Green Salon Series Presented By Breathe L.A.

Originally published in Green Blog Network GBN

When the Green Blog Network asked me to be a panelist for the Breathe LA Salon “AB 32.0 and the Rise of Green Digital Media” and blog about it on The Green Blog Network, I was reluctant. Ever since my son Nikos directed the global warming PSA, Save It, I’ve been thrown into a world of “green” issues. Many times I feel ill equipped to participate, as if I’m the student and everyone else around me are the experts—including my own children. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in Boulder, Colorado! Nothing could be more “green” than the granola Disneyland of my youth. But since coming to California twenty years ago, being ecological has gone from something the “Earth Muffins” of Boulder would do to actually becoming state laws. Such is the case with California’s AB 32.


AB 32 – Getting The Word Out

Stephanie Mullen, the Senior Field Representative to State Senator Fran Pavley made the opening remarks, stating that Senator Pavley authored AB 32 to give the California Air Resources Board authority to bring emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020. Though the law was enacted years ago, I was surprised to hear that it has not yet been implemented. She stated that we need to use resources more effectively and are looking for a strong, green economy in California. The moderator, Ray Gonzales, a former KTLA personality, brought up the fact that there is a lot of opposition to the law because of its shorthand as “the global warming law.” I believe he has a point—so how does the green social media reach those who don’t believe in global warming so that they will be less opposed to something that is basically based on common sense?
Common Sense Approach To Information Dissemination
The first panelist, Jennifer Gooding, is the LA Ambassador to EcoTuesday. She brought up the point that people’s initial hesitation arises from a disconnection to the world that can be remedied by social media. She believes that we need a forum to connect, and she has been described as that connector. We often get a bunch of information, are overwhelmed, but are not connected. That’s the benefit of social media when it comes to getting the message out there, since the vast majority of people did not know what AB 32 is. We’re failing by not having common people understand the basics.
Panelist Siel Ju is the Green LA Girl, and has appeared on outlets including NPR and NBC, among many others. She has a Ph.D in creative writing and literature but is now devoted to blogging about environmental issues. She noted that AB 32 is not a familiar term to most people. It reminded her of the battle with rBGH, which makes cows produce more milk but also causes birth defects. We must give people more information and not just boil it down to “Ban rBGH!” (or “Save AB 32!”) Whether it be eating locally produced food or riding the subway, we should connect AB 32 to things people already desire. Moreover, we must use social media for a conversation to make connections.

Panelist Josh Tickell, director of Fuel, stressed that there is power of media in environmental issues. Stepping back from the fray, the long-term objectives of AB 32 are a breakthrough and so are its emissions cuts. The Fuel film is digital media designed to have an effect. They didn’t want the result to just end in rallying efforts, but rather to “shift the energy needle” in this country. He wanted a campaign with 10 goals that people could choose from as they matched their own. A big topic for Josh is fuel made from algae, and he observed that a lot of food energy is going unused. He was able to get a meeting with the Department of Energy and to start a campaign for algae. The meeting turned into a shouting match with great disagreement on the department’s side. In the end, through the social, objective based digital and social media, there is significant investment and growing, with already $100 million being spent on algae lobbying. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can order a million solar roofs, and the next campaign should be a million green cars. What we need, according to Josh, is a broad perspective.

