Friday, 28 August 2009

Mondonation - a survivor's success story

Last week, the BBC published a story on the Marchionness disaster, which occurred 20 years ago. I remember watching the horrific news footage in 1989, when over 50 people celebrating the birthday of a friend were killed in a boat collision on the Thames. The story mentioned Ward Bingham, who was interviewed about his memories of that night. Ward mentioned that his experience had led him to set up a business, Mondonation, so I checked it out.

According to its website, Mondonation is committed to inspiring positive, global change through the development of sustainable, charitable strategies. The first of these are "believe" T-shirts . The theory is that if we all share our beliefs on a daily basis, they will grow in strength. Visitors to the site are encouraged to write their own belief statement, that is printed onto the back of an ethically-made T-shirt. Included in the price is a charitable donation to a charity of their choice.

Mondonation seeks to create a new business model, which combines a for-profit approach with with substantial charitable contributions. In a moving video on the site, Ward Bingham explains how he has been searching for meaning in his life since the Marchionness disaster and how his role as the creative force behind Mondonation is the embodiment of his desire to make a difference.

Inspired by Ward and the Mondonation vision, I ordered my own T-shirt, pink and long-sleeved, bearing the legend "I believe every one of us can be a force for good". So if you spot me wearing it, say hi.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Book Review - Interviews with Green Gurus

I love to read, but don't get as much time as I would like to do so. So it's always a treat to discover a book that's not only inspiring, but constructed in such a way that it can be read in bite-sized instalments. Conversations with Green Gurus, by Laura Mazur and Louella Miles, dispenses great wisdom in manageable chunks from people who have been influential in the environmental movement. They're a pretty eclectic bunch, from all over the World, some you will have heard of and some you may not have done.

For me, the beauty of this book is that after exploring the professional achievements of the subjects, it delves into the personal experiences that influenced them. I found these intimite insights into the personal history and home life of remarkable people fascinating. Their backgrounds have little in common, and not all of them can identify a"moment of truth" when their future path became clear and inevitable - but they all share a deeply held belief that drives them, a strong intellect and an inquiring mind. Fundamentally, though, they are just like you and me.

For example, I enjoyed learning more about John Grant, whose work is familar and has been a strong influence on my career. He recounts conversations with his young son that bear a spooky similarity to those that take place in our household. Equally, the book introduced me to Professor Wangari Maathai who has been honoured for her work on women's rights and tree planting programmes. She was born in rural Kenya and raised in the United States, but the way she describes her childhold and her thirst for knowledge will be familiar to many of us living in cities in the UK.

The genius of this book is that it presents leading edge thinking on sustainability and social responsibility, but counterpoints it with personal insights that ultimately make the wisdom more accessible. As we consider the challenges of climate change, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and feel that our own efforts can't make a difference. This book reminds us that all the positive action that has been taken, and is being taken, is driven by people just like us - with familes and jobs, mortgages and bills, doubts and fears. And that's really empowering.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Bolivia's indigenous people gain more autonomy

According to the BBC, President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, has begun implementing provisions that give indigenous people the chance to govern themselves. The changes are outlined in a new constitution, which enacted a decree setting out the conditions for Indian communities to hold votes on autonomy in referenda that will take place in December. Bolivia's indigenous people were banished to the margins of society for centuries and did not enjoy full voting rights until 1952.

Not surprisingly, the new charter has been bitterly opposed by Bolivia's traditional elite. Many Bolivians of European or mixed-race descent in the fertile eastern lowlands, which hold rich gas deposits and are home to extensive farms. The reforms in the new constitution include a limit of 5,000 hectares on new land ownership and state sovereignty over gas fields.