Thursday, June 10, 2010

Latinos, Technology, and Environment; Digital Capital Week Climate Justice Panel

(Washington, D.C.) -  As intergovernmental negotiators in Bonn are yet again, finding it impossible to reach a mutual agreement on Climate Change, digital savvy Latino-environmentalists are using technological innovation within and across borders to unite new and legacy media through organizing for climate justice.  Join us for our panel during Digital Capital Week in Washington, D.C., on June 13th from 3 to 5pm, hosted at the Energy Action Coalition to find out more.  The panel 'Latinos, Technology and the Environment,' examines the opportunity presented by the digital sphere as it relates to Latinos and the environment.  We will discuss our participation in the recent World's People Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia and explore the role of technology in organizing the grassroots movement for the next annual meeting of intergovernmental climate negotiators (COP16) which coincides with theKLIMAFORUM10 both scheduled for November in Cancun, Mexico.  
At 49.7million, Latinos are the fastest growing and largest 'minority' population in the United States. In a recent poll commissioned by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), 66 percent of Hispanics (Latinos) said tackling climate change should be a “high” or “very high” priority with 41 percent supporting the regulation of carbon emissions.” The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) and the Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change (CEAACC), conducted a joint study in swing States across the U.S. that backs these findings.  An overwhelming majority of Latino voters in Florida (80%), Nevada (67%) and Colorado (58%) say they are more likely to vote for a U.S. Senate candidate that supports proposals for fighting global warming. 
The concern for climate action amongst Latinos in the United States is directly linked to the fact that they live or work in the most environmentally degraded areas, are amongst the most climate vulnerable in the United States and come from countries across Latin America where climate change has already wreaked havoc and caused hardship for their families and friends.  Mainstream environmental organizations have yet to fully engage the Latino community online although, their presence as a group within social media networks is more active than non-Latinos.   The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports that 59.5% of Latinos are online, while a March 2010 report by Forester shows them growing most in the creator, critic and collector levels of the “Social Technographics Ladder.”
The few mainstream organizations that have taken the leap, such as the NRDC with Voces Verdes, the Earth Action Network, and the Sierra Club are yet to channel mobilizing online with face to face creative space. The opportunities to cultivate support for the environment regionally by building link between US Latinos and their countries of origin have yet to be strategically explored. Conferences such as the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, Digital Capital Week coming up in Washington, D.C., and the US Social Forum in Detroit, do away with the bureaucracy and ego of traditional conferences and create the space to organically grow common visions in a big way from the grassroots.
The integration of Web 2.0 technology into these creative spaces has facilitated diverse environmental and social justice groups to stay connected and develop common strategies that sustain time and cross sectors as well as, borders.    Angela Adrar, an environmental new media communicator and Latino activist says that “Latinos in the US are growing weary of organizations that do not respond to their needs. They are sharing their experiences using bilingual communication and community muscle to change the narrative of power through social media and succeeding.”  The rise of the digital activist has been a long time coming but the effectiveness, tools and ability to create real world impact is exponentially increasing as more communities of color come of age online enabling them to generate their own stories and offer their own solutions. 
Kety Esquivel, Interim Executive Director of Latism, the largest organization of Latinos in Social Media and Angela Adrar, Environmental Communicator with La Trenza Leadership Eco-Hermanas will be spearheading the panel. 

Kety Esquivel (410) 500-8340
Twitter: @KetyE

Angela Adrar (202) 439-7724
Twitter: @DancingSparrow

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Hugo Chavez Hitching a Ride on the Backs of the Peoples Climate Movement?

Photo credit: Joaquin Noguera 

So why do I get nervous when I see Hugo Chavez hitch a ride on the back of the People's Climate Movement? Well, because I see how the media automatically moves the conversation from one of Climate Justice and Mother Earth to one of South vs North or one of Venezuela vs the United States and that is not the pressing issue at hand now, Climate Change is. I know that I will be angering folks that both support and oppose Chavez but I feel very strongly about this. Props have to be given to Chavez for the speech he gave at Copenhagen demanding a more inclusive process of climate negotiations. Evo Morales is now honored globally for his efforts to organize support for Indigenous Peoples worldwide and for mobilizing so many to "live well" and in harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth) but the people have spoken and it is now time to listen, reflect and plan action.

