Thanks to the Conscious Media Network

CMN Logo
I just have to stop and take a moment to thank the Conscious Media Network for their work–a massive site filled with eco and spiritually enlightening videos. The site is run by Regina and Scott Meredith, who have given up their house and hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money to keep the site alive and kicking, with frequent interview updates and a treasure trove of information. They have also posted the Solar Roadways: Prototype video to their site here, sending over 280,000 views to the video to-date. That’s more than half of the 470,000 views we’ve received so far. Take a moment and check out the site if you’re inclined: Conscious Media Network.

Peace.

I am a Pro-Life, Conservative, Capitalist!

Speech delivered at MoveOn.org Fight Washington Corruption Rally
Louisville, KY – August 10th, 2010
by Ben Evans

I am pledging to clean up Washington because…I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. Strange right? Now say it with me – I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. Let me unpack that statement a little bit.

I am pro-life because I believe that not just human life is important and sacred but that all life is important and sacred – that we must stand humbled and awed in the face of this sacred and fabulously diverse web of life that supports and nourishes us and that we should do everything in our power to honor, protect, and support that web and all of its inhabitants. THAT is pro-life and we cannot allow our language to be hijacked by those who would restrict us to some narrow view of what kind of life is valuable.

I am a conservative because I believe in conserving our most valuable assets – our true wealth – our water, air, land, climate, and biosphere. I am a conservative because I reject the utterly rash and unforgivably radical idea that we can use our planet as humanity’s open and unregulated sewer without devastating consequences for us and all life that supports us. Conducting that kind of uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have – an experiment that we are currently carrying out at full-throttle – is the most insanely radical idea I can imagine and it flies in the face of the very word “conservative.”

And finally, I am a capitalist because I believe in the intrinsic value of natural capital – the real wealth upon which all of our seemingly important human wealth is based and without which none of this would exist. I am a capitalist because I believe in the ability of market forces to conserve and utilize this real capital wisely if, and only if, we have a truly open, accurate, transparent and distortion-free market that accounts for actual consequences and costs over all time frames. This means, among many other things, pricing carbon and adding the true and irreplaceable value of natural capital and the ecosphere to the ledger – because right now the “free-market” that we think we have could not be more distorted or backwards. Or, as noted author and economist David Korten once said to me, “What economic growth really measures is the rate at which the rich are expropriating the real resources of the poor in order to turn them into garbage at an accelerating rate to make money for people who already have more than they need.”

And so I am truly a pro-life, conservative, capitalist – and we need more of those in Washington. We can no longer allow our language to be co-opted by those who would distort and destroy it, anymore than we can allow our government to be. We need to take back Washington and remind them that they work for US. We need a government that recognizes that humanity does not live in a vacuum, that a sustainable human economy and a healthy vibrant ecosphere are not mutually exclusive but, rather, mutually essential – and we need a government that can legislate that way.

We can all do a tremendous amount as individuals in our own lives and communities to protect this planet that sustains us – and I’m definitely all for that. But there are certain essential things that only our government can do. Only our government can enforce true-cost accounting by putting a price on carbon to move us away from our dead-end fossil fuel obsession. Only our government can set renewable energy standards to allow the energy marketplace to function wisely and in our long-term best interests. And only our government can negotiate climate treaties with other nations to preserve the enduring health of our species. We need an effective government, and so long as Washington is run by those who see mowing down our forests, blowing up our mountains, and polluting our water in order to make a buck for the top tax-bracket as “economic progress”, we will not have an effective government.

BP is not a person. Goldman Sachs is not a person. Massey Coal is not a person. And yet, they have more rights than any person – without the same responsibilities. We cannot continue to live in a world run by the likes of BP, Goldman Sachs, and Massey – or we will simply not have a world to live in.

Now say it with me one more time: I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. And I want an honest and fair government that knows what those words REALLY mean, and acts like it.

Top 99 Ideas for Marketing the YERT Feature Film

Here they are! The survey results are in and we’re getting the results out there. The multiple choice answers can be found here: http://questionpro.com/s/1-326297-1481493

And we loved all the advice in the open answer section, where we asked “Please offer your suggestions for getting the YERT film seen by as many people as possible.” The results might help you market your own environmental film. Here are the top 99 responses:

