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Farewell, Rudy

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Yesterday was the memorial service for the phenomenal (and little-known) environmentalist, philanthropist and activist, Rudy Haase, who was also my friend. I was privileged to speak at the event. This is what I said. 

Rudy Haase

It’s a great honour to play a role in celebrating the remarkable life of Rudy Haase — and Mickie — and I’m not only honoured, but also humbled.

I do, however, wish to register a complaint. This assignment came with a mandate letter from Syd Dumaresq that said, more or less, we’d like you to talk about Rudy’s accomplishments in sailing and boatbuilding, writing and publishing, and social justice. (LONG PAUSE) You have four minutes.

Okay, nothing about Rudy’s passion for music, his pioneering environmentalism, his philanthropy. But we can talk about his passion for sailing, which was already in evidence when he was 19 and a student at Black Mountain College. His physics instructor wanted to go sailing on nearby Lake Eden, and Rudy took him out. The instructor’s name was Albert Einstein. Rudy went on to study naval architecture and to become an officer in the US Navy in World War II, where he served with John F. Kennedy. When he and his family moved to Canada in 1967 in protest against the Vietnam War, he bought the Barkhouse boatyard in East Chester, which built a vessel a year for 20 years, with Rudy himself doing much of the finishing and all of the rigging.

At the heart of Rudy’s sailing life was Diablesse, the unique main trysail ketch which he and his beloved Mickie bought for a honeymoon cruise, and on which they celebrated their golden anniversary 50 years later. Their voyages in her included two trips south to the Bahamas.

The boat was designed and built by Frits Fenger, who wrote a book called The Cruise of the Diablesse about her earlier voyages in the Caribbean. The book was published by Wellington Books of Belmont, Massachusetts. And who was Wellington Books? Rudy Haase, wearing another hat. One of the titles he and Micki published, Gardening without Poisons, by Beatrice Trum Hunter, sold 50,000 copies. It influenced Rachel Carson — who they knew — in writing Silent Spring.

The Haases’ writing, publishing and educational work continued when they moved to Canada, founding the Chester Educational Foundation, the Chester Day School and Library, and quietly contributing enough money to ensure that the town’s new school had an adequate library.

In the end, environmentalism is inextricably intertwined with social justice, which is why Syd’s letter links the two so closely. I believe that Rudy’s profound understanding of the linkage between environmental devastation and social injustice provided his compass in navigating the choppy waters of politics and war. A fierce sense of justice animated him right to the very last of his innumerable letters to the editor last summer, in which he defended the federal government’s settlement with Omar Khadr.

I want to end with a story that’s outside my mandate letter. In 2012, my colleagues and I at The Green Interview learned that more that 180 nations recognize in their legal systems the rights of their citizens to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat healthy food. In those countries, citizens can and do defend the natural world in the courts — and they often win remarkable victories. But the handful of nations that do not recognize those rights includes Canada and the United States.

We believed that Canadians should know what they were missing, and we decided to create a multi-media project that would tell success stories from all over the world. The capstone of the project would be a feature film. Someone suggested I tell Rudy about it. At the end of a delightful afternoon at his farm, Rudy enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and made a contribution that gave the project a momentum it never lost. He remained among its most ardent supporters right up until his final illness.

We finished the Green Rights project in 2016 — three films, 30 Green Interviews and a book — and the feature film has now been screened in scores of communities across the continent, from here to Oregon. I showed it last Tuesday night in Sydney, NS and people in the audience told me — as they always do — that the film had inspired them, motivated them and given them hope.

And I thought — as I always do — that although they don’t know it, those people have received a gift from a group of deeply caring citizens led by Rudy Haase. (Footnote: At least three other donors were in attendance at the memorial service.)

This was a man — and a woman — who loved life: the land and the sea and the skies, the living beings who share our world, the creative spirit that flows through art and music and boatbuilding and that animates our lives together. That spirit is immeasurably stronger for the contributions of Rudy and Mickie. May their example inspire us to leave a similar legacy when we pass from the stage.

Thank you. Merci. Welalioq.

An Astronaut, plus A Legend

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Coming Up: An Astronaut, plus A Legend

Recently I was asked to describe the core benefit that The Green Interview offers to its members, and I was surprised at how quickly the answer tumbled out of me.

“Every month,” I said, “you get to spend an hour with a great thinker, imagining the future .”

The Green Interview includes conversations with an astonishiLove_Stanleyng array of leading environmental figures. Our next two interviewees — we’ll post their interviews before year-end — are US astronaut Dr. Stanley Love (right) who is also a planetary scientist) and the legendary climatologist Dr. James Hansen, whose testimony before the US Congress in 1988 really marks the beginning of widespread concern about climate change. Brilliant, articulate scientists, both of them.

So, in general, what do our interviewees share?

I’d say they share a passion for a better, greener future, a determination to help us get there, and an ability to talk about their passion with great eloquence.  It’s a privilege to be able to talk with them — and to share those conversations with our subscribers.


The Green Rights Maritimes Tour – My Report
Six weeks ago, I did an intense tour through Canada’s three Maritime Provinces, making presentations at universities and libraries, and screening the Green Rights film in independent cinemas and community halls. The tour was sponsored at different levels by a variety of environmental organizations, and the whole adventure was supported by the Atlantic Credit Unions. I had a lot of fun, and it seems the tour was useful. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, you can read my report to the sponsors here.

I’m hoping to do a similar tour in 2018 in Alberta (where the film has been shown and I have been asked to return) and in Saskatchewan (where the film has never been shown.) If you have Prairie connections, please let them know.

Interview with Stanley Love

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Stanley Love is a planetary scientist with a PhD in astronomy from the University of Washington. In one word, he’s an astronaut and dreamed about being one since he was a child. He been with NASA since 1998 and among other things has participated as crew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, logging more than 300 hours in space. In this exclusive Green Interview, Love speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about what it’s like to see the Earth from the endless darkness of outer space and what the possibilities are for inhabiting other planets, if we wreck this one.

Planet B? Oceans of Boiling Lava, and Spacecraft Systems

In this exclusive Green Interview, Love discusses Mars and Venus, the two planets closest to the Earth. Is Mars habitable? Are we headed towards Venus? Love also discusses the complexity of having to replicate the Earth’s life support systems for spacecraft.

In this exclusive interview with Stanley Love we discuss:

Planet B?

According to Love, there is clear evidence that at one time Mars had running water on the surface and a warmer atmosphere. “Right now it’s a frozen desert,” and in that environment you’d be unconscious in seven seconds and brain dead from lack of oxygen in three minutes. “It’s very clear that there was a temperate environment, not necessarily with an oxygen atmosphere, but with an atmosphere thick enough and warm enough for liquid water to exist,” he says. But heating Mars up to the point where it might be habitable—where the water would start to melt—would be a nearly impossible task: “You would have to paint Mars completely jet black and capture every single photon of sunlight that fell on the planet for a 100 years. People have studied this in detail and the amount of energy required is just colossal.”

Oceans of Boiling Lava

Love says the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is what makes the Earth habitable. But adding too much CO2 is “exactly like throwing another blanket on the bed, it’s going to get warmer, period, end of sentence.” Love explains how the complexity of the Earth’s systems makes it very difficult to know for sure how much warmer it’s going to get, but he says that if the Earth continues on this path, it’s headed in the direction of Venus, where there is an ocean of lava under a very thick, hot atmosphere. “Nobody wants that,” he says. “It’s a long way down that highway from where we are right now and let’s be clear it’s not imminent and the Earth has been much hotter than it is today in the past—there have been jungles at the poles in the past and it didn’t go to Venus— but you can make, in my opinion, a cogent case that we should not even be driving in that direction.”

