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Italy’s ecological transition with Minister Cingolani

By ecology, sdg 1, sdg 10, sdg 11, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 16, sdg 17, sdg 2, sdg 3, sdg 4, sdg 5, sdg 6, sdg 7, sdg 8, sdg 9

Alongside Roberto Cingolani, Minister for the Ecological Transition, we imagined what the world will be like in 2040 when his youngest son will be 30 years old. Cingolani helps us understand why we need to act now to put all the knowledge we have to good use. Are you ready to do your part to facilitate a transition that, by the very nature of the term, must be gradual?

Cristina: How will we transition from the world we have to the one we want? We came to Genoa to ask the Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani, physicist, researcher and father of 3 children. Good morning Minister. In 2040 we’ll be 10 years away from the 2050 target of zero emissions and your youngest son will be 30 years old – what will the world look like?

Minister Cingolani: If we’ll have done a good job it could be much cleaner than it is now and above all, there should be much less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we’ll probably start to limit and mitigate the effects of global warming. The problem is that we have to start tomorrow and install all the renewable energy we need, we have to reach 72% of renewable electricity by 2030, so 10 years before the date you mentioned and I have to say that it worries me. Paradoxically, the problem today is neither resources nor technology, nor companies that can install these large plants, especially in Italy where we have lots of know-how. Right now, the most limiting factor is the bureaucratic one. The chain of permits for the installation of photovoltaic, wind and renewable energy plants is so slow, we risk that during the 5-year duration of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), these permits will be issued too late. First of all, we need to simplify the regulatory and authorizational aspects because there is such urgency, we can no longer waste any
time.

Cristina: Let’s imagine that world in 2040 for a moment longer.

Minister Cingolani: Smart mobility, cities on a human scale, greener. Hopefully we will have recovered some biodiversity, and above all, a greater awareness of tomorrow’s adults, today’s children.

Cristina: A question about fossil fuel subsidies is inevitable. Where are we and what do you think is the right destination?

Minister Cingolani: It’s a very delicate subject, unfortunately, sustainability is a compromise between different demands, we must mitigate the damage we’ve done to the environment as soon as possible, but at the same time, we must allow people to live and work. Unfortunately this also depends on contingent situations, we are not coming out of a particularly prosperous and happy period. The subsidies must certainly be reduced as soon as possible, and if we can reduce them we can reinvest a part of these reductions in something that will help create new jobs, including the reconditioning of the transportation industry. It’s a balancing act because if we ideologize the problem we harm workers, if we neglect the problem we harm the environment, so we all need to think about how to reorganize our habits and our lifestyles knowing that nothing is free.

Cristina: Thank you Minister.

Minister Cingolani: Thank you and good luck to everyone.

Cristina: Our country’s green transition must fulfill all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. An eye on the present and an eye to the future!

On air June 12th, 2021

Bees – the sentinels of biodiversity

By ecology, sdg 1, sdg 10, sdg 11, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 16, sdg 17, sdg 2, sdg 3, sdg 4, sdg 5, sdg 6, sdg 7, sdg 8, sdg 9

Having taken sustainable development to heart for a few decades now and focusing on solutions to our biggest challenges, I tend to think that issues which have been brought to our attention have positively evolved. Sadly that’s not the case but I know we have all the information to evolve as a species and co-exist respectfully with the complex ecosystems that we’re a part of. Speaking with Andrea, the beekeeper I always buy honey from, he introduced me to Luca Bosco and Marco Bergero. Thanks to these dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable young men, I found out that bees and pollinators are more threatened than ever. That’s how this interview came about and I learned how much more there is to do. If you know any hazelnut or almond growers please share this story. Christina Grozinger, Director of the Center for Pollination Research at Penn State confirms that exposure to fungicides, neonicotinoids and insecticides is causing great harm to pollinators. Engaging in conversations with the people we buy produce from is critical to understanding the  impact of our choices.

Cristina: Today is World Biodiversity Day, and the UN wants to bring our attention to the complex dynamics that govern life on earth. Biodiversity is our greatest treasure and monitoring its health is complicated. We are in the Cuneo area to meet Luca, a beekeeper. Luca, why are bees the most precious sentinels of biodiversity?