  • e-mail sociology/biology/aware college profs & ask to set up a screening
  • a community theatre in chapel hill (a place where your film will be well received): http://www.varsityonfranklin.com/
  • A social media awareness GRASS ROOTS campaign.
  • Advertise
  • advertise on the PlanetGreen Channel on DirectTV!
  • Ask for donations along the way…
  • Assign YERT college fans to write pithy, clever, YERTy phrases (less than five words) in chalk all over their campuses and sign it YERT . . . or just post lots of pictures of Mark; he’s one irresistible cutie!
  • BUT most importantly continue your positive vibe in all that you do!
  • but you could exploit the Hollywood avenue…Oprah, The View, Jay Leno, 60 Mins.;
  • Buy Blu-ray – $20
  • Buy DVD – $16-$20
  • Can you get on the Daily Show? Colbert? :-)
  • check out mobmov.org.
  • check out the radio stations in major cities that have the most listeners in your demographic. In KC – it would be KCUR and KKFI. Get an interview – in conjunction with a viewing.
  • College campuses are great too, but college kids don’t have money either. But if provide free or low-cost screenings, you’d get a pretty big return in terms of word of mouth, activism, and name recognition that might pay off in bigger ways.
  • college campuses, story on local news, fliers, e-mail blasts, etc.
  • Colleges!!!!!!
  • Connect with like-minded organizations (e.g., in Pittsburgh have presentations/screenings in conjunction with Venture Outdoors, the Sierra Club, etc.) or even businesses (e.g., R.E.I.), and tap into their member bases
  • Connect with sustainability programs/professors at business schools. Many B-schools now have at least one prof who does sustainability work. They might be interested in hosting an event or using the film in class. If you are interested, I can introduce you to some professors at Oregon State and one at Notre Dame.
  • Contact Transition Louisville, Sustainable Louisville Network, other greenie networks.
  • Continue to blog (I am connected to you via Facebook). You may try “selling” the film (or articles about the film) to all the green sites (I work for Green Joyment [greenjoyment.com], and he would like an article regarding your film. I am in the process of writing the article.).
  • Debbie Ford (author of “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” and others) is showing her recent film: THE SHADOW EFFECT around the country. I saw it last year to a large group in a SF Unitarian Church before it was even released. I don’t know how she’s doing it exactly, but I know people are having “Salons” at their home to show the film. You may want to contact her people. I know there is someone in Louisville who shows her film. Check out www.debbieford.com
  • distributing the dvd or video file to environmental focus organizations at colleges and universities. I would love to throw a house party or dorm party and show the video. We did this with ‘Coal country’ this year already and it worked really well.
  • Do a Rolling Roadshow with the Alamo Drafthouse (based out of Austin, Tx). They put on a large screen outdoor/non-theater event related to some location of your movie. Past examples: Xanadu at a Roller Rink, Open Water in innertubes on Lake Travis, Field of Dreams on that very field in Iowa, The Goonies in a cave, etc. They’re very creative. If you can incorporate/relate food with it, you can even do one of their dining events.
  • Farmer’s Market short film screenings?
  • for traditional DVD purchases, interview segment on mainstream talk shows with similar appreciation for good humor (as shown in YERT film); for online downloads, stimulate buzz on discussion boards
  • get a BIll and Melissa Gates Grant
  • get an interview with Jon Stewart
  • get into schools via science teachers and classes
  • get the blessing of a celebrity (rock star who tells the audience to buy DVD and has it for sale at a concert); or
  • get the film on an airline film roster;
  • Get the movie to activists from different environmental groups. Greenpeace, 1Sky
  • Get your movie added to Netflix and Blockbuster repertoires, especially as one of the on-demand streaming movies. You could also try to add it to Hulu and other on-demand internet sites.
  • Go to as many colleges, schools, etc. as much as possible.
  • Gogoverde.com has great environmental communities linked together. Ours in Rutland VT just did a showing of Food Inc.
  • have college students at a prestigious university; take it on as a marketing project assignment
  • have FOX news run trailer
  • Hit up college campuses! We like to network with other schools, so the word spreads twice as fast!
  • hmmm. You tube videos…sharing on FB, mainstream distribution, indie release (coffee houses, indie theaters. etc), hosting the film at eco-conferences, eco-events, maybe BIONEERS…..
  • Hopefully you’ll get a big break – maybe even from a totally unexpected source. You guys have done an amazing, amazing thing. I can’t believe that somebody won’t snap it up soon. How ’bout PBS? (If a well-publicized documentary could bring you income. I have no idea how that works, but I’m sure you do. Which might be why you want to keep it a feature film. I’m rambling now. Bye. ;-)
  • House Party – $10
  • https://www.withoutabox.com/
  • I am happy to keep passing the word through the folks I know..
  • i could attend but not HOST screenings – just too much on my plate right now as i’m trying to start a community farm and protect against marcellus shale exploitation
  • I guess this doesn’t really get the entire film seen, but it does increase the film buzz, right?
  • I think some kind of streaming/dowloading online would be great.
  • I work in the Center for the Arts in Jackson, WY – might be able to help coordinate a screening of the feature when it is ready…don’t know if we could pull it off for free, but you never know!
  • I’d say provide it for free download, but ask for donations. That might work well.
  • If it were in the theaters, like Inconvenient truth was, I’d definitely go see it and make my friends and family come too, or at least see it afterward when I bought it. I’m a little too mobile in my life right now to see it any other way :(
  • if you can somehow tap into the entire organization and get a coordinated screening going, that might be a great grassroots thing. although, cars and movies about the environment maybe don’t go so well together…
  • I’m a member of my local Holistic Mom’s group. This would make an excellent event for an HMN meeting open to the public!