"Yo no soy Yankee, ni quiero ser, yo estoy con Evo, con Hugo y con Fidel." Im not a Yankee, nor do I want to be, I stand with Evo, with Hugo, and with Fidel. What? I thought this was a Climate Change Conference. Yet, those were the words of the large group of Socialist Argentinians chanting in the row behind me, only feet away from the stage where Evo welcomed people from over 146 countries to the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (WPCCC). For many people, myself included, the three days of the conference were a historic moment where Indigenous, Afro-Descendant, Latinos, feminists, the poor, small farmers, working mothers, the unemployed, and labor union members united and spoke or chanted their diverse issues under the shade of "Pachamama."

From a US perspective, I can only attempt to relate this moment to the comprehensive organizing efforts born from the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, the American-Indian Movement on through to the Rainbow Coalition in the United States which organized peoples from various interest groups and racial backgrounds in support of those hurt by the Reaganomic policies of the 1980s. The 80s was also the decade that gave birth to the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States which, shifted the conversation from wilderness land conservation to the environmental-human rights of the then "minority" communities and the working class.

The WPCCC's great accomplishment is that it united people in favor of Climate Justice for the "vulnerable yet dignified" communities of the world. It was not an easy task yet is was Globalization at its best. The common enemy targeted this time was the shortcomings of Capitalism which the majority rightfully linked to the United States. To witness this movement take organic shape has injected energy into many social and environmental activists that had long thought the most effective days of the struggle were buried with Che Guevara. A good number of which were also from the United States.

The WPCCC was truly a People's Climate Conference, different from the Copenhagen Climate Summit of government leaders and that is where its power rests and that is where the Peoples Climate Movement will take root and sprout. The conversations around the environment, climate change and the possible future were very different from any environmental conference I have attended before. Traditional knowledge and culture were honored, people's voices were encouraged, and the terminology to describe the pressing environmental urgency moved from scientific to common language. Everyone may not have agreed but many of us were present in dialog and that is a start.

Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez have set the foundation. Now as leaders, they need to step aside and let the Worlds People digest what took place in Cochabamba, share it with their communities and meet again in Cancun in November for COP16 with an action plan. Otherwise, I am afraid that this may indeed turn out to be another Copenhagen and we promised that Cochabamba was everything but COP15. I for one, am excited to be part of the conversation playing out in the United States in preparation. While we prepare for Mexico the "Olympic Summits of Climate Change" have already been planned for 2011 with COP 17 happening in South Africa next year, and Qatar and South Korea bidding to host COP18 in 2012.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From the Climate Debt Panel to Cochabamba

On Rev. Martin Luther King Day, I went to Busboys and Poets in Washington DC to hear Naomi Klein speak about her new book, The Shock Doctrine. It was standing room only and the line was around the block with people still trying to get in.  I was invigorated by Naomi yes, but more so by her fellow speakers on the Climate Debt Panel.  Michele Roberts, the Campaign and Policy Coordinator for Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, recited a spoken word poem "Vulnerable Community" that captured the voices of those people that suffer most from Climate Change but are heard from the least.  watch it below.

Pablo Solanos, Bolivia's Ambassador to the UN also spoke about his disheartening and unbelievable experience and ultimately, null results of the Coopenhagen "talks", watch it below. (Thank you Farrah Hansen for the video footage).

Solano's discussion on the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth encouraged me to attend. Perhaps, I am an idealist, perhaps I am naive to believe that the diversity within civil society will save us and lead the way on the environmental front, if only because our health and security depends on it.

Regardless, this is my journey,  I am going to Cochabamba to lead La Trenza Leadership's Eco-Hermanas  group of 12 Intergenerational Indigenous, migrant, Afro-descendant, and Latino women and men leaders. They represent the dignified yet vulnerable voices and communities of the United States.  I want you to also be part of this journey,  so I will be blogging regularly and sharing resources and links on my Facebook and Twitter pages where you may meet these leaders and share the experience with us as it unfolds in Cochabamba.  Pack Lightly!

"When we heal the earth, We heal ourselves." David Orr

Thursday, March 11, 2010

DC International and Environmental Film Festivals


March is turning out to be a very exciting month in DC for International and Environmental film buffs. We have three great film series in town that overlap. RWUL, the Global Film Initiative, and the Letelier Theatre got a head start, kicking off Global Lens 2010: Passport to a New World of Cinema" in late February with two films from Africa.  National Geographic, All Roads Film Project, launched its Women Hold Up Half the Sky series on the 4th of March (see Rachel's post on the movement that inspired this series).  The 18th annual Environmental Film Festival begins on March 16th and runs at different venues throughout the city until the 28th of March.  While it is important to support these film festivals, I did a little research into how filmmakers get their films into these festivals that highlight greater global cultural and environmental understanding.