Luca Bosco: Because everything that arrives in the hive collected by bees is the result of a synergy between different forms of life and, therefore, is a result of the environment’s biodiversity.

Cristina: What do your observations tell you?

Luca Bosco: That the bee’s situation, and pollinators in general, is very serious. We often see episodes of die-offs and poisonings in our hives. Unfortunately we find insecticides, fungicides and herbicides in the matrices of the hives. One herbicide in particular, the molecule glyphosate, is very serious because its discovery, especially in the hive’s honey matrix – maturing honey, is a precise clue. The molecule that is sprayed here can end up anywhere, we find it in the water, in the air, it inevitably ends up in the soil because it’s sprayed on the ground and we also find it in plant pollen and nectar. This is a clear indication that the ecosystem’s natural filters are somehow degrading.

Cristina: Luca, which crops are sprayed the most with these substances?

Luca Bosco: Here we find ourselves in an area of viticulture and coriliculture, so grapes and hazelnuts. In recent years, thanks to the work of the beekeepers association, viticulturists have learned to use pesticides wisely, without causing direct and serious harm to pollinators. On the other hand, as far as hazelnuts are concerned, the matter is still open to discussion because it’s a new crop and, at the moment, the agronomic practices in use leave much to be desired. They are a source of direct poisoning, somehow they’re also the cause of those systematic findings in the hive matrices, especially in this area. We want to appeal to those who grow hazelnuts to follow the path already taken by winemakers.

Cristina: Luca you are about to take some samples, what is their frequency and what are they for?

Luca Bosco: They’re monthly and are used to investigate the possible presence of chemical molecules. Experience tells us that we will most likely find them because in past years, their presence has unfortunately been very assiduous. We know that these molecules are harmful to bees, also because of their somewhat unique ability to purify environmental matrices by absorbing chemical molecules into their bodies, to their own detriment of course, but especially preserving the honey. Somehow, the honey always results pure.

Cristina: How phenomenal. Do you cross-reference this data with others?

Luca Bosco: We cross this data with other measurements that are carried out in the area, in particular with those carried out on the Tanaro River, which you can see just nearby, and the two surveys confirm the same thing, the ubiquitous presence of chemical molecules.

Cristina: Thank you Luca. This story touches all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And what can we do? Talk with beekeepers as much as possible, understand the critical issues in our area and protect it in any way we can. It pays off for everyone. Occhio al futuro

On air May 22nd, 2021

EcoAllene – recycling poly laminates

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 9, technology

EcoAllene is a new and innovative material obtained from the recycling of poly laminates, i.e. formed by a plastic and metal film. In Italy, about 7 billion beverage containers are placed on the market, meaning 150,000 tons of poly laminated waste that can be turned into a resource.

Cristina: This is a circular economy story that comes from a paper mill’s waste. Containers like these are coated with high-quality cellulose that’s recovered, but the interior, a poly blend of plastic and aluminum is discarded, but here it becomes a resource. Stefano, how does your process work?

Stefano Richaud: When we receive the so-called poly-al, the aluminium and plastic fraction from the recycling plants, we put it through a process that starts with a deep wash to eliminate the cellulose still attached to the waste and any other possible pollutants. Then we agglomerate this sort of confetti, turning it into a gravel and we extrude it into these plastic granules which can then be turned into a plastic product.

Cristina: Were you the first to pioneer this innovation? To recycle these poly laminated items?

Stefano Richaud: The process comes from the intuition of an Italian entrepreneur who patented this idea of not separating the plastic and aluminum parts, but keeping them together. Thus transforming waste into a new plastic granule, a so-called secondary raw material.

Cristina: What do you make with it?

Stefano Richaud: We obtain a plastic granule that, supplied to our customers, can be transformed into many everyday objects. Such as household accessories, a broom or a dustpan; construction tools such as hammer handles; stationery: markers, highlighters, pens; or even packaging for the cosmetic and cleaning industries.

Cristina: Not food though…

Stefano Richaud: European legislation does not allow food to come in contact with a recycled product, except for PET, which is monomaterial.

