If the world were watching, what story would you tell? This is the challenge, and the premise of Pangea Day, an event slated for May 10, 2008 that will combine music, film and visionaries around the globe. Their Website states:
Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.
In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
I’m not a big fan of the word “tolerance” (because that is something you do with colds) and would prefer compassion as a sole value, but I like the spirit of this project. I think too much “alternative” media is just negative, and it’s refreshing to see media put to positive use as a way for people to connect with each other (after all, think about why we go to the movie theater in the first place). Thankfully the organizers recognize that images alone don’t build community so they will be networking organizations in the process as well.
I admit that Dove’s first round of postironic anti-“beauty” beauty commercials rubbed me the wrong way. I posted that it was a little too close to the edge of self-promotion for a beauty supply company to market itself as the anti-product. But this one is pretty darn amazing, to be honest, and it really hit me viscerally because I have a young daughter. The advice is wise: we shouldn’t let media parent our children. So though there’s a tiny cynical voice inside me that decries this as an insidiously ploy cloaked inside the protein shell of a corporate virus, I believe the intention behind it is sincere. I believe this would be a good teaching tool, as long as it is presented within the context of other messages.
I just became aware that Dove’s parent company Unilever also makes Axe, which has one of the most heinous, misogynous marketing campaigns in the universe. It is so insidious and evil it almost nullifies all the good will that Dove creates with its ad. Because on the one hand, Dove is promoting the self-esteem of girls, but on the other, Axe not only promotes the degradation of girls, it creates the fantasy that women are just tools of male sexuality. It subtly promotes a rapist mentality by encouraging the belief that every woman’s goal is to rip off her clothes at the first sent of a boy using Axe. And if she doesn’t, what will he do with his false expectations? It is quite infuriating and disgusting.
Unilever says it wants to promote girls’ self-esteem. Its Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has been lauded for challenging the standards of the beauty industry.
There’s just one problem: Unilever is the beauty industry. A manufacturer of diet aids, cosmetics, skin whiteners, and other beauty products, Unilever is responsible for much of the advertising it claims it wants to help girls resist. Unilever’s advertising for Axe grooming products – which appears frequently on MTV and other youth-oriented media – epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls’ healthy development.
If Unilever is serious about promoting girls well-being, they’ll start by looking in the mirror. Please take a moment to urge Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau to end the degrading Axe campaign.
Recently I posted some video of Jean Kilbourne who’s a professor and book author talking about images of women in advertising. But what about normal girls? What do they have to say? A project of 3iYing, this site presents a series of young women giving straight-talk deconstructions of magazine ads. Makes me wonder if I should keep the shingle on the door and quit the media literacy biz altogether, because I think most people know by this point that these ads are a bunch of bull. But it’s nice to highlight just how wasteful and stupid the advertising biz really is. And please folks, stop being afraid. Ads are not going to ruin your mind, as these thoughtful citizen critics remind us.
I estimate today that there are between one and two million organizations in the world that are addressing social justice and the environment, human rights and ecological restoration. It’s not only the largest movement in the world, it is so large compared to any other thing that exists or has existed, that there is really no second place. And I think the reason we don’t see it as a movement is because it is so different from anything we’ve seen before. We see movements as ideological, as starting in some center and spreading out from that place, as having leaders that we look to for inspiration, and who then manage and guide.
At the same time, most movements have wanted to amalgamate power to themselves in some form or another. They’ve looked at concentrations of power and said, “We want some.” But this movement is very different. It’s not ideological, it’s based on ideas. Ideologies constrain and dictate what you can and cannot do.
The study reported below examines how news coverage of climate change has an alarmist tone, arguing that this inhibits people from taking action. I wholeheartedly agree. One of my biggest complaints regarding media literacy practices is that they can be done with a fear-generating approach that leaves people disempowered because by the end of a workshop they will feel used and brainwashed. I’ve seen this happen many times and complained to one well-known media critic that his talks were making people feel helpless. He replied that it was a good thing to create an emotional response and it wasn’t his problem to help them find the solution. I believe this is the opposite approach that we should take with our critical thinking skills. Instead we should not only “deconstruct” but “reconstruct” as well. This is the difference between a design solution and one based simply on criticizing effects. I applaud Simon Retallack for taking the lead on this issue. You can hear an interview with him on Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Simon Retallack, who is just in from Britain for the International Forum on Globalization conference. What is “climate porn”?
SIMON RETALLACK: Good question. It’s a phrase that authors of a report that we commissioned in London came up with to describe the way in which some journalists, some environmentalists and even some politicians use alarmist language to talk about climate change, in a way that you might see headlined, certainly in British newspapers, saying almost “the end is nigh,” using biblical terms to describe the impacts of climate change. It’s a phrase that is certainly not used to undermine the science. It certainly doesn’t mean to do that. What it seeks to do is try to encourage people to think about what sort of language will be necessary to motivate the public to take action.