  • I’m sure it’s already in the plan, but I’d offer a portion of it for free viewing on “social” sites like YouTube.com and Facebook.com and Twitter.com, with a link to a website that allows you to order/pay for the entire film via either a traditional DVD or downloadable file you can view on your computer with most popular media players.
  • It’s really hard to cut through all of the noise out there. I don’t have any specific suggestions other than to have people WANT to view your work rather than feeling like they have to because it’s the right sociopoliticaleconomical cause. Bring the spirit of your videos (which are very engaging) to the way you promote it.
  • I’ve been thinking about contests recently–what about a contest for people to produce their own YERT segment and submit via youtube. You select 20 top entries to be voted on (a whole second step of engagement with people online) and then the winner gets to be included in the feature film. Or maybe you reserve the right to re-shoot that segment…
  • Keep on traveling around to schools :D Students eat this up and are always looking for things like this to inspire them and to get involved with! Good luck!
  • Keep up the good work!!! Someday soon the US will be ready for your awesome work. Hope everyone is doing well.
  • Live presentations!
  • local tv
  • Luv you guys!
  • make it available for on-line and download for donation and ask that it be widely distributed
  • Make it available to Conscientious Projector, the monthly sustainability film screening organization at All Saints Church, Pasadena, CA. Advertise on radio station KPFK.
  • make it free to watch online – if you really want to make it seen by as many people as possible.
  • Make the first 15 minutes available for free. Leave ‘em hanging and then make ‘em pay! :-)
  • Movie night screenings projector on the side of a building.
  • No specific ideas for now, but definitely concentrate effort on college kids, who seem most likely to road trip!
  • Nudity, and plenty of it. Or, a strategic marketing plan that identifies target markets and considers what effects that the film, its price, the place it can be accessed, and its promotion have on the target consumer. In doing so, the YERT value proposition will become more aligned with the needs of its largest and most loyal customer base.
  • Offer it through the permaculture network
  • Okay, not sure that would actually work or be the best idea, but I think you have to lead with something substantial that’s free. There was a popular on that topic recently, no?
  • Online first??
  • other film festivals, green fests,
  • People somehow respond to grass roots and the fact that they are helping a worthwhile project.
  • Please do a screening at the University of Pittsburgh. We’ll advertise it and make sure a lot of people come to watch it. Thanks!
  • Provide free copies to extension agents located at land-grant universities in each state (1/state). Ask them to share with a professor who might screen it for a class or allow them to show it an event they might be participating in. Use your YERT followers to select at least one local environmentally-focused community organization per state and provide a free DVD.
  • put an eco-oriented celebrity in the film;
  • Put it on the YERT site and market the hell out of it on social networking sites, twitter, maybe doing 1 minute YERT tips like–”YERT TIP #46: When recycling aluminum blah blah blah insert correct tip here” and have it be funny and quick and quirky. OR with your connection to the theatre, contact the broadway green alliance and see if you can partner with them and have a concert and screening. Just thoughts.
  • Question 8′s “$11 – $20″ response is too wide a margin, especially when $0 – $10 gets broken down into three separate answers.
  • Reach out to colleges and don’t give up on the film festivals!
  • release it!!! :)
  • screening at hipster bars
  • Secure spots in summer outdoor movie screening schedules. Have an introduction/taped testimonial by Al Gore or other eco-friendly high profile figures to use in publicity materials. Get a distributor (even if small indy studio) so your movie is presented/available to all their clients. And the idea of a series on PBS or Discovery or similar channel could work really well as a lead up (and publicity) for the DVD release.
  • Short film screenings on the street?
  • Show it at Flicks at Stanford!
  • sometimes hooking up with another group helps and you can promote each other;
  • Take a look at examiner.com for environmental peeps to write reviews, post clips, etc. (I need to add you to my twitter …)
  • talk to Dreamworks people
  • tap into braddock youth project (BYP) and GTECH
  • Theater – $11-$15
  • Try to contact news outlets about it… I’m sure some newspapers would be interested in the story
  • visit college campuses more often. I attended the USC presentation, I think that age range is the easiest to target and the easiest way to spread your message rapidly. best of luck
  • We already had a YERT Live presentation at my college (Westminster). In the future, the Westminster Chapter of the Sierra Student Coalition would be very interested in hosting a screening event for the YERT film :)
  • We could still try to get it to be shown at our Panida theater here in Sandpoint and possible coordinate to do a fundraiser.
  • We have a college extension office that offers a lot of education and research opportunities here in Nebraska City connected to UNL – I would think those types of facilities would be a great way.
  • We have told several friends about YERT and everything you are doing to help the environment. Getting everyone to spread the word is one good way.
  • What you are already doing with Facebook. Facebook is how those up to age 35 and women above age 50 communicate.
  • Why not market the movie as educational model for teaching environmental awareness? In a contest, encourage mimickers to submit their own local segments to you or on YouTube and offer a monthly prize for the best video to be featured (embedded) on your website.
  • Word of mowf… in the words of Luda.
  • Yert itself needs to become a social networking site in which qualified green professionals (who you three have met) can interact. These are the same people who act as opinion leaders in the field and will get your word of mouth moving.
  • You have prob. already tried these!
  • You need money to finish, and then you want to make some from it! I need to think this over and give you realistic suggestions later on…