Cristina: So it’s a 100% recycled material but is it also recyclable?

Stefano Richaud: Absolutely. Once it reaches the end of its life, the product made from our granules can be recycled just like a normal plastic material, such as polyethylene.

Cristina: What is the volume of poly laminated waste in Italy? And how much of it can you recycle?

Stefano Richaud: In Italy, 7 billion beverage containers are produced every year, of which the plastic and aluminum portion is about 25%, so with the current level of recycling collection around 60%, there are 120,000 tons of this waste. At the Alessandria plant we handle about a third of what can be recycled in Italy. Clearly, this problem is multiplied in all countries where beverage cartons are widely used. And let’s consider all the other poly laminates formed by paper, plastic and aluminum. Our technology offers a valid solution.

Cristina:  Thank you. Technologies like this are examples of excellence in Europe and around the world. Let’s be proud of them. But now we must also innovate the supply chain. Occhio al futuro

On air March 13th 2021

Econyl – regenerated nylon yarn

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 15, sdg 16, sdg 4, sdg 6, sdg 7, sdg 8, technology

We know that the textile industry, as a whole, is among the biggest polluters. However, there are those who are turning the tide: Aquafil, with its regenerated nylon yarn Econyl, produces textile fibers from scraps, waste and new materials. Producing positive actions and changes for the economy, society and the environment, along their entire production chain.

Cristina: We know that the textile industry, as a whole, is among the biggest polluters. However, there are those who are turning the tide by producing textile fibers from scraps, waste and new materials.
In this company, the factories are powered 100% by renewable energies and closed cycle water is used in every phase of production. They’ve implemented environmental protocols throughout the supply chain and educational projects for employees and in schools.
Research is carried out on new biomass materials, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced every year, programs to protect the seas are promoted and life cycle analysis are carried out for all products. Together, these actions fulfill 8 of the 17 SDGs – the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For every 10,000 tons of raw material from the recycling process, 70,000 barrels of oil are avoided and the equivalent of 57,100 tons of CO2 are saved.
This is how fishing nets are transformed, along with other nylon waste. In 2018, 78 tons were recovered from NGOs operating throughout Europe. Once cleaned, the nets are chemically transformed, the liquid becomes polymer and the polymer becomes yarn. The result is that more and more yarn comes from a regeneration process. To become carpets, glasses, bags, clothes, swimwear.
Dr. Bonazzi, can you imagine fulfilling the nylon market demand with only recycled and reclaimed materials?

Giulio Bonazzi: No, unfortunately not, even if all nylon could be recovered, it would never be enough to guarantee future needs. In addition, recycling has its own environmental impact, we try to constantly improve it, but it’s important to understand how we recycle and how to minimize impacts during the process.

Cristina: What does it mean for you to innovate? Both as a citizen and as an entrepreneur?

Giulio Bonazzi: For me, innovating means quitting something that’s outdated to do something new. Before recycling you have to reduce raw materials, reuse and then, recycle.

Cristina: Do you already have a new family of materials ready?

Giulio Bonazzi: Yes, we want to produce nylon from renewable sources or from biomass, actually we’ve already produced the first kilos.

Cristina: Could we notice the difference between yarn derived from oil, recycling or biomass?

Giulio Bonazzi: No, the finished products are perfectly identical but the difference in environmental impact is huge.

Cristina: What a fine example of circular economy. Thanks Dr. Bonazzi. Occhio al futuro!

On air January 18, 2020

The water we eat

By ecology, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 2, sdg 3

Have you ever thought about the amount of water you consume in a day? Not just the water you drink, or use at home. Even the food we eat has a water footprint, it’s called virtual water and often represents more than half of our daily water consumption.
During Broken Nature at La Triennale di Milano, there will be a Wonderwater Café with a menu translated entirely in terms of water footprint for each dish!

Cristina: Many of us are good at not wasting water at home, but we rarely know how much we consume indirectly. For example, the water needed to produce our food.
Wonderwater Cafè is a traveling project that reaches the Triennale restaurant in Milan for the duration of the Broken Nature exhibition. It stems from a collaboration between scientists and designers and is translated in a menu which illustrates the water footprint of each dish.

