DOG & PONY SHOWS: Rhea Landig on the Challenges of Speaking about Environmental Issues (2/6)

Rhea Landigvs4We felt that our “Dog & Pony Shows” theme month would not be complete without featuring someone who is taking on the eco-threats facing all animals. Rhea Landig is an extraordinary multi-talented woman who has channeled her alarm about the environmental state of the world into powerful actions: ranging from public messaging, community development and offering the public immediate actions and solutions. And you don’t have to take my word for it, astronomer, naturalist, writer, farmhand, vegan Wolf Grey Adonis  describes her as “A vigilant Earth pilgrim, guardian of the plants, animals, and all of Earth’s bounty. A lover of our home. An activist steering our culture towards just and sustainable lifestyles with purpose to support the web of life. Rhea chooses to evolve.” I first met Landig years ago when she was doing fundraising work for the Species Alliance documentary and I have continued to be impressed at her track record of being on the right side of science. Personally, I have always found her fierce and indefatigable in her advocacy and trust that you too will appreciate her posts even as her revelations make you uncomfortable.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief


We live in a day and age where we are faced with levels of environmental degradation that humans have never had to face before. Due to human activities, we are now in the 6th mass extinction. Since we are all interdependent in the web of life, the implications for humanity are shocking–with the potential loss of human life in the billions and devastation of the natural world.

Even with so much at stake, I find it’s very difficult for people to hear this message, much less engage in a meaningful dialogue and some serious problem solving. Please don’t feel like you are the only one having difficulty wrapping your head around this–the general public is still greatly unaware and if you are a person “in the know”, it is an exercise to not disassociate your responses and actions to this crisis on a daily basis. We’ve never had to have this conversation on the planet and evolution has taught us to pay attention to emergent situations, not something that we perceive is happening in the background. One of the six drivers of extinction–climate change–is now getting our attention, but even if we solve climate change, it won’t be enough to halt the mass extinction. We have to address all of the drivers if we want to avoid driving off the cliff.

Photo courtesy of the film, Call of Life ©

Photo courtesy of the film, Call of Life ©

I hear people say, “I don’t want to talk about it, it’s too depressing”. I can assure you the alternative to not dealing with this is not a good option if we value all that biodiversity provides us: food, pollination, oxygen, air cleansing, climate regulation, disease and pest control, water and water purification, fuel, shelter and medicine. Biodiversity also provides us with our knowledge base, a sense of wonder, awe and respect for nature. And all the aesthetic benefits of a beautiful world. It’s our generation’s privilege and responsibility, why would we not want to protect that for ourselves and so that others can follow?

If your house was on fire, I’m pretty sure you would want to know and you would want to know immediately. Can you imagine if a firefighter or neighbor knocked on your door in the middle of the night and said, “I’m so sorry to bother you and you might not like this, I don’t want you to be upset or depressed, but it seems there are some flames coming from your house in an uncontrolled sort of way. Shall I do some oxygen level and temperature readings?  Maybe I’ll just come back when you’re in a better mood and not so sleepy.” Well, I’m here to tell you that everyone’s house is on fire and I’m here to help, along with many others!

“Whatever you do, make sure people don’t feel guilty or overwhelmed!” is a “tip” I hear from well meaning people. Some point the blame at a failed environmental movement and while I do take issue with environmental groups who do not educate their members for fear of alienating their donor base, or make questionable choices based on funding –I think there are much greater systems at play that we can point to that have lead us down this perilous path: greed, the military-industrial complex, a corporate controlled media and other factors that have us living in a culture that has us distracted, apathetic, separate and alone and afraid of the truth. Another helpful hint that made me laugh was: “If you market and make the mass extinction sexy, people will listen”. See comment above. This comment to me is a clear indicator that our culture is long overdue for a transformation and it’s time to reclaim our humanity, and become citizens of the earth again, not consumers. Contrary to our culture, there’s nothing “wrong” with experiencing and expressing our emotions of sadness, anger and grief over this issue. I find that when you are able to confront and give room to your emotions, you can get to the other side and have your experience fuel you into action in a positive way, moving towards the solutions.

There are many already doing great works on this mighty issue. Stuart Pimm with Saving Species, a tireless conservation ecologist from Duke University, is doing CPR = C–Connecting fragmented land, P–Preserving, and R–Restoring critical areas on the planet rich in biodiversity. For an estimated cost of $30 billion we could permanently protect 25% of the world’s most biologically diverse “hotspots” containing as much as 40% of all species. In addition to his hands on work in conservation and teaching, Dr. Pimm also speaks to policy makers and other leaders to educate them about the crisis in biodiversity. He teaches his students also about this aspect and supports other scientists to step out to do the same.

Photo courtesy of the film, Call of Life ©

Photo courtesy of the film, Call of Life ©

Randy Hayes founder of RAN (Rainforest Action Network) and now founder and Executive Director of Foundation Earth, is a long time activist, and a masterful, big systems thinker. He and his group are working on new models for a sustainable planet that include: doubling the native forest canopy, mandatory corporate disclosure of ecological impacts, thus moving toward a true cost economy; and creating a model for biosphere smart agriculture in a true cost economy. As if that weren’t enough, he has reached out to the G 20 with an international appeal in regards to not only the pitfalls associated with the 70 trillion dollars of global infrastructure projects slated over the next 30 years that threaten our life support systems, but also offering new models that would provide sustainable and just solutions for all of earth’s inhabitants.

Even with these heavy hitters and many others in the field, there’s a lot of work that we all need to do and a shift in the way we do them to halt the mass extinction. Even the smallest of changes can make a collective impact. Just talking about this with others and sharing information makes a huge difference. We can take action in ways that actually enhance our lives and live within the planetary boundaries by: supporting leaders that take meaningful action to protect the environment, reducing our carbon footprint, practicing family planning, eating less meat, eating home grown, or locally grown organic foods, using less, wasting less, supporting businesses that employ sustainable practices, never buying products made from endangered species, lending time and talents to non profits that work on these issues and much, much more.

The good news is that the ending has not yet been written and this crisis can be avoided. We can evolve into fully present, compassionate human beings–living in a world rich in biodiversity–where we are connected to ourselves, other beings, and the planet in a more meaningful, just and sustainable way.

See more of Rhea’s Featured Creative posts on our Ideablog

Before joining Species Alliance, Rhea was a former high profile media professional whose career spanned over twenty-five years as an editor, producer and spokesperson.  After learning about the mass extinction crisis in 2006, Rhea began raising funds to produce the first full length feature documentary, Call of Life–Facing the Mass Extinction, along with the newly formed organization, Species Alliance, the first non profit dedicated to raising awareness about the current mass extinction crisis.  Rhea officially joined the organization in 2010 as a board member and Director of Development.

Now at the helm of the organization, Rhea and Species Alliance continue to share the mission ~ to inform through various forms of media and outreach to ignite a new sense of community empowerment and purpose, in order to stimulate creative and effective changes in public policies and human behavior that will assure a healthy future for all life on earth.

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