POSITION AVAILABLE: YERT Eco-Film Marketing Intern

YERT – Your Environmental Road Trip – is seeking an enthusiastic, motivated, eco-minded and web-savvy intern to kick-start and drive a variety of marketing initiatives for its documentary film project. YERT has a nationally recognized brand and over 2000 people on various mailing lists, including a solid volunteer base. The YERT team has also recently submitted an initial rough cut of the YERT feature film to the Sundance Film Festival. As YERT fast approaches the release of its feature film, it’s time to build upon that strong foundation to get the project — and the exciting sustainability ideas we support — in front of as many people as possible. Sustainability can be fun, and you can help spread the word around the world! (Check out the feature film trailer and 50 more short films at http://www.yert.com)

Time Required

* 10-20 hours/week
* Starting immediately
* Work available through Dec. 2010

Compensation

* Position is unpaid, but interns will be noted in feature film credits.
* Position will give you valuable experience inside an environmental film marketing campaign.
* We are happy to work with your school advisor to see if they can give you course credit.

Location
Pittsburgh, PA preferred, but can work from anyplace with high speed Internet.

Qualifications

* Be at least 18 years old.
* Must have computer with high-speed Internet access.
* Very comfortable with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blog culture, and related web tools.
* Interest in film marketing and/or grassroots organizing.
* Some project management and organizing experience preferable.
* Interest in environmental/sustainability issues.

Primary Responsibilities
Work closely with film co-producers Mark Dixon and Ben Evans to develop and implement film marketing strategy, including but not limited to:

* Submit YERT shorts and feature film to film festivals worldwide.
* Work to get YERT videos embedded in blog and news sites.
* Develop grass-roots film screening parties in communities, colleges, and homes nationwide.
* Increase traffic and subscribers to YERT.com and other online outlets, including YouTube and Facebook channels.
* Coordinate and drive volunteer projects to support marketing initiatives.

Application Process
To apply for this position, please send your resume to Mark Dixon, mark@yert.com, 415-672-5537. Be sure to add “YERT Marketing Intern” to the e-mail subject line.

What’s YERT?
YERT, which stands for “Your Environmental Road Trip,” (http://www.yert.com) is a one year 50-state video documentary road trip to explore and personalize sustainability across the country. All throughout the journey, Mark Dixon, Ben Evans, and Julie Evans released fast-paced videos online to share their adventures, including their very own “road rules” eco-challenges (like keeping all of their garbage in the car all year), visits to environmentally significant destinations, and most importantly, interviews with over 800 leaders, businesspeople, researchers, and average citizens from all walks of life. Their work has been featured on Treehugger, the Weather Channel, Voice of America, the San Francisco Chronicle, and on NPR stations nationwide via the environmental news program, “Living on Earth.” Having completed principal shooting and the travel portion of the project, the team is working on “YERT Phase 2″ — developing a feature film, additional short films, live presentations, and educational curriculum based on the project.

YERT Endorses David Kroodsma for Hopenhagen!

YERT has known David Kroodsma for several years, and through that time we have known him to be a thoughtful, capable, and dedicated advocate for strong action on climate change. Indeed, he has put is body on the line to prove it, cycling all over the country and the world to bring his message to ever-increasing audiences. He is also an excellent writer, with a book in the works. As fellow national road-trippers, friends, and ambassadors for a stable climate, we believe that David would make the best citizen journalist in Copenhagen during the climate talks, and plan to do all that we can to help him get there.

If you’re inclined, please vote for him on Huffington Post here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/19/hopenhagen-ambassador-con_n_363672.html?slidenumber=6plleJTZ3eM%3D#slide_image

POSITION AVAILABLE: Eco-Film Marketing Intern

POSITION AVAILABLE: Eco-Film Marketing Intern

(Please re-post widely!!)

YERT – Your Environmental Road Trip – is seeking an enthusiastic, motivated, eco-minded and web-savvy intern to kick-start and drive a variety of marketing initiatives for its documentary film project. YERT has a nationally recognized brand and over 2000 people on various mailing lists, including a solid volunteer base. The YERT team has also recently submitted an initial rough cut of the YERT feature film to the Sundance Film Festival. As YERT fast approaches the release of its feature film, it’s time to build upon that strong foundation to get the project — and the exciting sustainability ideas we support — in front of as many people as possible. Sustainability can be fun, and you can help spread the word around the world! (http://www.yert.com)

Time Required
* 10-20 hours/week
* Starting immediately
* Work available through Dec. 2010

Compensation
* Position is unpaid, but interns will be noted in feature film credits.
* Position will give you valuable experience inside an environmental film marketing campaign.
* We are happy to work with your school advisor to see if they can give you course credit.

Location
Pittsburgh, PA preferred, but can work from anyplace with high speed Internet.

Qualifications
* Be at least 18 years old.
* Must have computer with high-speed Internet access.
* Very comfortable with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blog culture, and related web tools.
* Interest in film marketing and/or grassroots organizing.
* Some project management and organizing experience preferable.
* Interest in environmental/sustainability issues.

Primary Responsibilities
Work closely with film co-producers Mark Dixon and Ben Evans to develop and implement film marketing strategy, including but not limited to:
* Submit YERT shorts and feature film to film festivals worldwide.
* Work to get YERT videos embedded in blog and news sites.
* Develop grass-roots film screening parties in communities, colleges, and homes nationwide.
* Increase traffic and subscribers to YERT.com and other online outlets, including YouTube and Facebook channels.
* Coordinate and drive volunteer projects to support marketing initiatives.

Application Process
To apply for this position, please send your resume to Mark Dixon, mark@yert.com, 415-672-5537. Be sure to add “YERT Marketing Intern” to the e-mail subject line.

What’s YERT?
YERT, which stands for “Your Environmental Road Trip,” (http://www.yert.com) is a one year 50-state video documentary road trip to explore and personalize sustainability across the country. All throughout the journey, Mark Dixon, Ben Evans, and Julie Evans released fast-paced videos online to share their adventures, including their very own “road rules” eco-challenges (like keeping all of their garbage in the car all year), visits to environmentally significant destinations, and most importantly, interviews with over 800 leaders, businesspeople, researchers, and average citizens from all walks of life. Their work has been featured on Treehugger, the Weather Channel, Voice of America, the San Francisco Chronicle, and on NPR stations nationwide via the environmental news program, “Living on Earth.” Having completed principal shooting and the travel portion of the project, the team is working on “YERT Phase 2″ — developing a feature film, additional short films, live presentations, and educational curriculum based on the project.

A hard drive died! Can you help?

Hey, YERT Fans!

