Falling in Love... with Dirt

Paul Quinn College has found a way to score big on the football field—without playing a single down.

The Dallas, Texas college, which was founded in 1872, recently abandoned its football program and converted the field into a working organic farm maintained by the students themselves.

The metamorphosis was the idea of Quinn president Michael Sorrell, whose goal was to teach agriculture to students in an urban community that, due to the dearth of supermarkets in the area, has difficulty obtaining quality food.

The 'We Over Me Farm' is, as Sorrell describes it, the fundamental core of the institution.

"It shapes the way we view ourselves," says Sorrell. "It shapes the way we teach our students, it shapes the way we reach out to the community, it provides a very real and tangible example of this notion that we simply can do better and we don't have to wait for anyone to do for us [what] we can do for ourselves."

The project has caught on with enthusiastic Quinn undergrads like Ronisha Isham, who has the neighborhood in mind. "It helps the community," Isham says, "and I'm really big on community service."

Fellow student Benito Vidaure beams, "I just fell in love with the dirt."

Slow Films has more on 'We Over Me Farm' in a short-form video viewable here. For further reading, see Janet Heimlich's article in 'The Texas Observer.'

175 Chickens in 1 Minute?!

You'd think the USDA would see the flaw of logic in letting the people who make the food inspect the food and decide if it is actually safe to eat.

The USDA has decided in its infinite wisdom, despite pink slime and a few other debacles of the food industry, to test a program allowing chicken companies to check their own livestock and decide whether or not the chickens are safe to eat.

The USDA claims this will save them tens of millions of dollars.

Well, USDA, I can save you even more. If you're going to let the chicken companies inspect their own chickens, just trash the whole program, because I guarantee you they will decide "ALL of our chickens are safe!"

At some point, you would hope someone at the USDA (and I looked it up, there are over 100,000 employees there) would have raised their hand and pointed out the glaringly obvious: "Uh, since these guys are selling us chicken/beef/fish/whatever, don't you think they are going to say that everything they're selling is safe?"

Ideally, another person (we're up to 2 out of 100,000 — a push perhaps, but I woke up optimistic this morning) would have seconded the first person's statement and then, just maybe, we could have our food actually inspected before we eat it.

Which, I will point out to the USDA and its 100,000 employees, is generally considered to be their core job.

And it gets worse.

There's more...

Americans Don't Burn Books.

Enough is enough. Enough with the bigotry and the hate. Enough with the race-baiting and the fake debate about the Ground Zero Mosque. Enough of white Americans putting up fences to keep their fellow humans out. Enough of the birthers.

Enough of Christian hypocrites who thump their Bibles while denying men and women the right to marry the one they love. Enough of conservatives holding up the Constitution having never actually read it and preaching about one nation under God and also denying that every American has the right to worship the God of their choosing.

Enough of Progressives and Democrats who engage in these debates rather than attack these bigoted racist hypocrites. Enough of the hate-mongers getting all the attention and press.

You have to draw the line somewhere. Guess what? Now's the time.

You are entitled to your own opinion, after all, this is America and there is Freedom of Speech. But just as important, there is freedom of worship. Because of our freedoms, there, ironically, is the freedom to burn books. However.

Because we are Americans, because we defend and fight and preserve the right of free speech, because we have seen what happens in countries who don't defend these freedoms, we do not burn books. Let me repeat that. Americans Don't Burn Books.

We print books that maybe you don't people want to read. We print books filled with hate. We print and print and print books of all kinds, but we don't burn books. By defending everyone's right to speak, we defend our right to speak. By defending everyone's right to their own religion, we defend our own right to our own religion.

We have gone to war with people who do burn books; Adolph Hitler comes to mind. Stalin. Pol Pot. There are others. Our military graveyards are full of the men and women who protected us, who gave their lives for us. Not one soldier has ever died, so we could burn books.

Americans Don't Burn Books.

And we especially don't burn the books of another person's religion.

