Next Starfish – A Manifesto

There is supposedly an old Jewish proverb that says:

“If you don’t want to do something one excuse is as good as another”

It won’t make a difference. I haven’t got the energy. I don’t have the time. I need to concentrate more on my family/work. I don’t have the skills. I can’t seem to get started. I’ve too much on right now. It’s too complicated to know what to do. It’s someone else’s responsibility. There’s no perfect solution. Doing something will only make things worse. We should concentrate on something else instead. It’s a waste of time. It probably wont work anyway.

The world has many problems – poverty and hunger, conflict and injustice, scarcity of resources and environmental damage.

There are over 7 billion people on the planet, of whom more than a billion live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25. It’s not widely understood, but that figure is locally adjusted, to equate to what $1.25 would buy in the United States – perhaps half a hot dog, and no healthcare, no education, no clothes, nowhere to live !

Another 2 billion live on less than $2.50 a day.

According to UNICEF, of the 2.2 billion children in the world; 1 in 3 don’t have adequate shelter, 1 in 5 don’t have access to safe drinking water, and around 22,000 will die each day from poverty – more than 70 in the time it takes to read this blog post.

The world is also living unsustainably. Our rising appetite for energy, food, water and raw materials is causing problems, and outstripping what the environment can provide – we have exceeded our limits. But if we want to lift billions out of poverty we will need to use even more . . . clearly we’re going to need to change the way we do things.

But we can’t change the world so what’s the point ?

The reason I started writing Next Starfish was to try and answer this question – to challenge attitudes of powerlessness, apathy and indifference.

The idea is by informing, encouraging, inspiring and by providing ideas and examples of changes we can make in our own individual lives, families, organisations, communities and social networks, we can not only minimise our negative impact on the world, but maximise our positive one! In the (disputed) words of anthropologist Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

We all have a tendency to compartmentalise our lives, thinking of poverty or environmental damage as something that happens to someone else, or somewhere else, but the fact is the world is interconnected and our own lives and lifestyles cannot be divorced from these problems. Our world is not the world ! Making the connections between our own attitudes and beliefs, our behaviours and actions and the state of the planet and the lives of others is both a challenging and empowering journey.

All good ideas need a manifesto (or perhaps I just like the word manifesto):

CHANGE LIVES - commit to being the change we want to see in the world

ACT NOW - make a start today, don’t overestimate what will be achieved tomorrow

THERE IS ENOUGH - challenge ourselves to live more generous lives

RIGHT HERE bloom where we’re planted - thinking globally and acting locally

TOGETHER - don’t underestimate the ability of collective passion to change the world

ENCOURAGE -  go easy on the criticism and lend a hand instead, don’t do guilt

IT’S COMPLICATED - accept that every complex problem has a solution that is clear, simple and wrong

AGREE TO DISAGREE - no-one has all the answers, debate is an opportunity to learn

HOPEFUL BUT REALISTIC - cynical pessimism & rose-tinted optimism both lead to denial & inaction

SMILE - we are generally as happy as we choose to be, enjoy life and help others enjoy theirs

So why Next Starfish ? Read this short story.

Of course as individuals we can’t change the entire world, but everything we do, or don’t do, makes a difference.

There is another, perhaps better known, Jewish saying:

“Whoever saves a life, saves the world entire”

Photo by The Marque, via Flickr 

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Guerrilla Knitting

A lot of people are familiar with the idea of guerilla gardening – simply taking over an area of unused or unloved public open land and growing vegetables or flowers.

Guerrilla knitting (or yarn bombing) is similar, in the sense that those involved don’t first seek permission or approval, but rather than growing things, they use knitting to bring fun, humour and texture to the street.

Wander through Google’s image search to get the idea: guerrilla knitting, yarnstorming, yarn bombing.

In the words of the London Graffitti Knitting Collective, Knit the City:

“Unleashing our squishy art on the world, makes us and others happy, and brings something to life that wasn’t there before. There’s a bubbling love of being alive behind our street art. Stoney-faced and outraged art has it’s place, but life is also beautiful, enchanting, heart-squeezingly graceful and all kinds of weird. Consider it a stitched shove that whispers “Wake up! The world is a mad and marvelous place and we all get to live in it”"

Beautifiying the urban environment with knitted sunshine . . . just for fun :o


Photo from dandeluca via Flickr

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Mass Insect Extinction: The Elephant in the Room

Guest post by Brigit Strawbridge who campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of increasing biodiversity and reconnecting with nature, with a particular focus on ‘bees’: their behavior, the problems they face and what we can do to help. Brigit appeared on the TV show It’s Not Easy Being Green, and regularly speaks on a range of environmental and ethical issues.

