Tag Archives: EarthSayers.tv

Website dedicated to the sustainability movement highlighting the voices of sustainability, citizens from all walks of life.

Playing on the Edges? Move to the Center of Sustainability

The MIT/Sloan Management Review article, How to Become A Sustainable Company, addresses playing at the edges in one clear statement:

Currently, organizations that exhibit a broad- based commitment to sustainability on the basis of

their original corporate DNA are few and far between.

I was reminded of this statement listening to Canadian sustainability pioneer, David Suzuki, being interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now yesterday on RIO+20 and the so-called green economy.  Here is the interview.

There is one observation in particular that addresses a fundamental paradigm shift that needs to be made in our thinking, in our consciousness in order to survive beyond this century. It rests on our ability as leaders to “reassess everything.”

“And if we don’t see the that we are utterly imbedded in the natural world and dependent on nature, not technology, not economics, not science — we are dependent on Mother Nature for our very well being and survival. If we don’t see that, then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets. Those are all human created things. They shouldn’t dominate the way we live. It should be the biosphere. And the leaders in that should be the indigenous people who still have that sense, that the earth is truly are mother, that it gives birth to us.”

erickThe indigenous people are our citizens who actually live in places of “extreme sources of energy” as referenced in David Suzuki’s comments and referred to by Erick Gonzalez,  the founder and spiritual leader of Earth Peoples United, as the “last frontier.” Erick emphasizes the last frontier for extreme sources of energy are in the territories of the indigenous people. Give him a listen. It takes less than two and half minutes and is a move from the edges of sustainability to its center. Click here.

Next look more closely at Tar Sands as a place and what it means for the biosphere by listening  to the indigenous people living there such as  Clayton Thomas-Muller and Alanna Hurley and then  lialannasten to the Canadian artists, such as Garth Lenz and Edward Burtynsky present their photography as they capture in pictures what is meant by “extreme sources of energy.”  Move your attention to the center, but hurry, as “Our Scarcest Resource is Time,” as emphasized by Sustainability Pioneers David Suzuki, Lester Brown, Maurice Strong, Rajendra Pachauri, Bill Ford, Sha Zukang, and Jonathan Porritt in a video of the same title. It is part of the Ray Anderson Memorial Video Series by The Regeneration Project an initiative of the think tank, Sustainability and the research company, GlobeScan and sponsored by SC Johnson and the BMW Group.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, Portland, Oregon on June 27, 2012.

Seek Out and Learn from Sustainability Leaders

In a recent article, How to Become a Sustainable Company, in the Summer 2012 issue of the MIT/Sloan Management Review they ask the question, “What differentiates sustainable companies from traditional ones?” To the answer in a minute.

Although the article references commitment to sustainability, noting that few companies are born with it, an issue arises for me that goes beyond terminology and suggests a fundamental misunderstanding  – to be a sustainable company is not equal to being a company committed to sustainability. The adjective, sustainable and the noun sustainability are not one in the same. Unfortunately, the former is what is popular in business, both public and private and the answer to the question above demonstrates what I mean. According to the article the differences are:

  • Sustainable organizations are effective at engaging with external stakeholders and employees
  • They have cultures based on innovation and trust
  • They have a track record of implementing large-scale change

These are not unique to sustainability nor to sustainable companies. Petroleum and  toxin-based companies, for example, may be successful at all three and yet have no commitment to sustainability, to the seven generations, mired as their leadership may be in the short term, and, ultimately, in denial about global warming and the inability of an economic system that externalizes risk and costs to ever bounce back.

Sustainability is a goal, a desire, a hope and it signifies the ABILITY to drive change, first, at the personal level. We need sustainability leaders to drive a sustainability culture in their organizations. This point is raised in the MIT/Sloan report:

“When leadership commitment drives the process, it usually comes from the personal resolution of a CEO to create a more sustainable company. In general, top-level executives have the ability to create an enterprise-wide vision and the clout to see that it is realized. Without this commitment, becoming a sustainable company is a “nonstarter.”

While leadership commitment is talked about as critical,  the report continues with the language of ” leaders of traditional and sustainable companies” rather than sustainability leaders of companies directing our attention to how things are not working rather than who is working. Our sustainability leaders need to influence their “traditional” peers, first,  to raise their consciousness as quickly as possible.  There are two very effective ways to advance the personal and model the behavior that is desperately needed.

