Author Archives: Ruth Ann

About Ruth Ann

Founder and Curator of, voices of Sustainability, the only specialized search engine to curated video content in the service of Sustainability.

The Soul of Sustainability and the Opioid Epidemic

I haven’t posted anything to this blog in over a year. 

My commitment has not waned to increasing sustainability awareness and advancing the voices of those acting on behalf of Mother Earth and her children.  We continue to add these voices to and are seeking partners to expand the availability of our content on websites that share our commitment. 

Rather, my sustainability work turned out to not only include ten years of curating the voices of sustainability from across the globe, but five years of living in a caring community, learning,  getting involved in addressing the issue of safety for all of us, and reframing the neighborhood from an “entertainment” district to caring community.  A second project is intended to change a negative image of our residents to one that is diverse and caring. It got me out of the office and into the streets taking photos of and meeting my neighbors and their dogs. They are published here. It’s also about getting support for an urban dog ballpark in our neighborhood.

Early in 2017 I came to the realization that the soul of sustainability lies within our interdependence or oneness or kinship. It was a
lesson I was learning locally within my community where I identify as a sustainability advocate.  I live in Portland’s Caring Community, Old Town Chinatown, where a majority, 57% of the housing is dedicated to the homeless in the form of supportive care housing and shelter beds.  Adopted in the 1970’s the housing landscape reflects a model of care that works and is overworked as homelessness increases. 
This is also a place with a high crime rate for narcotic/drug offenses and assaults in a time when our police force is understaffed and those trained to “coordinate the response of Law Enforcement and to aid people in behavioral crisis resulting from known or suspected mental illness and or drug and alcohol addiction” are too few. In Portland this is the mission of the Behavioral Health Unit within the Police Bureau.  A model of policing that works for the situation we find ourselves in – the solution is recovery not jail.  They too are overworked. 

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now              is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.” – Barack Obama

Under the banner of sustainability advocate I began to integrate the personal with the professional and in the process discovered that interdependence is the foundation, the principle for acting on behalf of future generations and getting to the heart of
things be they local or global.   I came to think of it as the soul of sustainability.  It also places empathy at the center of all action-taking as we express compassion through our work.

“This problem of addiction is not only a health crisis but a spiritual crisis.

The situation worsens when society sees addiction as a shameful condition — those in need don’t reach out to others for help; the community doesn’t provide treatment services.”  – Paul Steinbroner

Health and Spiritual Crisis
And then came this opioid epidemic. My filmmaker friend, Paul Steinbroner, needed some marketing help in getting his latest film project, Called From Darkness, into distribution.  Paul heads up a publishing and distribution company specializing in multi-media projects related to addiction, neuropharmacology, and brain chemistry. 

“The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

The Epidemic
There is a great need for increasing awareness about the epidemic and educating people who may see themselves as disconnected, but know by feel that the situation calls for all hands on deck. Nearly all of us are connected to someone – family member, friend, colleague – who is directly affected by addiction and often homeless on the street.  One doesn’t have to live in a neighborhood that cares for the sheltered and unsheltered to know that a majority of our homeless have a mental illness and/or drug addiction.
In Portland, of the 4,177 homeless people counted, 2,527 (60.5%) reported living with
one or more disability, including a mental disability, chronic physical condition, and/or a substance-use disorder. The number of people with disabling conditions increased by
16.1 percent between the 2015 and the 2017 Point-In-time counts.
Addiction as a healthcare issue is in the realm of social sustainability. It’s of sizable proportions: an epidemic, possibly resulting in hundred of thousands of deaths with economic repercussions that could bankrupt our communities; making the poorest of neighborhoods unlivable; and turning family life into a nightmare.  The New York Times article1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours, makes this point:Drug deaths draw the most notice, but more addicted people live than die. For them and their families, life can be a relentless cycle of worry, hope and chaos.”  

Start Here
I have observed that to start from the point of “not me, but them” or to draw a line between the personal and the professional, leaving “solutions”  to those in the healthcare sector doesn’t lead to furthering sustainability principles.  I find framing the challenge from the principle of inter-connection and thinking of it as going to the soul of sustainability works. It works for not only knowing what to do next, but having the confidence to move forward despite inexperience or feelings of being overwhelmed or to hear yourself think,  it’s not my problem.

To start, here is a trailer of Called From Darkness by Paul Steinbronner as part of the Called from Darkness film project entitled A Home Boy’s Joy Ride.  It features the voice of artist Fabian Debora and the work of Fr. Greg Boyle the founder of Home Boy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

Future blogposts will continue to explore the Soul of Sustainability and the associated topics of the opioid epidemic, homelessness, and livability in our communities including housing and public safety.

