Exponential Earth Day by Amy Forando

Video Transcription

Paper allows us to extend our memory, share our ideas and even trade and exchange goods through a system of currency. The EPA thinks that you can recycle paper up to 5 to 7 times. So um cut your fold of paper. Let's get started.Um In my presentation, I just wanted uh we'll be talking about a brief history of Earth Day, some lessons learned from technology. Uh how your actions uh can be aligned with the un Sustainable Development goals and how you can connect with others to share your interests. Um I'll share some uh things about how to create a collaborative Earth Day event and uh how to join the exponential Earth Day project if you feel inspired to at the end. Um So this presentation is really about community building through conversations and I know I'll be the only one on screen, but I hope that you choose to share your voice in the chat. So let me know if something I say resonates with you and share your thoughts on the prompts and questions that I have sprinkled throughout. I definitely had trouble fitting everything I wanted to into this presentation. So please um follow up with me afterwards. I would love to continue this conversation. Uh So let's do some introductions. My name is Amy Ferrando and I'm a musician, uh which means I was trained to listen first and pay attention to how I contribute to a larger ensemble.

I am a classically trained oboe player and one of my first responsibilities was tuning the orchestra. Um And through this, I learned that precision in my personal role, can have a profound impact on the ability of the orchestra to find alignment. And it's only when everyone is playing in tune that we have the most beautiful music when we aren't aligned and we're out of tune, even our best efforts will fall short of our full potential. So now, um if you don't mind, um please introduce yourself in the chat. I'd love to know who you are. Um Maybe you could share where in the world you are and something from your childhood that had a significant impact on who you are today. So my thing was computers and I was born at a really unique time. There's about a 10 year window where kids grew up witnessing the exponential growth of technology in their homes. I remember waiting in line at the library to use the computer and when we first brought a computer into our home, even my sister who is four years younger than me had a different experience. Uh computers have really always been part of her memory. Now I work at uh as a computer engineer at underwriters laboratory. And lastly, I'm a healthy minds advocate. So I wanna acknowledge that everyone struggles with mental health at some point in their lifetime. And we just don't talk about it.

A healthy mind takes effort to create and maintain. And I've been designing my life around ensuring my mental health at UL. We have um safety as a priority and the tradition of beginning our meetings with the safety moment. So in UL fashion, I wanted to start us off with a safety moment. Today. In this image, you can see two different states of mind. There are two characters walking through the environment. The human on the left has a mind full of thoughts and the dog on the right is living in the present. His mind is clear and accurately reflects the environment as humans where our minds are our greatest asset. It's easy for us to let our brain space become cluttered. If we aren't careful, our minds can quickly fill up with thoughts of what we're going to do or what we wish we did differently. Especially these days, we are bombarded with information and our attention is pulled in so many different directions. So it's really important to take the time to clear our minds. So we can approach challenging problems with clarity, emotional thinking can distort decision making and it impacts their ability to take the most appropriate action. It's simple to state into your state of mind and I'll show you how to do it right now.

So let's take a full deep breath together. Inhale for 43 two one. Hold for 4321 and exhale for 4321. Now it only takes a minute to reset your mind with five full breaths. Next time you receive an email, I want you to remember this and if that request frustrates you take a few minutes and a few deep breaths. So let's dig into exponential earth thing. Does anybody else love Jane Goodall? If you don't know her, she's a British ethologist who is known for her long term research on chimpanzees in Tanzania. Over the years, she was able to correct a number of misunderstandings about chimpanzees. She found that they're omnivores and not vegetarians and they're capable of making and using tools. They also have a number of highly developed social behaviors in order to change these misunderstandings. Jane recommends um talking with people not at them. And uh when you're tackling problems through arguing, it makes it really hard to bring another person to your side. So when people are thinking of their next rebuttal, they aren't listening and they aren't learning more about your perspective. The next thing is to connect with compassion, she doesn't really nag or wag her finger. Instead she finds a point of contact between herself and another person.

She suggests that you spend one or two minutes talking about such topics to build a tiny little bridge between you and your different ideas. Recently, she says you cannot not be depressed. If you look around at the world, there are so many problems and that's why the message is don't think globally act locally, act locally first and see that you can make a difference. When you see that you make a difference, you want to do more, taking the first step gives you hope that your actions do make a difference. And then when you want to do more, and as you do more, it's a feedback loop, you inspire others to join you though, I experienced this feedback loop through my own Earth Day project. And over the last five years, I witnessed how my actions and the conversations that grew out of them had a ripple effect in my community. This gave me a lot of hope and that's what inspired me to share my story with you today. So what is that thing? Uh Go ahead and uh put some of your ideas in the chat. I would really love to hear how Earth is perceived around the world.

