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Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Even bin Laden believes in global climate change

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

It would be so convenient – a real relief – if I were to simply tell myself that global climate change is not happening, or, at least, that humans are not the cause and we can’t do anything to change it. Then I’d be off the hook and worry a lot less. That would work for me. But, it wouldn’t be the truth.

This is all I can think of to say to the people who insist on denying what is happening to our environment and the role our industrialized lifestyles play in it (George Marshall explores that topic here.) Then again, I could always point out that even Osama Bin Laden believes in the impact of global warming. This from, via Agence France-Presse:

“All industrial nations, mainly the big ones, are responsible for the crisis of global warming,” bin Laden said in the message attributed to him by the pan-Arab news channel based in Doha.

In an unusual message possibly timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, he warned of the impact of global warming by saying that “discussing climate change is not an intellectual luxury, but a reality.”

I know – the irony of it all. Especially considering bin Laden’s fortune comes from oil, and, well, terrorists are not usually members of GreenPeace. I’m not trying to bolster his image in any way, but, just sayin’…

It would be so simple to just decide that we don’t need to make changes – big ones. But, as it turns out, denial is built in to our human nature, as described, in part, below. Pay extra attention when you reach the last two lines…..

In 2001, George Marshall wrote a great story about this state of mind. Here’s an exerpt: In, States of Denial, Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering, author Stanley Cohen argues that this capacity to deny a level of awareness is the normal state of affairs for people in an information-saturated society… According to Cohen’s definition, denial involves a fundamental paradox – that in order to deny something it is necessary at some level to recognise its existence and its moral implications. It is, he says, a state of simultaneous ‘knowing and not-knowing’.   Read more here.

The Power of Half

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

When I heard a friend on Facebook today, say, “I’m excited about what the future may hold”, I immediately thought of the recently reported story of Hannah Salwen and her family.

The short version: In 2006, Hannah was 14yo, living in a 6,500sq ft mansion in Atlanta with her parents and brother. As a young girl, she was already interested in helping people and doing volunteer work for the homeless, but one day Hannah proclaimed that her family could do more – way more. In fact, why not sell the house, move into a smaller one, and give half the proceeds to charity? As it turned out, they did.

I was slightly skeptical upon stumbling this story. I mean, really, many multi-millionaires love to give away tons of money for tax breaks, while not denting their net worth or lifestyle significantly. And moving from a mansion to a home half the size, was still a darn big house. But then I did some research and discovered the longer version:

Upon agreeing to this plan, the family decided to leave no stones unturned. They met each week to watch videos, discuss ideas, research helping organizations, and basically, learn as much as they could about the world’s problems. As they narrowed things down to their biggest areas of concern and interest: water, homelessness and poverty, they also learned more about each other and became more bonded as a family.

They documented the project in a newly released book, The Power of Half. Aware of initial skepticism, they wanted to share their reasons for writing the book, which they do so eloquently on their website by describing how they wanted to share their experience and methods with others, introduce us to the amazing people they met along the way, share the new closeness they have found through less space and less stuff, and create a roadmap for others to pursue their own Half projects.

Realizing that most of us have less of a financial Half to give, Hannah points out that we all have our own kind of abundance or “time, talent or treasure.”  “Everyone has their own Half, you just have to find it.”

I’ve moved quickly past my first glance and am inspired and hopeful at the thought of the coming Aquarian age and ‘what the future may hold’ as we join this family in giving more and taking less.

Stop and Listen to The Music? – Not now, I’m busy…

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

In January of 2007, a young man in a baseball cap and sweatshirt was playing Bach pieces on his violin in the DC Metro Station. After 45 minutes had passed and about 2000 people had gone through, only about 6 people had paused to watch. A few dropped money, but didn’t stop. Several children tried to stop, but in every case, the parent hurried them along, depsite their heads being turned back watching.

This was actually an experiment, organized by the Washington Post, on “social perception, taste and people’s priorities”. The man was Joshua Bell, one of the best musician’s in the world, playing some of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin that was worth 3.5 million dollars.


