Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years: Message From The Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Inspiring Video By Youths Around the World Proclaims: "Our future will not be written for us but by us".

The Video below was created by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as a post-COP15 response to world leaders about their efforts to address climate change at the recent United Nations conference in Copenhagen.

I couldn't think of a better post to end 2009 with than this. Watch it. Keep the Faith. Keep on working hard and being inpsired by the green awakening that is happening around the world. Here's to the amazing opportunities for change that lie ahead.....

Double click video after it starts to see fullscreen:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Music Video "I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas" by MC Lars

Yo Santa. Let's Be Sustainable Sunstainable Sunstainable Y'All!

by Paul McGinniss

EarthFirst alerted me to a new video by MC Lars which is so much fun it needs to be shared. Kurt Loder at MTV called MC Lars "amusing and intellectual" and I couldn't agree more. Lars' energy is infectious and he treads an entertaining balance between sheer fun and seriousness. The "I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas" song features Jaret Reddick from Bowling For Soup. It's from "The Green Christmas" EP--available at iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody. The video is illustrated and animated by Richard Barham.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays: New Web Site Discovery -

Goodbye 2009: Brainstorm Your Creativity Into 2010!

by Paul McGinniss

When I saw the awe-inspiring picture (below) of an elegant Christmas tree made out of old beer bottles on the Inhabitat web site, I thought immediately: That's a pic for a holiday web post.

The Inhabitat post linked back and led me to which not only discovered the Christmas tree in China, but is a discovery of what clever people around the world dream up to do with "junk". is done by a French company called and depicts an amazing assortment of practical products made out of what would most likely become garbage. To list just a few of the objects: rubber boots made into flowerpots, an oil drum made into a comfortable seat and track lights made from Illy coffee tins. And, just because the products are made from "crap", it doesn't mean they look like it. Some of the goods made from refuse were astonishingly beautiful and beyond the kitsch so often a result of this kind of DIY experimenting.

Christmas tree in Shanghai made with 1000 Heineken beer bottles.

Recyclart states: "The goal of is to bring you good products that are made from re-cycling, re-using, up-cycling,etc. We will not bother you with a lot of text or details, we prefer to give you inspiration through pictures and the link where you can find more information. The goal is to be a kind of portfolio based on ideas in which you can brainstorm your creativity."

Close up Christmas tree in Shanghai made with 1000 Heineken beer bottles.

Brainstorming your creativity hits the nail on the head and is the essence of what is happening on the green front these days.

Be sure to go to the architecture section of Recyclart where you will see an assortment of buildings, small and large, made from discarded objects and materials. The real structures highlighted include: a home made out of an old plane, a railway car church and a building made out of old kitchen sinks. Looking at these homes made me realize how important it is to think out of the box AND how many new concepts, materials and technology will be coming to the green building movement in the next years.

Some of the building structures discovered on Recyclart were in the spirit of renegade, visionary, Earthship architect Michael Reynolds who builds homes made out of used cans and bottles. For example, a magnificent Buddhist temple in Thailand was made out of old beer bottles. I'm not sure if a temple made out of "dead soldiers" makes me want to go out and get a six pack or do some yoga. Probably both, albeit, perhaps it is best to not drink beer and do yoga at the same time.

Monks from the Sisaket province in Thailand used over one million recycled glass bottles to construct their Buddhist temple.

Click on the video below about visionary "bad boy" Michael Reynolds who takes dirt and recycled materials and transforms them into living structures. They don't call him the "Garbage Warrior" for nothing.

Happy Holidays. 2009 has been a really fantastic year. The world is bursting at the seams with inspiring creativity. Let's keep the world brainstorming going. See you next year.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Monday, December 21, 2009


Hey All You James Turrell Art Lovers Out There: You Might Not Be Able to Afford a Turrell Art Commission, But You Might Afford a DIY Light Sculpture with the Help of Duo-Gard's New LUMENATRIX LED BACKLIGHTING

by Paul McGinniss

Picture of James Turrell Light Installation called "Bridgets Bardo" at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany. From the “Wolfsburg Project" Turrell exhibit which continues through April, 2010

I've long been a fan of James Turrell. The guy has created a fantastic shrine to light and space in a volcanic crater in the desert of Arizona--what's not to like about a creative soul like that? Ever since I saw the Turrell skyscape/skyhole installation called "Meeting" on the second floor at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, NY, I have wanted my own Turrell. "Meeting" is an epiphany-inducing, site-specific installation, almost hidden on the second floor of the museum. You discover "Meeting" by opening an unmarked closed door and entering a room lined with a wooden, church-like bench. Above ones head, there is a concave-like hole in the ceiling, which, unexpectedly, naturally pulls your senses upward, revealing a gorgeous patch of sky. The sky, despite being framed, seems infinite. Inside the room, as with much of Turrell's work, time almost stops. His art creates a meeting of man's often-cluttered mind with the power of silent nature--moments and eternity combine.