Spacecraft Systems

According to Love, it was what he learned in his training that really cemented his appreciation of the Earth. “The thing that added to my awareness was learning about the systems that keep us alive on spacecraft…learning how to replicate what the Earth does for us for free at great expense and low reliability on the space station.” He says we take the Earth’s systems for granted: “We have always been able to get oxygen here on Earth and you didn’t have to go to special lengths to get it. We have always had our carbon dioxide recycled for us and also all our waste gets turned back into food and the water vapor we exhale gets turned into rain and drinking water again, and the Earth does all this for us for free. When we go into space we have to do all that ourselves and it’s complicated.”

Love explains that out in space all this has to be replicated with machinery that is not always reliable. “I’m a part of this system, I’m a product of this system, I can live nowhere else except this system, except by going to heroic means with machinery that I’ll have to maintain and that if that machinery breaks I need to come home right away.”

Interview with John Cumbler

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John Cumbler is a social and environmental historian and retired professor from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. In this exclusive Green Interview, Cumbler speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about his latest of seven books, on the environmental and social history of Cape Cod, Massachusetts where he currently lives and serves as a trained rescuer of whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Cumbler argues that knowledge about the environmental and social history of a place can give us clues about what to do in the present and future. Cumbler, also an historian of social movements, discusses how the Abolitionists, who created the very first large altruistic social movement, ultimately produced movements dedicated to women’s rights, worker’s rights, the right to a decent living, decent housing, and a healthy environment.

Environmental history, the Abolitionists and successive reform movements

In this exclusive Green Interview, Cumbler discusses the social and environmental history of Cape Cod as well as how the Abolitionist movement was connected to successive reform movements.

In this exclusive interview with John Cumbler we discuss:

Environmental history

In Cumbler’s 2014 book about Cape Cod, Massachusetts he puts his skills and formidable experience as a social and environmental historian to the test by telling the 400-year history of Cape Cod through the experiences of residents and visitors. In An Environmental History of a Fragile Ecosystem: The History of a Beautiful Yet Vulnerable New England Region, Cumbler describes how the three “regimes of resource utilization” led to the current situation on Cape Cod. The first regime, the “light” use by Native Americans was replaced by the much more intensive extraction phase practiced by the European settlers. This second regime led to the collapse of the fishery, forests, and farms in the second half of the nineteenth century and eventually led to the third and current regime of tourism. Cumbler explains how what many thought would be an environmentally benign form of development has turned out to have numerous environmental costs, many of which he discusses in the interview.

Abolitionists and successive reform movements

In his 2007 book From Abolition to Rights for All: The Making of a Reform Community in the Nineteenth Century, Cumbler shows how after emancipation was achieved, the abolitionists didn’t end their activism but instead broadened their struggle. “The abolitionists were obviously fighting against slavery but in their fight against slavery they were creating a social movement and they were thinking in terms of how to create this large social movement to affect fundamental change,” he tells Cameron. Cumbler finds that instead of abandoning activism after slavery was ended, the abolitionists moved out in different directions. “They got involved in a lot of things and they used the networks that they had created during abolitionism to continue so that when the women got involved in the women’s rights movement they called their male friends from the abolitionists movement to be supportive and allies in that.” The social movements “created a basic understanding of rights,” such as freedom and liberty but Cumbler says that the more radical abolitionists went on to say that fundamental rights should be expanded to include “the right to a clean environment, clean air, clean water, clean soil. It involves housing, it involves the right to a decent wage and a decent job.”

The Second Coming of Joella Foulds

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Last night I heard Joella Foulds sing at the Celtic Colours concert in Port Hawkesbury. She’s a splendid pianist, and she has a rich, powerful voice. In addition, she’s a fine songwriter, which I hadn’t known. She’s spent the last 22 years off the stage, working in arts administration, notably in shaping the Celtic Colours Festival itself, for which work she won the Order of Canada and an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University. She was nervous last night, not surprisingly. But she gave a memorable performance.

I had almost forgotten that Joella was a musician herself, though I originally met her as backup singer/guitarist in the very early days of Rita MacNeil’s remarkable career. Hearing her again gave me a flashback I wanted to share.

It was 1981, I think, and Sylvia Tyson was recording an episode of Touch The Earth in New Waterford, Cape Breton. Joella was there with Rita, who was not yet a legend. I intended to read a scene from my novel Dragon Lady. The scene was an account of an informal wake in a Cape Breton fishing village after my hero Peter and his companion Elaine have found a sunken aluminum boat on an offshore reef, and have towed it to the village wharf. A fisherman named Howard tells them that the boat belonged to his brother, who was drowned a few weeks earlier. The searchers had found the body, but not the boat. That evening everyone gathers for an evening of drinking and singing.

I had a bright idea. I turned to Rita and Joella. In the scene, I quote four songs. Would they happen to know those songs? Well, yes, they did. Would they consider singing them as part of my reading? Yes, they would. So I stepped up to the microphone and read the text, and when I came to a song I stepped away while Rita and Joella stepped forward and sang. Thanks to those glorious voices, it was probably the most magical reading I ever did in my life. Here’s the passage we performed:

Peter and Elaine are drinking with Howard, his wife, and some others. Howard gets down his fiddle, in a battered black case, tunes it up, and plays a melancholy minor ballad. His teenage son comes home, silently goes upstairs in the little old house, comes down with his guitar and sits in the corner by the oil stove, tapping out the rhythm with sock feet on the shabby oilcloth, accompanying his father. A lament, thinks Elaine, not only for Wally and for Gilbert, the drowned brothers, perhaps, of these two sad men, but for all the men lost at sea along this seductive, moody, adamantine coast. For all those who have died, and who will die. For all of us.

She remembers Howard’s sorrowful remarks. “The worst of a drowning is you never know really what happened. And if you don’t find the body you don’t even know if he’s dead. Either way you don’t know what he felt like. I imagine Gilbert’s motor got swamped, and before he could get her going again she struck a rock and filled up. But you don’t know. Maybe it weren’t like that at all.”

She has never heard this music before. It is Scottish or Irish in its feeling, full of a nameless sorrow even in its brisk moments, but she understands it, she knows what it says, its beauty and its resignation mirror what its interpreters feel about human life. The two men stop playing, and Howard reaches for the rum.

Perhaps it is the rum she has drunk herself – she notes in passing that she is developing a taste for it – or perhaps it is the kinship she feels, but it does not seem unnatural to reach for the guitar. Perhaps it is something that she can give. For a moment, in the sudden hush of the kitchen, she fumbles for the notes, and then begins to pick a delicate, soft pattern, and to sing:

Farther along, we’ll know all about it;
Farther along, we’ll understand why;
Farther along, we’ll live in the sunshine;
We’ll understand it all by and by.

She sings through the old hymn alone, and then keeps the rhythm going, feeling around in her mind for something she knows to be there, a song that everyone must know by now, and finds it, changes the rhythm, and begins it:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
Was blind, but now I see.

They sing through that, and then Peter says, “Keep going, ” and she finds chords to serve the needs of a song she has never heard:

She’s like the swallow that flies so high
She’s like the river that never runs dry,
She’s like the sunshine on the lee shore,
My love, my love – but love is no more.

The songs tumble forth then, songs of love lost and betrayed, songs of shipwreck and peril, then songs of home-sickness and exile, and in the end songs of comedy and laughter, all the people in the little kitchen roaring it out as the rum goes down, Elaine playing raucous, bawdy songs she hears now for the first time, picking up chord patterns from the melodies, playing till her fingers are raw:

I’m a young married man who is tired of life,
Ten years I’ve been wed to a sickly wife,
She does nothing all day but sit around and sigh;
I wish dear to God that she’d get well or die…

Late in the night they give up singing. Howard’s wife, Louise, makes a huge plate of bologna sandwiches and a gallon of tea, and their rum–soaked stomachs and sung-out bodies gratefully receive the lunch, as Louise calls it. In the woolly night, with a light breeze from the ocean ristling the aspens, Peter and Elaine stumble off towards the wharf, back to the little schooner.

