to heal us. How inconsistent we are! To be simple, to appreciate what has been given to us, and to take care of our body, is an act of humility.

To die is alright, we all have to die sooner or later, but what we must do is not allow the body to degenerate while living. Do not kill the instinct of the body…do not look at your body like a stranger.

In the beginning you have to make room for yoga in your daily life, and give it the place it deserves. But after some time yoga itself will pull you up by the hair and make you do it…yoga will be accepted by the body when it is done without resistance. By doing yoga in the proper way, we should be able to maintain [the body’s] purity until the end.”

From Awakening the Spine, by Vanda Scaravelli, yoga teacher and author. The book was written when Vanda was near age 80 and still teaching and practicing yoga.

Tea For Two – you and the planet

Monday, November 12th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of Oregon, you can go there to ride a bicycle – or to drink some of the healthiest, happiest, inspiration-driven teas on the planet and for the planet.

Heartsong Herbal Brewing Company was created by Chai Mama Liz and Chai Guy Chad of Ashland, Oregon with a vision of health and sustainability – and a rock-band vibe – at the forefront. Rooted in the values of ecology and community, Heartsong is brewing with creativity and passion and offers the most uniquely healthy teas in the industry – by the mug or by the jug. Their story will lead you from night shift brewing, to festivals and farmer’s markets, to Burning Man, and back to Ashland’s Chai Hut.

Liz and Chad’s vision is to create a business with strong, deep local roots and use it to make healthy, tasty, interesting, idealistic beverages as alternatives to the corporate, sugared-corn-syruped drinks that dominate the market. These original chai blends are filled with 24 vitamins and mineral, 15 amino acids and lots of antioxidants, serving up a body-restoring, stimulant-free invigorator that will put any commercial energy drink to the test.When it comes to the health benefits of Heartsong Chai and Pepper Brews, even green teas pale by comparison. Find Heartsong at these local businesses, or purchase online here.

True to communal priorities, Heartsong doesn’t mind sharing the local spotlight with another Ashland team of tea artisans. Once again, an intention to improve the world united people in friendship and hope, giving birth to the organic yerba mate company, EcoTeas. “My vision for EcoTeas is a small, prosperous tea company that aligns with the planetary effort to build a peaceful and sustainable furture,” says Founder, Stefan Schachler. “Together may be sip our teas in excellent health as we dream up a better world.” The company soon earned the reputation of selling consciously-grown, great-tasting teas at excellent prices. You can buy them in stores throughout the country or order online.

Disclosure: The Change works with Heartsong and is stoked to do so.

Justice, Tranquility and Self-Control

Friday, November 9th, 2007

“It’s justice, not charity, that’s wanting in the Universe.”

“I want Women to have control, not over men, but over themselves.”

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.”

–Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author, 1797 – 1851

Portland Knows Bikes

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Known to some as “Bike City, U.S.A.”, Portland is a mecca for recreational and commuter cyclists, and home to the Nation’s highest percentage of workers who commute by bike (3.5%). Way ahead of it’s time, the city began planning a network of bike lanes in the 1970’s, according to the NY Times. Refueled by the carbon-reducing environmental movement, Portland scores high in green karma and green economy. The growing number of cycling enthusiasts in the area is boosting a growing market of small businesses that are combining both recreation and transportation with a strong sustainability message.

“Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible,” says Sam Adams, a city commissioner in charge of transportation. But what began as only an environmental effort, became an additional economy booster – testament to the fact that what goes around comes around. That’s only part of the good news. Successful small business fosters community and goodwill, allowing room for community outreach and nonprofit advocacy. With encouragement from local government, drivers and riders in Portland mostly share roads – and parking spaces – harmoniously. More plans are underway for additional bike lanes to keep riders out of motor traffic.

The moral of the story? Cities that grow greener may also see growth in community-building attitude and activities, economy-boosting small business, tourism, sustainability, safety and healthy habits, as well as a decrease in pollution and corporate takeovers. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

How to help your town have this much fun? Find your passion. Find your voice. Get involved in local planning, large or small. Find your path and hit the ground running – or, er, riding – !

THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

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