Online Video

Screen shot 2012-06-19 at 11.30.53 AMHere’s an interview with Dominique Conseil , Global President of Aveda and Karl-Henrik Robert founder of the Natural Step, both sustainability leaders. Or listen to The Regeneration Project’s Ray Anderson Memorial video series, here is one video, Why Meaningful Progress Depends on Activists – Spotlight on Civil Society, featuring sustainability leaders Jonathon Porritt, Vandana Shiva, Nitin Desai, Lester Brown, Bill Ford, Kris Gopaladrishman, Yolanda Kakabadse and Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Online Video and Research

Dr. David Hall of Portland State University stepped out of the box and advanced the personal by producing a series of sustainability leadership videos as part of his research called Native Perspectives. Here you can listen to the indigenous voices, sustainability leaders, of the Salmon Nation.


The Regeneration Project, between July and October, will host a number of Salons – curated, facilitated conversations sustainability leaderswith influential stakeholders from across industry and sector. These Salons will take place in major international cities across the world. Attendance is to be limited  to approximately 50 people, on an invitation-only basis.  Great work and hopefully the start of something fresh in sustainability awareness, education, and innovation.  The project is an inititiave of GlobeScan, a public opinion research company and Sustainability, a think tank and strategy consultancy.

All of this is to say go ahead and read the research digging into sustainable companies,  but give more time to listening to your peers who are sustainability leaders, pioneers, heroes, and innovators.  Look for research and events that emphasize the personal over organizational. Rely less on processed information when you can now hear directly from the sustainability leadership as found in the hundreds of companies that are for-benefit and in the hundreds of voices of sustainability from across the Web, the reason we invested in bringing together these voices for you in one place, EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, June 19, 2012, Portland, Oregon.

What is Sustainability? The Guiding Principle

From The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation

Screen shot 2012-02-15 at 1.22.31 PMIn all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.

DHallIn the bioregion of Salmon Nation, there is a rich heritage and modern day presence of diverse indigenous cultures. Seeking to engage and more deeply understand Native perspectives, David Hall, Ph.D. of Portland State University conducted a series of interviews with contemporary Native leaders on the subject of sustainability, in terms of:

Visit Native Perspectives on Sustainability on EarthSayers.tv and the Website, Voices from Salmon Nation.
Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, February 15, 2012, Portland, Oregon

Republished 2/26 with correct photo of David Hall.

Reach Out and Educate with Your Voice

And make sure you are on YouTube.


In October 2011, 201.4 billion videos were viewed online, with the global viewing audience reaching 1.2 billion unique viewers age 15 and older. Google Sites led as the top global video property with nearly 88.3 billion videos viewed on the property during the month, accounting for 43.8% of all videos viewed globally. YouTube.com was the key driver of video viewing on Google Sites, accounting for more than 99% of videos viewed on the property. Source is comScore Video Metrix as reported in MediaPost’s Research Brief, Media Research Center, Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

Of course putting content out on the Web regardless whether it is text or video requires seeding the Web to increase page rankings and the probability of your content being found, viewed, and judged as relevant and of quality.

Lots of work ahead of us in 2012 to get the voices of sustainability out there and heard. We will exceed the 1,000 voices mark this month and look to 2,000 in 2012.

Forty Billion Videos but How Do I Find One I Want to Watch?

ThiFindings question headlines a blog post in MediaPost Publication, VIDblog by Daisy Whitney who hits hard noting “With Americans watching upwards of 40 billion videos online each month and rising, how do you even find anything anymore? Discovery is becoming a huge issue and is regularly cited by advertisers, agencies and programmers as one of the biggest challenges facing the online video business.”

Discovery is when you find something and is not to be equated with searching when it comes to the Web.  Four years ago when we founded EarthSayers.tv, a cause-related site which aggregates and curates videos highlighting the voices of sustainability, a search on Blinkx for the term, sustainaibility, netted 21,000 results.  Today it’s up to 386,000. And, we know from experience that a full 50% of them are duplicates as people upload one video to YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.tv, sometimes with different titles.

One can understand why “advertisers, agencies and programmers” see discovery as one of the biggest challenges facing the online Screen shot 2011-11-09 at 11.29.56 AMvideo business, but what about cause marketers charged with a task to educate and motivate our citizens to solve complex problems? It’s a big, big problem, but is largely unrecognized by non-profits, large and small, who are barely getting their feet wet with Web 2.0 tools and techniques, let alone addressing the whole finding issue.