Jane Withers: We have no idea about the quantities of water that go into making food. So we wanted to point out the differences between beans grown in Kenya, where they may be draining water resources from local communities, and seasonal, rainfed greens that are locally sourced. We saw the effects, during the drought in California two years ago, when almond prices shot up, it was proof of these invisible water systems.

Cristina: Do you find that scientific facts have to be adapted to reach a large audience?

Jane Withers: I think so, yes. I mean, they’re doing the hard work, the heavy lifting, but we’re trying to put facts in a language that people can understand. I think that a menu that represents the water footprint when you’re choosing what to eat that makes a difference. Maybe looking through it and assessing whether we want a pizza with tomatoes that is equivalent to 290 litres or one with the chili sausage at 960 litres has an impact on our choices. They’re staggering numbers.

Cristina: The first WonderWater café dates back to 2011. In just a few years, awareness of the problem has grown alongside the project.

Jane Withers: At King’s College in London, our academic partners worked to understand where each ingredient comes from, is sourced and so on. So there’s more transparency, but I think the really interesting thing also is that then, it seemed really abstract but now there’s a sense of urgency about it. We’re probably all becoming aware that the single most important thing we can do is to shift from a meat to a vegetarian diet or a flexitarian diet. And the differences are between over 5,000 litres per day for a meat diet to 2,600. They’re palpable. I think there’s a lot more interest and awareness.

Cristina: The information is there, people are more and more willing to be informed about their choices and what impact they have. So if you’re a restaurateur, if you bring food to the world in any way, share this knowledge because it’s very important. Occhio al futuro

On air May 4, 2019

Investigating e-waste

By ecology, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 15, sdg 9, technology

Precious metals in electronics present three problems: damage to the environment during extraction, the short life span of the devices themselves and not being properly recycled at the end of their life cycle. It’s estimated that by 2080, the largest mineral reserves will no longer be underground, but on the surface – in the form of ingots or as parts of building materials, appliances, furniture and devices.
Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi of Studio Formafantasma conducted an ambitious survey on the recycling of electronic waste with their Ore Streams project – on display during Broken Nature at the Milan Triennale.

Cristina: This drawer is made with an old computer case. Did you know that electrical and electronic waste are the fastest-growing sector and only 30% of it is recycled. Working on the remaining 70% is very complex because the objects we are talking about are complex, as are their supply chains.

Simone Farresin: Dismantling the objects is fundamental, therefore a universal screw system would be very useful. Then, the color black, used for electrical cables, can’t be detected by the optical readers used to separate them. Simply changing the color would help identify them and recover the copper. It would also be fundamental to establish a labeling system that tells the user, when they buy electronics, how long the product will last. These objects are recycled but in a slightly more sophisticated way in our countries, while developing countries need color codes to help them detect the dangerous components so they don’t dismantle them manually and they’re recycled properly.

Cristina: Have you met keyplayers for your project along the entire supply chain? Where have you encountered the greatest resistance?

Andrea Trimarchi: I must say that one of the most complex things was actually getting in touch with the electronics manufacturers. We spoke with universities, producers, recycling companies, even people who deal with laws. They were available and welcomed us, while the manufacturers didn’t.

Cristina: Why aren’t they willing to be part of the solution?

Simone Farresin: Probably because right now it’s very complex to invest economic resources and really change things. They take baby steps which are used symbolically as an advertising strategy instead of showing real interest in recycling these products.

Cristina: You have a solution for the problem at hand, what is it?

Andrea Trimarchi: One of the most likely solutions would be to organize tables where the various players in the production chain, from electronics manufacturers to recyclers and also designers, meet to discuss these issues.

Cristina: It seems absurd, isn’t this already happening?

Andrea Trimarchi: Unfortunately not, even in the legislative sphere recyclers and producers are often brought together, but most of the time us designers, people who actually transform raw materials into objects, are not part of the conversation.