You may or may not believe in the Bible, but if you think the Bible is the worst book in the world, as an American, you don't have to read it, you don't have to believe, no one can force you to or hold it against you if you don't, but you can not burn the Bible.

You may or may not believe in what is in the Torah. You may think the Torah is the worst book in the world, as an American, you don't have to read it, you don't have to believe it, no one can force you to, or hold it against you if you don't but you can not burn the Torah.

Buddhist books, Pagan books, Hindu books. You can't burn them.

And you can't burn the Koran.

You may or may not believe in what is in the Koran. You may think the Koran is the worst book in the world, as an American, you don't have to read it, you don't have to believe it, no one can force you to, or hold it against you if you don't but you can not burn the Koran.

I salute my friends at Human Rights First who are standing up against the bigots who would burn the Koran on 9/11. And if you want to, you can click here and get a free bookmark from Human Rights First. It says:

Americans Don't Burn Books.

But other people do. Notice the crowd watching the book burning and who is in it.

Take A Break From Kicking Republicans. (And Save Lives In Africa.)

I will keep this brief. Today, in honor of The World Cup, Yahoo has turned their special Penalty Shootout Game (RED) in order to help raise money for AIDS In Africa.

What this means is that all day today, you can take a break and play the game and for every goal you score, Yahoo will donate $1 up to a maximum of $100,000 to help buy life-saving drugs for those living with AIDS in Africa.

Now, true it may not be as much fun as taking a shot at Sarah Palin, but it is for a better cause, and as (RED) has shown with their documentary, The Lazurus Effect, just 40 cents a day can literally help save someone's life.

So please, take a moment, and play. I bet right here at Direct Democracy, we're good for $10,000 today.


Collective Failure. Singular Opportunity.

Last Thursday was the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster and every day, we see more and more evidence that collectively we have failed to not only act, but also we have failed to organize and express our anger about the disaster, and its truly shocking long-term consequences.

My friend Peter Daou wrote a remarkable post, The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response To The Gulf Catastrophe earlier this week -- a very popular one I might add judging by the over 1,200 comments.

One thing that struck me is this passage:

This isn't Katrina II, it's worse. As the oil keeps gushing and the damage keeps growing, we are squandering a rare chance to turn the tide against those whose laziness and greed and ignorance is imperiling every living thing on our wonderful and beautiful -- and wounded --- planet.

Words are a necessary precursor to deeds, anger is an essential ingredient for social change. Speaking up and speaking out is the difference between apathy and action.

We all do need to speak up, we all do need to speak out and we all need to make our voices heard. Every single day, the catastrophe is getting worse.

Today, as I debate why America is so apathetic towards the spill, I am in Los Angeles. As you travel the country, it's not top of the news anywhere anymore. It's fading away, but as the oil floods the Gulf, I was sent another great post by Pete Altman at NRDC, check out these shocking numbers about what one day of inaction looks like.

Because every day we delay,

The United States imports 11.7 million barrels of oil. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. imported an average of 11.7 million barrels per day of crude and other oil products in 2009.

Iran earns $173 million in oil revenues. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iran will generate oil export revenue at $63.4 billion this year from output of 3.82 million barrels per day (bpd). $63.4 billion divided by 365 days is $173.7 million.

Up to 4 million gallons of oil surges into the Gulf
. The official estimate is that about 5,000 barrels of oil are spilling per day, but independent experts contend that the actual amount is far higher -- as much as 95,000 barrels per day. A barrel holds 42 gallons.

China invests $95 million in clean energy -- nearly double the United States investment ($51 million.) In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy compared to $18.6 billion in the U.S. ($34.6 billion/365 = $95 million a day, $18.6 billion/365 = $51 million a day.)

100,000 solar panels roll off Chinese production lines. Solar module production in China and Taiwan will increase 48 percent to 5,515 megawatts in 2010, according to a February, 2010 report by Yuanta. One megawatt requires about 5,000 panels. Assuming 250 production days per year, this translates to 110,300 panels per day.