Computer Picture depicting Lumenatrix LED backed lighting "sculpture" on floor

I've also been a fan of Duo-Gard, the makers of the cool light walls called Illumawall, ever since meeting some of the Duo-Gard reps in Chicago at Green Build 2007. Illumawalls are kind of Turrell like--having the potential to create shifting moods and atmosphere, similar to what Turrell's site-specific light installations and light paintings can do. Albeit, Illumawalls are not so sublime unless you have a super fine artistic sense of how to install them and incorporate them into space and building design. However, the Dan Flavin in me lusted after the soothing Illumawalls of light and I imagined using them to create a glowing New York loft worthy of DIA Beacon.

Photo Dan Flavin installation courtesy

The Duo-Gard web site states: "Lumenatrix makes creating with light more functional, more decorative, more sustainable, more affordable for walls, ceilings, canopies, facades. Control the intensity to suit your space. Lumenatrix systems combine with Duo-Gard’s structural frames and translucent glazings to produce unique illuminating approaches. This structural LED lighting system has the flexibility to combine art, sculpture and performance in your designs. Lumenatrix configures for all types of standard illumination, indirect and backlighting."

Computer Picture depicting use of Lumenatrix LED backed lighting to create a kind of light painting on wall

The idea of making light and space itself into art is the essence of environmentally conscious thinking: the embodiment of sustainable living. How much more natural and low impact a material could light and space be? Clever use of light in exterior and interior design, whether it be daylight, as with using skylights or Solar Tubes, or from man made LEDs, makes one feel in tune with one's surroundings. Similar to how plants get nourishment and grow with light, effective use of light inside and outside buildings and homes somehow feeds us and makes our spirits grow.

Like the way light and space interact inside well designed religious spaces or cathedrals, artistic use of light in homes and offices can make people feel more connected to themselves and their environment. Thoughtful interplay of light and space in design helps make humans feel they are an integral part of the earth and sky, not just intruders on the natural landscape. There's nothing more green than feeling part of nature, as opposed to being cut off from, or worse, dominating nature.

Close up picture of the Lumenatrix grid LED lighting system

The video below shows a glimpse of James Turrell's "Meeting" at P.S.1 in Long Island City, New York. One has to experience "Meeting" first hand to really appreciate how something as simple as framed natural skylight can transport you to the heaven that surrounds us, a heaven often overlooked or lost within our more mundane thoughts.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The New Eco Lifestyle Web Site SHFT Heralds a New Kind of Green. Or Maybe We Should call it Post Green. Or just skip Green altogether.

There's a Paradigm Shift in World Consciousness regarding the Environment going on right now. But, it's so 20th Century to call it a shift. SHFT is so much better, post Y2K. And, yes, this shft towards a more sustainable culture is about being green. But, maybe, our green days have had their day (Don't take this personal Green Day).

by Paul McGinniss

I recently received a party invitation from Entourage star Adrian Grenier, architect and TV host Lauren Gropper, producer Peter Glatzer and Gary Hirshberg, founder of organic yogurt phenomena Stony Field Farm, to attend the launch party for their new web site, SHFT

I distinctly noticed that the SHFT press material, which has the tag line "Curating the Culture of Today's Environment", did not highlight or stress the word green. I thought this most interesting given SHFT was being promoted as a web site about the planet's current environmental awakening.

The look and feel of the beta web site was immediately intriguing. The cover page of the web site was gray actually - and depicted an anonymous gray wall somewhere. Maybe the wall was in Europe, Montreal, Singapore. Could it be New York? It felt foreign and familiar, very understated, like a neighborhood East Village NYC bar without a name or street sign, but a place that everyone seemed to know about any way. This anonymous gray wall almost begged to be tagged by the latest graffiti artist a la Bansky. The bold, graphic colored text SHFT actually seemed like a graffiti tag - calling out with its street-chic misspelled mystique.

Founded by Adrian Grenier and producer Peter Glatzer, with Stonyfield Farm and Lauren Gropper as Founding Partners, SHFT.COM "offers curated shopping, original viral video focusing on art and music, and a host of resources that speak to a modern, eco-conscious lifestyle." I liken it to a marriage of "TreeHugger" and "Dwell" -something that mixes up the medium with the message in a way that is fresh AND opens the door to a new way of proactively celebrating the environment without ominous-peak-oil-the-Arctic-ice-shelf-is-melting-Armageddon-like proselytizing."