My first experience with Earth Day was as a kid and I remember it as a day where we got out of the classroom and did something fun. Maybe we planted trees or learned about compost. It was definitely like a change of pace, got my hands dirty. And I always remember like having fun with my friends. But as an adult, this really turned into a blip on my calendar and an uncelebrated holiday during my ultimate low earth day became something for me to believe in. Jane. Has another quote. You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference do you want to make? So if I was going to do one thing, I was going to make sure I had a positive impact on this world. I knew I couldn't dwell in anxiety. I tried that. I think I had exponential growth as I ate frozen pizzas, laid on my couch every day for a month. Uh But I had to dig deep and figure out the one thing that I knew to be true and that is that the environment is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. And this is the one thing that all of us share.

It's our special interests that bring us joy. And we can lean on these when we feel anxiety or depression or just that the weight of all the world's problems are so heavy for my uncle that's flying drones. He took this picture of Lady Liberty. Um The statue mysteriously appeared in the Susquehanna River. And uh I just love this picture because when I think of the Statue of Liberty, it's our symbol of freedom and our freedom is built on that foundation of our shared environment. He shared this art with me and I got to put it on my first birthday website and that became my 1st 1st birthday partnership. So I didn't realize it at first and it wasn't until a lot later. Um probably too long that I learned that Earth Day was a, found the foundation of an international movement and it became a holiday so that it could be part of a political uh national agenda and allow us as a community to make larger system change due to government regulations.

So if the planet and our environment is something that we all share and it's so important to us, I have to wonder why we don't talk about it more often. And I think that's because it tends to lead to political discussions. Um So I just want to make a little note about politics and the, the simplest definition I could find is that it's a set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or forms of power relations among individuals, things like the distribution of resources.

I had a mentor who told me that anything that is done in the name of people is political. I was taught to avoid politics and conversation. And I think that's probably because politics, um political conversations tend to highlight our differences and we as people aren't the best at accepting people who are different than us. But we can't continue to avoid tough conversations just because they make us uncomfortable.

And in my journey, I've realized that my differences are the thing that makes me special. So we shouldn't be afraid of our differences. I'm sure someone who designed slides would get say this is absolutely what you do not want to do for your presentation. But, um, this is a really fun way for me to describe my story. Um In short, you can follow along on the top row. I was a seed and I was buried, I was in a very dark place, but I was planted in order to bloom. There are a number of storms and I didn't really realize it at the time, but all this rain was exactly what I needed as the sun came out. And I started to discover my true colors and stay true to myself. That's when I was able to blossom. And now I see that I have a butterfly effect on the people around me. It started with an idea. Robot is my favorite movie. And Mr Big Well, has a saying, Cine pine. So my heart would not let me believe that I was the only one in my community who cared what to do about something, what to do about the climate crisis. It is, I felt very alone, but I knew there had to be other people out there. So I decided that I was going to start collecting information and about what, like, find these other people and what are they doing? I did find a number of activities.

I think I had about 15, that very first year and I put them on my website capital region, Earth day.com. That way other people wouldn't have to learn the hard way when no one seemed to be planning an Earth Day event. I found a new friend Emily and we decided to make our own. She asked if we can make it a zero waste event. And I had no idea what that meant. She taught me about um my personal habits and looking around at the things that I use every day and understanding the materials they're made of and how to get rid of them properly. Her simple ask and that conversation really took me on a much greater journey. Our Earth Day event was successful in its own way. We did have a fire alarm that went off in the middle of it and we had to like make up things on the spot. But she gave this wonderful presentation out in the sunshine. Um And I think everybody walked away feeling like do it yourself is a fine way to go that next October. I, I really did start to tap into my community and we had our very first uh zero waste jazz festival in the city of Albany. It was a lot of upfront planning, working with the vendors to select plates, cups, utensils, things that were compatible with our waste streams. We also had to figure out how we were going to compost all the food scraps.

And we partnered with the Department of General Services to help us um set up these waste stations and then take care of the waste at the end of the festival. So as a volunteer I man as your waste station, and there are lots of small interactions with other people to inform them uh about something that they generally don't think about on a regular basis, which is where their waste goes. It's a simple enough activity that we even had a girl scouts volunteer with us and anybody can learn to sort their waste after that. Uh I took off, uh I was able to take advantage of the land grant university opportunity. So every state has a program where they offer continuing education to the public and I became a master Compo and Recycler. Um and now known as that person who takes pictures of waste stations as they travel across the world. And uh I helped to build uh our zero waste capital district website, which now serves as part of the city of Albany Sustainability Committee. And we have a Facebook group with over 800 members where we share different stories about um tips and tricks how to do zero waste. And the what I love most about zero waste is that you can't be perfect and you can't do it all. So this image here shows that we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