Joella, welcome back to the stage! It’s wonderful to hear you!

Now, d’you suppose we could get Rita back as well?

Atlantic Credit Unions to Sponsor Green Rights Tour!

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I’m delighted to report that  the Atlantic Credit Unions will sponsor the Maritimes Green Rights tour that begins next Friday.

It’s a beautiful alliance. Green Rights is about enabling citizens to take responsibility for their own habitat; the credit union movement is about enabling citizens to take responsibility for their own financial lives. Both are about empowerment, and about real democracy.

And for me this new relationship feels something like a homecoming. I joined what was then a tiny local credit union more than 40 years ago, served on its Board, became a delegate to annual credit union conferences, and did some writing and teaching for the Credit Union Centrals of all three Maritime provinces.

Credit unions are essentially co-operatives working in the financial services field — and the co-op movement is a major resource in our struggle to create a fair and sustainable future society. And if you’re a co-owner of your financial institution, you can have a real influence in the investment choices it makes, and the ways it helps to shape your own community. That’s why credit unions have always been leaders and innovators.

I’m simply delighted that we’ve been able to create this fresh and mutually-supportive relationship, and I look forward eagerly to working with credit union people on the tour.

And now, some other news…

Defenders of the Dawn airs again

Two years ago this month, CBC Atlantic broadcast our 45-minute show, Defenders of the Dawn: Green Rights in the Maritimes. The show, which is part of our Green Rights multi-media project  ran on the Saturday night of the Labour Day weekend. Those who saw it were enthusiastic, but not many people watched it.

Next week Defenders of the Dawn will be shown on Telile TV, a.k.a. CIMC-TV in Arichat, NS, one of only nine independent low-powered community TV stations in Canada. You can pick up Telile’s signal off the air on Channel 10 in Isle Madame, where I live, or on these cable channels:

Channel 536 on Bell Satellite
Channel 17 on Bell FibreOp
Channel 4 on Eastlink (in Cape Breton)
Channel 63 on Seaside (in Cape Breton)

Telile will air the show on Tuesday at 2:00pm; on Wednesday at 9:00 am and after Telile Bingo that evening; on Thursday at 12:30 pm; on Friday at 6:00 pm and on Sunday at 7:00 pm.

In preparation for the screening, Telile’s programming manager, Angele Richard, did an excellent 47-minute interview with me. Telile Talks with Silver Donald Cameron is already up and streaming on the Telile site, www.Telile.tv.

Green Rights DVD

In other news, DVDs of the 67-minute Green Rights feature documentary is now available through the online store at www.SilverDonaldCameron.ca. The price is $19.95 for personal use, $149.00 for library and institutional use. Ask your library to order it, which helps us considerably – and then you can promote it to all your friends.

Farewell, Twyla

Finally, a sad note. When we were making our Salmon Wars documentary (www.SalmonWars.com) we needed some footage from British Columbia.

We got in touch with a young filmmaker named Twyla Roscovich, who made a fine film about salmon farming called Salmon Confidential, and she simply gave us the footage. In her view, we were all on the same team, and whenever we could, we should help one another out.

On September 12, Twyla went missing near Port Hardy, on Vancouver Island; on September 16, she was found dead. She was 38, and leaves a four-year-old daughter. Everyone associated with Salmon Wars is deeply shocked and saddened. We cannot afford to lose people like that.

The Green Rights Maritimes Tour!

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September 22 – October 2, 2017

Last September, Marjorie Simmins and I toured from coast to coast in Merlin, our 34-foot motorhome. I lectured and showed the 67-minute film Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, in universities, churches and community halls, and we both sold books.

This fall, to my delight, the New Brunswick Environmental Network will host a new screening tour in New Brunswick. (Marjorie, unfortunately, won’t be with me.) The tour will also include stops in Truro, NS and Charlottetown, PEI.

Sept 22 Truro, NS Eco-Connects NS Gathering 6:00 Glengarry Inn
Sept 25 Sackville, NB Mount Allison University 7:00 Vogue Theatre
Sept 26 Rexton, NB Council of Canadians, Kent County 7:00 Bonar Law High School
Sept 27 Fredericton, NB Conservation Council of NB 7:00 Conserver House
Sept 28 Gagetown, NB Voices for Sust. Environments 7:00 Royal Canadian Legion
Sept 29 Saint John, NB Council of Canadians, Saint John 7:00 Rm 230, Oland Hall, UNB-Saint John
Oct 1 Petitcodiac, NB Conservation Council of NB 2:00 Motor Sports Hall of Fame
Oct 2 Charlottetown, PEI ERWG-BlueDotPEI/Citizens’ Alliance 7:00 The Guild Theatre

I’m really delighted that an impressive group of environmental organizations has chosen to support the tour. In addition to NBSEN, the tour has the support of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Mount Allison University, the Council of Canadians, Voices for Sustainable Environments and Communities, the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance, Stop Spraying New Brunswick,  the Environmental Rights Working Groups in both New Brunswick and PEI, the Nova Scotia Environmental Network, the Citizens Alliance of PEI and the NB Media Co-op.

We’ll be holding a question-and-answer session after every screening, and in some venues — notably Charlottetown —  we’ll have a bar. I’ll be posting regular updates this month on Facebook and Twitter as the plans progress, and I’m hoping to post video during the tour itself via Facebook Live.

I’m hoping to connect with a lot of readers, viewers and allies along the way, too. If you haven’t seen it, the film’s trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LHM8jSeaes&t=6s

Here are the contacts for further information:
Annika Chiasson, NB Environmental Network, annika.chiasson@nben.ca, (506)855-4144
Silver Donald Cameron, sdc@silverdonaldcameron.ca, (902)227-5245

Green Interview with Maxine Burkett — and an Emerging Global Treaty!

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Maxine Burkett, our latest Green Interview, is out to help the most vulnerable human communities face the endless crisis of constantly rising seas. She’s a professor of law at the University of Hawaii, and in our newest Green Interview, she talks about the small Pacific island nations which are shrinking and vanishing, possibly forcing entire national populations to migrate. But how? Where? And is a nation still a nation if it has no territory? Maxine Burkett’s proposals draw heavily on the concept of “transitional justice” – the mechanisms by which, for instance, South Africa pulled itself past the bitter conflicts of apartheid. It’s a fascinating approach to a crisis that most of us haven’t begun to think about. The interview is here.

Image result for image emmanuel macronAnd in July, we were electrified to learn that French President Emmanuel Macron has launched The Global Pact for the Environment, a new United Nations treaty to incorporate fundamental environmental rights in legal systems everywhere in the world. Other supporters include Ban Ki-Moon, Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Irish president Mary Robinson. The initiative grew out of the 2015 climate talks in Paris.

If the treaty is adopted by the UN, it will recognize environmental rights at national and international levels, allowing those rights to be used in the courts of all signatory nations. The draft pact – which is still being refined – draws on earlier statements of environmental law including the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, the 1982 World Charter for Nature, the 1992 Rio Declaration and the Earth Charter. President Macron will present it to the UN General Assembly in September. Read more about the pact here.

Environmental rights – and Canada’s lack of them — have preoccupied The Green Interview crew for five years now. We’re elated that these fundamental human rights are now moving through the legislative process at the Parliament of Canada. Talk to your MP about it — there will be a vote this fall. And now these rights are coming before the UN as well.

Meanwhile, our own film Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World has become an “Official Selection” at the Docs Without Borders Film Festival competition (DWBFF), an online festival with distributor contact. The film will be screened by the Council of Canadians in Tatamagouche, NS on August 24, and we’re working on a set of public screenings for the autumn as well.