Cristina: Design can and, in this case, does have a political role, let’s be inspired. Occhio al futuro

On air 30-3-2019

Never too small to make a difference

By ecology, features, sdg 13

As COP24 has come to an end, we are left with the sad consequences. No bold resolves were agreed upon to implement the agenda set during COP21. The hosting country, Poland, said loud and clear from the start, that it’s not ready to give coal up anytime soon. A red carpet for all the dinosaurs and the oil countries who quickly said “me too”, #notready. The outcome of the Conference, attended by over 20,000 people from 150 countries, reflected that spirit. The US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia did not welcome the 2018 IPCC Report but simply noted it with “appreciation”, inviting countries to take “appropriate action.”

The climate of the conference was unfortunately coherent with the global rise of coal production and use, as Somini Sengupta reported recently in The New York Times. Some progress was made on the rule-book, meant to govern how countries will monitor and report their greenhouse gas and emissions cuts, but key issues were deferred to next year. As the weeks unfolded, the Island States affected by climate change, were sorrowed to see that most developed countries were not committing to top the Green Climate Fund, $100 billion by 2020 to help vulnerable countries prepare for the worst.

The heroes of Cop24, once again were youth activists. 15 year-old Greta Thunberg’s words resonate in the hearts of those who care and who cannot sit idle.

After listening to Greta, I played (as I have done often, over the decades)  Severn Cullis Suzuki’s speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Since then the world population has almost doubled. I encourage you to do the same.

If these 2 bold, beautiful young women don’t knock us out of our seats, who will?

And if this text, written in 1992, sounds like a déja-vu, then it’s time to make a change.

“The Rio Conference has given prominence to environmental issues on the political agenda. It spelled out the questions, even if it did not have all the answers and informed an entire generation of policy makers, government officials, industry and the populace about the issues. In addition, it reiterated the call for international cooperation on environmental issues that was first heard in 1972.”

The power of trash

By ecology, sdg 11, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 14, sdg 15, sdg 17, sdg 7, sdg 9, technology

Arthur Huang, architect, engineer and CEO of Miniwiz explains his processes and machines to use the most abundant resource on our planet: trash! Trashpresso, a portable solar-powered recycling machine was in Milan’s Parco Sempione during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2018.

PART I

Cristina: Arthur, what is the power of trash for you?

Arthur Huang: It is the most abundant resource that’s out there right now. It’s in our ocean, it’s in our water, it’s even in the glacier at 4.900m. This trash resource is growing so I think we need to do something about it to power our new way of designing and our lifestyle.

Cristina: You are doing something about it. How many systems have you designed?

Arthur Huang: We actually designed 1.200 new processes and they come with 4 big categories of machinery, which can sort and transform the material from the original raw source of trash that we throw away every day from cups, bottles, packaging, all the way to waste fiber. From these four major categories we can go into lots of different variations of pre-fabricated material for designers and engineers to be able to use in building construction or for products.

Cristina: You’re wearing a number of your new materials. Can you point them out?

Arthur Huang: This is 100% single material, without glue in it, it’s made 100% from plastic bottles. This is also made with 100% plastic bottles but it feels like wool. The shoes are also made from recycled PET. Even the buttons and the sunglasses and the watch strap are made from cigarette butts. This button was made from four butts, that we collected from Switzerland and Italy and we’re turning into a new form of buttons and hardware and sunglasses. These are the sunglasses.

Cristina: And how much energy does it take to actually strip some of these materials from their toxic elements?

Arthur Huang: It is actually much easier than you think, that’s why we designed the portable machine called Trashpresso, to demonstrate how little energy is used. All of the machines are actually powered by the sun, all the water and air is internally recycled, so we want to show people that the transformation process actually requires very little energy, as little energy as possible. You get a 90% savings in energy in the transformation, rather than going out there into the ocean, taking out the oil, producing that and transforming it into raw material.

Cristina: There are no toxins left in the the cigarette button?

Arthur Huang: Actually we did a whole set of safety tests and there isn’t anything left in the cigarette butts after the transformation process, there are some fumes, but they’re captured by the machine. A lot of times during the transformation process the toxins are actually already exposed in terms of fume.

PART II

Cristina: We’re reading on the papers that there’s more recycled materials than the market demands, so this is a critical issue, and people are burning these stocks of transformed trash. How can your strategy and your system have an impact on a global scale?