The big and formal question goes something like this: Do we recognize talent, or perceive and appreciate beauty in an unexpected context? Obviously, in this case, not. This could be simply human nature and not indicative of our appreciation of beauty. Still, it makes you wonder….

Are many other questions we should and could ask ourselves regarding this event. You may be asking them right now….am I too busy, too self-absorbed, too distracted?

Very recently, on a w/e trip to Chicago, I stopped, watched, listened, danced and gave money – to a man with a beautiful singing voice and a boom box in the corridor from the airport to the L Line. It made me smile and stayed with me all day. Of course, it was a Saturday and I was not in a hurry….but, if I was, would I have stopped? I think so, but……?

Are we missing beauty and it’s effect on us in our hurried lives? Something to think about.

HAND-Y-JOB – the future of work

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Want to work with your hands? Be an entrepreneur? You’re not alone, although many people will initially fall into the category of ‘have to’ rather than ‘want to’. This isn’t all bad. I’ve talked to friends who have been laid off, and after the initial shock has worn off, admit that they are finding freedom and satisfaction in the choices they face. It’s not all golden – one friend moved in with his brother to make ends meet, but subsequently went back to school to prepare for a new career that he’s excited about and has already found part-time work to get him through the process.

Others are leaving (or being forced to leave) corporate positions to work with their hands. Lisa Maris Grillos founded Hambone Designs with her brother, Hernan Barangan, and began designing and making bicycle bags which they sell online through  John left a lucrative finance career to establish a business restoring and refinishing flooring and says he enjoys the feeling of completing a hands-on project. A laid-off teacher and her pregnant daughter decided to start a cookie-making business.

There is a collective soul-searching and/or disillusionment with corporate America as we begin to question the value of how we spend our days at the office. With the help of the internet, starting a business is getting easier and less expensive with online services like Starting/owning a business is never a bed of roses, but I think there’s something to the fact that it challenges our abilities, confidence and identity. According to this NY Times article, research shows that we tend to find and have more resilience in adversity – a kind of call to arms – and mentions the publication of : Reset: How this crisis can restore our values and renew America.

There’s also a strong case for the value – soulwise and otherwise – of working with your hands. After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy and finding the academic job market bleak, Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, spent the winter rebuilding and old Honda motorcycle, saying, “The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.”

This resonates with me, for despite the fact that my work has been mostly physical, I have constantly sought outlets for creating like drawing, painting and sewing. Others make projects of their homes or yards. The author quotes one of his high school shop teachers who says, “Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”

Of course, we can channel this energetic soul-searching to sustainable ends in our everyday lives and work.

That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.

Prayer Flags across cultures

Monday, July 27th, 2009

When I was in VT, I noticed an abundance of prayer flags. They were in both urban and rural areas, strung across houses, trees and barns. I heard there are also strung across the waterfront in Burlington – quite a distance from where I saw them in Brattleboro. Some I came upon were still brightly colored, others were faded and tattered. I wondered if this was a Buddhist message or perhaps the new VT state flag?! Ok, I knew the latter was unlikely, but I was curious enough to do some research.

Wikipedia says: “A prayer flag is a colorful panel or rectangular cloth often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside or for other purposes. Unknown in other branches of Buddhism, prayer flags are believed to…predate Buddhism in Tibet.”

There are two kinds of traditional flags, one translates as Wind Horse – an aspect of the divine -  thought to carry blessings depicted by the images and mantras on the flag to all beings and that the air is purified and santified as it passes over the flags.Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags blowing in the wind are believed to spread the good will and compassion to all.

The colors of the flag represent the Five Elements of Sky/Space, Air/Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth. In Tibetan belief, the 5 Elements promote Health and Harmony to both people and nature. I think of this, now each time I look at the prayer flags that I brought home with me.

Ah-ha. It all comes back to the union of Nature and ourselves. And when we can look to and care for all our Elements, we will have the freedom to find the path to our true selves.

ps. I looked up the VT State Motto, which is, “Freedom and Unity”

Listen to Woody – Don’t Be a Dickhead

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of Woody Harrelson…celebrity or not, this guy is green inside and out. He’s stepped back from his Hollywood career and life to find a more “right livelihood” and he’s not shy about spreading the news of what he’s learned and experienced. If you don’t yet know Woody, here’s a good place to start.

