In the wake of the tsunami in Japan, we are seeing organizations and governments leaping into action to help. In an almost turn-key fashion, planes are shipping over supplies, organizations and celebrities are raising funds, and people are adding their names to volunteer lists. The formula for response makes it feel like we have been here before. Although it is true that we have never seen this particular disaster before, the international response to disaster relief clicks on with the metronome of previous disasters.
It seems like only yesterday when the ocean waters burst onto the shores of New Orleans and filled up the city with mud and debris, tragedy and tears. Immediately the world turned to help, thousands of people jumped in to get their hands dirty. Students from across the country jumped on buses, into vans and into their friend's cars to help out. And while every hand that holds a shovel and every dollar that is donated contributes to disaster relief, sustainable and long term aid in a region is often overlooked. For organizations that help implement long term infrastructure assistance it takes time, courage and long term planning. When everyone else packs up, these are the people that stay to help ensure the success of implemented programs and are committed to lasting support. One such organization is Global Green USA, the American Arm of Green Cross International (GCI), which has programs around the world, but has been consistently committed to sustainable development in New Orleans to help secure a more sustainable future for the people of New Orleans.
This St. Patrick's Day, I had the honor of keeping it "green" by attending The Creatives Dinner, hosted by Peter Mensah (Spartacus, Avatar) and produced by Heather Hope-Allison and The Buzz Girls at The Capital Grille in Los Angeles. The Creatives Dinner series brings together like-minded creative, individuals to discuss various topics and the evening's topic was green initiatives. The Buzz Girls brought together a select group of guests in association with Global Green USA to create awareness about environmental activism and Global Green's green initiatives.
As I sat around table with like minded individuals and listened to CEO of Global Green, Matt Peterson, talk about the work of Global Green in New Orleans, I was struck by the impact of long term commitment and community. Unlike many organizations that came in help out for a bit, Global Green USA was in for the distance. How many of us are in for the distance? Or, like fashion, does there tend to be a cause of the week? What this week's hot non-profit project? Peterson continued to inspire the group about how we can all make a difference here at home and how can we have a lasting effect and impact wherever we go. It got me thinking, what permanent change can we have within our own communities?
That's when the topic of community came up. Rather than "one-of" projects, community literally means a group of interacting organisms sharing a populated environment. So, how do we create a community that shares an environment over a period of time, creating a truly long term sustainable culture? One answer was right in front of me. Across the table Eko Miko's Izabella Miko and actor Chris Williams started sharing photos on their phone. No, they were not showing pictures of their children or their pets, they were sharing pictures of their gardens. "I love my tomatoes," Izabella exclaimed. "I do a garden post picture a day on facebook," replied Chris. The conversation emerged into one of gardening, community and how to create and cultivate sustainability in our own backyards. I quickly realized that two people at the table lived within two blocks of my house and were willing to help me out with my garden. "Fabulous! Let me add you as a friend on facebook!" I exclaimed. In a buzz of excitement, our little conversation exemplified the merging of technology, sustainability and community and the tenor of the evening. The answer was clear, the way we create long lasting sustainability and impact is through relationships -- with one another, our community, our gardens and our planet.
Climate disasters, like those in Japan and New Orleans are devastating. The images and realities of such trauma will be forever imprinted on our memories and on the history of our planet. Organizations, like Global Green, can respond to such disasters but Mother Nature's unpredictable nature makes it difficult to anticipate her actions. We may not have control over the waves and the way the earth shifts, but we do have the power to do something about the relationships we have on this planet. In a place like Los Angeles, it can often be difficult to find community, but if we are truly committed to helping create long term relief for the cultural and climate disasters we face, we have to start with the person across the table from us.
(Photo credit: Lisa Rose, 2011)