Adrian Grenier, sans entourage, talking about SHFT and introducing producer Peter Glatzer.

The coming out party for SHFT took place at the WIRED Pop Up Store in the Meat Packing District of New York City. Despite the fact that the sprawling space was filled with a fairly large group of some of the most connected people in the environmental, media and entertainment world, the "E"vent seemed intimate and anything but "wired." The super-connected yet low-key energy was wi-fi cool - laid back, with a purpose, full of intent with a super mellow bent.

It was easy to wander over and talk to Adrian Grenier as there was no high-octane, rat-pack kind of entourage in sight. When I remarked how cooly subdued the SHFT site was and how much I loved the empty gray wall graphic, Adrian calmly enthused: "We've been moving full steam ahead on a destructive path. We need to downshift. You can't go up a hill in fourth gear." Considering what he said about shifting to a lower gear, I thought to myself, well, there is the Sundance Channel's Lazy Environmentalist, (aka Josh Dorfman, thank you--very much), and now there is Adrian Grenier, the Laid Back Environmentalist. Yes, Adrian and SHFT might be laid back, however we're not talking about tuning in/turning on/dropping out style laid back. We're talking laid back with meaningful finesse as opposed to being so laid back that your mission, good form and design are thrown out the Prius window.

Adrian Grenier, producer Peter Glatzer, architect Lauren Gropper and Pamela Lippe, founder Earth Day NYC.

I asked Adrian how involved he was in the "curating" of the content and the products sold on the SHFT web site. He and his friends who started the site, Adrian answered, all had a similar sensibility and it all seemed to come together organically like it should. Elaborating, he explained how they curated some of the green products sold on SHFT: "We are looking for unique, cool stuff. Not wholesale kinds of things. One of a kind of things. Something you can actually use. Use over and over. Not throw away tomorrow." He stressed that the SHFT style, in addition to having some practicality, must have originality and beauty combined with function: "If it doesn't have a great design, and a beautiful form...."

The SHFT web site states that Adrian and Peter founded SHFT "to build a platform that uses media to curate the myriad sustainable choices now available to us and to highlight the cultural shift taking place. Their philosophy is that living an eco-conscious life shouldn't be devoid of good design or good times; that we are in the midst of a shift towards a more sustainable culture where "environmentalism" will be seamlessly folded into the fabric of our lives."

Some of the SHFT-Y People I SHFT-ED With at the WIRED POP UP STORE

And, speaking of functionality and beautiful form - one of the first people I ran into at the SHFT launch party was Seth Grizzle from Graypants in Seattle. Their elegant, upcycled cardboard lamps called Scrap Lights were hanging in the SHFT team's curated green section of the WIRED store. The Graypants' lamps fully demonstrated what Adrian was telling me about SHFT's focus on products that combine beauty with environmental sensitivity and practicality. Recyled Cardboard is transformed into glowing sculptures, capturing the eco mind-SHFT going on. Originally, I met Seth Grizzle at a party for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at MOMA last Spring. I knew when I met him that he was on the cutting edge of our environmental zeitgeist. Seth was accompanied this evening by Alina Munoz who co-founded Culintro, a Culinary Trade Organization. Alina and I made plans that night to talk further about organizing some restaurant events in NYC involving local farms and chefs.

Graypants' Seth Grizzle and Culintro's Alina Munoz. Standing in front of Graypants' Lamps made out of cardboard.

As the evening progressed, I said hello to Laura Michalchyshyn, President of Planet Green, who I last saw this past February at the Daily Green's Heart of Green Awards ceremony in the Hearst building. Laura introduced me to John Mundy, project manager for the Majora Carter Group, which was serendipitous because a colleague had mentioned just prior to the event that they saw Majora Carter, of Sustainable South Bronx fame, on CNN and I had remarked that I hoped one day to meet her. John spoke with Alina and Seth and me about an urban farming initiative Majora Carter Group is undertaking in Detroit and I will surely be talking with him soon about the Detroit farming initiative. They plan to use it as a model to develop urban farms (and jobs) across the country. Last, but not least, I made the acquaintance of Killy Smith from VEEV, (The Worlds First Acai Berry Spirit), which was one of the event's beverage sponsors. (FYI: VEEV like SHFT is definitely worth trying.)

John Mundy, Project Manager for Majora Carter Group, and Laura Michalchyshyn, President of Planet Green

So is Green Dead? Passe? Fini?