If we talk about climate change in a way that makes it appear that there’s nothing we can do anymore about it, that it’s too late, that it’s happening, it’s going to be devastating on a global scale, without giving people the option and making the solutions clear to act, then I think we’re going to turn people off. So it’s part of some research and a long-running project that we’re engaged with to try to find ways of simulating climate-friendly behavior amongst the public.
Government and media organisations were today accused of undermining efforts to tackle global warming by using alarmist language that amounts to “climate porn”.
The “apocalyptic” way in which climate change is often portrayed in the press and on government websites succeeds only in “thrilling” people while undermining practical efforts to tackle the problem, according to Labour’s favourite thinktank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.
It analysed reports of climate change in 600 articles, 90 television adverts and news clips, as well as websites run by government and green groups.
A report on the project, published today, found that the issue was discussed in wildly divergent ways, and it argued that this meant the message to the public on climate change was “confusing, contradictory and chaotic”.
It says that the most prevalent tone for the discussion was “alarmist” and this was not confined to the tabloid press. It even cited a video on climate change produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Articles cited included one in Dazed and Confused, which said “We’re heading for dodo status”, and a piece in the Financial Times, which said “Think of being a canoe drifting downstream, then recognising too late that you are about to go over a waterfall”.
The report said that such “sensationalism… serves to create a sense of distance from the issue”.
It argued: “Alarmism might even become secretly thrilling – effectively a form of ‘climate porn’ rather than a constructive message. All of this serves to undermine the ability of this discourse to bring about action.”
I’m optimistic about The 11th Hour documentary because it features many Bioneers. If you don’t know about the Bioneers, the best way to learn about them is to go to their annual conference every October in Northern California, or attend one of their many satellite gatherings (see their site for locations and schedule). Though they look at the world critically, they also offer solutions. The conference is one of the few places that leaves me believing that there is a way out of our mess, and that practical solutions do exist. My sense is that the movie, though alarming in its trailer, will offer solutions as well.
Bioneers was conceived to conduct programs in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, traditional farming practices, and environmental restoration.Our vision of environment encompasses the natural landscape, cultivated landscape, biodiversity, cultural diversity, watersheds, community economics, and spirituality. Bioneers seeks to unite nature, culture and spirit in an Earth-honoring vision, and create economic models founded in social justice.
Restoration addresses the premise that “sustainability” is problematic in the context of an environment that is already depleted. As Paul Hawken has noted, sustainability is simply the midpoint between destruction and restoration. The goal of Bioneers is restoration, addressing the interdependent array of economics, jobs, ecologies, cultures, and communities.
Bioneers are biological pioneers who are working with nature to heal nature and ourselves. They have peered deep into the heart of living systems to devise strategies for restoration based on nature’s own operating instructions. They come from many cultures and perspectives, and all walks of life.
Bioneers are scientists and artists, gardeners and economists, activists and public servants, architects and ecologists, farmers and journalists, priests and shamans, policymakers and citizens. They are everyday people committed to preserving and supporting the future of life on Earth. They herald a dawning Age of Restoration founded in natural principles of kinship, interdependence, cooperation, reciprocity, and community.
Uniting nature, culture, and spirit, Bioneers embody a change of heart – a spiritual connection with the living world that is grounded in social justice. Their pragmatic strategies effectively address many of our most pressing ecological and societal challenges.
Above all, Bioneers represent a culture of solutions. Their stories demonstrate that just as people have created the environmental and social problem we face, people can solve them – through a reciprocal partnership with nature. Over and over, they show how great a difference the actions of one individual can make.
I think my spot would never make it on TV. It would go something like this: “The way we consume power is like thinking we can eat without taking a crap.” If you have a way to visualize this, please let me know.
Act For Change is calling on consumers to write Apple’sSteve Jobs to free the new iPhone from locking in exclusively with ATT as the sole provider. I agree and think it’s a really bad deal for consumers and a bad precedent for democracy, especially considering ATT’s track record with civil liberties. Monopoly cell contracts have been the bane of my existence and to many around the world. It is disappointing that Apple will contribute further to this uncouth business model. Sign the petition here, and read below for more details.
On Friday June 29, Apple will release the iPhone, with 3 million units available — seemingly more than enough to match the endless hype. However, if you want to purchase one, you’ll be stuck using it on AT&T. It doesn’t matter that the iPhone could work on other networks — Apple refuses to let that happen.