Screen shot 2011-11-09 at 11.29.32 AMThe over-commercialization of the Web continues largely unquestioned or challenged by those with an education agenda.  Our strategy in terms of sustainability and citizen education is to aggregate and curate content for interest-led social networks using our content management system and content library, but branded for a specific network or subscriber base.  Portion control based on a taxonomy allows for special collections and using other more traditional ways of organizing books and periodicals to appeal to browsers is basic, but under-utilized by Web publishers.  It works for categories of sustainability such as conservation, design and architecture, eco-economics or other causes involving citizen education.

Update on Strategy & Society: Abolish Corporate Personhood

Abolish Corporate PersonhoodIn my last post about Michael Porter’s article, Strategy & Society, The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility, I noted his view of corporations as individuals, a giant organism and their supposed self-interest.  I suggested this view was dysfunctional – a hazard to achieving a successful and sustainable strategy.  Little did I know that the same day I would be practicing citizen journalism with user generated content (the two blog posts right before the one about Strategy & Society) by covering the End Corporate Personhood 1Occupy Portland gathering.  As you will see in my video of the event, Signs and Voices, the issue of corporations as individuals was on the minds of many in the crowd. It’s a story stream that I am embedded in which actually began when I taped a Thom Hartman speech at the June 2010 Seattle Green Festival on this very subject. It’s posted to EarthSayers.tv, voices of sustainability.

This has been my journey in thinking about corporations as individuals and it has led me to one conclusion. Yours may be different, but I hope you tune into my story stream and give a listen.

Ruth Ann Barrett

High Risk Energy Alternatives: Nuclear and Gas

ConsciousAwareness4GIn the context of diminishing fossil fuel resources, climate change, and the quest for a carbon free future, the EarthSayers.tv special collection on high risk energy alternatives features nine videos about nuclear power and natural gas, the latter involving an extraction process called fracking.

All of these videos were made before the meltdown of three units at the Fukushima reactor site.

We will continue to grow the collection so as to provide voices of sustainability to our citizens who will be asked to make decisions in their communities – oceanside, rural, urban, mountain – about alternative, high risk energy sources.

(1) 300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds
Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we’re reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we’re in for an exciting ride. While there’s a real risk that we’ll fall off a cliff, there’s still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future.

(2) Energy: The Next 10 Years Really Matter by Alexander Van de Putte
Alexander Van de Putte, Senior Director and Operating Officer at PFC Energy International and a member of PFC Energy’s Executive Committee discusses how givens and wildcards can affect our future global energy needs. He discusses how Givens, which are defined as: low uncertainty with high impact events, such as climate change, demographics and hydrocarbon supply will impact our ability to produce energy.

(3) Peak Oil and Resource Wars by Daniele Ganser
Daniele Ganser talks about Peak Oil and Resource Wars at student seminar on sustainability, 2009. What’s the solution when demand is going up and availabiity is going down? It’s only been 150 years of the oil age.

See also special collection from Peak Moment TV.

(4) Climate Change and Nuclear Energy by Anthony Giddens

Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens is a British sociologist who is renowned for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies.  Underlying foundations of climate change science and nuclear proliferation are two greatest risks in this century and we must mobilize against them. He discusses issue of energy security in a rapidly industrializing world in a world of scarce resources.

(5) Nuclear: Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive by Kevin Kamps
Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear explodes the myths now being promulgated by those promoting nuclear power. He tells of the insoluble problems of nuclear waste, how nuclear power plants routinely emit radioactive poisons, how catastrophic accidents can happen, how nuclear power plants are pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction for terrorists, and the enormously high costs of nuclear power.

Trailer for the Save the WORLD AWARDs show. Issues addressed at this television event include: Climate, Energy, Water,  Pollution, Hunger, Peace, Dignity, and health. It takes place in a nuclear power that was built but never used in Austria.

(7) TED Debate: Does the world need nuclear energy? Brand & Jacobson
Nuclear power: the energy crisis has even die-hard environmentalists reconsidering it. In this first-ever TED debate, Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson square off over the pros and cons. A discussion that’ll make you think — and might even change your mind.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes.

(8) Gas Drilling: Stories From the Front Line
Candace Mingins Ms. Mingins lives with her husband and three children on their family farm in Van Etten, NY. A well was drilled on their property in 2006. In 2008, she helped organize Shaleshock Citizens Action Coalition .

(9) Gas Drilling is Unsafe
Central United Methodist Church Endicott, NY; March 17, 2009 Barbara Arrindell is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability. She discusses what is involved in gas drilling on a scale of development with many stages -all entail contamination. This is a process that could only happen in a de-regulated situation. This is a public health crisis.