Since the title of my blog is "The New York Green Advocate", it might seem a tad incongruous that I am asking if using the term green is outdated. Am I outdated? Am I just a CFL light rather than LED? DVD never to be Blu Ray? But, seriously, the "is green getting old" question is an issue I have noticed being talked about in the "green camp" for several years now. I think part of it is that some of us eco activists have become slightly bored, realizing we are on to a good thing, but wanting to manifest a new improved version of our eco conscious selves.

Luckily, while at the SHFT shin dig, I ran into Pamela Lippe who founded Earth Day NYC in 1989. Pamela has a long track record of activity in the environmental movement. Few people have as much insight and perspective on the environmental movement over the past three decades as Pamela. I was intrigued to learn from Pamela, in the spirit of reinvigorating the aforementioned eco conscious selves, that Earth Day 2010 in NYC will be called EDAY40, marking the 40th annivesary of the founding of the first Earth Day events. EDAY40 will launch an E campaign "to put a fresh face on and draw new people into the environmental movement." The aim to "promote a new symbol of hope and commitment" and inspire continued E activism in everyday lives echoed the message of the SHFT launch party. All who attended the night's festivities surely seemed in eco sync.

But, does the green movement, in fact, need a new hue? It's not like the U.S. Green Building Council or Greenpeace or Greenorder or Green Globe or one of the many many green groups or companies like Planet Green are going to change their names. Are they? I asked Pamela: "Is the best way to be "green" now to change colors? Is green over, done with, kaput?" Pamela responded with a laugh: "No way ... Green is going mainstream. It is time for green to become standard operating procedure." She made me realize - Green isn't going anywhere. And neither was she!

Killy Smith from VEEV,a beverage sponsor for the SHFT launch.

Just like packaging needs to be re-designed to be more green, maybe it's good the green movement is rebranded to be, well, maybe less "green". But, you know, green isn't going anywhere even if it changes colors. It's not like us greenies have reached a dead end and have to throw the green baby out with the Seventh Generation bathwater. As Gary Hirshberg remarked at the SHFT launch: "We got into this mess (our relations with the planet) through a whole series of unconscious steps. And, that's how we are going to get out of it. We're not on a dead end. We're on a cul de sac."

The whole point is to keep driving. Keep on trucking. That's the whole essence of what SHFT really is - keeping on keeping on. Keep on SHFT-ING. And, keep caring. As Lauren Gropper pointedly clarified regarding the SHFT focus: "At one point we were thinking of the slogan: "Do you give a SHFT?"

Being green is not about the word green. Just like we can't be labeled by the underlying meanings of our birth names. Life is defined by the process of living. The process of being. The process of change. How do we curate our life? What do we fill it with? What do we leave behind? The whole point to the eco zebra we call life is that life has many stripes and can change color. Green was green. Then green became the new black. Then Blue was green. Now gray can be green, if it wants to.

Peter Glatzer and Keleigh Thomas from Sunshine Sachs.

Adrian Grenier, Lauren Gropper, Peter Glatzer and Gary Hirshberg are repositioning our "green" future with SHFT. They call it "Green 2.0". It's smart. It's casually slick, a cultural blend. Think Grace Kelly meets Grace Slick. It has a heart, but it's not too warm and fuzzy. Instead of being like the web site GRIST, aka "A Beacon in the Smog", SHFT is more a solar-powered Lava Lamp with lots of colors that morph in and out of each other. (I do like GRIST as well, none the less.)

Adrian Grenier, Gary Hirshberg, Peter Glatzer and Lauren Gropper, the team behind the SHFT web site

VEEV La eco revolution!

There's a SHFT-load of great stuff on SHFT including videos on the greening of the music industry with the Honey Brothers that you should check out. And, look for the SHFT original animated short called "One Belongs" from Liz Klein. The animation is descibed as "surrealistic animation which beautifully juxtaposes the undersea movement of a jellyfish and a plastic bag, offering some poignant commentary on marine pollution in the process." See, blue is back as the new green. I'll have to call crusader, explorer, legendary oceanographer - lover of our blue planet Sylvia Earle and tell her not to put her scuba gear in the closet just yet!

Check out the Fortune video below where Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg talks about Stonyfield Farm's efforts to reduce its climate footprint.

Text and Photos Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A London Art Show About the Environment Begs the Question: Does Art Really Mean Anything When Saving the World at COP15 Seems to Be All That Matters?