Our Youth and Sustainability

“… the assumption that young people will somehow figure out a way to undo the deeds of their forebears, has crept into and spread like a cancer through UN climate scenarios.”

Lately I have been involved in a series of meetings with about thirty people and we represent all ages. It turns out I’m the oldest of the group and the people I’m most in need of hearing from our younger folks especially on sustainability issues, the most pressing being global warming, because I work from home and there are not many younger folks involved in local organizations including neighborhood associations, museums, and even churches.  There are exceptions, of course, but what I see is mostly white hair and I live in a city with a reputation for being where young people come to retire.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-02-09-amAfter the last meeting I returned to my office and found in my inbox a newly added video to YouTube entitled, Young People’s Burden, a conversation between the renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and his granddaughter Sophie Kivlehan.   I ask you to take 17 minutes to listen to Dr. Hansen and Sophie talk about how they both are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Our Children’s Trust against the federal government in their efforts to secure “the legal right to a stable climate and a healthy atmosphere for all present and future generations” the very essence of the sustainability movement.

A second and related video is an interview (August 2016) with Julia Olson of The Children’s julia-olson2Trust. It is less than twenty minutes and like the Jim Hansen interview I urge you to share it with colleagues and especially your youthful friends and family members.

Finally, Dr. Hansen et. al. published a paper, Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions. Download PDF here.

Both of the aearthsayers-ad-copy-3bove videos are in the special collection, Climate Justice, which compliments our more general climate change and climate change risk special collections. is a specialized search engine to all curated, video content addressing sustainability and advancing those speaking on behalf of Mother Earth and her children.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, October 28, 2016, Portland, Oregon.




Climate Justice and Sustainability Advocacy

The chief curator (me) at, Voices of Sustainability, has created a new channel addressing Climate Justice. The impetus for doing so arose out of a study by the Yale yaleProgram for Climate Change Communication. They conduct scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, and the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them. Of particular interest was their audience research, Global Warming’s Six Americas. A must read.

For climate change communicators I assume that this study formed the foundation for your present programs and campaigns. However, for those of us sustainability advocates with an environmental, social, and economic bent the Yale Program research may have been missed given the information overload that climatographer Mark Trexler addressed in his whitepaper, The Problem of Infinite Information in Corporate Climate Change Decision-Making.

Initially, these are the voices we are advancing on the topic of Climate Justice with more to come.   Start with Linda Haydock of the Inter-community Peace & Justice Center’s What is Climate Justice?  Continue on with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former imgresUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on  “Climate Change as a Human Rights Issue” and Julia Olson of Our Children’s Trust on “Securing the Legal Right to a Stable Climate.”  If you parent or work with the more youthful among us, especially millennials, you might want to listen to the conversation between Dr. James Hansen and his grand daughter, Sophie Kivlehan on ” Young Peoples Burden.”

There are other voices to include Pope Francis, M.E. Tucker, David Korten, Anthony Leiserowitz, Tim Brennan and HH Dalai Lama.

Most Americans say global warming is personally important to them, but don’t talk or hear about it much.”  Yale Program Climate Note of September 29, 2016

I can’t do much about the talking part, but I can improve on the number of people, like you, hearing about it.  It’s up to you to re-frame the conversation around climate change to climate justice and talk with your family, friends, and work colleagues.

“More than half of those who are interested in global warming or think the issue is important “rarely” or “never” talk about it with family and friends (57% and 54% respectively).”

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, October 7, 2016, Portland, Oregon.

P.S.  What sparked my interest was the Yale Program report, Faith, Morality, and the Environment: Portraits of Global Warming’s Six America’s which led to an EarthSayers’ initiative, Faith and Climate Justice. More on Faith and Climate Justice in my next blog post.

Picture Earth Right Now

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 10.51.21 AMI was reminded of this 1946 photograph of Earth, the first photo from beyond the atmosphere when I curated one of the latest views of Earth, a NASA Goddard visualization entitled,  One Year on Earth as Seen from 1 Million Miles, (2:46) noting how far we’ve come from that grainy black and white photograph taken nearly 70 years agoearth pic to the breathtaking visualizations of today.

We are getting to know more about our Mother Earth from “out there” and hearthopefully it translates to a better understanding and love “in here” nothing short of a change in consciousness, a move from head to heart guided by the Laws of Nature.

