THE BLOG

Changing the Channel From Fear: When Women Face the Music, We All Get to Sing

07/11/2011 11:30 pm ET | Updated Sep 10, 2011

"What isn't seen are acts of kindness and generosity. Because they don't create peace, and we don't note those things."

Paul Hawken said that. It made me realize just how much I have been listening to fear lately. It hangs out on my plate as I question the origin of my food, is entrenched in nearly every conversation that mentions the state of the economy, and lets not get started about the weather.

As I grapple with the fear I experience every time I turn on the radio, I am distracted by my plan to develop my exit strategy out of the negative information cycle. But If I choose to tune out the fear, then what channel do I choose to tune into?

Today -- I'm tuning into champions -- who happen to be women. These women are facing straight into the challenges of their communities and are finding ways to live in the celebration that comes with addressing issues straight on.

Let's tune in to Channel Women's Earth Alliance:
It was a blast to sit in a room of 300+ people as we all waved our keys in the air that are designed to unlock the future. The game-changing moment opened Women's Earth Alliance (WEA) gala, and I took note, literally. Their motto, "when women thrive communities thrive," lingers in my mind as I consider this idea that women hold the key to healthy communities.

Founder and co-director, Melinda Kramer developed the concept for the organization while watching the Brower Youth Awards. "I was sitting in the audience of the 2004 Brower Youth Awards, which honor a group of young environmental leaders each year. At the time, I was spending months at a time living in the Russian Far East, rural Alaska and coastal China and working with courageous local leaders whose communities were facing enormous environmental and health threats from toxic industries.

Every environmental issue I encountered, I found women leading the charge, often without support or recognition. I started seeing woman after woman after woman environmental leader who I had encountered on my path.There they were sitting around a kitchen table in Kamchatka, strategizing on how to halt an oil pipeline project, or in a Chinese classroom leading an environmental education training, or in Africa organizing women's cooperatives, marching in a protest, speaking at a press conference, planting trees, saving seeds.

In that moment I could actually feel the groundswell of genius, passion, and know-how could be tapped if these women were linked strategically, pooling their strategies, so that they were not only able to influence their local campaigns but to participate meaningfully at a global level."

WEA African Delegation

Hence the Women's Earth Alliance was founded to give women around the world (with programs in Africa, India, and North America) access to the tools they need to rise up and carry us into the future alongside their male counterparts. We agreed that this was not about a shortage of resources, an issue of access. We designed a model with several key strategies at the core: empowerment of women building capacity, advocacy and policy support, and brokering of information/resources.

One of the reasons I tune into Channel WEA is because they are (in partnership with Indigenous Environmental Network) in the process of collectively developing a new agenda for protecting sacred land and culture, and are hosting The WEA Advocacy Training, November 4th-6th. They will convene leading practitioners, frontline activists, and emerging advocates for three days of intensive learning, alliance-building and action planning. The North America Program focuses on building a network of pro bono legal and policy advocates with Indigenous women leading environmental justice campaigns throughout the U.S.

Attorneys, policy advocates, green business leaders, and everyone else who is passionate about advocacy for indigenous environmental justice and human rights are invited to participate (including men). To learn more and apply, contact North America Program Director Caitlin Sislin, caitlin@womensearthalliance.org.

Now lets tune into Channel Eco Amazons:
One of the hot topics that has been coming up in conversations with friends is the appreciation that we have for the opportunity to have decided what we want out of life, and then go about achieving it. (I thank my mother for letting me believe that).

I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of women featured in Eco Amazons, a new book by journalist Dorka Keehn with images by photographer Colin Finlay. Eco Amazons tells the stories of 20 American women who have developed innovative solutions for protecting the planet. Even more interesting is how she chronicles leading environmental issues of our time through personal stories about passion, and how passion leads to action. The book chronicles familiar faces such as Majora Carter, who developed one of the nation's first green jobs training programs; and Janine Benyus who founded the Biomimicry Guild; to lesser known eco-champions such as Julia Bonds -- a coal miner's daughter and the director of Coal River Mountain Watch in the Appalachian Mountains who is fighting the highly destructive mining practice known as "mountaintop removal"; and Sarah James -- an elder from the Alaskan arctic educating about climate change.

I want to give this book to everyone (big and small) who needs a good bedtime story; thereby creating a new world order of fairytale characters, where the fairy godmothers of the planet are revered. I found hope in these pages; along with inspiration, and a deep appreciation that these women dedicated parts of their lives to the task of thriving and not just surviving.

What channel do you tune into for hope and inspiration?