Reading Critiques of COP15, The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen , and looking at the "EARTH: Art of a Changing World" Exhibit in London Makes Me Think International Climate Conferences and Contemporary Art Shows Might Just Have Something In Common

by Paul McGinniss

Mona Hatoum, 'Hot Spot', 2006. Stainless steel and neon tube, 220 x 220 cm. From the show "EARTH: Art of a Changing World" Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art in London. David Roberts Collection, London. Photo Stephen White, courtesy White Cube

With Climate Change and the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference dominating so much of the news lately, I wonder if recent International art shows really matter. There is a real climate revolution going on right now and the ivory tower nature of the art world by and large seems a kind of cop out. Despite clinging to notions of world impacting significance and being a place of serious money, the rarefied world of international art is hardly a place that can take credit for effecting serious change.

For example, the trendy parties, nee celebration of the art dollar, at the recent Art Basel Miami schmooze fest seem incongruent with the implied message coming out of "EARTH: Art of a Changing World" exhibit at London's Royal Academy of Art i.e. that EARTH and ART share some symbiotic relationship in a Climate Changing World. Art Basel Miami, like much of the art world, seems farcical, if compared to the serious issues being addressed at COP15. This seems especially so when considering that in 50 years much of Florida could be flooded from rising sea levels. I hope the jet set collectors with Miami addresses are building vanity museums that float so their valuable holdings can be moved when the time comes. This would be a perfect way for the art to get to the Venice Biennale as Venice is already under water a good bit of the time. In 2050, I envision Art Basel Miami performance art videos projected through the LED sided hulls of art museum ships that float through Miami on the way to Venice. A new version of Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes The Flood" will be in order.

But, just as I was thinking art world fakery and real world issues don't have a thing in common, The Contrivance in Copenhagen by Breakthrough Institute's Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus appears in my Inbox. This thought-provoking commentary by the founders of Breakthrough Institute and authors of the controversial polemic "The Death Of Environmentalism" said about COP15: "From the opening ceremony's video of a little girl running from a global warming earthquake to the promises of emissions reductions, everything taking place in Copenhagen is contrived."

The authors expounded, Jacques Derrida-like (ahem--French literary theorist and philosopher), about the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen: "Everyone Pretends It's Real" and that "Copenhagen is pure simulacrum"

Simulacrum? I could have sworn they were talking about the art world.

Stills From four-minute film called "Please Help the World," produced for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark to show at the opening ceremonies of COP15. It's like the art world and environmental world were "separated at birth" and now almost seem like surreal conceptual twins.

Indeed, the COP15 film looks like something one could "consider" at the New Museum of Contemporary Art or "discover" conceptualized at a high end gallery in Chelsea, New York. Shellenberger and Nordhaus conclude that the Copenhagen Climate Change summit's "final result is a conference that is desperately fake from beginning to end." Hello Whitney Biennial. The Contrivance in Copenhagen essay elaborates: "There is no better symbol of the phoniness, the manic self-referentiality, and the desperation of global warming politics today than the one created and projected by United Nations diplomats upon the screen: a scared little girl with a video camera." Phoniness and manic self referentiality? I am transported to MOMA's PS1 cutting edge Queens outpost again.

The essence of "Contrivance in Copenhagen" is that environmental efforts have been ineffective across the board. The authors argue that politicians aren't creating significant change and that the masses aren't even really concerned or demanding it. The essay's message is clear. The impact of environmental activism on Climate change is producing negative results. "Greens have not only failed to achieve action, they have made the situation worse, alienating the public even more than they had alienated them before..."

Picture From "Okay Mountain Corner Store" which was a fake store created in Miami for the Pulse Art Fair during Art Basel Miami. The store sold made up products and was created by an art collective in Austin Texas called Okay Mountain. Photo Courtesy Okay Mountain collective. .

When it comes to alienation, the singular worlds of environmental politics and art have something in common. Both, in the end, are distanced from the masses. Since green activists and artists seem to know how to alienate the public so successfully, maybe it's time for them to join forces. It might be a way for these two groups, both out of touch with the populations they say they serve, to accomplish more than they have managed to achieve separately.

What would Andy Warhol do if he were alive today? Would he substitute Liz Taylor for a Polar Bear? Would Andy Warhol even care unless he could sell limited edition RECS - silk screened Renewable Energy Certificates at a new Sotheby's Climate Art Division? On the other hand, Politicians in these "end of days days" should take a break from pretending they are not pretending as they pander to special interest groups. Perhaps, like artists, they should embrace the emperor that has no clothes. Politicians from Denmark to Detroit should use more art, even if it is just the art of diplomacy and politics, to make change.