Save It
Before I spoke, I shared my answer to the global warming messaging through digital media and showed my son’s 1Sky PSA, Save It (later endorsed by Global Green and Greenpeace). The shocker was that people wrote hate messages on YouTube where it premiered as Take Part’s first video release, calling me an uninformed hippie that has brainwashed my kids, and some who even said my son was “stupid.” Ironically, my sons both have developmental disorders that I was warned by the EPA they would have, as a result of environmental toxins. With what my children have to go through to be educated in special needs schools, at the expense of the government, is why it matters to all of us. Framing the discussion as a human health issue is much less controversial than global warming and we can use social media to educate people about asthma, autism, cancer and numerous other disorders that are exacerbated by or a direct cause of the toxins we are responsible for trying to control. So Earth Muffin or not, the real cost of paying for our health will far outweigh the cost of converting to cleaner and greener technologies in the long run. That’s how we should use social media to educate the masses to the importance of actuallyimplementing AB 32.
Bio: Nicole organized and produced the first Renewable Energy Conference and Awards Gala at the United Nations sponsored by the Honduran Permanent Mission to the UN with notable speakers and honorees such as Dr. Arthur Nozik of NREL, Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT as well as Billionaire John Paul DeJoria. She was a featured speaker alongside producer Marshall Herskovitz for the 2009 Green Girls Holiday Event advocating publicly for the use of renewable energy technologies. 


The Future of Christmas

Nicole Hansen’s Speech for the Green Girls Holiday Spectacular

Nicole Hansen Speaking at The Green Girls Holiday Party by Nrav Photography

Nicole Hansen Speaking at The Green Girls Holiday Spectacular by Nrav Photography

Christmas — do you remember it as a child? The anticipation of Santa eating the cookies and eggnog you left out for him, before he leaves you that train set, dollhouse or the latest electronics you wanted and behaved so carefully for in the weeks leading up to Christmas morning?

Now imagine you have a boy, surrounded by the joy and excitement of Christmas, who only stands by the tree, fixated by the little choo choo train ornament and keeps trying to climb the tree to get it. He screams, bites and cries when mom tells him no. This little boy has an older brother who gets up Christmas morning and runs to the tree to open his presents, but even though he’s 6, he can’t read his name on the packages. He is stressed because he can’t tell if Santa left him that R2-D2 droid he wanted until mom and dad can tell him which gift is his, while the little brother just wanders off instead of trying to open any gifts— to him, they are meaningless boxes.

These are the Christmases I have experienced with my own children and I fear are the Christmases of future generations. It’s bad enough that parents have to stress over lead in toys, or the plastics leeching from your baby’s bottles and the effects it will have on their children’s health and brain development. Knowing that there is little they can do when the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat is filled with so many known and unknown toxins and environmental waste, we resign ourselves to the fact that our world is changing, and I don’t mean just climate change. Humanity’s capacity for social interaction is changing too, and even our children know it.

saveit-posterTwo years ago, I was not (nor can I take credit for being now) an environmentalist. But that is when my 10 year old son told me the idea for a global warming commercial, shortly after visiting a gas station: “Imagine a boy is sitting in a car, watching as his dad pumps gas and there is a beeping sound. The kid watches his dad clean the windows and do what he always does, and as the dad looks at his son through the window, he smiles. But the kid isn’t smiling, mom, cause the kid knows what’s happening. Cause as the gas is pumping, there is this sound that goes beep beep beep beep beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and then the screen goes black. Cause we killed it mom, we killed our planet, but the dad doesn’t know it and the kid does”. Hearing this, from my own son, I instantly got chills. He said, “You gotta help me make this, mom. You can’t tell anyone this story unless they can help me get it made!”

That’s when I called producer Marshall Herskovitz. He was the only person I knew who seemed to know something about what Nikos was saying; he had testified in front of Congress about converting our technologies and going to war against climate change. With his help and the help of Nikos’ godfather Tony Goldwyn, the film got made, and became a 1Sky Campaign seen on the Internet, CNN, MSNBC and even Weinstein Company DVD releases. Nikos has since been asked to blog on Huffington Posts, and appear on TV shows, but he refuses. His video says it all. But where did this come from, this fear and anger over what is happening to our earth?


READ Rachelle Carson’s Full Interview

Months after Save It premiered, Ed Begley’s wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley was in my kitchen, asking if I had read about my kids in her magazine interview. I was puzzled. No, I hadn’t. Rachelle explained that she used my kids as examples of how the environment can damage children’s brains.

