Leaf Guide in Torino, Italy. Spring 2012

Leaf Guide in Torino, Italy. Spring 2012

// Environmental Education Cartoon//

If environmentalism was a cake (yes this is the direction today’s post is going) the icing would be legal policy and the sponge, people power. And the decoration, the notorious cherry on top of our cake, is this sort of thing:

Well I hope that cleared up any questions on Global Warming. Now let’s more onto environmental stewardship:

And some festive cheer for good measure:

I like Rustle the Leaf & Co. They’re honest and ironic and strangely positive at the same time. I wish more great cartoonists would focus on environmental awareness.  If you’re a great cartoonist, please do send me an eco one. I’ll publish it in The Hummingbird.

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// An Eco Circus PART IV//

Last weekend I went to the circus. It was a good one. It was Russian. 

But whilst I sat there I was simultaneously brooding over the entire event’s eco credentials, or lack thereof. So this week’s posts have seen my attempts to make the circus green. I am a great believer in art, and the circus is art, but it is also an industry. It consumes energy, it produces waste, it emits greenhouse gases, sometimes it abuses animal rights and it’s just not good for the planet.

(Photo: An Albanian Stamp featuring Georges Seurat’s The Circus)

So how can I justify the bright lights, extraordinary costumes and heavy equipment. Perhaps this is not the time for art for art’s sake. The eco circus must use art to impact change.

Environmental Education

In this age, most people are aware of environmental issues. We know the rainforests are being cut down to make our sandwich boxes. We know we are producing too much rubbish, and so we hide it under the earth in landfills. We know about overfishing, unethical fashion and over use of water, and if you don’t know, click on the bold words for past posts.

But environmental education is still vital in our global society. Young generations must learn the reality of their future. We must continue to remind ourselves of these problems. 

Imagine the circus performing as a rainforest. Flying acrobats as exotic birds, clowns as monkeys, huge trees on the stage. Now imagine all of this destroyed, with the music and the costumes right in front of your eyes. I think performance can provide a powerful message. People are transported to the scene of the crime. They can relate to the experience. 

Celebrating the Earth

Secondly the circus can be used to celebrate this planet. Celebrating the good things is just as crucial as understanding the bad. Positivity fuels both enthusiasm and faith in change. Remember New York’s Earth Celebrations? They focus on 'fostering ecological awareness through the arts'.

(Photo: Carl Saytor, Hudson River Pageant 2009 (

For example, the circus can still celebrate ecology without abusing wild animals - through human performance. Who’s seen The Lion King?

The brilliantly famous Cirque du Soleil already only uses human performers, dressed as real and fantasy creatures. Their colourful shows are forever popular.

and so ends my musings on an eco circus. What do you think?


Don’t forget to design a treehouse for me in memory of Wangari Maathai. Send a picture or short description to my email address below and you could win this charming bag:

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// Environmental Books: Some Fiction//

- some literature for environmental education, awareness and discussion.

For children

1. Green Poems for a Blue Planet, Martin Kiszko


2. The Wombles to the Rescue, Elizabeth Beresford

The Wombles are a fantastic creation of obscure creatures who live in a London park and recycle rubbish. Here they casually deal with an energy crisis.

3. The Loraz, Dr. Seuss

A really famous one.

4. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

For adolescents

5. Exodus, Julie Bertagna

I read this aged about 12 and it really struck me. Set in 2099 and the sea levels have risen. Protagonist Mara and her family seek refuge from their drowned island in the great new city built on top of Glasgow’s remains, but society is over populated and panicking. It  explores the real issues of climate change refuges, environmental justice and our relationship with nature. 

6. Hoot, Carl Hiaasen

For adults:

I took the following two from a good blog entry on by Annalee Newtiz (

7. The Colour of Distance, Amy Thompson

8. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Margaret Attwood

9. A Friend of the Earth, T. Coraghessan Boyle

Deals with one man’s response to ecological disaster in a lighter and satirical way.