Mariele Neudecker, '400 Thousand Generations', 2009. Steel, fiberglass, water, salt GAC100. 153 x 113 x 55 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Barbara Thumm. © the artist. Photo courtesy the artist. From the show "EARTH: Art of a Changing World" Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art in London

Not to end on a negative note, let me say that I think the exhibit "Earth: Art of a Changing World" is proactive despite the lack of hammer and sickle hitting us over the head--Lenin style. Perhaps, I am too negative about the art world's purpose and potential societal impact. (I am sure I would have had a blast at Art Basel Miami) Inhabitat had a great post about some cool art exhbits going on in and around COP15 and it made me want to revisit some old art world haunts.

At the same time, I might need to stop being so positive about the green movement and talk more objectively about its flaws and drawbacks. Lately, I've felt too much like a teenage eco cheerleader with no one in the audience except other green rah-rah-ites who look and sound just like me. We can't forget that saving the world is not the immediate concern for most people. Little things such as paying the rent or the next doctor's appointment take precedence in most lives. And, maybe, essays like "The Contrivance of Copenhagen" are too negative and somewhat of a cop out in and of itself. The events in Copenhagen might have been, to a large extent, pre-negotiated and pre-ordained, but I have a hard time embracing the authors' strict analysis that the entire event was just pretend. At least the political world is engaged in, hopefully, constructive talk about the environment and using conferences like COP15 as a stepping off point to advance towards the next level of necessary, universal change.

Maybe next year's UN Climate Change conference should merge with an international art fest somewhere. If Venice and Miami are going to flood, we should talk about Climate hand in hand with the Culture we purport to want to save and vice versa. An art world climate conference can be a kind of better dressed "Burning Man." But, instead of escaping to the desert a la "Burning Man" to create a temporary fantasy world, artists and politicians alike can convene around the naked emperor called Truth in a large trade center in some pleasant city somewhere. There they can try to figure out how to design a green world execrcise plan so our king of kings can put on a running suit, like the rest of us, and go out and kick the world's ass into better shape than its ever been in before.

Watch the short video below for an entertaining explanation of the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. Music is by Nouvelle Vague. Video by pseudonymproductions.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Planet Earth is Blue and There Is Something We All Can Do To Keep it That Way

Green Drinks NYC To End 8th Year With Oceanic Bash Featuring Famed Ocean Explorer Sylvia Earle

There's A Lot of Talk About Too Much CO2 in the Atmosphere, But It May Be The Oceans We Really Need to Worry About

by Paul McGinniss

David Bowie sang in his famous 1969 song, "Space Oddity", "For Here, Am I sitting in a tin can, far above the world, Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do." I think Oceanographer, Explorer, Adventurer, Environmentalist, Author Sylvia Earle would disagree with the idea that there is nothing one can do when it comes to proactively dealing with Planet Earth. Sixteen years prior to man landing on the Moon and Major Tom's misadventure, Sylvia donned a wet suit and decided to jump feet first into the vast unexplored ocean and go where no man or woman had ever gone before. To her, the earth itself was as unexplored as outer space. A one woman NASA for the sea, she helped launch the whole idea of modern oceanography. For over five decades her actions say loud and clear: "The planet earth is blue and I am going to make sure it stays that way!" We all need to join her in that quest.

Earle's new book, "The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One", is being called the "Silent Spring" of Our Era. In the book, she articulates, through personal experiences and scientific documentation, how the decline of the oceans is happening parallel-to-and-delicately-intertwined-with the fate of the atmosphere and what is happening on land.

Cover of new book published by Random House Fall 2009 by Sylvia Earle

I had the opportunity to speak with Sylvia prior to her planned travel to New York to be the honored guest at OUR OCEANS, the December 8th, 2009 Green Drinks NYC Holiday event.

Sylvia is also scheduled to speak the prior
Monday, Dec 7th, at the Explorers Club's second annual Oceans Forum in Manhattan. (Look for my future web posts about both of these events.)

Sylvia Earle did seem larger than life to me while preparing to speak with her for the first time. I imagined an Indiana Jones-esque type character, fearless and mythical--almost too amazing and colorful a story to believe is more than a fantastic Hollywood invention. (Are you listening Jodie Foster?) I mean, it's near impossible to not be at least a tad bedazzled by Sylvia Earle. Among other accomplishments, she is a National Geographic Explorer in residence, a woman who led a five year sea voyage and participated in almost 75 other expeditions, logged more than 6500 hours underwater, lectured in 70 countries and authored more than 170 publications. She won a TED Prize, has been scuba diving for over half a century, walked the ocean floor some 1,250 ft. below the surface, and utilized 30 different types of submarines. She was named “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker and the New York Times, a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and Time Magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet.”