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, said Victor Hugo. The idea that we all have an obligation to cherish the planet, and that the courts should recognize that obligation – that’s a rich and powerful idea. And this, we may hope, is its time.

Farewell to Orri Vigfusson. Three cheers for David Korten. And one hand claps for Nova Scotia’s recent record.

Posted by in Climate, Climate Change, Environmental Rights, Fish and The Sea, GreenRights, Indigenous, Oceans, Uncategorised | 0 comments

Orri Vigfusson is one of my heroes – a very successful Icelandic businessman from a fishing family who made it his mission to save the wild Atlantic salmon from extinction by purchasing and retiring all the commercial Atlantic salmon fishing licenses in the world. Charming but relentless, Orri visited fishers from Spain to Russia to Labrador to Connecticut, found other ways for each of them to prosper, and bought up their licenses. Today the commercial conservation agreements negotiated by his North Atlantic Salmon Federation cover 85% of Atlantic salmon habitat, and 5-10 million salmon that would have died have lived to spawn again. You can read his biography on the NASF site, here. We did a Green Interview with him in 2012, and you can see that interview here.

Orri Vigfusson died of lung cancer in Reykjavik on July 1, at 74. He was a towering example of just what one person can do, and it was a great honour to have known him even slightly.

David Korten is a former professor at the Harvard Business School, a former foreign-aid executive with the Ford Foundation – and a trenchant critic of globalization and corporate power. We did a Green Interview with him in 2013, which you can read here. He’s just written a very thoughtful column in YES! Magazine about New Zealand’s recognition of the Whanganui River as a living entity with the same rights as a human being. “Modern law,” he notes, “has the rights issue exactly backward.” We have “a system of law that gives corporations more rights than people and nature no rights at all. Just as our human existence depends on the health and well-being of a living Earth, the existence of corporations depends on the health and well-being of human society.” It’s a crisp, incisive piece that goes to the heart of the issue. Our interview with David Korten is here. 

And the National Observer reports that two provinces have already met their 2030 climate-change targets: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Well, Nova Scotia does have some achievements to cheer about, but this is not one of them. In 2007, the legislature unanimously passed the enviable Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which has had some noble effects: for example, 13% of the province’s land area is now protected. On the climate change front, however, under a deeply neoLiberal government, this climate-change “success” derives from a 15% decrease in manufacturing activity, and also from some strangely convoluted definitions. Clear-cutting and its even-more-evil sister, whole-tree harvesting, are providing “green”fuel for power generation while transforming the landscape into a wasteland. Meanwhile, the government allows LaFarge to burn rubber tires in a local cement plant, and supports the opening of a new coal mine. That sound you hear? Only one hand is clapping.

Marjorie and I spent Canada 150 — Canada’s 150th birthday — at the Coady/Tompkins Memorial Library in Margaree Forks, Nova Scotia. Named for two great social activist priests, Father Moses Coady and Father Greg Tompkins, this little library does a warm and highly-professional literary festival every Canada Day. This year’s readers were first-time novelist Barbara Radecki, plus the amazing Ian Brown and Johanna Schneller of the Globe and Mail, and both Marjorie Simmins and me. The place was packed with about 150 people – and it was packed again that evening for a screening of Green Rights. There was great music, food, and tons of great conversation.

Marjorie and I – and many, many other Canadians – had been deeply troubled by the idea of simply celebrating 150 years of Canada’s ambiguous history, so I prefaced my reading with this little text:

Canada 150. Mi’kmaki 13,000.

Marjorie and I have been deeply troubled about celebrating events which, for the original peoples of this country, have been catastrophic. It’s appropriate to celebrate what has been achieved, but only if we also recognize what has not been achieved, and resolve to achieve that as well – a country which fully and equally respects, honours and cherishes everyone in it, and particularly our native brothers and sisters, whose cultures and wisdom traditions so greatly enrich our lives in this country. My film, Green Rights, which will be screened at 7:00 here tonight, has something to say about this, and I hope you’ll all be able to attend.”

Coming up:

I will be speaking at a public meeting opposing the LaFarge tire-burning deal on Wednesday, July 12 at the Canadian Legion in Stewiacke, NS at 7:00 PM.

I’m also expecting to speak on at the Eco-Connects Gathering on September 23-24, a large conference of environmentalists in Truro, convened by the Nova Scotia Environmental Network. And there may be another Green Rights tour with Merlin the Motorhome coming up in the early autumn as well. The beat goes on….

Interview with Maxine Burkett

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Maxine Burkett is a professor of law at the University of Hawaii and passionate advocate for climate justice, which essentially addresses how the most vulnerable human communities should be treated with dignity and fairness in the era of climate change. Through her work she explores the issue of climate-induced displacement and how already vulnerable communities in the US and globally—ironically those that have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions—will disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change. In this exclusive Green Interview, Burkett speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about how she both studies and serves the vulnerable Pacific island nations, such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, and about how we as a society need to start addressing the daunting reality before us.


Pacific Islands, Climate Justice and Reparations

In this exclusive Green Interview, Burkett discusses her work with the Pacific Islands and the concept of transitional justice, as well as climate reparations.

In this exclusive interview with Maxine Burkett we discuss:

Pacific Islands and Transitional Justice

Small island nations like Tuvalu, The Maldives and the Marshall Islands will shrink dramatically or even disappear as sea levels rise so that entire populations may need to migrate. Burkett’s proposals for dealing with such disasters draw heavily on the concept of transitional justice, the mechanisms by which South Africa pulled itself past the bitter conflicts of apartheid.

“We have seen a disproportionate use of the global commons from wealthier industrialized or industrializing economies and that has, whether or not it was intentional to have harmed others, it has harmed others. And unless we address that we are continuing the initial injustice of having those who have polluted the most having the least amount of damage or impact and conversely those who polluted the least suffering these kinds of futures that we can only imagine, where you don’t have a territory or if it’s there, it’s not livable.”

Burkett says the process tries to imagine a “different kind of future where you co-create it in a post-disaster scenario and are able to build relationships and trust in the process.” She argues that responding to climate change is an “ongoing and dynamic event” and that “how we address being both prepared for future damage and how we repair after that damage is one we could be doing in harmony.”


Climate Reparations

Burkett says that climate justice is “really understanding the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color, poor communities throughout the globe whether or not they’re within countries or entire countries themselves that are suffering.” She says communities that are climate-vulnerable should receive reparations in order to meet the scale of climate change. Her approach to reparations are based on three main elements: an apology; compensation; and a guarantee of non-repetition. She envisages reparations claims as coordinated efforts between a vulnerable country or group of countries in collaboration with a major greenhouse gas emitting country or group of countries. Burkett says the ultimate aim of the reparative process is to “build trust and solidarity.”

To speak your truth to let everyone know what you need and what you’re experiencing but also to suggest that we are in this together and those solutions tend to be more enduring over time because everyone has had an opportunity to craft that future. And again recognizing that it may not have been intentional but there have been differential inputs into the current crisis.

Wow! We’ve Made a Difference!

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Making a Difference

The whole idea of our Green Rights project (www.GreenRights.com) – which includes 30 Green Interviews, three films, and a book – was to persuade Canadians and Americans that they should have the legal right to a healthy environment: clean air, pure water, healthy food. We don’t have that now.

What we learned during our research and filming, however, was that legal systems do offer various other techniques that shrewd and dedicated environmentalists can use. In our CBC-TV show Defenders of the Dawn (2015; click here to view it), we told how the citizens of Inverness County, Nova Scotia persuaded the municipal government to pass a by-law asserting the right of its citizens to pure water, which means no fracking. We also reported on several lawsuits which contend that the provision in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing “life, liberty and security of the person” must logically include the right to breathe, drink and eat. And in our segment on the Harrietsfield, NS water scandal, we introduced Marlene Brown, who recently launched the first private prosecution in the history of the province, against the two numbered companies responsible for polluting her water.