10. The Alchemist and the Executioners, Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell [Audiobook]


The Classics

11. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Follows the anthropomorphised characters of British wildlife along their daily lives – this book has inspired appreciation of the river bank for generations. 

12. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

The garden features here as a healing and pivotal space for the central characters. It promotes nature’s restorative qualities.

13. Bambi: A life in the Woods, Felix Salten

Famously adapted by Walt Disney in his children’s animation film,_A_Life_in_the_Woods

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// The National Geographic//

I think you should all read the National Geographic’s webpage. Its photographers are masters and its writers are sincere, but professional.

I always refer to the National Geographic as a primary environmental source. They not only explore the Earth’s geography, they promote ecological conservation at an internationally recognised level and provide studies of world culture and history for all readerships.

The National Geographic Society began in the late 19th Century as an elite club for East-Coast American academics. It has since developed into one of this world’s largest and most respected scientific institutions. What makes it special is its accessible media portfolio. Currently the society’s work includes: an international magazine, a television channel, on-going events and exhibitions, research projects and grants to fund external programmes.

- and of course, this website:

(1. Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey by Marge Botten. 2. Slovenian Wedding Guests by Aaron Huey.)

It offers a balanced diet of ridiculous, brilliant animal videos and serious information on environmental concerns like natural disasters and global warming. 


They also organise extraordinary looking student assignment trips where young people can practice film making, marine biology or archaeology to name a few, in a variety of destinations such as Peru, China and Tanzania.

Their website gives us travelling tips, special features, green guides and daily scientific news. Although if you only have a minute to spare, just look at their photographs:

(1. Arizona Butte by Rex Naden. 2  Green Sea Turtle, Hawaii by Lorenzo Menendez. 3. Wedding Gown Preparation by Randy Olson.)

They fulfill the National Geographic’s main aim: Inspiring people to care about the planet.

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Note: I tried to ‘queue’ this in Tumblr for tomorrow. Off course, it didn’t work. For today’s post see ‘organic farms and a gyspy sea boat’ below!

// An Inspiring Person: II//

Yesterday I received an email from care2 (good for identifying campaigns, have a look) with an unusual petition attached:

It’s rare to find a petition collecting signatures out of thanks – but Jane Goodall is a remarkable case.

She was born in London in 1934 but became famous when she moved to Tanzania to study chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park. She concluded some very original points:


(Photo: Michael Nichols in The National Geographic

Goodall is internationally celebrated for revolutionising our perspective of chimpanzee behaviour in this way. Her studies have also changed our understanding of the relationship between humans and primate species.

So she is a brilliant zoologist and great contributor to science- but Jane Goodall is also loved and admired for her conservation campaigning and animal welfare activism.  She is a UN Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she established the Jane Goodall Institute. Its official website describes its mission as:

to make a difference for all living things through conservation, research and education.’

This is achieved through research projects, community conservation programmes and an environmental education network called Roots and Shoots, the latter being an extraordinary worldwide community of young people, active in over 85 countries. It unites, it inspires and it has a sensible approach:

They have active groups in many of Nektarina’s countries, including: Albania; Armenia; Bulgaria; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Egypt; Greece; Hungary; Israel; Poland; Romania; Russia; Turkey.

If you cannot find a group near you, why not begin your own – here’s the registration form:

Jane Goodall has inspired many people,  Angelina Jolie is apparently a big fan:

If you are too, you could sign the petition:

A selection of her books:

1969 My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees Washington, DC: National Geographic Society

1991 Visions of Caliban (co-authored with Dale Peterson, Ph.D.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

2002 The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do To Care for the Animals We Love (with Marc Bekoff). San Francisco: Harper San Francisco

2005 Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating New York: Warner Books, Inc.