The United States generates 19 million tons (metric) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. EPA's most recent greenhouse gas inventory reports that the U.S. produced 6,956.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent basis) in 2008. That's 19,059,726 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

Clearly we need to move from apathy to action. Because as every day passes, as the evidence of our collective failure washes up on the beaches of the Gulf and deeper and deeper into the marshes of Louisiana, what's Washington's reaction?

"Pathetic" would be kind.

There will evidently be a commission to study this disaster, but as we saw with the 9/11 commission, even solid recommendations are usually ignored by one or both parties with little hope of action.

And Lindsey Graham, who has usually been the top Republican on the issue, thinks that the disaster in the Gulf is a cry for a "smaller" clean energy and climate change bill?

Smaller? This is what is so disgustingly wrong with Washington, and it's up to us to send a message.

Smaller? No way. This is a rallying cry to long-needed action.

Start by watching this:

And then go here and sign a letter to President Obama.

There's more we can all do and more we all must do but for today, it's a start.



One Month After The Oil Spill, It's Time To Act.

One month ago today the Gulf Oil Spill disaster took place. It's been a month where all of the good and bad of the debate on clean energy and our country's future has been plain for all to see.

It's almost hard to pick out specific highlights and lowlights. This is my personal top list and feel free to add in yours in the comments.

The slow realization that this rig was allowed to be drilled without the proper permitting or safety features; safety features that are mandatory in the rest of the world, was sadly expected. It's clear that the federal officials in charge of making sure that this rig was safe and that back-up systems were in place, officials from both administrations, Bush and Obama, failed us.

The almost immediate and completely disgusting partisan split on the issue was really troubling to see, even from someone who is used to it. The fact that the Republicans even launched an Energy Rapid Response Team to push for more off shore drilling as the spill kept spilling was really despicable. And that continues to the day, making it clear I think that the lines are drawn on this issue and it's the American people who are going to have to decide.

The fact that the spill is still spilling one month later is not a shock but a a tragic consequence of our nation's dependence on oil. As long as we are willing to pay $3 or more per gallon of gas, someone will get that oil out of the ground for us - no matter the consequence.

One thing that has been hugely concerning to me as someone who spends a lot of time working in the environmental space online is frankly the lack of outrage. Yes, when the three Stooges went to Washington and blamed each other, there was some outrage. But people still go to BP gas stations, people are not, I do not think, outraged enough about the spill, its impact. I wonder if this is because many know, deep down, that they each own a little bit of that oil spill because of our communal addiction to oil and an oil-based economy.

Today, on the month anniversary of the spill, I think we all need to take a moment and realize what the spill really means - the devastation in the Gulf is a reflection of our collective failure to force Washington and our elected officials to act on clean energy and propel our country, and our economy, powerfully forward. We have, collectively, allowed Washington to stall and wait and literally do nothing for three decades, ever since Jimmy Carter tried to lead the way forward on the issue.

Today, we must stand up.

Robert Redford has a great new spot out working with NRDC (with whom I also work) talking about this simple fact - that video is here.

He's right in that we all need to go straight to President Obama and to our elected officials and say "enough is enough" we need to act.

We need leadership from the White House and from Washington on this issue and we need it now.

Sadly, in the current political climate, leadership happens when Americans force the issue. So please click through, sign the letter, post this on Facebook, Tweet it.

For thirty days and thirty nights, oil has poured into one of our country's most important environmental and economic areas, it's time to act.


What's Up With the Rainforest: Collapsing biodiversity is a 'wake-up call for humanity'

The global community has been sent a series of wake-up calls lately: the environmental crisis spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, unprecedented droughts in China, and a report outlining the disastrous impacts of the world's collapsing biodiversity. If events like these still don't send the world into action, I have to wonder what kind of devastating catastrophe finally will. Our environment is an issue facing each and every one of us, thus it will require a proactive response from all corners of the world. Let's not miss the opportunity for these tragedies to serve as a call of action to both our country, and the global community, towards a focus on a safer, healthier, and stronger planet. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, hope you will help in the fight to ensure that the recent environmental tragedies we've seen become a thing of the past.