The iPhone uses technology (known as GSM) that should allow it to work on other wireless networks, including overseas. But Apple has configured the iPhone so you’re forced to use it on AT&T. An iPhone purchased in the U.S. will only work on the AT&T network, regardless of what SIM card is placed in it — it cannot be taken to another GSM network such as T-Mobile.
So, if you’re interested in an iPhone but are turned off by AT&T’s corporate policies — such as turning consumers’ information over to the National Security Agency without warrants, their efforts to wipe out net neutrality, or the close-to-100% Republican giving of their new chairman — you’re out of luck.
It is in fact perfectly legal, according to a recent decision from the U.S. Register of Copyrights, for American consumers to unlock their phones for use on whatever network they would like. Apple is trying to take away that right by locking the iPhone to AT&T’s network.
I saw Paul Hawken give a talk at the 2006 Bioneeers conference, The Other Superpower (you can download an iPod version here). He recently scribed a book based on the ideas he presented called, Blessed Unrest. His basic argument, which is highlighted below in an article for Orion Magazine, is that there is a massive, unparalleled movement of unofficial organizations around the globe that are working for justice and environmental causes. To make his point during the Bioneers talk he made a video that listed all the organization names in his database and ran them like a movie credit roll. He said that it would have to play continuously for several days to run the entire list.
What he describes reminds me of the international day of protest when over ten million people around the world contested Bush’s efforts to attack Iraq. I recall how astonishing it was that so many people could coordinate on the same day in a singular voice to stop the war. Clearly these people were far more correct than the warmongering pundits paraded on television, and the fact that they could all do it simultaneously around the world on the same day still astounds me. So don’t give up hope, my friends. Please read Hawken’s book and article for further inspiration.
Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic. Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?
After spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of these organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of history, no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye.
What does meet the eye is compelling: tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
Not to belabor the point, but sometimes adults could use a good metaphorical spanking. Watch and listen as this child speaks from the heart about state of the world to a UN panel of so-called grown-ups.
One things I miss about the good ol’ days of modernity is the massive output of manifestos that artists and activists churned out to contest the prevailing ideas of their world. With names like Futurists, Surrealists, and Bauhaus, people seemed to care a lot about having clear and strong opinions. With the advent of the postmodern world in which all values and morals are relative, it seems as if the Age of Manifestos transmuted into the 30 second sound bite and became solely the province of marketing. Not necessarily so. ChangeThis has a cool project in which people can send manifestos to their Website and readers then can vote for whether or not the manifesto gets published. The goal is to spread useful ideas. I submitted a proposal, “A Community is Not a Demographic,” with the following summary. You can vote here to encourage them to publish it.
In The Forest People Colin Turnbull recounts his experience of living among the Pygmy. He described an uncorrupted dreamworld where the number one crime against the community was hording food from the hunt. The punishment was temporary exile until the offender learned his lesson. Likewise, the memory of my high school punk years has a similar halcyon quality in which the single most significant crime against the scene was selling out. Unfortunately our culture has devolved into a marketing style. So if we are to rescue anything from punk beyond fashion, than it must be the demand for ethical behavior when marketers appropriate “indie culture.” Principles make a real community, because we acknowledge that our behaviors affect each other, just as the Pygmies identified hording as a socially destructive. We need to discard the lamest excuses of the 20th Century, “It’s only business,” and come to terms with the notion that a community is not a demographic.
Progressives will need a steady influx of cash to help pay for all the organizing that must be done and also to underwrite the costs for multimedia production. Ultimately our new media system is about the production and distribution of multimedia content. If we are going to change the hearts and minds of the public, the key 21st Century place to do so will be via digital media. That’s why it’s urgent now that we place ourselves squarely within the emerging digital enterprise to help harness its media and financial power for social change.
Imagine, a progressive Web 2.0 service owned and controlled by low-income residents of New Orleans. It could be a powerful independent media force serving as an agent for justice, while offering a variety of programming revealing what the mainstream media continues to ignore. Such a service would also be a place for community conversation, and a networking hub that could help generate revenues. It would help make more visible, especially through local online search services, the array of progressive voices.
As the hype machine salivates over Steve Jobs‘ announcement of the the new iPhone (at a whopping $400 price tag!), Greenpeace is pushing for a better ecology policy at Apple. At issue is the continued built-in obsolescence of Apple’s products (as a Mac user, you can imagine the frustration of the constant equipment upgrades that have leapfrogged me over the past few years), and the toxic by-product of used computers and batteries. The trailer above is for a movie, Digital Dump, which documents the journey of hi-tech junk. So while I love my Powerbook, at the same time I have to keep in mind that the consumption of electronics and their attendant dream world have a direct environmental impact, from toxic waste to the carbon emissions by-product of the electricity I use to produce media. For more information about digital dumping, go to the Basel Action Network. Also, you can read this great article from Solon.com, “Where computers go to die– and kill.”