Ben just gave me a call to inform me that one of our hard drives just died. May it rest in peace. But we needed that hard drive to keep chugging full steam ahead towards Sundance!

CAN YOU HELP US BUY A NEW $400 HARD DRIVE?
Click here to donate –> http://www.yert.com/donate.php

We need to get one of these drives:
http://www.g-technology.com/products/g-raid3.cfm

And the price runs about $400. We’ll be looking for discounts online, but in the meantime we need to quickly raise another $400 to cover the costs. We’re already living with our families to save rent money. We have no real income at all– just living off of bulk food to make ends meet. We’ll probably be dumpster diving soon… so don’t think for a second that your donation will go to waste!

Can you help by donating $10, $20, or $50 to help cover the costs?
Pretty please click here to donate –> http://www.yert.com/donate.php

The $2100 you’ve donated in response to the Film Trailer enabled us to hire an awesome video editor to speed up the post-production process, but we didn’t budget for a hard drive failure.

Thanks for your help!

YERTfully Yours,
Mark (and Ben and Julie)

Mark Gets Preachy

I recently gave a sermon at the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church about Faith and Sustainability. I walk through some of the origins of YERT and also dig into the role of faith and spirituality in the sustainability movement. I’ve pasted the text of the sermon below, along with a link to the MP3 of the recording. This was my first sermon, and I generally don’t like to get “preachy” when I talk about the YERT experience, but you can decide how I do on that front…

I also created a guided meditation to support the sermon, and you’ll find that below the sermon text.

I hope you enjoy it!

Best,
Mark

SERMON – Faith and Sustainability: Message, Medium and Medicine.
by Mark Dixon, July 12, 2009

–>Click here to listen to the sermon.<--
--> MP3 Audio File of Sermon <--

Are we doomed?

That's ultimately the question that a couple of friends and I tried to answer through a project called YERT - Y. E. R. T. - an acronym for Your Environmental Road Trip. Two years ago I set out from Pittsburgh with two friends, Ben and his wife Julie, on a one-year 50-state road trip designed to explore and personalize environmental sustainability. And you can't dig for long into questions like "are we doomed" without getting philosophical, and ultimately spiritual in the process. And so today I'm going to tell you the story about how this thing that started as an environmental road trip eventually became a spiritual journey, and where we all might go from there.

In early 2006 I left a well paying job at a tech start-up in Silicon Valley, and Ben and Julie left careers on stage in New York, to step out on the road and try to make sense of a rapidly changing world that we were growing increasingly concerned about. Scientists were becoming more secure in their assessments about human-induced climate change. My father, a thoughtful and mild mannered professor of Mechanical Engineering, was suddenly sounding the alarm within our family about peak oil. And every policy that I saw coming out of Washington seemed to be working against all I knew to be true in the world. It got to a point where leaving everything I knew and spending all that I had to explore our realistic options in a world gone haywire— well, that just didn't sound like such a crazy option anymore. The crazy thing to do would have been to ignore all that while hoping for a good life.

So I left. I just left. I submitted my resignation and walked out the door to spend some time figuring out how to relate to this wild, changing world. I hadn't really been gainfully unemployed before, so I got my apartment in order, sorted all of my unsorted piles, wrote in my journal, and I scheduled a 10-day silent meditation retreat to reflect on what to do next. I wanted to make plans right away, to do things, any things! But my wise younger brother Warren told me, "Don't make any big plans until you've gone on your retreat." I basically wanted to empty myself of all that had piled up for years on end— so that I could be filled with something creative and new. Finally, three months later, I DID make it to the retreat without making any big plans, and then— just four days into the retreat— I got hit with a new plan. A big plan. The idea for a national video road trip project just dropped into my head. I don't know where it come from, but there it was, staring me in the face. Asking for my time. My passion. My savings. Basically asking me to devote my life to it, and to let go of everything else I had previously known about a normal life. (3:08) I couldn't stop thinking about it during the remaining days of my retreat, and as soon as I got back home I started running the idea past friends and family to make sure I wasn't crazy. My family loved it. My friends were supportive. Eventually, as I told wider and wider circles of friends about the project, I got call from Ben, who informed me that he was dying to do exactly the kind of road trip project I was talking about, and that he wanted to join forces. In fact he basically told me, "I totally want to go with you on the road trip— I just have to ask my wife." Julie, his wife, initially said "no," but Ben and I continued to work on the project together, and finally in January of 2007 Julie decided to join the trip. We had our travel team in place, and we would launch six months later from Pittsburgh.

During those few months that Julie was coming around, we began to see signs that caused us to question who— or what— was really "in charge" of this road trip. One of those signs showed up during a two-week "practice" road trip that I took to test out the idea, the equipment, and get some interesting footage along the way. I knew that I wanted to interview random "people on the street" as part of the project, but I had never done it before, and wasn't sure how or when I would build up the courage to give it a try. I finally decided that the time was right at a gas station near Portland, Oregon, but I still had to sit in my car for a half hour, formulating my questions and building up courage as I watched customers come and go. Eventually I walked up to a guy waiting for his family to emerge from the restrooms. I introduced myself and the project, and then it took about five seconds for us to figure out that his name was Atul Deshmane and I had scheduled an interview with him for one week in the future in Belingham, Washington, more than 200 miles away. I didn't want to spend time calculating the odds of that coincidence, but it seemed impossible enough to inspire me into more road tripping adventures.