Sending an urgent call for international action is the UN's Third Global Biodiversity Outlook Report, stating how "our natural support systems are on the verge of collapsing unless radical changes are made to preserve the world's biodiversity". The report highlights the main causes behind biodiversity loss, the ecosystems close to the point of irreparable damage, and the role that government needs to play in making this issue a priority. Making the significance of this crisis even clearer, the report also states what we have to gain - "Ending biodiversity loss will help in the fight against poverty and hunger, while improving human health, security, and wealth for the current and future generations".

However, as the UN calls for "a new vision for biological diversity for a healthy planet and a sustainable future for humankind", a new shopping mall boom in Brazil is becoming the latest threat to the Amazon rainforest, with four of the five largest cities in Brazil have made plans to build American-style shopping malls by the end of next year. This trend reflects not only Brazil's increasing economic growth, but also the challenge in "creating a model of sustainable economic development that includes the people who live in the forest". But combining economic growth with environmental values is not impossible. Made clear in Kenya, where the Kakamega Environmental Education Program (KEEP), a community group with leaders who were once poachers, has "worked out alternative incomes from the forest in a bid to save this fragile ecosystem".

In China, Yunnan's severe drought is one more reminder of the future climate threats we can expect if we continue living the way we do today. According to scientists, "the crisis marks one of the strongest case studies so far of how climate change and poor environmental practice can combine to create a disaster", specifically, the impact of large-scale deforestation and poor water management. But researchers are being adamant learning everything they can from this year's doubt, in hopes of being "better prepared when the next natural disaster strikes".

Closer to home, not everyone is sharing the commitment to learning from the past. While the oil spill in the Gulf may have brought a heightened focus to the broader issue at play - the danger that our dependence on fossil fuels creates for both our coasts and our health - BP doesn't seem to be addressing the concern. As seen by the oil company's announcement that it would continue its plan to build an oil sands pipeline to the British Columbian coast - a project which creates the "risks of a major oil spill, endangering salmon, bears and all wildlife" that calls the Great Bear Rainforest home.

Let's not wait for another environmental crisis to hit before we realize the severity of the issues facing our planet. The predictions of what lies ahead for our ecosystems and our health is not set in stone; so call on yourself, your community and your leaders to make the choices that will set us on the path for a sustainable and brighter future. Visit our Facebook page to continue the conversation and stay informed on the latest issues facing the Rainforest. 

You Talked the Talk. Now Let's Walk the Walk.

As BP pumps thousands of barrels of toxic oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day, the threat our dependence on fossil fuels holds should be clearer now than ever before. In the wake of this great tragedy, individual senators have the tremendous opportunity to break the gridlock, and step up to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate policy. In particular, there are a few Senators who have a record of talking the talk on this issue, and the time has come for them to walk the walk.

Senator LeMieux (FL), remember when you said:

"There might have been a time where the jury was out [on climate change], but the jury is in now, and we know this is an issue. We can't afford to ignore it and be wrong."

How many more catastrophes must you live through before you follow your own advice? Now is the time to stand up for your state and ensure that the land they call home will not be threatened by offshore drilling.

Senator Pryor (AL), what happened to the promises you made?

"As part of [the effort to move our country toward energy independence], I believe that we must move beyond oil, gas, and coal and focus on cleaner alternatives and new sources of energy, including renewable fuels. Arkansas, in particular, is rich in bio diesel resources...As your Senator I will fight to help Arkansas become a leader in the new energy economy."

Now is the time to get in the game. Arkansas is counting on you to do everything in your power to pass a clean energy bill that provides more jobs, brings greater national security, and guarantees a healthier environment.

Senator Voinovich (OH), you should be helping make climate an issue at the top of Congress's list. After all, you said so yourself:

"Climate change, and how our nation addresses it, is of incredible importance."

This is your chance to address our dependence on fossil fuels and climate change and protect your state of Ohio by announcing your support for comprehensive clean energy legislation.

Senator Lugar (IN), do you recall the pledge you made?