The photo below is from a Chinese computer scrapyard where poor people extract precious metals from computer parts.
As this year’s MacWorld expo kicked off in San Francisco, we wanted to show the participants what’s really beneath the skin of their favorite Apple products. Greenpeace activists projected giant images of the Asian scrapyards where many electronic products – including those made by Apple – end up at the end of their lives. Images of electronics being melted down, taken apart and releasing toxic chemicals were displayed above the front of the Apple store.
The folks at Save the Internet have released this nicely produced video into the googlesphere that explains the issues of “net neutrality.” Granted , this is not an objective presentation of the materials, but I still like how the CEOs of communications companies are portrayed as aliens. If you are convinced that you should take action, then click on the following link:
Jose Ignacio Lopez Vigil and the Radio Venceremos crew (nice hair!)
More from the ACME summit. It was fun to reconnect with Jonathan and Susan from Reclaim the Media, folks I met several years ago in New Mexico at the first ACME conference. They are radio and indy media activists who told me of a really awesome concept, radio barnraising, a community project for creating popular radio. Essentially activists and volunteers gather to build a local radio station and to train producers in remote communities of typically under-served populations, such Mexican migrant workers.
Among those in attendance was Jose Ignacio Lopez Vigil, a Central American radialista who I’ve admired from a distance. He is co-author of one of the best books I’ve read about guerrilla warfare and media, Rebel Radio, a history of the FMLN’s Radio Venceremos that broadcast in the midst of El Salvador’s bloodiest fighting during the Civil War of the 1980s. It’s a gripping tale, and makes punk zine publishing seem like kindergarden. What follows is a snip from his thoughts concerning a production pedagogy. It has good lessons for any media activist out there trying to develop a credible approach to popular media.
Friends, I will take this opportunity to share three ideas, three challenges that I find fundamental in these diffcult times that we are living today. As alternative community radio people (radialistas), as women and men passionate about the radio, I think we have to achieve three combinations, three fusions, the first being the fusion of content and form. Making a stupid, superficial program, void of ideas, is easy. It’s also easy to make a program that is profound and full of ideas, but cumbersome. The first is entertaining and done in an enjoyable, cheerful fashion, but it doesn’t say anything. The second may have great content, but it is boring, and lacks wit. And if it doesn’t have charm, it’s lost, because if it is informative and educational but boring, nobody will listen to it. Even if it has great content, nobody will listen to it. Therefore we have to fuse form and content. Sometimes we say that since we are community based one does not have to worry so much about the quality, but the contrary is the case: only the best for the people. An educational program has to be cheerful, attractive, and seductive, precisely because of what it is it needs to be of excellent quality.
As a mentor (no, not a member of that gawd-awful trash metal band of the ’80s who wore executioner hoods when performing live), I work with youth to guide and support their media activism. (You can read about it in the article I wrote in Clamor Magazine called, “School of (Punk) Rock.”) I hear many reports from younger people about feeling stifled by the corporate regurgitation of youth culture, and also the stagnant atmosphere engulfing post-9/11 activism. I feel their pain. Still, I was very impressed by the young activists I encountered at Bonnaroo (such as Clean Vibes) and have noticed a high level of media savvy among college activists these days.
Compared to my university days when all we had were those horrible inky blue mimeograph machines, activists now have blogs, downloadable PDFs, news conferences, Web sites, viral media and so on. They are plugged into an unparalleled vast, global network, something Paul Hawken lovingly calls, “The Other Super Power” (I highly recommend this podcast of Hawken and the Dalai Lama, and this article by Bioneers co-founder Kenny Ausubel, “Heeding the Law of the Land“). When 10 million anti-war/pro-peace marchers gathered and protested on the same day months before the US invaded Iraq, it was an unprecedented planetary event. I get shivers thinking about it.
Thankfully The Nation (a magazine I still read and respect) sponsored a contest for young activists to write about the issues that concern them. The five winners can be read here. “Project Corpus Callosum” by Sarah Stillman of Yale University was the top prizewinner. It’s beautifully written and is worth a gander. As she states, it’s all about networking our brain hemispheres:
“We must begin rebuilding the intricate connections between our collective left brain (where we house our analytical critique of twenty-first-century woes) and our collective right brain (where we harbor our dreams that another world is possible). Already, young people are building this cross-hemisphere bridge–performing guerrilla theater, conducting counter-recruiting workshops, creating community-policing initiatives, writing feminist blogs and building transnational ties with youth activists around the world. Before long, we will hit our stride with Project Corpus Callosum: a much-needed mission to restore the space within our collective conscience where our radical imaginations meet our commitment to everyday action.”