There are many such visualizations on the NASA Goddard YouTube channel and I have curated those I found most interesting and added them to, the Voices of Sustainability including this video, The ‘Voice’ of our Earth. (4 minutes)

Our Universe Is Not Silent~Although space is a vacuum, this does not mean there is voice of earthno sound in space. Sound does exist as electromagnetic vibrations. The specially designed instruments on board the Voyager and other probes, picked up and recorded these vibrations, all within the range of human hearing (20-20,000 cycles per second).”  – NASA Space Recordings Of Earth, Published on Aug 13, 2011.

The NASA Goddard visualizations also capture changes to our Earth that make it difficult if not impossible to ignore the effects of global warming to include this recent video, Earth’s Long-term Warming Trend, 1880-2015 (30 seconds) hot mapwhich shows temperature changes from 1880 to 2015 as a rolling five-year average. Orange colors represent temperatures that are warmer than the 1951-80 baseline average, and blues represent temperatures cooler than the baseline.

Many of these visualizations are enormously popular on YouTube such as the One Year on Earth video mentioned above with over 1.6M views. The number of views for videos addressing global warming suggest our citizens, unlike some people studyingelected officials, are active in the learning cycle. An example is another recent video, NASA Sees Temperatures Rise and Sea Ice Shrink -Climate Trends 2016 (47 seconds) published a week ago with over 68,000 views.  This news story is what we should be talking about in all sustainability conversations – even informal talk about the weather one hears over cocktails and  around the dinner table if we are to increase awareness and change behaviors.

“Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880.”  – NASA Goddard

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, July 29, 2016, Portland, Oregon.


Infinite Information In Corporate Climate Change Decision-Making

Climate Change Risk expert Mark Trexler and his partner, environmental lawyer Laura Kosloff, launched The Climate Web in a large part because of the problem of “Infinite Information.”  This problem, Mark says, is analogous to the adage “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.” Given the rapidly changing nature of conversations around both climate science and climate policy, it’s a critical problem for business. As corporate decision-makers are deluged by information, it becomes harder to discern what data, news, opinions, and analyses really matter to making wiser, more prudent decisions.

It’s the same problem that drove us to found, a specialized search engine to all curated, relevant voices of sustainability. It is very difficult to learn from and be inspired by our leaders when you can’t find them. There are now over one hundred and fifty YouTube channels relevant to sustainability, including those channels of our Indigenous Peoples, our wisdomkeepers with video content that is valuable but not necessarily findable. 

There are a legion of search engine optimization (SEO) experts in the highly commercialized web. So, Mark, Laura, and myself are not the only ones addressing the infinite information problem. But we have distinguished ourselves by providing access to “actionable knowledge” on climate change and calling out the unfiltered voices of the sustainability leadership using technology coupled with curation in our two unique websites, The Climate Web  and . We invite you to visit and use them in your research, due diligence, and educational activities and programs.  

cover shotMark and Laura have some helpful resources for users to learn how to effectively use The Climate Web.  For one thing, see this videoAn Introduction to The Climate Web with Mark Trexler on the EarthSayers’ channel, Climate Change Risk. Secondly, I recommend you take a look at their recently published white paper, Infinite Information A Key Barrier to Business Decision Making on Climate Change? — your complimentary copy is available for download here.  

As publishers and curators Mark and Laura can help you use the Climate Web to your best advantage in developing executive briefings, supporting decision-making workshops, conducting topical trainings, engaging in climate risk scenario planning, and much more to include customized spotlights and decision dashboards.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, July 22, 2016, Portland, Oregon

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Spoken Word Artists on Climate Change

Increasingly there is a greater number of our artists, musicians, and performers who are addressing climate justice or injustice as the case may be.  As islanders experience flooding at the edges, those of us till dry and thinking there is still time and a Plan B might do well to listen to our poets and spoken word artists.  Here are three such performers, two added this week to our climate change special collection on  Give a listen in just three quick clicks and share the performances of these three dedicated and talented artists. Spread their stories.

Spoken wordIsabella Borgeson artist Isabella Borgeson shares her poem on the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever hit the Philippines (November 8, 2013).  Four minute video published by Climate One on YouTube on May 14, 2016. Click here. (4:00)

Follow Isabella on Twitter.


Elijah FarquanThis multimedia video produced by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board features Elijah Furquan, a spoken word artist in Milwaukee, WI, who describes the effects of extreme heat on his urban community.Uploaded to YouTube on Dec 22, 2010. (2:46) Click here.