"Scientists are saying that climate change could cause human displacement, spark wars around the globe and completely disrupt international trade...We do have an obligation to our children, our grandchildren, the earth to think about these things."

And Senator Gregg (NH), don't you understand these stakes as well? You said:

"we have a responsibility to take care of our planet for future generations, and climate change legislation will help stem the environmental impacts of global warming and will spur development of new technologies that bolster our energy independence."

Senators, we know you understand what we stand to lose, you all made it clear that inaction is no longer an option. Now is the moment to stand up and lead your colleagues to protect our generations to come.

Let us not forget that actions always speak louder than words. Senators, now is the time to stand up and declare your support in passing clean energy and climate legislation. We know you get it, so now you must lead the way; your constituents, your state, and your country are depending on you.

The Time Has Come. The Time Is Now.

This week in Washington, debate was supposed to begin on a bill to address climate change and clean energy. The effort led by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman is one of, if not the most important effort, underway in Washington right now. If done correctly, and of course, the final bill has not been seen and much of what is in it is still up for debate, this single bill could be one of the most important legislative events of our lifetime.

The issues addressed in the bill go far beyond whether or not global warming is real (it is) but this bill gives us a chance to move our society forward, create a new country, a new non-fossil fuel based economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs, all right now.

This bill has opposition.

Namely, the oil and dirty energy companies who want to make more money.

Any change has opposition, but the opposition to a brighter future should not now, or ever, become the basis for not reaching for that future. Every significant piece of positive change has come over significant opposition. In fact, the more important the issue, the greater the potential for a brighter future, the greater the opposition.

This fundamental fact of life has seemingly created an atmosphere in Washington that dictates that it's kindergarten time in our nation's capitol and everyone must agree if we are to do anything. Actually, it's just the opposite. The stronger the opposition, the more likely it is that you are on the track for positive change.

The clearest example of this in my mind is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a powerful piece of legislation whose passage, rooted in the lingering memories of the Civil War, literally threatened to tear our country apart. Politicians who supported it were threatened in a way that no Senator is ever going to be threatened for supporting solar energy. Why? Because all the italicized sections below were actual laws, passed by states around our country.

These laws were supported by local and state governments around the country. And they were wrong.

For example,

Nurses: No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Buses: All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama

Now, think about this for a moment. In 1963 and 1964, as Southern President worked to create a coalition of leaders to change these laws, what would have happened if they had stopped because of opposition from the Southern bus companies? Or railroads and restaurants?

Railroads: The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to which such passenger belongs. Alabama

Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama

People were killed in the South for standing up for change to these laws. Death threats were the norm, but the leaders of the day in Washington didn't say this is too hard, they didn't say we need to tackle other issues first, they looked at the laws, at the fundamental injustices, and the powerful chance for positive change and they moved forward.

Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama

Intermarriage: The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void. Arizona

Cohabitation: Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars. Florida

The issue with the debate on climate change is one of money, just like we have seen Senate Republicans stand up for Wall Street as they, and to be honest, many Democrats as well, line their pockets with cash from Wall Street. No oil company, no dirty energy company is going to support the kind of change we need right now, immediately, to start to restructure our country for the future.

Education: The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida

Juvenile Delinquents: There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together. Florida

Mental Hospitals: The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia

I agree with the argument that it has been a generation since Washington has actually passed a real piece of legislation as powerful as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act or the Clean Air Act and the time has come for us, each of us, to demand action. We certainly deserve action on more than just climate change but we need action right now. We must make our voice heard.

At NRDC, they are asking people to make their voice heard on the White House Facebook Wall - click here to find out more. We also need the leadership in the Senate to lead, the best way to do that is to tell Harry Reid that the time has come, the time is now. You can do that by clicking here.

Amateur Baseball: It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race. Georgia

Parks: It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons...and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia

Wine and Beer: All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine...shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room at any time. Georgia

In the mid 1960s, there was a US Senator named Everett Dirksen from Illinois. He was a supporter of Vietnam, one of the biggest hawks on that war, and he was a very conservative Republican. How conservative? Well he beat out a more liberal Republican Senator to become Minority Leader, and that Senator happened to be from Kentucky.