Another occasion that called me to question my assumptions about the trip came a couple months later. I was explaining the project to one of my mother's friends and she quickly stopped me after the first sentence and said, "this is not an environmental road trip, you know. This is a spiritual road trip. A spiritual journey." She just said it. Instinctively I answered, "yeah, I know," but I had never really articulated it like that before. Also, a spiritual journey isn't necessarily something that you can choose to have. I think you just kind of get into it and stay open to where it leads. I figured it would take years for me to understand just what kind of spiritual journey I was actually getting into, so I redirected my energy back on the the logistics of the trip and moved ahead with the launch.

Finally, on July 4, 2007, this environmental road trip— or should I say "spiritual journey"— began. Ben, Julie, and I spent our days looking into the nature of nature, and the nature of humanity, and that invariably led us to discover clues about the nature of the spirit. We eventually interviewed over 800 people in all 50 states. Scientists, politicians, theologians, activists, and just ordinary people on the street. Or should I say extraordinary people on the street. In fact, at times, after we had finished certain interviews, we would all pile in the car and give each other a knowing look and ask out loud— "did we just interview an angel?" We used that word "angel" as a crude way to identify a person we felt was tapped into something well beyond what we had ever imagined could be possible. Perhaps they had insights into human nature, or into farming, or world history. Sometimes those people made us cry. Sometimes we got shivers down our spines. Sometimes we just basked in the clarity of their thoughts and words, and wished that they were in charge of the world's governments.

Even before we met any of these "angels," we knew from the beginning of our journey that we couldn't properly assess sustainability in America if we didn't consider elements of faith and spirituality. And sure enough, the lessons and experiences came to us gradually in waves. The first wave came through a visit to the Bioneers conference, which celebrates the interconnectedness of all life… across time. It was at Bioneers that we learned that the environmentalists need to get on the social justice bus, not the other way around. It was at Bioneers that we were confronted by timeless wisdom and urgent calls to action from First Nation leaders working to defend their land— not just for their own use, but for its sacred role in a global ecosystem that benefits us all.

And it doesn't just benefit us today. It benefits us through time. And suddenly the long-term perspective took on a whole new meaning when Julie made a very surprise announcement during the third month of the trip that she was pregnant. We could handle an intellectual responsibility for the future. We could handle some spiritualized reflections about interconnected life and cultural change. But could we handle a pregnancy? Now we had somebody who would be there to witness the actual effectiveness of our efforts to secure a healthy, happy life for future generations. The pregnancy also put a strain on our relationships in that tiny little car— pitting my pre-conceptions about how the trip would evolve against the immediate and justifiable needs of a pregnant mother growing a giant belly in the back seat. Opportunities for spiritual growth surfaced more often than I cared to appreciate them.

We hit several more "spiritual waves" along the way, some through people, and others through events. We met Larry Littlebird in New Mexico, who is working to create an education center to share the wisdom of his First Nation heritage with a modern civilization in need of a different way. We met Dr. Michael Battle, President of the Interdenominational Theological Center or ITC in Atlanta, Georgia. The ITC has educated more than 35 percent of all trained black ministers in the world, and in 2007 launched a TheoEcology center with the help of powerhouses like Amory Lovins and David Orr, to bring about a transformation in the relationship of humans to the planet, beginning with communities of color who are often the first to experience the worst of environmental injustice. We met with Dr. Calvin DeWitt, evangelical Christian and professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been working for decades to highlight the cultural roots of sustainability as they are embedded in the Bible and the traditions of Christianity. We met with Dr. Ellen Davis, Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School who explained to us how the fragile fertility of the lands farmed by the ancient residents of what is now called Israel forced ecological wisdom into the hearts and minds and written words of the people who lived there, and now that wisdom brings profound insights to our modern ecological crisis through holy texts written more than two thousand years ago.

Then we met a student of Ellen's named Krista Tippett, who hosts a national radio show called "Speaking of Faith." Krista introduced us to new ways of articulating a spiritually-centered vision for a cultural transformation away from despair and disposal and towards beauty and renewal. Krista makes old ideas palatable to new audiences by harnessing the power of tenderly chosen words, then adding just enough modern context to leave us someplace entirely new— and usually inspiring.

The energy and words from all of these people flowed into our pores and turned the little YERT mobile into a road-worthy pressure cooker of ideas— crackling with conversation all year long. As soon as the trip ended we began the process of turning that pressure-cooked mass of ideas into something more tangible for people to chew on, and now, one year after beginning that process, it seems that three words can handily sum up what I learned about the importance of faith and spirituality to the sustainability movement. Those three words are:

* message
* medium
* medicine

The message: Faith traditions have in their roots strong messages of sustainability. I like to think of faith traditions as a pile of tools from the past, uniquely helpful to us in this vital moment in human history. Humanity has seen ecological collapse before— just not on a global scale. And if there was ever a time to dust off and examine all the tools from that past, now would be a good time. Through words like stewardship, creation care, nurturing, and conservation, faith brings to us the message of sustainability and asks us to consider a higher calling in addressing our shared human experience and the long term consequences of our actions on this planet.

The medium: Faith traditions often have the social and physical infrastructure ready-made to act on those messages it finds important. You probably know a few of these quite well— coffee hour? sermons? This building, evangelism, youth groups, and missionary work are all familiar ways in which ideas enter our lives in tangible ways.

The medicine: Once you have received the message, through the medium, and over-consumptive behaviors have been purged from your life, how do you heal the wound? Faith traditions have insights into deep meaning and lasting value in a person’s life. Consider words like hope, connection, love, simplicity, beauty, and awe. These are the things that faith traditions offer to fill you up with once you’ve been converted away old consumptive habits. This is how you become whole again after you’ve gotten the message (through the medium).