1970 Picture of Sylvia Earle (in wet suit). From the book "Exploring the Deep Frontier" by Sylvia Earle & Al Giddings

Sylvia Earle's life story is one of adventure and determination, - the Amelia Earhart of the Seas. Except, luckily, this explorer has not gotten lost. In fact, her recent, increased visibility is making a major difference in how the general public and world leaders view the oceans. For just one example of her influence: Sylvia Earle is a key reason why Google Earth developed Google Oceans - a phenomenal learning tool that is going to help protect and maintain the ocean's health.

Sylvia reflected on how Google Oceans came about: "It really began as a chance encounter at a meeting in Spain with John Hanke who helped start something called Keyhole which was a predecessor to Google Earth. He is now leader of Google Earth...I did not know John really well but...I looked him straight in the eye and said - I love Google Earth but I hope one day you'll finish it!" Sylvia went on to explain how she encouraged Hanke to jump into the ocean with her: "All of the ocean out there is just a big blob of blue. You should call Google Earth, Google Dirt. You've done such a good job with the land, but the ocean is missing." Sylvia, with obvious admiration for Hanke and Google, noted, with great relief, that "John Hanke could have been offended and never spoken with me again, but instead he sought me out afterward and he said: you know, you're right. We need to do something."

In February 2009, Sylvia Earle was on hand with the likes of Jimmy Buffet for the launch of Google Earth 5.0 which includes new sections on the ocean that are narrated by Earle.

There's definitely an activist streak to Sylvia Earle. I suppose, if you are willing to battle the vast, tempestuous sea for fifty years, we shouldn't be surprised that she is not afraid to jump into the turbulent, sometimes-unforgiving, political waters of Washington DC to promote her cause. She was, after all, former Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under President George W. Bush. She currently has her sails set on attracting more Federal funding and backing for increased sea conservation and research. Many people do not realize it, but the unprecedented Marine Sanctuary that President Bush established in the Pacific Ocean was due in large part to a personal encounter that Sylvia Earle had with our Forty Third President. After the 2006 screening of a Jean- Michel Cousteau film at the White House, Sylvia sat at the President's dinner table with the Chief Executive and a half dozen other people. Soon thereafter, in mid-2006, President Bush decreed 140,000 square miles of ocean in Northwest Hawaii as a marine sanctuary. At the end of his second term in 2008, President Bush designated almost 200,000 additional square miles of the Pacific Ocean as a national monument. This historic marine conservation is the largest protected area of ocean ever established.

Over a 90 minute dinner, Syliva helped President George W. Bush see the necessity to take decisive action to protect the oceans. I hope Sylvia Earle and her colleagues have the opportunity to have dinner soon with President Obama to lay out an International health plan for our oceans. (President Obama are you listening?)

A NOAA archaeologist uses a towboard to search for shipwrecks in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

From Washington DC to around the world, Earle is calling for the world's political and business leaders to unite and protect these oceans which connect us all together. Compared to the magnitude of the ocean, the amount of sea that is protected is infinitesimally small. To advance this conservation effort, Sylvia started a foundation, Deep Search, in 2008. Today, it now works with international organizations in over 100 different countries to advance technology of the sea and identify and protect critical areas in the ocean. Sylvia said: "These groups work with the governments and we have to work with them to bring into place the policies needed. We also need to get people everywhere to be aware of issues and insist that their governments take action, while there is still time."

Towards the end of my conversation with Sylvia, I brought up the enormous amount of money being directed towards renewable energy. For example, the U.S. Department Of Energy has seen its budget double in the past few years to over $50 billion. Though we have seen a recent increase in funding and attention being paid to the health of the air and land, Sylvia believes the efforts in research and protection of the seas are too modest especially given the fact that we are talking about the world's largest producer of Oxygen and absorber of more CO2 than all of the world's forests combined. Sylvia, regarding efforts to combat climate change and global warming on land and in the air, said: "It needs to be paralleled with the urgent need to protect the engine, the blue that holds the planet steady."


Before I knew it, Sylvia and I had been talking with ease for sixty minutes. Knowing how busy she is, I knew I needed to let her go. She would be flying to New York City in a few days and I was looking forward to seeing her at the Explorers Club and the Green Drinks NYC event. Given the demands on her time, I asked Sylvia: "Do you ever get green fatigue?" She paused ever so briefly and replied: "I've lived long enough to see many people and places that I love disappear. That, and I value life fiercely. So, it's a gift just to wake up and know that I'm alive. That I have another day to do something. So - green fatigue - is a thought I have not imagined."