Terisa SiagatouSpoken word artist Terisa Siagatonu (Samoan) shares her poem on climate change and talks about the realities of climate change from her unique perspective as a spoken word artist/arts educator, community activist, and Project Director for PIER: the Pacific Islander Education and Retention project at UCLA, an access project that exists to combat the low matriculation rates of Pacific Islander students into higher education by offering services ranging from free tutoring, mentorship, and peer advising to Pacific Islander high school students in Los Angeles.  Published on May 23, 2016 by Climate One. Click here. (6:00)

Follow Terisa on Twitter.

Published by Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, May 27th, 2016, Portland, Oregon.

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Inspiring Sustainability Champions

This past month we have called out on, Voices of Sustainability, two sustainability champions.  These two indigenous leaders address sustainability, as a concept, in their presentations and are active in sharing their wisdom with us through online video.  Their guidance has been invaluable to us.

robin kimmerer

Robin Kimmerer


ilarion two

Ilarion Merculieff

Today Earth Day, we introduce you to Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff (Aleut), Founder of the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways and Dr. Robin Kimmerer, SUNY distinguished teaching professor and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

We trust you will find in their words inspiration and a better understanding of why it is the elders from all four directions of Mother Earth are calling for a “change in consciousness, a move from head to heart guided by the Laws of Nature,” a weave of nature with humankind.

These are but two of their teachings – a place to start.

Going to the Heart of Sustainability, Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff, Kalliopeia Foundation, (1 hour, 26 minutes).

Restoration of Our Relationship to Land, Robin Kimmerer, Ph.D., Center for Humans and Nature, 34 minutes.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, April 22, 2016, Portland, Oregon.



Sustainability and Climate Risk Analysis

Making Wiser Decisions in This Time of Great Uncertainty

Having the opportunity to work with Dr. Mark Trexler of the Climatographer on this blogpost really expanded my awareness of climate change risk. If there ever was one major risk to our planet, people, and prosperity this is it. Mark is an expert in this field and we were connected by Kirsi Jansa a documentary filmmaker who is creating the series, Sustainability Pioneers, which we feature here on our search engine,, Voices of Sustainability.

Dr. Trexler and his teammate, Laura Kosloff are indeed pioneers and voices of sustainability.

Why Risk Analysis?

As we move off of debating the science of climate change, but given that we’ve been largely ineffectual thus far at slowing global climate change, it’s time to focus on how orgaScreen Shot 2016-04-20 at 11.46.16 AMnizations can make wiser decisions in this time of great uncertainty. Complicating the move forward for organizations is uncertainty regarding which C-suite or Board level executive should be leading the charge. Climate risks may affect corporate operations, investment decisions and supply chain management. Further complicating  things is there is no “right or wrong” when it comes to assessing corporate climate risk; however, as Dr. Trexler points out, in the aggregate, poorly supported risk assumptions may leave considerable risk on the table. And since opportunity is the flip-side of risk, climate-related opportunities may also be left on the table. 

Where to Start?

As one uniquely qualified to help with advancing climate and sustainability agendas in the face of uncertainty, Dr. Trexler offers some recommendations while cautioning there is “no one size fits all.” 

  • Don’t get hung up on “mitigation vs. adaptation”; at the corporate level risk mitigation often involves adapting to changing physical and policy circumstances.
  • Start by carrying out a “business materiality assessment,” that pulls in representatives from a range of business functions and initiatives.
  • If the materiality assessment referred to in the prior bullet suggests climate change is a material business issue, the next step is to think through what the climate risk scenarios are that the company should be using for strategic planning purposes and risk management purposes. 

  • With the appropriate internal team develop and maintain a climate change risk-based strategy that is incorporated into your organization’s advocacy and sustainability initiative(s).
  • Because we can “see” some distance into the future, keep your strategy flexible and responsive.  As the metaphor goes, you don’t have to outrun the bear to stay competitive, you only need to outrun the person next to you. 

The Climate Web™ an antidote to #ClimateNoise


Laura Kosloff

The Climate Web, which we will cover in more detail in my next blogpost, is a knowledge solution developed by Mark and Laura to help users find  the information they need to identify and track the climate risk issues of most importance to them. The Climate Web organizes thousands of reports, news stories, blogs, and other materials, often extracting and linking critical information for easy access.

Here I am reminded of the quote by E.O. Wilson.

