Rhythmic Diffusion


Rhythmic Diffusion

Recently, Green America and Global Exchange hosted the Chicago 2011 Green Festival and thousands of attendees turned out to meet hundreds of innovative exhibitors and dozens of inspiring speakers.  It was the fourth Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org) that I attended and what set it apart from the others was the increasing sense of urgency in the speakers’ tones as they asked the audience to engage and act.


Tucum Tree


Rooted in Opportunity

“Take a risk and the world would support it!” exclaimed Colin Beavan (aka No Impact Man http://noimpactproject.org) during his session titled “How to Live: Help the World by Becoming Yourself”.  As he introduced himself, he said “The most important thing about me is that I’m a dad.”

Colin sees connections between society’s actions towards the environment and society’s increasing unhappiness; he believes there is a “tremendous opportunity” to fix both.  In response to the question “There are so many major world problems; what can one person do to make a difference?” Collin replied “The wise man never complains about the bad; he only adds to the good.”  He urged each member of the audience to figure out what their part of the solution is and “do something to fix it.”  He continued, “It feels better to do something than not do something” and if we all do something, no matter how “small” we perceive it to be, collectively, we leverage a “Network Solution.”

Colin added, “We are all connected by roots, when we change something about ourselves, the universe changes.”   An audience member told Colin that his comments were similar to a theme from The Alchemist, a novel by Paulo Coelho: when you want something, the universe conspires to bring it to you.  Colin agreed and concluded “Find your gift, your passion, to give to the world….become yourself to save the world.”


Passion into Power

The speakers from the “Urban Green Living” panel are doing just that.  Alexandra Gnoske started by stating “Power is with people…all choices and actions whether good, bad or neutral have an impact on the planet.”  Alexandra discussed how she combined her passion for wildlife, the outdoors and justice by becoming a scientist, studying environmental law and then creating the organic clothing company “Recycle Me”.  One of her passions is to educate society on the dangers of pesticides to people and the environment.  For example, Alexandra talked about the chemicals that go into producing non-organic cotton tee-shirts and the heavy metals in dyes and inks that runoff into the air, water, soil, cattle feed, etc.  “Of all the cotton grown in the world, only 2% is organic…thousands of cotton workers die each year from working with the fabric,” she added.  Alexandra is also empowering and educating the future by maintaining a blog for kids linked to the children’s book she authored “Loui Saves the Earth” (http://www.louisavestheearth.com/blog).  Her advice is “Start with your passions…as a consumer and an individual, you have the power.”



Drew Wanke is passionately helping our generation safeguard the future through his work at the Green Living Project.  During his “Global Sustainability: Central America to Maine” session, he explained how since 2009, this organization helped implement projects including eco-tourism, environmental pollution prevention, sustainability educational programs, forest preservation, etc. and showed two short videos.

One video documented the Equilibrio Azul project in Ecuador; its mission is to protect the marine resources and part of that focus is on combating overfishing through education (http://www.greenlivingproject.com/projects/ecuador/equilibrio-azul).  Although they have a limited number of volunteers, the project’s Director stated they “believe that they can make a difference with a small project.”   For example, the volunteers have created eco-clubs to reach fishermen’s kids aged 10-12 and educate them about the environmental consequences of overfishing. “These kids are set to grow up in the footsteps of their parents and overfish…if you don’t educate these kids, anything you do will not make a difference,” said another volunteer.  The volunteers are trying to get the community involved; the project Director motivates the locals to engage and take responsibility for their environment by advising that “It’s everyone’s problem right now…it’s not like somebody far away on a beach is going to save it for you.”

Another video featured the Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Brazil. The Lodge’s owners’ goal is to maintain the integrity of the natural environment through eco-tourism.  For example, many scientists and tourists visit the Amazon to observe nature and of the 1,800 species of birds, a third of them can be seen from this eco-lodge (http://www.greenlivingproject.com/projects/brazil/cristalino-jungle-lodge).  More locals understand that they can make income and live in harmony with nature by preserving their natural environments.  For instance, one guide who used to be a miner stated that he feels as though he “lost a few years of life” because he was working “to destroy nature.”

The eco-lodge also educates city children.  Volunteers invite kids from Rio de Janeiro to visit and get connected to the Amazon and engaged with their environments.   One tour guide said when he sees children experiencing the forest for the first time, he feels like he is also experiencing the forest for the first time.  While in the jungle, children also visit the Tucum tree (photo included above); indigenous tribes use its long bristles to create rhythms, as a method of communication.