That use of the courts is exactly the kind of thing we hoped to encourage. So you can imagine our delight to receive a message from Richard Rachals of Lunenburg, NS, saying this:

“About a year ago I stumbled on Defenders of the Dawn. Inspired by that work and the Oposa Doctrine, I retained the services of our newly bewigged Jamie [activist-turned-lawyer Jamie Simpson] to investigate the possibility of having a fourth grade class sue the Provincial and Federal Governments for their right to a habitable planet.

“Both Jamie and [Dalhousie law professor] Meinhard Doelle felt that a frontal assault based on our Section 7 Charter Right to ‘Security of Person,’ or on Public Trust Doctrine, would be premature at this time and possibly create a bad precedent for later attempts. So, reluctantly, we decided to pursue a course of establishing smaller legal precedents that would empower ordinary citizens and eventually lead to the larger goal of a Charter challenge.

“We chose Harrietsfield as our first case and contacted Lisa Mitchell, the executive Director of ECELAW. Now, after six months of work, Jamie has helped Marlene Brown file a private prosecution, the first such action in Nova Scotia.”

I was stunned. It’s a basic feature of activist journalism – of life, really – that you never know what impact your activities may have. But here was a confirmation that the Green Rights project was having exactly the impact we had hoped it would have. I sent a note to the whole Green Interview team.

“This email,” I said, “makes the whole effort worthwhile. Marlene’s case may well open the door to a whole wave of prosecutions that wouldn’t have happened without the Green Rights initiative. We’ve made a genuine and important difference, and I’m just thrilled — as I think all of us should be.”

And you – who have supported us through this long journey – should be equally thrilled. It’s your triumph, too. The trial is slated to go ahead on June 13.

Speaking engagements
However, making a difference isn’t the same as making a living. Green Rights has been a huge success in terms of impact and influence, but financially its performance has been modest. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling about slashing educational funding has spooked some of The Green Interview’s best institutional clients in the US. So I’ve updated, refreshed and re-focussed my speaker’s page at eSpeakers.com, hoping to turn a useful penny at the podium while also promoting the films and the book. If you’re looking for a speaker, or know someone else who is, please send them this link to my page. Or just go to www.eSpeakers.com and search for me by name. I appreciate any leads you can generate.

The recent screenings in Wolfville and particularly in Mahone Bay were very satisfying. The Tatamagouche screening scheduled for June 10 has been postponed till the fall, so the next screening is on July 1, as part of a literary festival at the public library in Margaree Forks, Cape Breton. I’ll also be reading from my own work at the festival. CBC’s Mary Lynk will host, and other presenters will include novelist Donna Morrissey and Ian Brown of The Globe and Mail. Scott Macmillan will provide music, and all in all I expect we’ll ring in Canada’s 150th birthday in fine style.

Why not come and join us? I’d love to see you there!

In Search of Big Joe Mufferaw

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Big Joe Mufferaw paddled into Mattawa
All the way from Ottawa, in just one day.
On the River Ottawa, the best man we ever saw
Was Big Joe Mufferaw, the old folks say….
Come and listen while I tell you what the old folks say.

So goes the song by Stompin’ Tom Connors. When I first heard it, Stompin’ Tom was talking to Peter Gzowski on Morningside about his new album, describing Big Joe as “kind of a Canadian Paul Bunyan,” the hero of innumerable tall tales. It’s still one of my favourites among Stompin’ Tom’s 300 songs, the lovely legacy of a plain-spoken, plain-singing man from Skinner’s Pond, PEI, who loved nothing better than to sing the stories of ordinary Canadians – tobacco harvesters, smelter workers, hockey players, truck drivers, and loggers like Joseph Montferrand, the 19th-century strongman whose name was ultimately mispronounced as “Joe Mufferaw.”

Somewhere along the line I heard that a statue of Big Joe had been erected in Mattawa. So when I realized in early May that our motor home Merlin would be rolling through Mattawa on our way home to the Maritimes from BC, I insisted on stopping to find the statue and have my picture taken with Big Joe.

And that’s how we discovered Mattawa, pop. 2000, a charming little brick-built Ontario town, reminiscent of Stephen Leacock’s Mariposa, with a well-preserved Main Street – also named “Monestime Street” in honour of Dr. Firmin Monestine, Canada’s first black mayor. And, as we rolled onto Monestime Street, there it was – a large, varnished wooden statue of a man in pioneer garb. Big Joe Mufferaw, right?

Wrong. The street was punctuated with big wooden statues – a priest, an indigenous man with a feather in his headband, noble-looking fellows in fringed jackets and boots. At the end of the street, walking our two Shelties in a little park by the broad, fast-flowing river, I found the explanation on a plaque. Mattawa stands at the junction of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, a key spot on the canoe route westward for explorers, traders, missionaries and others. The Mattawa joins the Ottawa with Lake Nipissing and the French River — which we had just passed — leading onward to the upper Great Lakes, the Prairies, and ultimately the Pacific Coast.

Broadly speaking, Merlin had just retraced the old canoe route in reverse. Here in Mattawa, we were crossing paths with the great French figures of western exploration, the people we learned about in school – Samuel de Champlain, Radisson and Groseilliers, La Verendrye, Fathers Brebeuf and Lalemant – not to mention Alexander Mackenzie, who made the first coast-to-coast crossing of Canada in 1793, and Grey Owl, whose wife was from Mattawa.

Those are the people whose imposing wooden statues stand all along Monestime Street – which, along with the authentic streetscape itself, tells me that Mattawa understands the importance of its history, and is proud to assert its pivotal role in the story of Canada. Maritime municipalities, please take note. Stop putting the wrecking ball through the buildings that embody your own unique stories. Preserve some streetscapes. Commission some statues.

But the statue that is not on Monestime Street is the statue of Big Joe Mufferaw. So where was that? I asked a school crossing guard. Oh, he said, Big Joe is across the bridge, in front of the museum.

With the dogs, we crossed the Mattawa River on the elegant steel bridge and stopped in front of the log-built replica of old Fort Mattawa, which stands in a rolling green riverside park. No statue. No statue at the back, no statue anywhere.

I walked across the street to a second-hand store. Pardon me, but isn’t the Big Joe Mufferaw statue somewhere around here?

Oh, dat, he said, in a strong French accent, dey took it down. It was all rotten. One of de arms fell off, nearly hurt someone. I hear dey’re making a new one, maybe for dis summer.

Ah. Well, damn.

We re-crossed the bridge, and Marjorie took photos of me and the dogs with the statues of Mackenzie and Groseilliers instead. Here I am with Médard Chouart des Groseilliers. We bought excellent poutine from a street vendor, ate it, and steered Merlin east towards Ottawa and home.

Big Joe Mufferaw paddled into Mattawa,  all the way from Ottawa in just one day.

So how far is that, anyway? I can tell you now: three hundred kilometers, and the man who could paddle that distance, upstream, in a single day, surely was “the best man we ever saw.” He deserves the place in our story that Stompin’ Tom secured for him. And I’m very glad that he led us to Mattawa. I’m just sorry to have missed him.


In other news, we did get back to Nova Scotia early last week, after 6400 kilometers and nearly three weeks on the road. Before we’ve really unpacked, however, Merlin is on the road again for a few days in and around Halifax. Next Friday, May 19, at 1:15, I’ll be making a presentation at the annual conference of EECOM, The Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication, on the campus of Acadia University in Wolfville, NS followed by a screening of the film . The presentation takes place from 1:15 to 2:30, and the screening from 3:00 to 4:00, with an open discussion afterward.

Then I hop in the car and whisk off to Mahone Bay for a screening at 7:00 sponsored by the South Shore Chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Friends of Nature.

