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.
Two 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.”
You 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
© 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.