I rarely watch long videos on the web. Yet, I watched the entire 20 minute talk given by Sylvia Earle at the TED Conference in 2009. It's one of those captivating moments where you realize you have the rare privilege of listening to someone of incredible, historical consequence. Check it out below.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss

Spotlight on Green Drinks NYC Founder Margaret Lydecker

Green Drinks NYC Founder, Margaret Lydecker, Inspired by Those That Came Before Her

by Paul McGinniss

2009 Photo of Margaret Lydecker, Founder of Green Drinks NYC, with Edwin Datschefski, founder of the world's very first Green Drinks Chapter (London). There are now over 650 Green Drinks Chapters worldwide..

by Paul McGinniss

Riding high on the waves of yet another incredible, event-filled year, Margaret Lydecker, founder of Green Drinks NYC, is ready to take on 2010 with the same energy and enthusiasm with which she is ending 2009. Like famed oceanographer/explorer Sylvia Earle, the honored guest at the Green Drinks NYC 2009 Holiday event entitled "Our Oceans", it doesn't look like Margaret is having green fatigue either.

"I've followed Sylvia Earle for years", Lydecker enthused with excited admiration when I spoke with her recently as she was putting the final plan together for the "Our Oceans" event. Margaret proclaimed: "She is one of my top 5 environmental heroes. I call her my SHEro."

Margaret founded Green Drinks NYC almost a decade ago and since then she has become an unofficial ambassador for Green Drinks around the world. She has advised others who want to start chapters in Cities and Towns in both the U.S. and on other continents. In the past year's globe-trotting, she has attended Green Drinks from Seattle to Beijing to Amsterdam. One of her favorite moments abroad this year was the opportunity to share a drink with Edwin Datschefski who started the world's first Green Drinks in London, England in 1989.

I had the chance to speak further with Margaret about Sylvia Earle's participation in the special programming planned for "Our Oceans". Margaret believes Sylvia's multi-media presentation will inspire others as she has been inspired by Syliva to be active and engaged. Margaret told me she wants to be even more of an activist for environmental issues as time moves forward. This was eye opening for me to hear for Margaret has long been involved with promoting environmental issues. She can hardly be considered a couch potato when it comes to environmental activism. Margaret continued, reflecting on 2009: "This year I've gotten more concerned with the state of the planet. The role of Green Drinks for me is changing, could change. I'm changing. Leaning toward advocacy and being more political. Engagement, more physical engagement has to happen."

Margaret Lydecker, Founder of Green Drinks NYC, at the First Ever Green Drinks USA Summit in Seattle, Washington, Fall of 2009

Since the Green Drinks Holiday event in 2008, Margaret began to focus Green Drinks events by championing one topic at each event. Her goal is to bring to New York leaders in different fields, like Sylvia Earle, to give real life testimony and connection to what is happening with the environment around the world. Last years 2008 Green Drinks NYC Holiday event was called "Island to Island". New Yorkers heard first–hand accounts from representatives of Palau and Tonga about how climate change is already seriously affecting their island nations. They warned how rising sea levels resulting from global warming will soon effect many other coastal areas including New York City. Margaret emphasized: "People are already being relocated. There's really not enough attention about this. That these nations are now affected -it's not something in the future. It's something happening now." She continued: "I have such admiration for environmental groups like Greenpeace, because they are out on the front lines saying NO you can't have that whale. Someone needs to stick up for the environment for the benefit of everyone."

Image of U.S. Green Drinks Chapter Founders in Seattle for the First Ever USA Green Drinks Summit.

In this activist vein, the beginning of "OUR OCEANS" is set aside for a talk and video presentation by Sylvia Earle and presentations by other guests including Carl Safina, President of Blue Ocean Institute. The event will also benefit Citizens Campaign for the Environment which is involved in protecting sea areas on the East Coast of the USA. With guidance from Sylvia and groups like The National Resource Defense Council, Green Drinks NYC identified this local non-profit to benefit. So, not only will attendees be enlightened by Sylvia Earle, but our region's local waterways can possibly benefit from their participation in the event. Margaret explained: "Sylvia Earle will talk about the big picture. She will mention hope spots in the sea she wants to create - areas of protected environment in the oceans. Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which is also part of our "OUR OCEANS" event next week, is looking at beautiful areas on the east coast - sea canyons that need protecting, that can also become hope spots."

We will surely be hearing a lot more from Green Drinks NYC in 2010. This is one New Yorker who is looking forward to more events that are not only fun and socially engaging, but also highlight subjects of real consequence and feature leaders in the environmental movement.

For information about next week's Holiday party, "OUR OCEANS", featuring Sylvia Earle please click on this link to Green Drinks NYC.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss