California

One World One Ocean

Our actions toward the ocean in the next 10 years will define the next 10,000.
-Sylvia Earle, oceanographer

When documentary filmmaker Greg MacGillivray heard Sylvia Earle utter that warning, he decided he must use his skills in whatever way he could to help the ocean. So in 2007, he and his wife formed the One World One Ocean Foundation, with the mission to use storytelling and great filmmaking to connect people to ocean preservation. The MacGillivrays are using film, television, and educational campaigns to reach a wide audience and influence the public to:

  1. Buy sustainable seafood
  2. Reduce plastic pollution
  3. Expand the ocean’s protected areas to 10%

The MacGillivrays believe that great storytelling has the power to change the world and that all great movements start from the bottom up, so they hope that showing people new, exciting views of the ocean will encourage them to get active. Many people aren’t aware of facts like:

  • The oceans are responsible for 50-70% of the oxygen we breathe
  • 90% of the oceans’ big fish are gone from overfishing and the remaining big fish are half as large
  • Massive floating plastic material is collecting in 5 places around the world, getting into marine life (causing illness and death) and entering our diets when we eat seafood
  • There are 405 dead zones in the oceans, where life cannot exist

As One World One Ocean says,

The ocean is our life support. It generates most of the oxygen we breathe. It regulates our climate. It provides us with food. It is the largest, most diverse reservoir of natural resources on the planet. Simply put, it is our lifeline.

Over the next 20 years, we can expect One World One Ocean to visit all 5 oceans and create: 3 IMAX movies, 1 feature film, 8 TV specials and 1,000 online videos (quite a commitment)! I am hoping, however, that their work will inspire the necessary change before they’re even halfway there. So, let’s ALL check out their website and start learning! We can (& should) all be a part of keeping our oceans healthy. After all, truly, everyone, everywhere depends on a healthy sea.

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Jay Shafer

Photo by Jack Journey, copyright of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company 2008

Jay Shafer will make you a house smaller than most people’s closets. It will have a sleeping space, a living space, a kitchenette, and a bathroom…all in as little as 65 sq. ft. It will provide light, warmth, energy efficiency, and good proportion and, Jay says, it will be more luxurious than any mansion. Such is the mission of his business, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, founded in 2000. Tired of vacuuming and dusting big spaces and concerned about the impact of larger homes on the environment, Jay began creating blueprints for a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. The first house, called Tumbleweed, was 89 sq ft. and he has since expanded his plans to almost 9 times that size.

Jay believes that Americans have an overwhelming habit of “going big”, living in homes on average 4 times as large as the international norm. As a result, we pay high mortgages for space we rarely use, go into lasting debt and contribute 18 tons of greenhouse gases each year from our houses alone. Jay says:

For decades we’ve been duped into buying more house than we really need. It’s more clear now than ever that our housing system is failing. Even worse, we are all paying for this mistake in the form of government bailouts.

Jay thinks of our excessively big homes as “debtors’ prisons” (I love that) and claims that living in small houses has allowed him to reinvent his life:

Living small is really a luxury in the sense that I have a lot of time now that I didn’t have before. I can focus now on other things I want to do in my life rather than just paying a mortgage and taking care of a house.

One of the things he’s found most interesting in his work is the legal backlash against small buildings. Housing codes, which are often developed by the housing industry, mandate a minimum of 220 sq. ft. for living purposes. That makes living full-time in his smaller homes illegal! But why prohibit people from reducing their consumption and occupying homes they can actually afford if that’s what they want to do?

So far, Jay is still working on transforming these rules and hopes that the laws will change as more people embrace smaller lifestyles. Currently, taking into account the average American’s spending practices, only 5 out of every 100 people will retire financially secure. As more people get fed up with chasing the American Dream (and failing) by traditional methods, perhaps more will try out these tinier homes. I know I sure don’t want a large house to worry about! Visit Jay’s site to learn more about his homes- you can see pictures and layouts of all the different models and purchase plans or homes pre-assembled!

Here’s a tour of his tiny house:

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Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is a Barnard graduate (wahoo!) who has become a mastermind behind our system of “stuff”. While attending college in New York City and witnessing mountains of trash piled on the curb, she took a trip to Fresh Kills Landfill and was astounded by our economy of waste. She started researching the path of our “stuff” and has since spent over 10 years investigating where our products come from, where they go when we’re through with them, and what their overall impact is on all of us. She created an hour-long talk on “The Story of Stuff” which in 2007, was compacted into an illustrated 21-minute video. That video has since had over 15 million views in over 200 countries, making it one of the most well-known environmental videos of all time!

Annie’s belief is that in our current western lifestyle, we’re trashing the planet, we’re trashing each other, and we’re not even having fun. We’re at an “ecological brink” of disaster on a lot of issues and by 2050, we’ll be living over 500% above the planet’s resources. Communities across the world are suffering environmental and health damage to make our products and then bearing the burden of our hazardous trash when it’s shipped back to them. We’re spending the majority of our time watching tv and shopping, which often doesn’t give us lasting happiness (it’s been found that the key factors to happiness beyond basic fundamental needs are: having purpose or meaning in life, having strong social relationships, and spending leisure time with friends or family). We have become consumers first and everything that used to be provided by the community and social interaction has been commodified. As a result, we have to work more to get more stuff, which now has become a burden to us. Our stuff owns us.

Annie has looked further into this issue to discover that our increasing identification with material objects and our ability to purchase them (thank you advertising!) is connected to a broader phenomenon in which corporations in this country have made our society and government serve them above the population. As Annie says, our tax money has been “hijacked” to subsidize a whole manner of unsustainable practices and industries that aren’t good for anything in the long run except the corporation’s profits (for example, why are we granting oil and gas companies $10 million in subsidies every year when ExxonMobil alone made over $10 billion in profits in 2011??)  We’re financing processes that pollute people and the environment with our own tax dollars– we’re essentially paying these corporations to destroy the planet. And with the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, in which 5 Justices decided that corporations can essentially pay as much money as they want to influence our votes, the corporation’s control of our government has increased all the more.

So what does Annie suggest?  She recommends that we 1) reclaim our power and identity as citizens, first and foremost; 2) reduce the quantity of what we consume (and also, in hand, aim for better quality as to lengthen the lives of our products); 3) demand more from our tax dollars (after all, it’s our money!), and 4) increase our social connections in our communities. Our democracy was built to serve us, not corporations (in fact, corporations used to be disbanded once they had concluded their projects!) Our priority is to engage as citizens, not to consume (look where focusing mostly on consumption has gotten us today- we’re working more hours, our houses are filled with crap and we’re constantly schlepping). With so much focus on consumption, Annie believes our social fabric is deteriorating– and banding together as a group can fix that. She says that heroes are just “regular people who get involved in making this world better”. We can all be heroes.

To learn more about Annie’s Story of Stuff and various projects, watch her fun, illustrated videos:

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