Faith traditions and solid spiritual grounds are also vital for keeping our heads on straight and our our hope intact when facing the kinds of ecological crises that we do today.

And, it's quite fortunate that we have all these tools passed down to us from our tireless ancestors— Our collective skill at subduing and destroying the natural world doesn't give us much time to put these tools into service. But I think we can, and I feel we must, if we hope to steer around all the corners that are quickly coming our way— instead of painfully bumping into them. One by one. Or many simultaneously.

We need these tools now because the other two other institutions that have resources up to the task are devoting most of those resources to preventing us from steering. I see the other two institutions as the "market" or business world, and the government. Our government seems all too willing to support the business and social institutions that keep it in power with money and votes. And the market? Sure, the market helps us steer around some forms of resource scarcity in a collective and often efficient way, and businesses around the world are getting the message that they need to change, but the market alone cannot steer us around human induced climate change. And the market alone cannot help us avoid the concept of "overshoot." Overshoot is what happens when the growth of a population exceeds the ability of its environment to support it. Depending on how many resources you extract or damage in the process of supporting the overpopulation, you can have a steep or gradual return to sustainability. Steep = bump into natural limits = deaths and suffering. Gradual = steering around natural limits = self-inflicted hardship and rationing but still opportunity for a good life. We choose today whether our children will bump or steer their way into the future.

And so where do we go if we want to steer, when our markets are insufficient and our government supports that insufficient market? We go to social institutions that can make a difference, and the most powerful, best organized social institutions in the world are those based on faith and spirituality.

About halfway through the trip we decided that we weren't going to get to the bottom of the "are we doomed" question unless we started asking people directly. "Are we doomed?" The answer we got from most people, including a number of well respected scientists and people who should know, was "no, we are not doomed, but we have to move quickly." How quickly? My guess is as good as yours, but I think we can all agree that every minute counts. It would be foolish to rush ahead without planning, but I think now would be a good time to examine the tools left by our ancestors: the message, the medium, and the medicine, and determine for ourselves if they are suited to help us bring about grass-roots change in our communities, then our government, and ultimately the business marketplace as a whole.

It may also be helpful to quietly reflect on the roles that your body, mind, and soul can play in this transformation. The challenges we face require each of us to tap into our deepest, fullest, most courageous selves, but it's hard to get to know that person if we don't give them a quiet place from which to emerge. And there's nothing to stop you from doing it except for simply not stopping to do it.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once referred to the creation, our beautiful, life-sustaining planet, as "a gift." When we met with Calvin DeWitt, he expanded upon that idea, and I'll paraphrase from a video I'll show you after the service…

"I think that all of us have some sense … that … we didn't deserve this. Somehow, it's given to us, and it's a remarkable gift, because what it does is … sustain life. And … it does this in a remarkable system that I think of more like a symphony of interrelationships than something like a machine. It's more beautiful than that. It's really a symphony of symphonies."

If you were given a gift that you didn't deserve, mysterious and beautiful beyond measure, and handed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time… what would you do with it?

What would your deepest, fullest self do with it?

-- END OF SERMON --

GUIDED MEDITATION
–>Click here to listen to the guided meditation.<--

-->MP3 Audio File for Guided Meditation<--

I would like everybody to sit back in your chair. Take a deep breath… slowly in… and slowly out. One more all the way in… and hold… and release. All the way out. Now, gently reach out and join hands with your neighbor. Everybody has a neighbor. Now give your neighbor’s hand a squeeze to let them know you’re really there. Take another deep breath, feeling your neighbor breathe with you… in… and out… and close your eyes.

Imagine yourself lying down outdoors in a favorite place. Perhaps on a patch of grass beside a waterfall. Or in a large field of flowers. Or resting on the ground beneath a large tree. Wherever you are, this place infuses you with feelings of peace, security, joy, and love. Peace, security, joy, and love. And as you lie there, begin to notice some of the details of the world around you. Maybe the ground is a little bit damp. Or a calming breeze drifts across your face. Or the sun sparkles through the leaves of a tree nearby. Just take a moment to notice what's in this place with you.

Now, as you're lying there in your favorite place, you see the sun shining down onto the world around you. (1:52) Notice how the sun's energy flows gracefully into the plants, feeding them and helping them to grow. Then, notice how the little bugs and animals around the plant live together with it, feeding off the fruits, or the leaves of the plant, and then those animals in turn feed the soil beneath the plant. You begin to notice the cycle of energy returning from the soil back into the plants, fed by the sun, and that energy continues around and around through all the plants, all the soil, the animals, and the trees. Now feel yourself becoming a part of this cycle. Notice how your food, and then you, are connected to all parts of this graceful cycle. Enjoy this feeling of connection for a moment.

Now you notice a figure start to emerge from behind some plants. (2:57) You didn't notice them before, but they're walking towards you with a warm smile. This person reminds you of a loving uncle or grandfather, and it takes you a couple moments before you realize that this person is your ancestor from long, long ago. They have come to give this favorite place to you. They had been preparing it for you long before you were born. Now it is yours, and they are happy, and you are happy. You share a few stories across generations, but soon the figure begins to leave, again with a smile, back behind the plants.