Written by Professor Shireen Musa,

Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York

13 thoughts on “Rhythmic Diffusion

  1. I really love this. It is very refreshing to see how enthusiastic people are becoming into teaching and incorporating sustainability into our lives. I’m really intrigued by how Drew Wanke is teaching the fishermen children about overfishing. The fact is that children are the future leaders of the world and learning about sustainability at a young age will only yield to a greener future. I was reading an article about China in The Economist I think you will be interested in. The article is about how China is encouraging sustainability and trying to manufacture greener goods. The only problem is that, is China really ready to make this change since major manufacturing and production companies are located there? You have to read that article. This one I just found is basically the same thing but from NY Times. Here is the link http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/09/26/26climatewire-built-in-a-dirty-boom-chinas-biggest-city-tr-68826.html?pagewanted=all

    • Thanks for your comments, Aaron! The Green Living Project is indeed completing some inspiring work. I agree with you that substantial change can only occur through education. Thanks for sharing the article about China; time will tell if the “low-carbon growth model” is successful.

  2. Prof. Musa, Thank you for sharing this article. I always felt that it is not only the politician and important people who have the power to cause change; but it is each and everyone of us who make a decision to get involve and speak out about what we believe. It is great to have conferences such as Green America where people can be educated about what is happening in our world. For century our environment has been abused and destroyed for the love of money because businesses are about profit than about ethics and sustainability. People have always been speaking out about the destruction of our world but the progress to change has been slow. Situations such as the BP Oil spill which caused death to fish and other wild-lives, opened our eyes to how serious pollutants can affect our lives. However, now that our communication medium have changed, we are able to let our voices heard \louder and globally\. People want to live longer but also healthier, therefore, they are speaking out and demanding that the manufacturing of products we eat and use are to be handled in a organic and \greener\ fashion to preserve our environment. I share the commitment as a parent to do what I must to contribute to a better environment for myself today but especially for our children here at home and all over the world. I believe that educating children is vital because they are the ones who will be in control of this world shortly and if they understand how to sustain our planet now, they will be perfect when they become adults. It is said that \practice makes perfect\. I will also be checking out \Greenerdeals.org\ to provide support to businesses who are partnering together to make a difference in developing a \greener\ planet.

  3. Hi professor. By reading your experience in this conference I can get to the conclusion that all exhibitors can agree on one thing, which is finding a passion or something that motivates you to do good to our planet. I believe more and more people are becoming aware of the need to do some changes in our habits. This can be reflected in all the information that comes and goes related to this topic. I also agree with the speaker that encouraged people to change something in their habits and the universe will change. I support this point of view and I think is important for us to try to be better citizens.

  4. I explored the “No Impact Project” website and stumbled upon The No Impact Week Guide which is an experiment to try living more consciously with less, for one week. I admire the way the instructions have been outlined, each day you can focus on a different, small, but meaningful way to conserve and not be wasteful. The tone of this guide is also very friendly, easy to navigate, explains what to in a very straightforward way, and you do not feel pressured to do everything and convert all at once.
    I admire that Colin Beavan documented his experience as proof that these behavior changes are possible, especially for us living in NYC. There are some practices I already follow (such as recycling) but I want to personally try the one week experiment and see how much I can accomplish. I admit though with the busyness of the end of semester and the holidays approaching, it may be difficult to try it this month, but maybe for the New Year it will be more realistic.

  5. Thank you for your comments, Ashley and Carolina! Ashley — Colin has been invited to speak at FIT’s Sustainability Conference on March 27th, 2012. You may have the opportunity to meet him!

  6. Rooted in Opportunity

    I am a complete and firm believer on participating in activities that will help change the world. Living in a growing population full of a vast array of personalities can irritate not only people, but the environment as well. However, as small as we may feel in comparison to the vast world, we are not insignificant to create change. I never ask myself anymore, well, what can one person do? He/She/I am just ONE person… Through experience, I learned that as long as I continue to participate in ethical and environmentally practices, I make a difference. For example, if I see that someone left their trash on the table in the FIT cafeteria, I will walk over and toss it. I do not question why I should do it, I just believe that when one person begins with a selfless act, others may follow.

    During Black Friday this past year my older cousin and I passed by Forever21. She stated that she never shopped at Forever21 after watched the documentary – Made in LA. This documentary is about the unfair labor practices of Forever21 on their underpaid migrant workers. I looked at her and smiled saying, well, it’s not just unfair labor practices…you should consider other social and environmental issues that have a greater risk on the well-being of others like pollution, waste, etc. She re-evaluated her statement since she was held back by mine. Like my cousin, by being aware of unethical business practices, I become a more aware of my purchases and what it symbolically represents. Little by little when individuals make, what seems to them, a small change in their lifestyle, they in return create a domino effect of influencing others’ perceptions. Once analyzed as a collective whole, we can see that one person does make a difference in the world.

