March 31, 2014

Climate Change “Stories”

To better educate and engage the public, environmental organizations like Climate Wisconsin, Facing Climate Change, and Aspect have begun recording digital climate change “stories” as told by local residents. The goal for filmmakers is to create a relatable, contextualized narrative around climate change that will encourage dialogue and inspire action.

Though WI is know for its brutal winters, extreme heat is responsible for more deaths in the state than all other weather disasters combined.

In Wisconsin, higher than average temperatures year-round are curtailing ice fishing in Madison, and fly fishing in Viroqua. Across the Atlantic in Cornwall, England, surfing enthusiasts complain that they are now more prone to ear and other infections as heavy rainfall regularly overwhelms waste drainage systems causing toxins and sewage to spill into the sea.

Local industry is also feeling the sting of climate change. In Idaho, declining mountain top snow pack is resulting in a reduced stream of fresh water feeding the Columbia River Basin, which has caused the closure of several potato farms that rely on the river to irrigate their crop.  In Washington State, oyster and clam farming is quickly becoming unviable due to the rising acidity of the ocean off the Pacific Northwest coast.

From the inability to take part in recreational activities to threatening local economies, it is clear that the effects of climate change are becoming palpable. What’s your climate story?

Check out these awesome projects:

Climate Wisconsin: Stories From a State of Change

Facing Climate Change: Stories from the Pacific Northwest

Aspect (UK)



February 8, 2012

Sticking up for natural history

The Natural History Network is “a group of educators, researchers, and writers who are passionate about the importance of natural history and natural history education in the development of healthy people, vibrant human communities, and integrated learning institutions.”  Its mission:  “to promote the value of natural history by discussing and disseminating ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large.”

They recorded a bunch of members speaking to why studying natural history is so important.  University of Washington professor Julia Parrish talks about how environmental science is considered a “soft science”, for example, but how she believes natural history is just as if not more important than calculus, and why.  And Government advisor Gary Machlis talking about  how science is civics. And Gary Paul Nabhan (pictured above) talks about how understanding and engaging with natural history is an act of creativity.

And there are lots more.  It’s called “Conversations” and it’s a great listen.  Especially invigorating for teachers and artists who want to engage with science. Like me.

Fascinating, passionate, and a real shot in the arm.




October 26, 2011

Kelly Poe: Environmental Photos for Incarcerated ‘Eco-Terrorists’

Next up in our Skype Video Series is Kelly Poe, an environmentalist and photographer. For one of her recent projects, incarcerated ‘eco-terrorists’ wrote her letters about landscapes that they missed, and she would go and take photographs of them. She has some fascinating things to say about the environmental crisis and how we can be active about protecting our natural environment, plus she talks about how environmental topics link to other issues like the prison system, activism, celebrity influence, and landscape photography.

Kelly Poe is a Los Angeles-based artist. She has exhibited her photographs around the world, in New York, Ghent, Athens, and Guadalajara, and here in Los Angeles. Writing on Poe’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and Contemporary. She earned her MFA at CalArts in 2002 and her BFA at Otis in 2000.





Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!

September 21, 2011

Living by the Girl Scout Law

When Rhiannon Tomtishen (left) and Madison “Madi” Vorva (right) became Girl Scouts, they learned that part of Girl Scout Law is doing your best to make the world a better place.  They took it seriously.  So seriously they’ve been engaged in a four-year campaign to get Girl Scouts’ famous cookies to stop using palm oil as an ingredient.

Rhiannon and Madi found out about the palm oil in Girl Scout cookies after studying orangutans as part of a project to earn their Girl Scout Bronze Award.  They found out palm oil plantations are built by destroying rainforests where orangutans live. So they started a crusade to and partnered with and Rainforest Action Network to spread the word.

Girl Scouts of the USA really messed up at first.  They wouldn’t reply and even erased comments about palm oil from their Facebook page, so then of course all these news organizations found out and did articles about the censorship.

But Rhiannon’s and Madi’s hard work finally paid off this spring, when Rhiannon and Madison met with leaders at Girl Scouts HQ in May of 2011 – and Girl Scouts vowed to look into more responsible sourcing for its palm oil.  (Girl Scouts also got a new CEO.  Coincidence?  I think not…)

Tons of companies use palm oil. 1 out of every 10 products in a supermarket contain it. It’s a huge problem. You can sign Rhiannon’s and Madi’s petition or ask another company to do the right thing and stop using palm oil.  I did.  These girls are so awesome.  I feel like we’re friends.

September 21, 2011

Thinking big to think ahead

In Churchill, I see a lot of change going on.  Climate change changes the economy, and vice versa.  The world is getting hotter, even up here, it’s plenty cold but the difference is real.

I watch all the loading and unloading of ships, and I think about all the ports south of us, the ones that never see the change like we see it up here, though they will eventually.  It’s like if it’s not in their face, they won’t ever deal with the reality until it’s way too late.  So I always like to hear about somebody thinking ahead, and thinking big. 

There’s a guy name of Auden Schendler I heard about.  He started out as a nature, environment guy and now he works for a ski company doing sustainability stuff.  Now, I never been skiing, and I don’t plan on going. I have enough snow in my life.  I can’t understand why there are places like ski resorts where they actually manufacture snow.  Maybe I should appreciate it while it’s still around.

He’s in Aspen, Colorado down in the States and he’s trying to make the ski place better for the environment through retrofits, renewable energy, making things more efficient.  He says you either go big or go home, ‘cause doing little things to be greener are great but, only big things really matter, and it’s up to businesses and lawmakers to do what’s really important.  Wrote a book called GETTING GREEN DONE. 


He says companies gotta stop pretending they’re doing a great job if they’re blowing it with carbon emissions, also known as greenhouse gases. For instance, he says WalMart spent half a billion dollars a year on “green programs” in ’09, and carbon emissions still went up 8.6%.  You can imagine how much that is, a huge company like that.  Or can you even? 

His other thing is, business people need to factor the real cost of things into their price. Like, you can burn a pound of coal to make a dishwasher run for one cycle, and that power right now costs about eight cents.  But that doesn’t count the cost of the pollution from burning the coal, or the global warming impact on the economy, or the cost of the increased mercury in his son’s body from burning the coal. Or, say an American burns a gallon of gas to go to the market.  Right now they’re not paying for the cost of our military expenses in the gulf, or for the climate impacts of that gas on the GDP. 

Anyway, I like this guy, he tells it like it is.  Makes you think about how things are connected.  He’s kinda all or nothing, but still he’s pretty decent. 

One thing never changes, up here though:  watch out for bears.

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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
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