Next, on June 2-3, Marjorie and I are featured — along with our friend Lorrie Neilsen Glenn — at the Hubbards Writers Festival, also on the South Shore in the lovely village of Hubbards. But that event doesn’t involve the film, though the DVD and the book Warrior Lawyers will be available there.

The next actual screenings of the film are on June 10 in Tatamagouche, NS, details TBA, and July 1 at the public library in Margaree Forks, Cape Breton. And at that point we’re going to take Merlin, park him on the beach at MacLeod’s Campsite in Dunvegan, and enjoy the sun and the sand for a couple of days. Summer, at last — or so we hope!

Joel Solomon: Our Newest Green Interview!

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Joel Solomon

Joel Solomon has spent much of his life engaged with money – earning it, investing it, thinking about it, and giving it away. Although his activities are centred on British Columbia, his impact is national and international. He is one of Canada’s most notable environmental philanthropists, and he is the author of a fascinating new book, The Clean Money Revolution (New Society Press, co-authored by noted BC writer Tyee Bridge). The book’s starting point is that over the next few years, the baby boomers will pass their wealth to the next generation.  In North America alone, says Solomon, that’s about $50 trillion by 2050. What that generation does with this windfall will shape the future of the Earth, and the signs are encouraging. A generation dedicated to healthy living, healthy food and a healthy world is not likely to invest in organizations that don’t share those values.

Joel Solomon is our newest Green Interview. You can find the interview here.

In other news, for a recent catalogue listing I had to assemble a list of the Green Rights film’s screenings, venues and awards. It’s an impressive list, and I’ve posted it here.

The film was screened numerous times in April, notably at Simon Fraser University and at the Vancouver Planetarium, where the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice co-sponsored an event centred on the film, with live music and speakers including Mike Harcourt, the former Premier of British Columbia. It was shown all over Canada around Earth Day — on April 10 in Ladner, BC, on Thursday April 20th in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, ON, and on Earth Day itself in North Saanich, BC and Edmonton, AB.

I have been thrilled at the film’s reception. This was the second screening of the film in Thunder Bay, and the organizers are discussing a third showing. Meanwhile, an audience member in North Saanich wrote, “It was a barn-burner evening, rounded out and enriched by comments from Elizabeth May. She got teary when she was speaking about the ‘Scott’ paper mill. So well done. All the work that you put into making the film is bearing fruit.”

This is tremendously gratifying. I was able to attend the Vancouver and Ladner events, and also the Edmonton showing, which was part of the city’s Resilience Festival. It was standing room only, with a crackling discussion afterwards among deeply-committed and articulate citizens. The two proposed screenings in Saskatchewan had to be postponed, but the Edmonton organizers want to show the film again, to a larger audience, probably next winter, so we hope to organize a mid-winter tour of several Prairie cities.

The film will be shown several times in the Maritimes over the next few months – in Wolfville and Mahone Bay on May 19, in Tatamagouche on June 10 and in Margaree on July 1. I’ll be discussing it, but not screening it, in Hubbards on June 3. It continues to win awards, most recently a Gold in the International Independent Film Awards.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m happy to report that we’ve finally had time to produce a DVD, so you can order your own copy from my web site. Just click here.

And this note is written in Kenora, Ontario, where Merlin the Motorhome is pausing on his eastbound cross-country trip. We expect to be back in Nova Scotia by the end of the first week in May, ready to enjoy a Maritime summer – and to begin another project. Stay tuned!

The Green Rights Film: Screenings, Events and Awards

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I was recently asked by someone compiling a catalogue page to provide a list of screenings and other presentations of our film Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. It was an eye-opening task. Here’s the list of events both completed and booked:

Acadia University
Mount St. Vincent University
St. Francis Xavier University
University of Ottawa
Queens University
University of Toronto
University of Guelph
University of Waterloo
York University (Osgoode Hall Law School)
Lakehead University
University of Manitoba
University of British Columbia
Simon Fraser University
University of Victoria
University of Oregon

Screenings in Communities
Ottawa (Lord Elgin launch, associated with Senate Speaker’s reception)
Kingston (community theatre)
Toronto (community theatre)
Calgary (Unitarian Church)
Vancouver (David Suzuki Foundation)
Ladner, BC (United Church)
North Saanich, BC (United Church)
UBC Museum of Anthropology
Council of Canadians, South Shore Nova Scotia
Friends of Nature
Margaree Area Development Association

Festivals, Awards and similar
Belleville Downtown Doc Festival (ON)
Erin Fast Forward Film Festival (ON)
Orangeville (ON): Climate Change Action Dufferin-Caledon (ON)
Sault Ste Marie Clean North Festival (ON)
Antigonish International Film Festival (NS)
Thunder Bay Environmental Film Festival (ON)
Edmonton Resilience Festival (AB)
Award of Merit, Impact Docs Awards
Gold Winner, International Independent Film Awards
Award of Merit, Accolade Global Film Competition

Conferences and similar
Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication conference
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Joel Solomon

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Joel Solomon is businessman, visionary, investor, philanthropist and now author of The Clean Money Revolution. A regenerative economy is at the heart of our sustainable future, says Solomon. And without “clean money” no other sector will change. In this exclusive Green Interview, he speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about his own journey after being diagnosed with a serious illness and how it led ultimately to his latest book about clean money—investing in socially and environmentally responsible ventures as a way to shift society towards sustainability.

The Health Connection, The Clean Money Revolution, and Socially Responsible Investing

In this exclusive Green Interview, Solomon discusses the health connection that set him on this path, the concept of clean money, and the importance of socially responsible investing.


In this exclusive interview with Joel Solomon we discuss:

The Health Connection

In his early 20s, Joel Solomon learned that he had inherited polycystic kidney disease, a potentially fatal illness that runs in his family. He told The Green Interview that his doctors told him he could live a long time or he could live for two years, and there was nothing he could really do about it. “That shook me up a lot,” he says. “I spent a lot of time searching for what’s the meaning and purpose of my life. If it is going to end, and it might end soon, then what do I want to have accomplished or what matters to me? So it really did send me on probably the most important journey of my life.” Instead of following in the family’s lead and going into the shopping mall development business in Tennessee, Solomon was eventually drawn to Cortez Island, off the coast of British Columbia. Solomon’s health concerns also led him to pursue alternative health regimens, particularly focusing on a healthy diet. “My first involvement with money was inheriting a small amount from effectively my father’s work and I decided it needed to go into healthy, cleaner food because that had become an important part of my own journey and from there one thing led to another.”

The Clean Money Revolution

Solomon’s book, The Clean Money Revolution, looks at the concept of clean money – or what he calls “examined money.” Solomon says that with any financial transaction, and particularly when money is being invested, questions need to be asked about who the money is affecting and how. “I’m not satisfied doing maximum damage to people and place in order to maximize my money. I don’t really think it should be legal if I really get down to it,” he says. Solomon says the drive to understand how his money is being used in the world is a “responsibility” he takes seriously because when it’s used to exploit people or the planet—activities that often result in higher returns—it resembles a “toxic substance.”

Socially Responsible Investing

In 1993 Solomon, who inherited $3 million, formed a partnership with Rubbermaid heiress Carol Newell, who inherited roughly $60 million from her family’s fortune. In the beginning Solomon helped Newell “design, structure, strategize and implement a program to put the majority of that money out into the world doing good, clean or better, cleaner things than what was going to happen by just handing it over to a wealth manager into a stock market,” he tells The Green Interview. Over the years they have created an organization that includes a foundation (Tides Canada), a charity (Endswell), as well as an investment agency (Renewal). Solomon is currently president of Renewal Partners, “a collection of independent organizations founded (in 2009) by Newell to carry out her original mission of fostering social change,” according to its Web site.


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From left: David Boyd, Lisa Sundstrom, Max Cameron, Sheryl Lightfoot, all of UBC; and Silver Donald Cameron. Out of frame: Nuno Porto, UBC Museum of Anthropology.

On March 23, I was on a panel at the UBC Museum of Anthropology with the five remarkable people in the photo. We were discussing a stimulating and moving exhibition called The Rights of Nature, focussed on artifacts from the Amazon basin — and on the recognition by some regional governments of the legal rights of Pachamama, the complex and sophisticated Andean conception of Mother Nature. I was there because some of our Green Interview videos were incorporated into the exhibition; Chris Beckett and I had interviewed some major figures from the region about these very themes.

For me, however, the exhibition underscored how little I know about the incredible richness and diversity of the region, both in human and biological terms – the incredible array of plants and animals, but also the vast range of human experience. The region has 385 Aboriginal groups, some of which have never been contacted. They have lived there for 11,000 years, and their relationships with their forest world are as therapeutic for the spirit as some forest plants are for the body.

To start with, for them the forest is not merely physical – a “resource” or a set of resources. It is their habitat, their fundamental reality, the home of their spirits. Without it, they would be lost, which is why Indigenous cultures in the region have been going extinct as mining, logging and oil exploration have ravaged their terrain. That’s also why Indigenous people everywhere will fight to the death for the well-being of their territory; they are responsible for and to their land in a mutual relationship that largely defines who they are.

As a result, Amazonian ways of seeing the world can be totally surprising to the Western mind. Here’s one example, from a group called the Ashaninka, a nation of perhaps 40,000 people whose territory straddles the boundary between Peru and Brazil. The Ashaninka see the world as several superimposed levels, some visible and some not. Some of the levels can be seen only by the animals, notably the birds. Reality is complex, fluid, multi-layered and inclusive. All else aside, it is much more interesting, much more human, than the one-dimensional world of commerce and industry.

Now look at Bolivia and Ecuador, which call themselves “plurinational states” — states that contain many different nations. So do Canada and the US, which do not call themselves “plurinational,” though I believe they should. We tend to think of “nations” as synonymous with nation-states, a notion that crumbles on analysis. A nation is a group of people who share a culture, a language, a system of governance and so on; a state is defined by a boundary that can be drawn by anyone with sufficient power. “National” boundaries in the Middle East and Africa were largely drawn by European colonial powers, for instance, and commonly ignore the traditional boundaries recognized by the inhabitants.

What if we thought of nationhood the way the Ashaninka think of the world itself, as superimposed interactive levels? The territory where I live is the province of Canada known as Nova Scotia – but it’s also part of the traditional French-speaking territory known as Acadia, and of Mi’kma’ki, the large Mi’kmaq territory that includes most of the Maritime provinces, a bit of Maine and a large swath of Quebec. What if we recognized different governments as having jurisdiction over the same territories – and negotiated the issues where all three groups had shared interests, while respecting their independence in other matters?

It sounds radical, but in fact we do something like it now; I am simultaneously a citizen of Richmond County, Nova Scotia and Canada, and each of those jurisdictions governs different aspects of my life. We also recognize Mi’kmaq jurisdiction in some matters, and accept that Acadians have certain specific rights. If we are truly interested in truth and reconciliation – and increasing numbers of us are – we will have to negotiate our way forward in accordance with the treaties we have signed, just as the provinces now negotiate with Canada on the basis of the agreements which make up the Canadian constitution. Perhaps the Ashaninka concept of reality provides us with a visualization that can help us find the path that leads us forward together.

The peoples of the Amazon – Indigenous people generally — strike me as wealthy in ways that industrial culture simply doesn’t understand. These cultures seem to see both the forest and the trees – the trees as individual beings, the forest as a community that parallels and includes and enriches the human community. Interestingly enough, Western science increasingly understands this, as witness the complicated relationships within the forest described in Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. We know that the Amazon includes innumerable species that we do not begin to understand, species that the local people use in a bewildering variety of ways. Compared with this, seeing the forest community only as potential chopsticks or newsprint or lumber is a pathetically impoverished way of understanding the world to which we actually belong.

What I had not understood is the existence of a social ecology in the region that parallels the profundity and intricacy of the forest itself. The forest, it seems, is as fecund in ideas as it is in biology. That’s why people like the Ashaninka have persisted for 11,000 years. If I had to make a bet about which nations will still be here in another 11,000 years, I wouldn’t bet on the member states of the United Nations. I’d bet on the Mi’kmaq, the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, the Ashaninka. And I would say to my own descendants, respect these people, bring them close, and seek to learn what they can teach you. These are the people who know.

Gary Saunders, Screenings in Vancouver, and Another Award

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New Green Interview: Gary Saunders!

Gary Saunders

We’ve published our newest Green Interview, with Nova Scotia forester, author, educator and painter Gary Saunders, author of the award-winning new book, My Life With Trees. The book is a unique memoir of 30 chapters each focussed on a particular species of tree, and on Gary’s memories of people associated with that tree. The book is illustrated with Gary’s own paintings and drawings. It seamlessly blends science and memory in graceful and resonant prose, and beautifully illustrates the depth of Gary’s understanding not only from his own scholarship and observation, but also from the indigenous people around him. The interview is enhanced with drone footage of some of the trees Gary describes, including the ones around his gracious old home in Clifton, NS.

Vancouver Screening and Seminars

I’m still in Vancouver, where our Green Rights film will be screened at the University of British Columbia this coming Thursday, March 16, at 7:00 in Theatre 102 of the Frederick Lasserre Building. The film concludes with an exploration of buen vivir, a concept of harmonious, sustainable living derived from the indigenous people of South America. Buen vivir is also at the core of Amazonia: The Rights of Nature, a fascinating new exhibition at UBC’s glorious Museum of Anthropology. Both the film and the exhibition are deeply concerned with threats to the Amazonian region from political violence, mining, oil and gas development, industrial agriculture, forest fires, and hydroelectric plants – and both celebrate the profundity, grace and sheer sanity of the indigenous peoples’ conception of a good life for humans.

The screening will be followed on March 23 at 7:00 with a Presentation Circle at the Museum of Anthropology on “The Rights and Virtues of Nature” with particular attention to buen vivir. The speakers will include David Richard Boyd (whose Green Interview generated our whole multi-media Green Rights project), as well as MOA director Nuno Porto, visiting scholar Ken Sharpe, and Professors Sheryl Lightfoot and Lisa Sundstrom of the UBC Department of Political Science. The moderator will be Dr. Maxwell Cameron of that same department. Full disclosure: Max Cameron is (he said very proudly) my son.

Also, mark down the afternoon of Sunday, April 2, for a Blue Dot/Green Rights celebration sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation at the Vancouver Planetarium. I’ll have more details on that soon.

Accolade Award of Merit

And Green Rights has won another award: an Accolade Global Film Competition Award of Merit in the Documentary Feature category. The award, say the organizers, is “based on the quality, creativity and technical aspects of each piece.”

Thanks to the Accolade organizers – and heart-felt thanks to the mostly-Nova Scotian supporters whose contributions and constant encouragement provided us with the means to create the film and promote it. That was our entire financing structure – no grants, no tax credits, no broadcast fees, just a couple of dozen people who shared our conviction that the film was worth making. This is their award, as much as ours. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Gary Saunders

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Gary Saunders is the author of the award-winning book My Life with Trees: A Sylvan Journey. In this exclusive Green Interview, he speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about how he is at home in the woods, and how that came to be, starting out in out port Newfoundland as the son of a river man. He spent most of his adult life in Nova Scotia as a forester, an artist, an educator and a writer.

Background and My Life with Trees

Gary Saunders is an author, forester, poet, and painter. In this exclusive Green Interview, Saunder discusses his book and how he has expressed his love of nature through story.

In this exclusive interview with Gary Saunders we discuss:


Gary Saunders started out as a painter, studying fine arts at Mount Allison University the Ontario College of Art, but went on to be trained as a forester, and took a position with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests extension program. Here, he became an educator, an editor and writer. Saunders has been a frequent contributor to numerous periodicals and is the author of numerous books, ranging from guidebooks (Trees of Nova Scotia and At a Glance: A Guide to Identifying and Managing Nova Scotia Hardwoods) to essays (Alder Music and September Christmas) to illustrated children’s books (The Brook and the Woodcutter). His most recent book is My Life with Trees: A Sylvan Journey.

My Life with Trees

Gary Saunders’ most recent book is My Life with Trees: A Sylvan Journey. It’s a unique memoir of 30 chapters, each focused on a particular species of tree and on his memories of people associated with that tree. The book, illustrated with Gary’s own paintings and drawings, seamlessly blends science and memory in graceful and resonant prose and beautifully illustrates the depth of Gary’s understanding, not only from his own scholarship and observation but also from the Indigenous people around him. The book recently won the Evelyn Richardson award.

The Green Rights Circus!

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Awards, Screenings, Festivals, Keynotes, Everything!

The whole idea of promotion is to get people to pay attention to your project. For a while, not much happens – and then the project roars off like a rocket sled, and you’re frantically hanging on. Here’s some of what’s going on with the Green Rights project.


Impact laurel

Impact DOCS is an online awards system that “recognizes film, television, videography and new media professionals who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity, and those who produce standout entertainment or contribute to profound social change. Documentaries were received from 30 countries, including veteran award winning filmmakers and fresh new talent.”

Green Rights was made by a tiny team with a shoestring budget provided by individual citizens who believed in the film’s importance. To have achieved this international recognition is a tremendous thrill.



PIELC banner

I’m equally thrilled to have been invited to deliver the kick-off keynote speech at the 35th annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) to be held from March 2nd – 5th at the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene, Oregon. Green Rights will also be screened at the conference, and Warrior Lawyers will be on sale in the conference book store.

This is a big, big deal. Says the official invitation: “Every year, over three thousand people from across the globe come together in Eugene for the oldest and largest public interest environmental law conference in the world. Land Air Water, a wholly volunteer student group at the University of Oregon School of Law, hosts the event. PIELC brings together activists, advocates, students, scientists, government officials, and concerned citizens to share information and strategies that promote environmental and social justice.

“The conference is extraordinary. It puts ideas into action, sparks commitment to environmental protection across borders, and has inspired the creation of numerous public interest environmental and human rights organizations. Last year the Conference hosted over one hundred and twenty panels and workshops, a variety of multi-media presentations, special events, and dynamic keynote addresses throughout the weekend. The conference consistently attracts press, government officials, and environmental and social leaders from over forty countries.”



Chris Beckett will be joining me for the PIELC conference, where we expect to collect several new Green Interviews to be released later in the year.


The next Green Rights presentations will be at the University of Victoria Law School on February 21. At 12:30 I’ll be delivering a lecture (“Warrior Lawyers: Using the Law to Save the Planet”) in Room 152 of the Fraser Building, and at 7:00 I’ll host a screening of the Green Rights film in Room 159 of the Fraser Building. These events – at which the public is warmly welcomed – are also organized by the students, and I’m grateful to them for pulling it all together.


March will bring at least two screenings in Vancouver. One will take place at the University of British Columbia, in conjunction with an exhibition at UBC’s magnificent Museum of Anthopology called “Amazonia: The Rights of Nature.” The date and venue are not yet determined, but it will probably be in mid-month. The second screening – to be co-presented with the David Suzuki Foundation – will be in a downtown location also to be determined, and probably towards the end of the month.


In the meantime – and this also delights me – the film is being shown at small festivals and by community groups around the country. On January 18th it was featured in the Erin Fast Forward Film Festival, just north of Guelph, and it was shown on the 31st in nearby Orangeville by the Dufferin-Caledon Citizens Climate Action Group. On March 4 it will be screened in the Belleville Downtown DocFest, also in Ontario. On May 19 it will be shown in both Wolfville and Mahone Bay, NS, and on Canada Day it will be at the Coady-Tompkins Library in Margaree Forks, Cape Breton. A number of other screenings are in negotiation.

These small screenings are wonderful. We made the film for the people of Canada (and the United States), and whenever it speaks to that audience, a little circle of civic relationship is closed. That’s just as true whether the audience is in Ottawa or Orangeville. When an organizer like Liz Armstrong writes to say, “Our audience in Erin, Ontario was totally inspired by Green Rights. Every Canadian (and American) who cares about their kids and the future should see this film” – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.



Meanwhile, Warrior Lawyers is also forging its way along. It recently received a lovely review from Gordon Pellerin which posted on the website of Atlantic Books Today. You can read it here: http://atlanticbookstoday.ca/warrior-lawyers-features-ecological-litigators-worthy-of-worldwide-fame/.

The book has also won some very thoughtful reviews on Amazon, which you can find here. Now I admit I helped that process along by offering a free copy to anyone who would promise to write an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Note that I’m not looking for a positive review, necessarily, just an honest review. That offer stands: if anyone reading this will promise to review Warrior Lawyers,  I’ll send a free e-book – or, if the reviewer wishes, a paper copy. Just drop me a line at sdc@silverdonaldcameron.ca


My brother and his lady recently took Marjorie and me to Odysseo by Cavalia, which one might think of as the circus on horseback, the rodeo re-imagined by Cirque du Soleil. It’s spectacular, dazzling, totally original. Colour, fireworks, horses dancing at a full gallop, people flying through the air, acrobatics and tumbling, shifting backdrops of desert and jungle. I loved it, though my eyes could hardly keep up with what was happening in front of me.

These days, my life is a bit like that. It keeps me active. It keeps me alert. And it keeps me humble.

Just out! Silver Donald Cameron on the View 902 podcast!

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View902Nova Scotia artists and cultural critics Paul Andrew Kimball and Ron Foley Macdonald are the publishers of the podcast View 902 (view902.com. For those outside Nova Scotia, “902” is the province’s area code.) In the site’s current feature interview, Kimball engages Silver Donald Cameron in an extended conversation about Cameron’s new book Warrior Lawyers: From Manila to Manhattan, Attorneys for the Earth. In Kimball’s description:

“We discuss the concept of natural law, and our duty of care as human beings to the planet and to the creatures with which we share it, and talk about a couple of examples from the book of lawyers and others who have engaged in citizen activism and used the law to combat corporate wrongdoing and change government policy on the environment.

“I end with a song I wrote way back in 1991 and recorded, but never released, with my band Julia’s Rain in 1995. Called “Shadows Grow,” I never thought it would be even more relevant today than ever. “Our pockets kill the fields” is still true, sadly, but thankfully folks like Silver Donald Cameron and the men and women he interviews in Warrior Lawyers are making a difference.”

To hear the podcast, click here: http://view902.com/view-902-podcast-episode-3-silver-donald-cameron/

Broken hyperlinks:
For some reason, my last newsletter contained broken hyperlinks. My apologies. Here are the actual links, and I hope you’ll enjoy these pages, if a little later than I had hoped.

My blog: http://www.thegreeninterview.com/blog/

The new Green Interview with Camille Labchuk: http://www.thegreeninterview.com/2016/12/22/camille-labchuk/

The National Observer article on The Mother of All Book Promotion Tours: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/12/21/analysis/one-motor-home-6000-km-and-mother-all-book-tours

From Liz Armstrong of the Erin Fast Forward Film Festival in Erin, Ontario, about 20 miles from Guelph:

“Your film is really top notch, and we can’t wait to show it as the lead documentary at our Erin eco-film series next Wednesday [January 18]. THANK YOU. You and Chris Beckett make a fantastic team!”
No, Liz, thank you. We hope your festival is a huge success.