Life on planet earth has evolved over billions of years and has, to date, endured five major mass extinctions

Billions of species of flora and fauna have been and gone, but one class of species has proved extremely resilient (so far) to whatever changes have occurred on the planet and – apart from losing a few of their orders and suffering a reduction in diversity during the end-Permian period – has been the only class species to have survived all these extinctions.

I am speaking of course about the class ‘Insecta’ - Insects to you and me.

Insects are amazing – in every sense of the word. There are currently over 900,000 known species in the world, each performing different roles within our eco-systems. Not only do they form essential ecological links as predators and parasites, but they are also responsible for the vital roles of decomposition, soil processing and, of course, pollination. Insects have also contributed to the evolution of many other species; the most notable being the relationship they have formed with the flowering plants with which they have co-evolved over the last 100 million years.

Many insects are known as ‘keystone species’which means a number of other species depend upon them for their existence. If you were to remove a keystone species from any given eco-system it would upset the balance and that eco-system would collapse. Nature is all about balance. 

Given the fact that many of the planet’s keystone species are insects, it’s most fortunate that they have proved so resilient to change.

Unfortunately, over a period of just 100 short years, things have changed so dramatically that this amazing class of species is now under threat. For the first time ever, insects are facing mass extinction. 

How can this be? Simple. It’s down, unequivocally, to Man’s chemical poisoning of the land, the oceans and the atmosphere. That, and our obsessive desire to tame, manage, destroy and ‘mow to within an inch of it’s life” their once rich and diverse habitats.

I say this because it needs to be said. Again.

We were warned of this scenario in the 1960′s by Rachel Carson  in her book ‘Silent Spring’. We are being warned again by Henk Tennekes  author of ‘A Disaster in the Making’ and by organisations such as the Pesticides Action Network  who campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of pesticides and other toxic substances.

But why is this issue not being addressed as a matter of urgency in the media? Why can I not see any evidence that it is being taken seriously by the powers that be? And why are so few NGOs prepared to speak out about it? From what I can see, the only wildlife organisation that campaigns specifically against the use pesticides is BUGLIFE  - the Invertebrate Conservation Trust.

Excuses, excuses, excuses…..

Having raised this issue myself on numerous occasions with people from all walks of life, I’m tired of hearing the same old arguments from those who advocate that we ‘need’ these toxic substances to survive.

The arguments range from “We can’t feed the world without the use of pesticides” to “What about all the jobs dependent on the pesticides industry….people can’t afford to lose their jobs” - and many more arguments besides.

These arguments are unbelievably short sighted. Without insects (not to mention unpolluted soil, water and atmosphere) man will not survive anyway. Very little will survive. We are destroying our tomorrow for the sake of our today. And the craziest thing of all is that it doesn’t need to be like this because small scale, organic and sustainable farming CAN & WILL feed the world. 

Of course it’s not just the agri-chemical and pharmaceutical industries doing the damage…insects need habitat to survive too. They need environments where they can forage, nest, breed and hibernate – and this is something we can all help to provide.

It is time for us to face the facts, however uncomfortable they may be. We can only effect change if we know and understand that change needs to happen. Burying our heads in the sand isn’t going to solve anything . . . . it never has.

Humans are amazing, resourceful beings. All we need to do is wake up to the reality of the damage we are causing, shift our mind sets a little and  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

National Insect Week  is coming up soon. Get involved….you’ll be amazed how much fun you’ll have!

Other ways you can help . . . . .

Become a Bee Guardian

Join Buglife

Get involved with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Take part in the UK Ladybird Survey

Become a Bees, Wasps & Ants recorder

OR…. simply spend some time lying in the undergrowth getting to know your local insects. They are utterly mesmerising and once you’re hooked you’ll wonder how you ever managed not to notice them before.

Photo by xlibber, via Flickr 

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101 Ways to Make a Difference Today

“Most good things have been said too many times, and now just need to be lived” – Shane Claiborne

Sometimes we spend too long reading, thinking, contemplating, considering, evaluating, analysing.

Do something different today.

Take action.

1 – Email some encouragement to an activist

2 – Try wearing a pedometer to encourage youself to walk more

3 – Challenge greenwash

4 – Invite your neighbours round for something to eat this week

5 – Stop buying mountains of junk for the kids

6 – Buy a smart electricity meter

7 – Cook more food in bulk

8 – Wear warmer clothes in your home when it’s cold

9 – Chose more ethical fish

10 – Reduce your chemical footprint

11 – Sponsor a child

12 – Embrace the idea of a simpler life

13 – Plant a tree

14 – Talk to a friend or colleague about car sharing today

15 – Take a month off from shopping for clothes or gadgets

16 – Improve your garden soil

17 – Support good local businesses

18 – Take the stairs

19 – Trade your skills with your friends

20 – Plan your eco-funeral

21 – Improve your tele-conferencing, so you have to travel less

22 – Don’t be so serious all the time

23 – Try your hand at beekeeping

24 – Have a ‘power cut party’

25 – Get rid of some of your lawn, grow vegetables instead

26 – Eat less processed and more real food

27 – Be part of something bigger than yourself

28 – Recycle your old phones

29 – Declutter your home

30 – Check out your local Transition group

31 – Buy fairtrade coffee and tea

32 – Step down, and help somebody else to step up

33 – Consider moving to a smaller home

34 – Use eco-paint

35 – Give blood – register today

36 – Host a fundraiser

37 – Feed the birds – build a bird table

38 – Stop over-cleaning your home

39 – Donate your old stuff

40 – Eat less meat

41 – Let go of your guilt

42 – Reduce your toilet flush volume

43 – Visit a farmers market and talk to the traders about where the food comes from

44 – Convince your friends to stop buying bottled water

45 – Make the most of your network

46 – Question your prejudices

47 – Write something for your local newspaper this week

48 – Buy more things second hand

49 – Get more good news in your life

50 – Carry a reusable coffee mug with you

51 – Read the label before you buy

52 – Make a giving jar

53 – Improve your indoor air quality

54 – Give ethical children’s gifts on birthdays

55 – Avoid (don’t resist) temptation

56 – Invite friends over to watch and discuss a documentary together

57 – Cancel your junk mail – register today

58 – Support breast feeding and real nappies

59 – Avoid ‘slacktivism’

60 – Be more focused on the present moment

61 – Encourage friends to have greener weddings

62 – Donate some food to your local foodbank

63 – Make a small wildlife pond in your garden

64 – Have a leftovers night to waste less food

65 – Make your own lunch more often

66 – Compare your life less with the rich and more with the poor

67 – Do some voluntary work

68 – Make a micro loan with Kiva today

69 – Patch your old clothes

70 – Mentor someone

71 – Let go of some anger

72 – Free your slaves – buy ethically made products

73 – Promote fairtrade products in your workplace

74 – Correct untruths

75 – Make your own healthy meal menu for your family

76 – Boycott something – but know why

77 – Automate your chores to give yourself more time

78 – Paint your window surrounds white to get more light into your home

79 – Go virtual to buy less CDs, DVDs, books and other ‘stuff’

80 – Be more thankful for what you have

81 – Buy sustainable timber products

82 – Remember to vote

83 – Just stop ironing

84 – Give people more feedback and encouragement, start now

85 – Make an insect box

86 – Take some direct action

87 – Optimise your appliances energy settings

88 – Nudge yourself on the web by customising your browser start page

89 – Take a break – most of us could do with one

90 – Stop criticising so much

91 – Learn a little first aid, it might save a life one day

92 – Use less tap water in the garden

93 – Smile more

94 – Organise your life so it’s easier to make good decisions

95 – Try keeping some chickens

96 – Register as an organ donor today

97 – Fix something that’s broken, instead of buying a new one

98 – Consider becoming a social entrepreneur - change what you do for a living

99 – Encourage others – forward this post to someone else today

100 – Slow down

101 – Reject apathy

I’ll be publishing an ebook: ‘The Year I Saved the World’, containing these and another 266 ideas and suggestions, along with descriptions, links and information, later this year. If you’re interested in receiving (very) occasional updates sign-up for the free Newsletter.

Image from NASA 

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30 Infographics to Help Save the World

You’ve probably noticed that infographics are very much ‘on the up’, especially on the internet – it’s probably got a lot to do with their screen friendliness, and our increasing preference to consider complex information in a visual way.

Their easy accessibility makes them ideal initial talking points – if you’re impressed by any of the infographics below you might want to email to a few friends, post it to your Facebook page, send it out on Twitter, or even print out and take into work.

1 UK Energy Consumption Guide

2 Being Active in Nature Makes Kids Healthier

3 Simple Innovations to Help African Farmers Thrive

4 Working from Home

5 What’s In Your Trash ?

6 The Rise of the Slacktivist

7 Livestock and the Environment

8 We’re Obese – US Obesity Data

9 One in Six People are Hungry

10 West African Food Crisis

11 How Dangerous is Your House ?

12 Americans Use 30 Times More Water than Africans

13 Occupy Wall Street

14 Carbon Footprints

15 The Case for Increased Urban Food Production

16 The Dark Side of Capitalism

17 Vitamin D Deficiency

18 From One Earth Day to the Next

19 Honey Bee Extinction

20 How a Landfill Works

21 Which Countries are Most Reliant on Oil

22 Shopping Bag Impacts

23 Food Speculation Causes Hunger

24 Man vs Sharks

25 The Effects of Stress

26 Endangered Species per Country

27 Conflict Materials

28 Why Don’t Americans Recycle ?

29 The Internet and the Environment

30 Why Protect the Oceans ?

Image from Why Protect Our Oceans ?


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