Arthur Huang: First of all, most of our systems are designed to be portable. I think this is very important, you need to take the transformation technology as close to the trash source as possible. Most of the problem today is that when you recycle, you mix the materials. Once you get contamination, the material has no value, once the material has no value, the transformation process has become very expensive and it also becomes more environmentally damaging. The idea is to bring the machine as close to the source as possible and then you can transform it into a medium that the designers and engineers can work with on site.

Cristina: From your experience where are the missing links to be able to harness all this expertise, intelligence and solutions?

Arthur Huang: The missing link is the recycling process itself, you need to know how to sort the trash. That’s the first question. All the recycled materials out there, no matter how much percentage you collect, in reality only less than 2% is being used to be turned into some sort of recycled substitute material. And then on top of that, after you know how to sort and process the material, you have to know how to form it. And there is the whole transformation process with all the different data that’s needed. You also need application, is it going to go into shoes? Jackets? Is it going into a chair, or a building? These all have different specifications, so right now all that missing link of data is what we are working on. We are opening up a material database with 1.200 new materials in it to open source data from our learning in the last 15 years to give to institutions for education so young designers and engineers can play with the material. So we are trying to fill the missing link with data.

Cristina: What is your moonshot?

Arthur Huang: Our moonshot right now is to build an airplane made out of trash. We actually bought an airplane from Germany and we shipped it to Taiwan and now we’re actually trying to come up with a new process to build an airplane wing made from recycled PET.

Airlite – the air purifying paint

By ecology, sdg 11, sdg 12, sdg 13, sdg 3, sdg 9

Airlite developed a paint that purifies the air and can be used both indoors and outdoors. It neutralizes odors, bacteria and prevents mold, it repels dust and dirt and reduces air pollution.

Cristina: Don’t we all feel better when the air is light? Today we’re featuring a technology that allows us to breathe better. Hello Massimo, tell us more.

Massimo Bernardoni: It’s a paint that contains various technologies. It purifies the air, eliminates bacteria and molds from surfaces, it works over time and eliminates odors. Through nanotechnology our paint transforms pollutants into salts. Through other processes it gets rid of bacteria, mold and it keeps walls clean and smog free.

Cristina: Does it prevent the black streaks over radiators?

Massimo Bernardoni: Yes those too, no more dark corners.

Cristina: Is it all mineral-based? Any petrochemicals?

Massimo Bernardoni: We do not have any petroleum based ingredients, only mineral-based, and when applied it doesn’t smell.

Antonio Cianci: Outdoors, with this technology, painting a 150 meter stretch of roadside, both left and right, is equivalent to planting a forest as big as a soccer field. 12 meters of a painted surface with our technology, reduce the pollution produced by a car in one day.

Cristina: Does it also absorb particulates?

Antonio Cianci: In an indirect way. Particulate matter is generated by nitrogen oxides through photochemical synthesis, we lower its levels and reduce it significantly.

Cristina: It also reduces energy consumption. How?

Antonio Cianci: We have the amazing ability to reflect the warm component of sunlight, therefore painting the wall with this product can reduce the surface temperature up to 30 degrees. This way less heat passes through therefore reducing the need for conditioning the room.

Cristina: So it creates a protective but permeable coat?

Antonio Cianci: Yes, the paint is permeable, it allows the passage of all the components without causing stagnation, such as those bubbles we sometimes find on our walls, which trap mold. Our paint creates a natural conditioning system.

Cristina: How many colors are available?

Antonio Cianci: 180. I must say that architecturally the performance is beautiful, suited also for high-end finishes. And it cleans the air.

Cristina: This is what happens when two brilliant Italians come together. Occhio al futuro

On air May 5, 2018

Interview with Severn Suzuki

By ecology, features, sdg 13, sdg 15

If you were to address the world leaders today, your speech in 1992 would seem like it was written yesterday. How does that make you feel?