You see, when I was pregnant with my youngest son and Nikos was just barely 2, there was a knock on the door, and it was two young scientists from the California EPA. They saw I was 7 months pregnant with my son standing next to me, and they gasped. “You must evacuate your apartment immediately.” “Why?” I asked. “The dry cleaners across the alley is putting out percoethylene far over the legal limits. We only knocked to measure it more accurately, because the exhaust is coming right through your open window”. What they hadn’t realized until they saw me was there was a pregnant woman and a toddler living there. “Has your son had breathing problems?” “Yes,” I said, “He was just hospitalized because of it.”

They told me to leave immediately, that it was likely my children would have neurological disorders, and to get a lawyer. So I spoke to one, and the lawyer said “you can spend the next ten years of your life trying to sue a mom and pop dry cleaners or the next ten years of your life helping your kids.“ I decided on helping my kids.

As Rachelle recounted my own story to me, Nikos walked into the room. I asked Rachelle to not speak about it, as my kids didn’t know what happened to them. Nikos overheard and just looked at me, saying “Of course I know mom. I remember you and dad talking about it. Why do you think I care so much about the air we breathe? Why do you think I made my commercial? It’s because we’re mutants, mom. My brother and I were poisoned by the air and we’re mutants because of it.”

IMG_0248You see, Nikos came up with a brilliant visual story to tell you his fears, because he couldn’t read or write. Nikos’ brother Dimitri was born affected; he is autistic and that is why Christmas had no meaning to him. It’s why he couldn’t understand there was something inside the wrapped box for him under the tree. It’s why now, at the age of 10, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, he sometimes regresses to the behavior of a wild animal growling at us because he can’t understand why he has to wait until the 25th to be rewarded for good behavior on a field trip he went on one day. The future doesn’t exist for him. He can’t think past a few hours for delayed gratification, let alone a few weeks. And this is what our future holds: a society of people who can’t function in normal schools, who receive $100,000/year worth of therapies and schools just to be able to learn and live in society. Why are 1 in 59 boys diagnosed with autism? Could it be that the sins of the fathers are already being visited on their sons?

Carla Ortiz with speakers, Marshall Herskovitz and Nicole Hansen at the Green Girls Holiday Spectacular Photo by, Djeneba Aduayom Photography

Carla Ortiz with speakers, Marshall Herskovitz and Nicole Hansen at the Green Girls Holiday Spectacular
© Djeneba Aduayom Photography

We need to change our lifestyle. People can’t relate to the cute polar bears in the Coca Cola Christmas ads and the fact that the real ones are now starving to death. But they can start to see the real burden and realize that their complacency and disdain for all things environmental is actually touching their own lives and affecting their own children now. Not 50 years down the line, not 20, not 10, but with each of their grandchildren, children and even themselves. The effects are autism, cancer and Alzheimer’s, not to mention conflicts across the globe arising because of the lack of water and food, people attacking their neighbors for more fertile ground and fighting for fossil fuels. The United States Department of Defense can see the urgency of implementing green and sustainable technologies; they can see the urgency to win the hearts and minds of people around the globe by providing solar refrigeration of vaccines and technologies for school children in the developing world so they can be educated and have a better life. But what is it going to take for the public to see that this is not someone else’s problem? When it’s a problem that’s hitting home. It is a problem that parents can no longer afford to pay for their child’s Christmas presents because it’s all gone to their healthcare, private special education and therapeutic bills, because no one, not even our government, can keep up with the costs born by these children much longer.

People can say, “global warming is nothing but survival of the fittest.” Well, that generation is here. Man has evolved, and unless we do something now, our world will be unrecognizable to us and humanity will be far different than we were even 10 years ago.

In Christmases to come, my story can be one of many that the future holds, or we can put a stop to it now. It is up to us whether to have Christmas time be filled with generous spirits and joy. It is up to us to learn how we have suffered from our environment and work to improve it, both in the messages we share and the choices we make. Goodwill towards men can be a cliché for the holidays, but it is a real principle. In our hearts and through our actions, we can show that this is what our move towards sustainability is all about.