“We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”

The climate Web illustrationThe Climate Web addresses this situation we find ourselves in with information overload and limited access to curated, relevant content making informed decisions difficult – at times impossible – especially when it comes to the goal of sustainability and the reality of global climate change. This problem is one we here at also address by curating the voices (all video) of hundreds of thought leaders and practitioners from all walks of life so that thought leaders and experts such as Mark and Laura rise to the top of search results and can be found in the sea of information.

Having worked in large manufacturing, distribution and marketing organizations, I know one of the pitfalls to decision-making is the assumptions we bring to the table. Thankfully in this regard Mark identifies for decision makers seven fairly common assumptions that need to be challenged based on their over twenty-five years experience advising a wide range of clients, worldwide, on climate change risk and analysis.

Seven Not So Helpful Assumptions

• Climate risks are really no different than other business risks; they’re not.

• The future of climate policy will look like the past; unlikely.

• Focus only on the obvious climate risks; in practice it’s the 2nd and 3rd order risks that will be the biggest problem for many companies.

• Physical and policy climate risks will evolve slowly and linearly; in both cases sudden shifts are actually more likely.

• Climate change won’t be business material within a relevant timeframe; more and more companies are already finding that’s not true.

• We should stick with “expected” levels of change for risk management; in reality most of the risk is in the  “fat tail” of the risk distribution. We routinely recognize this in all kinds of risk decision-making, e.g. insurance.

Mark has also served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and holds graduate degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. To take advantage of his expertise in both the public and private sectors, contact him at:

Time is of the essence.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, April 20, 2016, Portland, Oregon.

World Water Day: Water Ethics

“The definition of ethics from the Greek means customary or habitual and what’s customary or habitual with Americans regarding water use is that it’s plentiful and it’s clean and we don’t have to think about it. We just use as much as we want until some conflict arises.”

– Rick Kyte, D.B. Reinhard Institute for Ethics in Leadership

imgres-1If you think technology is going to be the big fix for issues and problems associated with the  availability, use, and conservation of water, especially in the context of global warming, you might want to balance that view with a better understanding of how important is the ethic of water by listening to seven thoughtful leaders from the Center for Humans and Nature as part of their project,  Fostering a Water Ethic.

In this Humans and Nature video, The Importance of a Water Ethic, their contributors contemplate the many compelling reasons why a water ethic is essential for helping us do the right thing by each other, by the generations that follow us, and by the whole community of life.

The video (12:39) features these EarthSayers addressing a water ethic and who are “thinking creatively about how people can make better decisions — in relationship with each other and the whole community of life.”

  • Dorene Day Midewaunnikwe (Water Woman);
  • Jane Elder, Executive Director, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters;
  • Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Journalist and Author;
  • Jeremy Schmidt, Assistant professor, Carlton University;
  • Rick Kyte, Director, D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership;
  • Christiana Peppard, Associate Professor, Fordham University; and
  • Josephine Mandamin (Ojibwe), Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve.

It’s World Water Day and the perfect day to take twelve minutes out of your busy schedule to listen (hereScreen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.59.40 AM) to these seven bright minds and soulful thinkers.

You might also subscribe to their YouTube channel (check the box to receive an email notification when new videos are posted).

The Volume 9, Number 1, January 2016 issue of their journal, Minding Nature, is available as a PDF here on the Humans and Nature Website.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, March 22, 2016, Portland, Oregon.





Living Sustainability

robin kimmererIn this presentation (video*) Dr. Robin Kimmerer clearly and beautifully teaches us the relationship of living The Honorable Harvest to our quest to live in balance with Mother Earth; how to save ourselves by coming into relationship with Nature. She is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Indigenous Peoples from all four directions of our planet are calling for a change in our consciousness, a move from head to heart guided by the Laws of Nature. The Honorable Harvest is a “covenant of reciprocity” and a guide to living sustainability in all aspects of our life. Dr. Kimmerer reminds us that in the indigenous way of thinking matter and spirit are mutually reinforcing whereas in the scientific world they are mutually exclusive.

What makes her voice so important to all of us is she speaks the language of reciprocity as a scientist (botanist) and Indigenous leader (Potawatomi Nation) drawing on “the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.”
Dr. Kimmerer is a voice you may not have heard yet, but need to hear now especially if you are asking yourself, what is sustainability and how do I live it?

Her most recent book is  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.

*This video presentation was published on YouTube on Aug 6, 2014 by the Center for Humans and Nature and recorded at their 2014 Forum on Ethics & Nature held at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The theme was A Cascade of Loss, An Ethics of Recovery. The Forum explored the topic of extinction, balancing information with ethical reflection about the possibilities of biodiversity and bio-cultural recovery.