  7. Preservation

    I appreciate Wanke’s work in trying to reach the newer generations through educational sustainability programs, etc. If the younger generations don’t continue what we are doing, then everything we do is moot. It’s critical that every person, young and old, have a part in environment preservation and pollution prevention. It’s not a matter just for the government or large corporations, but each of us can do our part. When kids are aware of this, they can influence their friends and family and hopefully the movement will expand and won’t make our attempts at preserving the environment futile.

  8. “There are so many major world problems; what can one person do to make a difference?” Reading the Rhythmic Diffusion article, this question made me think. Yes, a big reason people would not do something is because often, the idea of changing the world seems to be such an enormous task. The problem may seem be too big, too complicated, too intimidating—just for one person to make a difference to.

    I sometimes question, “ Can I really solve corporate greed by joining Occupy Wall Street when I cannot even organize my closet? Really now, how can I stop global warming? But recently, I watched an interview of fashion designer and staunch environmentalist, Stella McCartney, where she said, “Doing something is better than nothing,” and that everyone can contribute to do their part. So true. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when we think of the big problem. But trying to cut out just one thing is always better.

    Now I am thinking that when I choose to put my garbage in the recycled bin, I am making a difference. Turning off the lights when I leave the bathroom counts and actually helps prevent global warming. It may not sound like I am changing the world in a big way but certainly, I am being part of the solution. And true, doing a little something is better than nothing but more than that, I realized it usually is the best start to do more.

  9. Thank you very much Professor Musa for letting us know about the Green Festival event, and reporting on some highly interesting sessions. My daughters and I are so inspired that we will be planning on attending the 2012 Green Festival!
    “Rooted in Opportunity” underscores the very true fact that “one person can make a difference”: It is so important to assure people that one’s actions have the power to impact other lives for the better! I discovered first-hand how deeply transformative caring actions can be, as I brought cultural arts events to 1,200 elementary public school children for 8 years, every month, on a purely volontary basis. I arranged for musicians, dancers, mimes, story-tellers, theater ensembles, magicians, etc to spark the imagination of children who were enthralled to experience the sounds of Tibethan bowls, ancient Helvetic pipes, or medieval lutes, Elizabethan drama, meditation, folkloric tales and so much more mind-opening opportunities. The children’s views of the world expanded, along with a newfound respect for the planet and its peoples. They felt a deep human connection that transcends time and geography, and will help them dream a serene future.
    “Passion into power” reminded me of the findings of the eco-friendlier fibers research I had conducted done for my IN342 term project last semester: There are many exciting alternatives to conventionally-grown cotton besides flax/linen! Some are: Polylactic fiber from cane & beet sugar; “jusi” from banana leaves; “milk silk” from cow’s milk protein (trademarked as Cyarn or Azlon); “soy silk” from soybean protein (a by-product of tofu manufacturing trademarked as Soysilk Oasis/Phoenix/Infinity); kenaf; seaweed, Washi rice, water hyacinth, white pine, pineapple and sweet potatoes fibers; vegetable leather Treetap from rubber tree sap; and extraordinarily strong spider webbing. A great website that promotes sustainable fashion is http://www.ecouterre.com
    “Preservation” made me want to plan a trip to the Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Brazil :]Another awesome nature preservation program is right here in NYC: CRESLI (Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island), founded & headed by FIT Ecology professor Arthur Kopelman (who teaches SC253, an amazing class about environmental issues)offers Seals Walks – yes many adorable seals live on our shores! – and Whale, Dolphins & Birds Watching boat trips. Not to be missed! http://cresli.org

  10. I think that the implementation of ethical practices like treating factory employees well and making clothing that is safe for consumers health is the right thing to do. Recently I watched a documentary on YouTube about how many ready-to-wear fashion products from places like Zara and H&M are dangerous to consumer’s health because they contain many toxic chemicals that include phenol. In Europe there are government agencies that do testing on clothing, and from a random trip to Zara, this agency tested some coats and found that certain toxic chemical within the clothing contain more than 20 times of dangerous chemicals than the governmental regulations allow. There are some companies that invest money into equipment so they can test the products that they produce so it would be safe for consumer’s health. A good example if Consumer Testing Labs of WalMart. A company that wants to do business with WalMart has to submit samples to the Consumer Testing Lab and pass the safety test in order for WalMart to place the orders. If more companies would implement these kinds of safety precautions then not only the clothing would be more quality but people would also not risk getting poisoned by the toxic chemicals.

    Treating factory employees is another positive action that manufacturers could implement. Many factory workers all across the globe are treated very badly with long hours, poor working conditions, lack of safety precautions, abuse of rights and exploitation. I think that if the workers are treated better, even for a little bit more, then the work output improves because of the worker’s morale and enthusiasm for improvement of working conditions in the future. A lot of companies send auditors to the factories to make sure that the standards are held according to the policies, and the factories that violate these standards get penalized. I think that this approach is good because it shows the factories that the companies do care and are serious about the safety and working conditions of the workers.

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