And that's what we need in the broader climate challenge too. We need everyone involved contributing in their own unique, unique ways and sharing their ideas and needs in all. Many many conversations. One of the criticisms I got when I focused on individual action instead of system change is that you're never going to like, what are you gonna do by saving 20 straws like that great impact there. Amy. But uh it's really about where this conversation leads. And as you start to change habits in your own life, you start to realize the limitations of your actions as an individual. And that there when you go to the grocery store, you're part of the system that is controlled by businesses and regulations and governments. And you, it motivated me to learn more about how I could participate as an informed citizen to in fact influence these larger system changes. So I think the key is to get involved in small ways on your own as an individual and then work together as a community to influence those larger system changes. And this is an outcome of some of the slides that we put together during our social media campaign. Um But what I wanted to talk about here was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This became a challenge in our community because uh it was a big deal of 50th anniversary and everybody wanted to do their own Earth Day event.

Each of these groups had was so focused on their own needs that they weren't talking to each other. And then we knew there was gonna be this big issue when everyone tried to do something all at the same time. Um That kind of co competition just makes each individual effort weak where coming together and collaborating can really build something substantial and significant. Uh huh COVID happened. So instead we did this marathon reading for Mother Earth and um we forget how fast things changed.

But I had four different computers running this live stream event and I rigged it together with a few different open source tools and it was a disaster. It was, I mean, it's a success but it was really hard. And now with Zoom, you can do this with a click of a button. So um I am certain we as people are creative enough and talented enough to solve some of these challenging problems when we focus on them, we are resilient communities just like our community gardens. Um And one of the books that had a significant impact on me was Zen in the art of saving the planet. This um slide is about six principles that hold us together and we don't need to overthink this. Um We are here physically present in the same world. We are sharing materials and resources. We know that we have common ethical principles at that very core of us. We need to have conversations, to share our insights and views. We need to share them from our heart. Listening to what we believe deep down inside know, to be true, not the social pressures that we hear all the time. And we need to communicate compassionately. We need to meet people where they are and um focus on ourselves rather than on judging others. So, um do you have your piece of paper? Um I don't know about you, but I was able to fold mine six times. And when we started this piece of paper was barely measurable is it's about 0.1 millimeters thick.

And I don't, I don't think I could measure that with a ruler, but now that I was folded, have folded in and double that thickness with every fold. I can measure it with my ruler and we can see how thick it is that just took six actions. So if we were able to and could continue folding 17 folds would get us to 4 ft. This type of growth is called exponential growth. And it means that we can go very fast and very far, very quickly. The accepted average distance to the moon is 384,000 kilometers. We only need 42 folds to reach the moon and it's so powerful that 100 and two folds gets us to the edge of the observable universe. So I wanted to pause because it's important to pause and reflect and think about our check in with our mental health, even if it's important. And in the middle of a conference presentation, and I have to be honest with you, this has been a journey. My mental health crisis came from when I later learned to be autistic burnout masking is a process by which an individual changes or masks their natural personality to conform to social pressures. I had spent 10 years pleasing other people and I was basing my definition of success on making other people happy. You do this enough and you start to lose your boundaries and when that happens, you lose a sense of yourself.

So doing these check ins how are you doing? Um and taking a break has been a significant step in my journey. Um So right now, let's pause and if, if everyone could put into the chat something that makes you hopeful. Um I think that would be a really nice to, to return to. I, I won't be able to look at them right now, but um I'd love to hear what everyone is hopeful about. Of what dug me out of, of my crisis was the conversations that I had. And I learned um everybody has anxiety. I I wasn't alone. And as soon as I started sharing more about my self and my ideas and seeing how they inspired others and it turned this excitement. Um, that's just what kept me going every day. I came across this cartoon. Um, it's about being an optimist versus a pessimist, but also this one cub thing. Why do you always get to be half full and I have to be half empty. Well, that's the problem right there is comparing ourselves to other people. But really what I wanna know is uh share with you is that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is not usually over substance. It's the time frame that you're looking at and problems are easier to spot today. The progress is almost always more powerful over time and a common theme in history is that progress hope happens too slowly to notice when setbacks, progress happens too slowly while setbacks happen quickly overnight. Um This is looking at the last 100 years.

I started with the spirit of the radio FM. Radio broadcasting was invented in around 1933. Um around the time of the first Earth Day, we had the first moon landing that use uh the technology equivalent to a T I 89 calculator. I'm sure some of you remember this. Um And at the time the the state of the planet was um pretty pollution was pretty heavy. Um The Cayuga river was so polluted that it lit on fire. Um So Earth Day was significant because it brought together um 20 you know, over 20 million people in a large grassroots community service building uh event and all these different groups that were fighting on individually on different issues were able to come together on one really rare, politically aligned initiative and that created the US Environmental Protection Agency.