It is quite shocking to see that speech and realize that the issues we face today are not new. Indeed, there is only the line about our human family ‘five billion people strong’ that dates it. I constantly wonder why we haven’t been able to turn the tide. At the time I was twelve years old, and I believed that if we could just get the political leaders to listen, they would use their power to change the course of our world!  Of course I was idealistic.  I believed that if they were reminded of their own children, they would make better decisions.

How do you keep a positive attitude?

If you open your mind and heart to the problems that our global ecosystems face, as well as our fellow humans on the other side of the globe, it is easy to get depressed.  I have realized that it is extremely important not to let this happen. Equally as important as fighting against injustice and the damage we are doing to future generations, is living the vision – trying to support, uphold, promote and celebrate the society that we aspire to.  If we believe in a beautiful world, we must try and live that world in any ways that we can. Finding the joy is the true challenge.  And that quest is inspiring and invigorating.  It means taking time to grow, prepare and enjoy good food, it means building community in a multitude of ways.  What is good for one’s quality of life is good for the environment. I am inspired by the strength of others.  At my desk, I have a quote from the Dalai Lama, Never Give Up.  I am reminded of the great challenges and injustices and violence the Tibetan people have faced, and have to appreciate all that I have, and all I can do.  We are as powerful as we believe we are.

Where do you see tangible change happening?

Tangible change happens at the local level.  This is where we can act and see results.  The global is made up of the local. We need our governments (municipal to federal) to support the change that we can see in the backyards of our local communities.  They can do this by setting standards for energy, facilitating better transit, and giving incentives for positive environmental actions.  It is not fair that it is so difficult to do the right thing; at the moment our society is set up so that the easiest, cheapest means of executing our lives are also terribly destructive to the earth and to other peoples.

Of the many projects you’ve been and are involved in, which is the one that is helping you reach your goals most efficiently?

Excellent question.  All of the projects and campaigns have taught me so much.  I have met incredible, inspiring people, and am always learning.  It has been a privilege to work with the Sloth Club in Japan.  They are a beautiful group of visionaries who’s mission is to “slow down Japan.”  They believe deeply in the values of the Slow Food movement that started in Italy, but they bring the elements of ‘slow’ to the rest of our lives. They believe that we are moving too fast, and in doing so we are destroying the Earth, and ourselves.   When I have gone to Japan the speaking tours they have arranged for me have been incredible; they are amazing mobilizers and so efficient at getting out the message. Currently I am working with a group of peers across Canada on the ‘We Canada’ campaign to get our country’s leaders to show some real leadership at the Rio 2012 Earth Summit next year.  They are full of inspiration and energy, and are impressing me so much with their networking know how and social media savvy.  We have incredible tools for communicating and networking at our disposal, we just have to realize the power we have.

Clearly change is bottom up – and the social unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, are a proof of how the world is desperately seeking change. The great challenge, for those countries, for all of us, is to seek out and elect leaders capable of setting a new course. There is a lot of hope, but do you think there are people who will be able to take the helm and steer humanity in the right direction?

Youth are over 50% of the globe’s population.  Think about that.  There is huge potential for revolution in that fact alone. But youth aren’t getting political in our country – while youth elected Barack Obama in the US, they aren’t getting out to vote since then, or in Canada.  We have to get youth to realize their power at the voting booths. In the 19 years since the Earth summit in 1992, I have been an activist, television host, writer, and gotten an education.  But the most powerful thing that I have done remains the speech I gave when I was 12.  Why?  I think it has to do with what the world did and still desperately needs: we need youth to speak truth to power.  Youth, those with everything to loose, have a powerful message of conscience to deliver to those living as if the future doesn’t matter.  We need them to stand up and challenge our leaders on intergenerational injustice. Climate Change is a huge sentence for today’s youth that was created by past and current generations.  In our history, humans acted with the future in mind, so that our species would survive.  We have thrown that essential survival technique away, at the cost of our children.

You’re a speaker, a writer, you’re on the web on on the radio, on tv – according to your experience, which is the most effective media to promote change?

It’s very hard to gauge when you’re having an effect on society’s consciousness.  It is a strange, amorphous work, to try and ‘change the way that people think and act’.  I think of the media as tools to speak to people, and there is so much media out there today.  But I think what is really life-changing is for people to go and have an experience.  If people get out there and witness a problem, or go visit a beautiful natural space that is under threat, then they are more likely to be moved to act.  We all have to get outside more.  If we know nature, we will fight for it.