I caught up briefly with Rebekah Frimpong, the Founder of RWUL at the opening film of Global Lens 2010.   RWUL's mission is "We Motivate, Create, Live, Love, Build, Network, Start, Focus, Mentor, Serve, Communicate," sounds like a great place to work.  Operating out of Richmond, Virginia since 2007, RWUL supports independent film culture by sponsoring filmmakers but also values community by educating audiences about the diverse issues in films.  For the Global Lens 2010 series, they will be hosting spoken word, traditional Indian dancers and panel discussions about Iran in the media and great tapas from various countries.  All following a movie of that respective country.  In the interview below you can hear what other exciting projects RWUL is involved in.

National Geographic, All Roads Film Project is currently accepting film submission to their full film festival (September 2010) until April 30th for documentary films that provide a "platform for indigenous and underrepresented minority-culture storytellers from around the world." They also provide Seed Grants to Film-makers, watch the YouTube Video below to show you how to go about applying.

The Global Film Initiative receives grant applications from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania and provides 10-20 filmmakers up to $10,000 in grants twice a year for films that encourage "authentic self-representation."  The Environmental Film Festival doesn't have a formal film submission process.  It is recommended that you submit a synopsis and screener of the film in late summer or early autumn.  This year the Environmental Film Festival has a feature on their website where film-makers can upload Green Short Films for all visitors to see, making it easy for a budding green film-maker to get some free advertising. 

The Floating Cities green short film submitted by the European Environment Agency submitted the film below exploring the engineering and technology to build flood proof homes in the Netherlands.  It would be fascinating to combine traditional and indigenous building practices with some of this new technology and apply it to many of the communities around the world struggling with climate change adaptation.

The last film, 2501 Migrants: A Journey, by Yolanda Cruz in the Women Hold Up Half the Sky Series is powerful.  It is about an artist that spends 6 years documenting through sculpture the 2501 people that have migrated from his town in Oaxaca, Mexico.  See the trailer below.

If you take a moment to look at the programs, I promise you, more than one of these independent films will peak your interest, so schedule some time to support independent film and while you are there, you just may begin to ", live, love, build..." through film yourself.

Global Lens 2010 (10 Films)
February 27th-March 26th, 2010
$8 per screening, w/special discounts for students & senior citizens. 

March 4th -April 7th, 2010

56 Venues 
March 16th -28th, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love, Death, War, Life, Transit

Right about this time, middle of the week, one starts entertaining options for the weekend.  If in San Francisco, look no further, Tim Barsky's, The Bright River is a performance that is equal parts morbid and enlightening, dangling hope in an underworld of despair.  Unfortunately, there are only three shows left before "the mass transit bus of the afterlife" departs the historic Brava Theatre Center with destination unknown.  So needless to say this weekend is the last chance to see The Bright River at the end of the tunnel.  It ends on February 20th, 2010.

The press release notes that : The Bright River: A Mass Transit Tour of the Afterlife is a beat box-musical that is part Sam Spade, part Dante’s Inferno, part love story, and part socio-political commentary infused with bodkin (a traditional Hassidic street theater style that was popular hundreds of years ago in the streets of a Jewish ghetto). But when you watch the performance, you will discover what lies under the theatrical layers and at the the heart of The Bright River.  It is a brute and raw glimpse into the lives of those people that are hustling their way through the injustices in the world, on a daily basis. It is a story of those that find their homes and identities in the underground.

"There's a rising divide between people, between each-other, and between ourselves, and yet I think there's something awesome in reclaiming the high ground, in about saying; yeah this is our country, this is our world. Those in power want to dictate terms to us but their stories are not as good, their beats are whack." - Tim Barsky

Watch some snippets of the performance and see what else Barsky, has to say about The Bright River, in this YouTube video:

This 5 person performance crew takes multi-tasking to the highest level.  They are actors, musicians, urban-artists, beat-boxers, folk-lore entertainers, circus performers, historians, hip-hop DJs, educators and grass-roots social activists, sharing their love for social justice both on stage and in their communities.  They teach beat-boxing at San Francisco juvenile detention facilities and poetry at correctional facilities, educate at risk youth about  lyrics, help ESL kids improve speech skills, teach break-dancing to children and keep music alive so that youth can better express themselves.  In a world full of high drama and injustice, they are true urban heroes.