Sustainability Awareness: And the problem is US

ConsciousAwareness4GThe headline and article in today’s Financial Times,  “Environment: long-term impact of green issues played down: Awareness of environmental issues is growing among consumers, who now understand more clearly the role that business plays in producing emissions or harming the environment.”

That’s the good news about awareness growing. They give a nod to the effectiveness of social media in connecting egregious acts of social injustice in, say, Mexico to the shoes you are thinking about buying here in Portland.

So what’s the bad news?

“However, the long-term impact on brands is not as great as it might seem. People have short memories and most consumers’ buying decisions are more influenced by price, convenience or product features.”

The bad news is US.

Here’s an excellent interview with Dominique Conseil, President of Aveda, on changing our habits that address the US issue.

P.S. Recent consumer study by GoodHousekeeping magazine that suggest we are on our way:

“Key findings show that concern about the environment is top of mind and influences daily behaviors and decision-making.”

Cause-driven Organizations: Stars not Planets

A recent Pew research study which examined nine months of consumer data spanning the first three quarters of 2010, and summarized at journalism.com “sheds light on the significance of search aggregators and social networks, the importance of creating a family of related Websites, and hints at which kinds of sites might have more success with paywalls than others.Screen shot 2011-05-12 at 11.53.57 AM

The importance of linking sites with mutual interests, say all those around water, needs to be emphasized to cause-driven organizations who continue to view their Website as the center of the universe, rather than as one star among hundreds in a virtual constellation accessible to educate our citizens on becoming more conscious and aware of this one planet and its needs. We  need to connect the stars for  them and view their learning process as a journey, an exploration.  For us at EarthSayers.tv we are connecting the people around the sustainability movement and beginning to organize them into  special collections around geography and issues such as water.  Linking is what we do to increase awareness and adoption of sustainability principles and practices. We always appreciate when organizations link back, but few do.  That’s got to change.

Sustainability: Challenges and Risks

“Ideally, however, no institutions in modern society are better situated and none more obliged to facilitate the transition to a sustainable future than colleges and universities…”

This quote is from David Orr’s book, The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention. He is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and is also a James Marsh Professor at large at the University of Vermont.  What caught my attention in this book was Dr. Orr’s question that followed the above statement :

“What would it mean for educational institutions to meet this challenge?”

Sustainability advocates working throughout the system might find his observations in terms of higher education applicable to other institutions. Here is his summary of the needs and risks with a few of my off-side comments in parenthesis.

– Dialogue
For one thing it would mean fostering in every possible way a broad and ongoing dialogue about concentrated economic power and the changes that will be necessary to build a sustainable economy.

(Nearly everyone I talk with cites “silos” as a major barrier to dialogue, collaboration, and the cross fertilization of ideas. In Universities they are called departments. Non-profits can be special interest silos.  In business silos are formed around functions e.g. marketing or business units or even geographies.

I know of no safe way to conduct that conversation that would not threaten the comfortable or risk losing some of the institution’s financial support, a sensitive topic when the average cost of college education is becoming prohibitively expensive.

(This should sound familiar to folks in non-profits, organizations relying on advertisers, politicians, political parties…)

– Systemic Thinking
Furthermore, colleges and universities ought to equip students, by every means possible, to think systematically, rationally, and, yes, emotionally about long term technological choices and how such decisions should be made.

(Here “students” can be expanded to include customers, employees, shareholders, partners.)


That discussion, too, would raise contentious issues having to do with the meaning of progress and economic growth. And it would implicitly challenge the unbrideled freedom of inquiry, if the extreme exercise of that freedom undermines biological order, democratic institutions, and social sustainability that give rise to it in the first place. Issues of “who gains and who loses” from unrestricted inquiry will press heavily on the university and cannot be dodged much longer.

(I haven’t heard any one discuss the unbrideled freedom of inquiry and extreme exercise of that freedom which undermines biological order, but my guess is that GMO and the patenting of seeds might fall into this category.)

Finally the cynical view, pawned off as “objective” social science, that humans are only self-maximizers must be revealed for what it is: half-truth in service to the economy of greed. Increasingly the young know that their inheritance is being spent carelessly and sometimes fraudulently…

(Think economics and the free market then read Raj Patel’s book, The Value of Nothing and give a listen to Raj on EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability.

What they may not know is where we, their teachers, mentors, and role models stand or what we stand for.

(This is where we have focused our efforts by creating EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability: the unfiltered voices.  It’s time for leaders to step up to the plate and give voice to their views.)