So the, the EPA is significant because it allowed people to be part of the conversation of with businesses who were running rampant doing whatever they wanted. Now, with the EPA, people could make a public comment and influence the uh you how business is operated in 1990 Earth Day went global and it mobilized 200 million people in 100 and 41 different countries giving the environmental movement a huge boost and putting things onto the world stage.

And this uh prompted the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where more than 100 and 78 countries adopted a comprehensive plan to build global partnerships for sustainable development and to pro improve human lives and protect the environment. And out of this is uh what we now know of as the 17 un sustainability goals. So here's um you know, there's 17 of them. Um I'm not going to be able to explain it as well as the resources on the site. Um But it is a great mental model for all of us to come together on and use in our conversations. Um because this is hard enough as it is, we might as well try to align ourselves and how we talk about these problems. Uh One that stands out to me is quality education. So I, I'm sure everyone in this audience has built their life on the education that they received. And it's a privilege that we can really see the benefits of every day. But as adults, we forget what it's like to learn and that there will always be room for improvement to and for us to learn and grow. We are vulnerable when we look at ourselves to make changes. But there's no need for, for us to distort that vulnerability into thinking that we're not good enough. One thing that's not taught is how not taught well is how to bring your ideas to life and that's something that we can really help each other with.

So everyone has unique experiences, unique connections and is part of a unique community. So it's important for you to use your voice to communicate your perspective. So we can have a more complete picture of our needs and the problems that you're trying to solve. Uh when I and then the next one is sustainable cities and communities. And uh this is where you can step out of your house and really take a look around at the shared infrastructure that we have. Um I know I'm, I'm running short on time, so I'm gonna keep moving. Um Yeah, the, the last important goal I want to call attention to is partnerships for the goals and every single partnership is going to start with a conversation. So does anybody else know what's changed during this time? I hope you save the internet. We don't really look at the world using a map like this. These are the underwater water, submarine cables, these cables um connect us in a way that is really hard to conceptualize, especially when our experience in the world wants to make us think that we're not connected. It was through the internet that I came across Greta Thunberg, who you might know as starting the Fridays for future movement. And in 2018, uh that was her first Friday where she um stayed at home from school to strike for climate.

And I uh I don't know how I found her. I was one of the 1st 500 followers. So um it was really great to be able to come across her. Um because, you know, when I in my loneliest moments, I think that there's gotta be another person like me in every city in the world. So it was wonderful to find Greta. Um the internet has lots of art that can help us um communicate. And this one really struck me as adults who find ourselves often very depressed, like we do still have this inner child inside of us that is ready to connect and learn. So when you're feeling down and you're feeling like you're in a dark place, just remember that little child and how eager they are and how easy it is to grow and how that uh if you focus on your growth, that's what's going to be a allow you to bloom each time you pick up your phone.

Think about what you're searching for. We can change how we use our phones and interact with social media by curating positive content and trying to tune out to all the negativity that the media is putting um bombarding us with. There's lots of solutions every day from students inventing bacteria that eats plastic and turns it into water and even clothes that grow with kids. As Amanda Palmer says, we are the media. It's up to us to share our stories and experiences because the differences in perspectives are really important. I used to think that single use items were like the worst and I should never ever use them, but in Cape Town they experience water shortages. And so it's easier for her um more important for sustainable living in Cape Town, for them to use single use items than for them to spend the water washing those dishes. And I only learned about this because Amanda Palmer was there and she shared it on social media. So what you need to do is find your inspiration for me that comes from art and movies and like Dr Seuss says, unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not offer your help. When you see a need, fill a need, persuade some people to help you. Mhm. You'll make new friends in the process. Follow the conversation and grow. One of my new heroes is Elizabeth Bonkers.

I will share with you this speech she gave um she is a nonverbal autistic woman and she uh this is the most powerful speech I've seen in a long time. Hm. Um She wants to see communication for everyone. So people who have the ability to use our voices, it's up to us to champion these changes for people who can't. What happens next? 2020 with all this Coronavirus stuff that was its own kind of exponential growth. We saw how this virus took over and it happened because of how it spread from person to person. We know that through our interactions, we are capable of prompting exponential growth. So instead of focusing on the negative and how a disease can take over our country, we can use our power and our voices to have these con conversations and share ideas and promote solutions for exponential growth in a positive direction. So I want you to join me in stopping imagining the apocalypse and let's start imagining the revolution. So this Earth Day consider how we can come together to celebrate all of our accomplishments, all of our unique differences, how far we've come and how far we can go together.

Never doubt the power of the human mind. This is also another wonderful video this guy saw three Rubik's Cubes while juggling. Mhm Anyways, thank you for letting me share my story.