Then, from a different part of this favorite place, a small child emerges from their hiding place behind a rock. The child's eyes are filled with playful smiles and she runs up to you and grabs your hand, pulling on it with giddy anticipation. This is your descendant many generations after you are gone. You feel a surge of joyful opportunity and tell the child that you will preserve this favorite place for her, as it had been preserved for you. She can rest assured, you will keep it perfect for her. The child laughs and giggles, then runs back to the rock, revealing a twinkle in her eye as she drops back into her hiding place.

You rest in your favorite place for a few moments longer, enjoying its beauty and your connection to all of the lives and energy that sustains it. And as you try to imagine how many generations passed between that loving ancestor and the small child, you find yourself slowly coming back into this room, gradually opening your eyes, permanently connected to this world, to your neighbors, to your past and to your future, and to your most secure, joyful, peaceful, and loving self.

What kind of lavalier to use?

Here’s an e-mail exchange I had with Colin McCullough, who is about to start an environmental road trip of his own– you can check it out at http://www.ourrenewablenation.org
**************
From: Colin McCullough
To: mark@yert.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 12:00:50 AM
Subject: wireless mics

HI Mark,

I have decided the best way to go is to use a set of wireless lav mics for our interviews, so we don’t have to worry about cords. I scoped around Ebay and found a set for $700 – that’s a lot! Do you have any suggestions for me?

Thanks,
Colin McCullough

**************

Hi there, Colin!

Wireles lav mics were a tremendous help for us along the way, though it is useful to bring a wired backup of some sort– occasionally you’ll get static in a space and need to proceed with the interview without changing to a new, static-free location. At which point we would switch to a strategically positioned boom as close as possible to the speaker.

We used three pairs of Sennheiser EW 100 G2 receiver/transmitters. They worked out fairly well for us. There are more expensive, better ones, but these worked fine most of the year. I also upgraded the mic to a Tram TR-50 BSET+ lavalier microphone. The default ones that came with the Sennheiser transmitter/receivers were decent, but the Tram mics definitely cut down on the ambient noise while improving the quality of the speaker’s audio. That said, the Trams broke twice on the trip, and they’re expensive to replace– $250 each. :-( I doubt the Sennheiser default mics would break as much as the Trams. Here’s the kit that we bought for YERT.

Here’s a good version of a single wireless lav set. You might also want to be sure it has a camera mount if that’s how you plan to go. Otherwise the receiver will be flopping all over the place. Here’s a version with the camera mount.

Overall, when you get into the wireless lavalier zone, you’re gonna pay something in the ballpark of what you quoted below- . Check on BHPhotoVideo.com for the best rates on NEW equipment. I got burned by other web sites a few times because of poor service or delayed delivery for no reason from OTHER sites. BHPhotoVideo was rock solid every time.

Also, make sure that the lav set has the appropriate connector cables to hook up to your camera.

And, finally, make sure that you fully test and get to know your lavaliers when they arrive– the worst time to figure out the features of your devices is after you already arrived at an interview and something has gone wrong. Fiddle with the gain and frequency settings so you know how to fix them up under pressure on game day.

Feel free to call if you have more questions…

Cheerio,
Mark

cell: 415-672-5537
fax: 415-520-5824
mark@yert.com

http://www.yert.com

http://twitter.com/YERTGuy

All The Presidents’ Heads

First of all, a Happy Belated 200th Birthday to President Abraham Lincoln (not to mention Charles Darwin) and joyful Early Birthday Wishes to George Washington. Here, on President’s Day Aft Aft and in the very heart of President’s Birthday Week, we present to you a special Presidential Edition YERT video! During our travels in South Dakota, the roadside attraction capital of America, we stopped by David Adickes’ President’s Park for some quality one-on-one time with our nation’s leaders – in all their 20-foot, sculpted concrete glory. Sure, Mount Rushmore may be bigger and more famous, but where else in the country can you come face to GIGANTIC HEAD with every single US president? Actually, Williamsburg, VA (David has a second park there) but we were in SD, so we decided to bust in to catch some “green” pearls of wisdom from everyone from Lincoln to FDR. We even interviewed President Polk….yes, the President Polk. Best of all, we caught a super-sized face-off – a White House solar panels showdown between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan! Watch the drama unfold below:

Presidentially,

Julie, Mark, and Ben

team@yert.com

P.S. For information about the topics in this video, check out these breadcrumbs:

There’s a great documentary coming out soon called “Road Not Taken” about what happened to the solar panels Jimmy Carter put on the White House (and Reagan took down). To watch a trailer and for more on this story, check out these links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/27/white-house-solar-panels_n_160575.html
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/jimmy-carter-solar-panels.php

See which Presidents have been the best for the environment here:

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/business/the-5-most-environmentally-friendly-presidents-in-us-history/857

Another list of the Best and Worst Presidents for the environment. Oddly enough, Nixon makes both Best and Worst lists of this one. Evidently, as the old saying goes – “when he was good he was very good, but when he was bad, he was horrid.” However, he wasn’t THE worst – that spot is reserved for “you know who.”

To see what kind of “Green New Deal” our current President is conjuring, go here:
http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2236134/obama-green-stimulus-dissected
http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2236575/obama-stimulus-bill-green
http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/21/barackobama-usa-environment

Check out how Carter tried to fix Bush’s environmental/energy mistakes nearly 3 decades before Bush made them. Carter’s “malaise” speech (in which he actually never uses the word) is not terribly uplifting, but it couldn’t possibly have been more prescient then or more relevant today. Check out the speech (and dozens of other fascinating presidential speeches) HERE.