An ecologically-sound lifestyle is simple; the solutions, which translate into a sequel of low-impact choices, are foreign to so many people, and that puts us advocates in the position of having to repeat the obvious, deliver a sexy message, find ways to get people out of their patterns. How do you face this challenge? Who are your role models?

On magazine covers and books we hear of ‘easy ways to be green.’  But the transition towards ecologically sound lifestyle is not yet made easy for individuals, even when it makes sense for health, for community, and for quality of life.  To get our society to start promoting and fostering ecological living is not simple, or easy.  That is a major challenge for communicators – to get our society to start facilitating transitions for people.  That means we need our governments to set environmental standards (like for pollution, or energy or water use) and give incentives to people to do the right thing.  Thomas Friedman is a role model.  His recent book ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ is amazing for challenging and inspiring information on our current challenge.

There is a touching message on your facebook fan page by an Italian 12 year old who says that she thought the environmental issues she hears about today were recent, then she saw your video….now you’re a mother too. So am I – all things considered, do you have faith that our offspring will inherit a planet worth living in?

I am a mother of a 1 year old child.  I have to believe my son will inherit a world worth living in.  I learned from my mother – we can get angry, we can get sad, but we can never give up hope.  The world is a beautiful place, and it is because of that beauty that we must fight against its destruction.  I think we must draw upon our emotional power, as children, as mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, as grandmothers and grandfathers, and realize our connection to the global challenges we face.  And then, we must stand up for justice.

Do you interpret Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Indonesia, the tsunami that hit Japan, along with other “natural disasters” as a wake up call from nature?

When Hurricane Katrina hit the US, I thought, “Ah, now the west must wake up to Climate Change.”  One would think that even the slim possibility that we might have contributed to such a calamity would have given pause to any American.  However, the ‘wake up call’ did not deeply change their Climate policy.  It makes me wonder what it takes to ‘wake up’ society.  Many people speak of ‘climate justice’, or ‘environmental racism’, alluding to the fact that it is the poor of our society who bear the worst of the social impacts of environmental degradation. Is our society that blatantly injust?  Thinking about this gives me the chills and threatens my faith that people innately seek justice for all. The wreckage the tsunamis caused serve as reminders to us all of the raw power of the natural world; deserving respect.

As a biologist, and ethno-biologist, which is the most concerning data that you have to support the urgent need for global action?

Being on the land and ocean with native elders, it was sobering to learn that their childhood food sources were contaminated today.  In several areas we have visited the food specimens were not fit to eat, due to contamination.  That was something I didn’t expect in my research, and makes me very sad.  I think that there is so much important information in traditional knowledge.  In most cases ecosystems didn’t have baseline data taken before development, and so scientists don’t even know what ecosystems were like in their natural state.  Elders’ memories offer insight to a natural baseline.

How do you and your family feel about nuclear energy?

I have always thought of nuclear energy as a deal with the devil.

How do you calculate your ecological footprint?

There are several websites where you can do this online; an important exercise when trying to figure out what you can do in your life to live more ecologically!

Where do you live?

I live on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii – ‘Islands of the People’.  It’s off the north west coast of Canada.

You’re about to come to Europe – what for?

I’m going to visit my sister!  She is studying in England.  And we are taking the opportunity to introduce my son to my English relatives.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on language revitalization of the Haida language.  Only a handful of elders speak it now.  It is the language of my husband, and now, my son, and we want to see it survive.  This is what I am focusing on with elders in my home of Haida Gwaii. I am also working on a campaign to promote awareness and real action by our Canadian government at Rio 2012 .  The Canadian government is currently leaving a terribly environmental legacy – I am ashamed.  It is called “We Canada”  – www.earthsummit.ca I am a spokesperson for the Canadian network ‘Girls in Action’ to promote positive opportunities and self esteem for young women; and am a Director of the board of the David Suzuki Foundation. And, my most important work: I am raising a strong, healthy little boy!