People Watching; A Transformational Experience

April 23, 2011 by  
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Photo by Angie Rubin

Yesterday I saw an amazing documentary – Waste Land.  The film follows renowned Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, as he travels from Brooklyn NY to Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro- the largest garbage dump in the world.

If never thought twice about throwing out a piece of paper or a plastic bottle, watch this film and you will through any effort to dispose of your trash in the correct way.  The mountains of garbage are astounding and it makes you wonder if we are not well in our way to be buried in it.

But what is transformational are the people portrayed in this documentary; women, men and children making a living by going through the garbage to find and then separate recyclable materials to sell.   Doing all of it with a sense of pride and community.

The subjects of this documentary are mostly illiterate, but their sense of contentment is huge.  They are able to turn working in a garbage dump into a society of individuals who are doing a service; recycling and thus helping the environment.

Vik Muniz created a series of portraits of the garbage pickers – together with them – using photography and actual garbage.  The pieces have been sold all over the world and have raised over $250,000; money being used to help the community.  The president of the garbage/recycling pickers at the end of the art project was flown to London to watch the auction of his own portrait. The documentary – about Vik, the garbage pickers, and the art project – was nominated for an Oscar.

The garbage pickers who are people living in shacks who work sifting through garbage are now shaking hands with environmentalists from all over the world, going to art openings, museum, auctions,  and being guests in television shows.

There is a scene in the film where Vic Muniz discusses with his wife and assistant if it is correct to open such doors to this group of people if most likely at the end – when the art and documentary projects are finished – they will go back to their lives of picking through garbage.  The wife is uncertain but Vic asks her:  “If I offered you to fly to London to see things you never seen before but told you at the end you would go back to your old life, would you want to go? Wouldn’t seeing other things in the world force you to come up with a plan to live differently?”

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Our World Is In Peril, How Do You Cope?

May 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

I like this article because it discusses the dual world we are living in today.  This is the time in our history with the most amount of wars, famine, hatred and destruction.  But I also feel this is the time with the greatest amount of possibilities for us to evolve and connect in a different way.  While forests are being destroyed the number of people coming together from all of the world to try to stop it is huge.  While there are wars and injustices the number of people caring and coming together keeps increasing.  There are a number of us that see the hate but choose to find ways to embrace love.  There are a number of us that after embracing people all over the world that are like minded, want to find a way to reach out to others that are not like minded a find a world we can all live in.


By John Robbins

I am someone who longs for world peace. Perhaps you are, too. But every single day our world spends more than $4 billion on war. The last hundred years have been by far the bloodiest in human history.

I support human rights and human dignity. I want every child to grow up healthy and strong. No doubt you do, too. But today, like every day, 20,000 children will die of hunger and poverty. Even in the world’s wealthiest country, the U.S., nearly 25 percent of children live below the poverty line.

I believe in upholding the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. I believe in the inherent worth of every human being. But we live in a time of grotesque inequalities. There are shoe companies who pay famous athletes $20 million to endorse their shoes, while paying their workers only 20 cents an hour to make them. The CEOs of some companies make more money in an hour than many of the company’s employees make in a year.

Many of the world’s spiritual traditions teach that inner peace is found when you love the world as it is, rather than faulting it for not living up to your expectations. But our addictions are not only damaging our spirits, they are also causing irreparable harm to the biosphere and to humanity’s future.

I believe in holding a positive attitude toward life. But the rate at which forests are disappearing, coral reefs are deteriorating, the arctic ice cap is melting, and species are going extinct is undermining the capacity of the earth to support human life.

I draw strength from my kinship with animals. Some of my best friends have had four legs. Perhaps you, too, have had a relationship with an animal that has enriched you as a human being. But today, almost all of our meat and dairy products come from animals raised under conditions of horrific cruelty…Continued


Earth Day

April 21, 2010 by  
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April 22, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and it will be celebrated from coast-to-coast. Earth day was first realized by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who wanted to find a way to increase environmental awareness and to promote urgently needed federal legislation to deal with an alarming ecological crisis.

When the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, when a chorus of demonstrators around the nation (some 20 million strong) voiced their concerns about the environment, specifically about the pollution of air and water, a significant amount of federal legislation was passed to protect the environment.

But how much more needs to be done?  Plenty.  Just look at our waters and the climate changes taking place.  We can all chip in to help stop the march of environmental losses by recycling, taking shorter showers, and being conscious of the electricity we use.

The Navy will launch a test flight of a F/A-18 jet called the Green Hornet tomorrow off over the Chesapeake Bay.  The twin-engine tactical aircraft is prepared to make a supersonic flight on biofuel — its tanks filled 50 percent with oil refined from the crushed seeds of the flowering Camelina sativa plant.

For more information on  Earth Day go to


In The Coming Year

December 27, 2009 by  
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Okay what’s going on?  Someone tries to blow up an American jetliner, somebody else dies at the age of 32, the arctic continues to melt and Christmas is behind us.

Some of us struggle to keep fighting for some idealistic view of a descent life; some of us couldn’t care a less.  The bottom line is: some type of reckoning will be coming soon.