2009 Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink Grand Central Publishing


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// Earth Celebrations from Greece to New York//

Since I’m still revelling in yesterday’s celebratory mood, I’d like to share one of my finest Google discoveries:

I found this non-profit organisation last year after a hearty internet session researching ‘green art’. It’s twenty years old and based in New York City.  Here is what they do:

And this is how they do it:

Nektarina aims to educate, connect and inspire people to care about their communities and environment. Earth Celebrations does a similar thing.

I am a strong advocator of this. Too often campaigners ask people to change through guilt tactics and negativity. Clearly we must all face the truth about our ecological situation. Our Planet is in serious trouble and our behaviour mustchange. However alongside revealing the awful facts I support optimism and a creative approach.

Earth Celebrations appear to have two central campaigns: Garden Preservation and River Restoration. Both are invaluable to cultural urban life and environmental concerns such as biodiversity. These artists raise awareness about their own local issues in New York City through pageants and educational workshops.

 Photos: Carl Saytor, Hudson River Pageant 2009 (


I would love to see more projects like this in the countries Nektarina works with. There are already several Earth Day Festivals you may have participated in. I attended Kyiv’s Earth Day in Mariinsky Park last spring. It included a small photo exhibition of my friends and I amongst rubbish, stuck to a tree (amusing.)

Greece for example has a highly celebratory looking annual Earth Festival in the mountain community of Vlasti. They make use of theatrical performance and international live music to inspire environmental awareness. 

A video from their website: Urban Gyspy Beats from Belgrade, Serbia.

If you belong to any creative organisation for eco awareness, I’d love to hear about it!

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(Here are some good links into the EcoArt world)

Community of Green Artists:

Collaborative Art Projects about Water:

Women Environmental Artists Directory:

Green Art (includes sculptures, tapestry and architecture):

Purple Broccoli eco education Theatre Company:

// Creativity in Environmental Education//

I believe in the power of art and the use of language to inspire people and influence change. We live in a creative world where the arts (our music, our literature, our film and others) play a valuable role in shaping our international cultures and worldwide identity.  Creativity for me is at the heart of exploring environmental and social problems with young people. After all, they are the next generation who will have to develop solutions. We must create new ways of thinking.

I recently spent three months living in Kyiv, Ukraine where I worked on an environmental awareness programme with aiesec. We designed creative ecological workshops for educational purposes, aiming to spark fresh ideas from our students. Below are some examples of their work:

 (credit to my wonderful teaching partner Драгана Василијевић.)

I also had fun making ‘green art’ with a fantastic local youth group called Dream Teen.

Incorporating creative thinking about these problems into everyday life is essential for cultivating a responsible and savvy new generation.  Google’s full of genius materials and suggestions. Here are some free downloads to get you started:

The Woodland Trust:

Autumn activity sheets:

Educational packs:

Young People’s Trust for the Environment and Nature Conservation:

Environmental facts sheets:

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// An Inspiring Person//

I couldn’t begin blogging here without introducing this inspiring Lady:



Wangari Maathai is one of this world’s undisputed eco warriors. Her messages are powerful but positive, and she remains one of my greatest inspirations.

In 2004 she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She received this honour for her influential democratic and environmental campaigns. Maathai is principally noted for founding the Green Belt Movement in 1977 which aimed to lessen the terrible effects of deforestation and desertification in her native Kenya. She encouraged local women to plant trees and care for the land proactively. This in itself formed a strong political community.

‘Her desire was to produce sustainable wood for fuel use as well as combating soil erosion. Her campaign to mobilise poor women to plant some 30 million trees has been copied by other countries.’

Taken from: BBC (8 October 2004)

Here are two short videos with more information:

Maathai is not only a prevailing environmentalist and an uplifting personality but a pioneer for women and equality everywhere. I hope you enjoy her videos, they are excellent inspirational tools.

The Green Belt Movement Official Website:

Nektarina Non Profit is an international non-profit organization dedicated to educating, connecting and inspiring people to care about their communities and their environment.