Everett Dirksen worked with Lyndon Johnson to pass the Civil Rights act, it was Dirksen who said "there is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Dirksen was well aware of all of these laws that were in states like Arizona, Wyoming, Georgia, Alabama, Florida.

Reform Schools: The children of white and colored races committed to the houses of reform shall be kept entirely separate from each other. Kentucky

Circus Tickets: All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of...more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Housing: Any person...who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

Dirksen and other leaders of the day knew that equal rights, civil rights for all men and women, was an idea whose time had come.

Our leaders today know the same thing. Every state in our country and every country in our world is facing the challenges and costs of climate change. The time is now, the time has come.

Consider this one last Jim Crow law to know how deeply ingrained, in our states and in our laws, racism was in those days. How can someone who can not see be offended by the person they can not see?

The Blind: The board of trustees shall...maintain a separate building...on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana

What's Up With the Rainforest: More Hope, Less Blame

Celebrations of Earth Day has garnered some more of the world's attention to the environmental crisis threatening the health of the global community and our planet, but we must not forget that working towards a sustainable future is a responsibility that will require dedication all 365 days of the year. And while some corporations have jumped on the eco-bandwagon in an attempt to attract the green consumer, we would like to call attention to the unsung heroes. The individuals, communities, and national leaders who have continually shown a dedication to environmental activism, not driven by profit or personal gain, but by the mission of ensuring we have something to celebrate in the decades to come. We, along with our partnerRainforest Alliance, encourage you to join them, because even though there may be little acclaim for the individual in doing the right thing for the planet, your efforts will lead to rewards that extend far beyond your time.

Our first story reviews a documentaryClimate of Change, which takes a "refreshingly positive look at the future of our planet," revealing the impact actions from committed individuals and small groups from around the group are having on the health of our planet. And in doing so, provides the ingredients we need to take the next step for a better tomorrow -- "passionate young people, quiet heroes and, most importantly, hope."

Education is essential for equipping the younger generation with the knowledge of how to prevent a history of destruction from repeating itself, but also provides the perfect opportunity to instill activism and concern for the broader community from the very beginning. As seen in South Carolina, where a "Save the Rainforest Club" at Ebinport Elementary School doesn't just teach students about the rainforest, it encourages them to take action -- raising thousands of dollars at events such as "Earth Day Birthday" where club members sold recyclable bags they made themselves, auction off pictures they made in the club and sell bookmarks.

Another young individual trying to do his part is 12-year-old Koa Halpern, who is challenging us all to give up fast food as a way to decrease the stress on the environment the fast food industry has created. Wise beyond his years, this passionate young man started the organization Fast Food Free, along with the Web site fastfoodfree.org, in order to encourage and educate individuals to make this pledge for a healthier lifestyle and planet.

Next, an interview with Bianca Jagger, who after spending the last 30 years as a human rights, social justice and environmental protection advocate has proved time and again her dedication to the planet. Jagger's discussion of her latest mission in Niyamgiri not only gives a candid insight into a region where "multinational mining giant Vedanta's operations are threatening the tribals with extinction" but will prompt you to ask yourself, "Are we willing to endanger individuals survival, in order to enable corporations to exploit our natural resources?"

In the Republic of Korea, we see individuals being recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with a Champion of the Earth award for their leadership in the fight to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change. President Bharrat Jagdeo was one of these recipients, being acknowledged specifically for his ability to recognize the scope of green economy benefits, in terms of not only battling climate change but also "in terms of development; employment; improved water supplies and the conservation of biodiversity."

While its obvious that there are many individuals taking action towards fixing the devastating actions of our past, we end with a look at what we need to accomplish in the next 40 years in order make the future a change for the better. Let's not waste the can do energy Earth Day has rejuvenated. Our planet needs more than just 24 hours of R&R so we urge you to stay informed on the latest issues and visit us on Facebook to connect with fellow activists. 


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