This is not a rant of a dissatisfied citizen.  I have actually just gotten a new car, am painting the exterior of my house and am making plans for the near future.  Having said all of that I also have to say that I know some big things are coming our way.  I’m not being controversial by saying some difficult days are ahead.  Think about the environment, think about poverty and think about the fact that many of us walk around with a feeling of being disenfranchised.

The holidays are always very intense.  If you listen close enough you’ll come to understand your social reality; there are always the people that are too busy for you or the people that need you too much.

This is festive time and a time of endings and new beginnings.  And why not?  Checking in is always a good habit.

My Christmas’ eve was spent alone but I made sure I cooked an amazing meal for myself and that I opened a great bottle of wine.  Of course I realized I was spending the night alone but I also did not behave as a victim.  I realized my husband wasn’t with me, and I cried for his absence but I ate swordfish and drank a 2001 Nickel and Nickel Chardonnay.

Now Christmas day was spent with my in-laws.   They are adorably nuts, so always a good set up for a fun anything.

New Years is still ahead.  I plan to finish the book I’m writing before January 1st and I plan to make it a special night.  There are six chairs around my table and I want to fill them with friends.  I want to cook the best meal I can and I want to open wines and Champagne to accompany dinner and I want to dress up.  I want to make the passage of 2009 and the welcoming of 2010 an important night.  Why?  I’m not sure, but why not?  Why not make things matter?  Why not aim for the best and the highest?

But we all must realize that besides our individual lives there is a whole world, which we are part of, that is marred with terrible problems.  So planning to have a beautiful home, be good, successful, and have beautiful nights, is all well and good but what if our best plans get put on hold because animals are dying, oceans are rising, and farming is moving from one continent to another like a compass gone wild?

Even if we act from complete selfishness, we must acknowledge the emergency for our survival.

I don’t know much, but I do feel the urge to commit to a change.  No more useless social gatherings, this is an emergency.  No more pretend.  This is an emergency. No more chit chatting.  This is an emergency.  We all need in our individual capacities and as a group to commit to change.  We have the power to choose between surviving as we know or adapting to a free fall.

The holidays are here and they remind us that we are part of a world community.  We still have the opportunity to take action and change the way we are and relate to one another and the environment in a different way.  Let’s not become a second rate copy of some apocalyptical flick.  I believe in me and I believe in you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Cash For Clunkers

August 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

So by now, who hasn’t driven past the neighborhood auto dealer with a huge graffiti-cized sign very close to or directly on a dilapidated vehicle stating: Cash for Clunkers?  The bigger question is how many of us pulled over and asked for a salesperson to see if uncle Charlie’s 1979 Chevy pick up would really bring in $4,500?  Somewhere near the 3 billion dollar (not sure just how many zeroes to use, so I opted to write the figure) mark was the amount anticipated during this limited time offer.  Now, that’s a lot of steel and rubber.

How do you think you would react to similar signs, posted pretty much everywhere, proclaiming Cash for Heartfelt Compassion or Dollars for Unwavering Devotion or Money for True Love?  They would seem kind of silly when most of us know that money can’t really buy any of the above mentioned.  

All too often, we put a price on items that are just simply priceless.   Our material psyche kicks in and we, in our material world, tend to get caught up in material worth.     Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that … what’s wrong is when there becomes a confluence of values placed on what we can hold (or drive) and what we feel (or really need).  It’s truly amazing that when look back on “the good old days”, it’s the feeling that we most readily recall, with the thing(s) usually placing second on the list of what was most important.  Uncle Charlie’s beat up Chevy represents the fun, the hardships, the good times, the bad breaks (no pun intended) … it’s more about what things do for us and not so much what they are to us.

It’s not that letting go of the clunkers is so hard, it’s what they have done for us is.  It’s the instinctuality of our experiences that we really cherish.  The more we wean ourselves from the things of this planet, the more we will have made meaningful contributions to a greatly improved environment.  Get rid of the stuff that gets in the way of true friendship, kind spirits and peace of mind … and let the sun shine in.  No longer should we aspire to green with envy , but green for goodness’ sake….


Clean Water

August 4, 2009 by  
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I remember years ago talking to a friend about all the different ailments and catastrophes that could affect the world and human kind in the years to come.  No, we were not having a doom and gloom conversation but rather a “what can we do” conversation.  In any case, that was when my friend said the biggest issue we would have in the near future was lack of clean water.  I confess I had not heard anything about it until my friend brought it up.  “How can we run out of water with vast oceans, and rains?” I asked him.  Rather than try to recall his answer let me share some statistics.

Half the world’s population could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change, experts warned.

U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that as many as 2 billion people won’t have sufficient access to clean water by 2050. That figure is expected to rise to 3.2 billion by 2080 – nearly tripling the number who now do without it.

“Climate change will be felt first and foremost through water, whether it be drought, floods, storms, ice melting or sea-level rise,” Mark Smith, head of IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Water Program, said in a release.

Smith said the world needs systems for governing water “based on a balance of policy, good water law and participatory institutions.”

Due to our great disregard and lack of love to others and our environment, we as a species are dealing with a great number of issues. While we can all do our part by using less water in our homes, we should as a society talk about it and force the powers that be to take action.

One of the people that are doing just that is Pritchard.  Watch this video and see the brilliancy of this man.