He lives in a sustainably-minded community on the island of Maui, where they get all of their energy from the sun and grow much of their own food. He believes in particpation in the global community. He co-founded a website with his wife (and involving 5 other committed people) called, “VOICE YOURSELF” where they hope to “promote and inspire individual action to create global momentum towards simple organic living and to restore balance and harmony to our planet.” For years, or perhaps decades, he has been involved in many green initiatives besides his recent venture with Alanis Morrisette.

In fact, I stumbled upon (as an ’employee pick’ at our local video store) this socio-political documentary, “GO FURTHER”, filmed by Ron Mann. Made in 2001, it is probably even more important to watch today, as Woody and a group of friends set out on a bicylce tour (deemed the SOL – Simple Organic Living – Tour) of the West Coast, followed by a bus fueled with hemp seed oil.Their mission? To raise awareness about sustainable living and a wide range of topics, such as organic food, alternative energy and political activism. The travelers included a yoga-teacher, a hemp-activist, a junk-food addict, a raw food chef and a college student who was persuaded to join them. A lot happens along the way – this film will draw you in both mentally and emotionally.

Woody believes we have time to clean up our lives and the planet if we can simply, “Stop Being Dickheads.” I’m willing if you are. Watch this film, visit the site. Be inspired.

Consuming Kids – the documentary

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

by Tao

According to an article from the Valley Advocate, published in March 2009, “America is in the midst of a baby boom; federal statistics released last week report there were more than 4.3 million babies born in the U.S. in 2007, more than the number born at the peak of the post-World War II boom. And, according to the recently released documentary, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, the child-marketers are ready and waiting.

Consuming Kids is one of the best films I have seen in years that explores the various ways in which the identities, values, and future of young people are held hostage to a world shaped by the poisonous culture of consumption and commodification. Every school should buy this film and learn from it. And every parent, educator, and concerned citizen should watch this film if they believe kids deserve a more just world and future.”
– Henry Giroux | Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University | Author of Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

The sections of the film cover a lot of ground, including, “The Floodgates Open | By Any Means Necessary | Under the Microscope | Brand New World | Cradle to Grave | Rewiring Childhood | Our Future”. I haven’t yet seen it, but it sounds like a message long over-due. Take a walk into Babies/Toys/kids R-Us and look around and you won’t need much more proof.

I could (and I have) touted the merits of green goods for kids, but consuming green goods is still consuming and it’s not enough to save our earth or our children’s perceptions and mental health.The critical step in cultural and social change is to reboot the brainwashing process that has convinced us of what we “need” both as adults and as adults consuming in the name of our children. This film is a good start and is hopefully making its way through all libraries, schools, educators and non-profits as we speak.

Written and directed by Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp, watch a preview and learn more here.

World Naked Bike Ride – nature friendly transportation

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Perhaps, in the end, we are not what we wear. After all, what is more freeing than being naked? Probably being naked on a bicycle. I don’t know because I haven’t tried it – YET. But this sure makes it look tempting. And I can’t think of a better way to peacefully and positively express our support of a nature-friendly mode of transportation.

“A peaceful, imaginative and fun protest against oil dependency and car culture. A celebration of the bicycle and also a celebration of the power and individuality of the human body. A symbol of the vulnerability of the cyclist in traffic. The world’s biggest naked protest: 50+ cities and thousands of riders participate worldwide, including around 2,000 in the UK in 2008.” This year’s rides will take place between June 12 – 14th. Visit for more info. – and photos!

I was looking at this with a friend yesterday and we were wondering just how many people we could get to join us on a naked ride through Carrboro…we decided that if there were at least 25 people, we could find the verve to take it all off …..then I read the part on the web site where it said this year’s event in the UK expected thousands of riders. THOUSANDS!?!?

Let’s get the U.S. up to speed and get naked. Start organizing in your town. I’m going to!


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