            Carlos Aguirre,  Alex Kelly, Tim Barnsky, Kevin Carnes, DC Beatbox
            Photos borrowed from The Bright River producer, Laird Archer, Golden Gate Recordings

Purchase your tickets from Brown Paper Tickets and invite your friends.  $17.00 gets you through the door of this intimate theater and $35.00 will have you practically sitting on stage beat-boxing along with the crew.

Support other and all events at the Historic Brava Theatre Center owned and operated by Brava! for Women in the Arts; committed to the artistic expression of women, people of color and youth.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Farm Grows In Brooklyn

This heirloom tomato makes me very happy. It gives me hope. It's a gentle reminder that even when the going gets tough -- and right now, the going is tough for a lot of people -- we can use the resources we already have to find nourishment, health, and community. I know -- it's just a tomato. Let me explain.

Last weekend, I decided to hop on a bus to Ananda Ashram, a beautiful yoga and spiritual retreat located at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. (My fellow New Yorkers will understand my sudden and overwhelming need to escape the gray madness of the city in February.)

I discovered Ananda not only because of its reputation as a quiet refuge, but also because of a burgeoning farm located on its grounds. Called Ananda Harvest, the green project was started last year by a group of Brooklynites who noticed that the land had farm-to-table potential. If they could grow their own vegetables, the farmers reasoned, the ashram could feed guests and residents their delicious vegetarian menu using really local food.

Now flash back to last summer. While Ananda Harvest was just beginning to bloom, a rooftop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn was overflowing with fresh, organic vegetables. Sitting atop a cavernous lighting studio and warehouse, Rooftop Farm became a living example of urban agriculture and green design:

By June, Rooftop Farm's 6,000 square feet will once again be teeming with heirloom veggies (see tomato!) and edible flowers, all of which are harvested every Sunday and sold to neighborhood residents and local restaurants.

Food sells out fast. I know this because the farm is a mere 15-minute walk from my apartment.

And as if that weren't good news enough, I've just learned from Gotham Greens that a hydroponic farm is now under construction on top of a one-story church in Queens. If all goes well, its significant crop yield could signal remarkable progress for urban farmers by making it a viable market for investors, as well as a means to feed local communities.

Excited yet?

I know the secret's already out. Masses of people have embraced the local food philosophy that's sweeping our nation. People who care about what they put in their bodies and their environments are reading Michael Pollan's work and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. And there's no doubt that the movement comes with its own set of nuances, complexities and complaints -- especially when framed within a global context. Bloggers and Brooklyn residents Matt and Joanna touch upon these issues in their thoughtful article.

But I'm sharing these projects with you because they represent the innovative work that will fuel this blog. It isn't exactly the best of times, but people are making the the most out of what they've got, and I find that pretty inspiring. Connect with each other. Cook together. Eat good food. If it feels right, get involved. Please leave comments about other farming projects around the country. Stay tuned for interviews with farmers. And keep telling yourself: spring is on its way.

Photos courtesy Ananda Ashram and me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Tribute: Howard Zinn, The Grand-Dad of Citizen Media

In line with the previous post on Protest Poetry and the Power of Voice, listen to excerpts of Voices of A People's History of the United States on NPR to understand that as a tribute, Howard Zinn, deserves and would ask us to be brave about our past and our future, about our voice and intention.  The President's State of the Union Speech, reminded me why Zinn, was such a great influence in my life and will always be.

Most people remember Zinn, for his greatest contribution to humanityA People's History of the United States, it was published in 1980, and has sold over 2 million copies.  In many ways Zinn, paved the path for Citizen Media by providing a platform for stories to come to light, of those people rarely heard in mainstream histories.   At 87 years of age, Zinn, lifelong activist and educator, produced the film The People Speak, on the History Channel in collaboration with Matt Damon, where Hollywood celebrities read Indigenous, African-American, immigrant, women, laborers, and activist accounts of the history of the United States.

Zinn having fought in the Vietnam-American War, spoke out against the war in Vietnam, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan and he inspired youth to ask questions, be patriotic and fight back with disobedience for justice.  In one of his last appearances, he urges us in this YouTube video below, not to give up the social justice struggle because while we are in it, "we are already winning."

Listening tonight to the President's State of the Union Speech, I have to agree again with Zinn, "Watching great ideals settle into the compromise of legislation and governance is a sobering reminder that Obama is no longer a hopeful symbol for so many of us but someone with an incredibly difficult job before him." Your words of wisdom live on, Howard Zinn, but you may rest in peace.