WED 2010: Saving the Planet, one human mind at a time…

Race to save the Planetary Ark: How are we doing?

Today was World Environment Day (WED), and this year’s theme was biodiversity. The slogan read: Many Species, One Planet, One Future.

Different people observed the day in many and varied ways. Each one is valid, useful and purposeful.

I don’t believe in tokenistic tree planting. In fact, I’ve never planted more than a tree or two all my life – and honesty, I don’t know what happened to those hapless saplings after I deposited them gently and eagerly into a little hole in the ground…

Instead, I’m committed to a longer term effort: raising a single child as a single parent, trying to make her more caring for the planet, its limited natural resources and its people. I’m hoping that this would prove to be a lot more planet-friendly and worthwhile than a whole lot of trees planted and then abandoned…

As David Suzuki, the Canadian environmentalist and my favourite broadcaster, has said: “Our personal consumer choices have ecological, social, and spiritual consequences. It is time to re-examine some of our deeply held notions that underlie our lifestyles.”

This is precisely the premise of Saving the Planet, the six-part, pan-Asian TV series we at TVE Asia Pacific produced and released in late 2009. It was among the compilation of environmental films that we screened at the British Council Colombo today to mark WED.

Filmed in six countries in South and Southeast Asia, Saving the Planet profiles groups working quietly and relentlessly to spread knowledge, understanding and attitudes that inspire action that will help humans to live in harmony with the planet.

Here are two stories that have a particular focus on biodiversity – all others have also been featured on this blog over the past few months (just run a search for ‘Saving the Planet’).

Cambodia: Floating the Future

The people of Prek Toal have always known how closely their lives and jobs are linked to the ebb and flow of the Tonlé Sap lake, the largest in Cambodia and linked to the Mekong River. Now, the conservation group Osmose is showing how they can benefit from the lake’s fish and other natural resources without killing off the very ecosystem that sustains them. One strategy that works: to reach out to grown-ups through their children.

Thailand: Smile Again!

Tourists are astounded by the richness and diversity of Thailand’s natural heritage. But many Thai children and youth are not connected with Nature – they are not familiar with plants and animals even in their own backyard. Concerned, the Thai Education Foundation launched a programme that links schools with their local community to learn about Nature through exposure and experience. We travel to Phang Nga province in southern Thailand to find out this works.

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Moving images to animate the Mekong Media Forum in Chiang Mai


Some 225 participants, the bulk of them journalists from Mekong countries, are set to discuss, are debating and taking stock of their media environment against a backdrop of changing and often quite different news cultures at the Mekong Media Forum, being held in Chiang Mai from 9 to 12 December 2009.

I very much wanted to be there, for I’ve been covering the Mekong region as a journalist for 20 years, beginning with my first location filming visit to southern Vietnam in 1990. I’ve visited and worked in five of the six Mekong countries – Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam – with the exception of Burma.

But I’m missing this interesting event due to scheduling difficulties – I must try harder on my omnipresence act in the coming year…

The four-day media conference brings together a mix of participants, from print, television journalists and photojournalists to civil society, academics and developments, who will be discussing a menu of issues such as changes in the Mekong media scene, new trends, citizen journalism and new media, training, media challenges and reporting on water governance, children, as well as gender and sexuality.

Cinema Mekong, a strand within the forum, features the work of documentary filmmakers and video journalists who have been part of the Imaging Our Mekong Media Fellowship since 2002 — making this unique series of films very much from the lens of local filmmakers — as well as other films that focus on the Mekong region.

The films cover trans-boundary topics on environment, culture, children, women and cultural identity. TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP)’s latest Asian regional television series, Saving the Planet is among the many regional and international films being screened

Watch Mekong Media Forum 2009 viral video:

The Mekong Media Forum is being organised by IPS Asia-Pacific news agency and Probe Media Foundation, Inc., which since 2002 have been running the Imaging Our Mekong media fellowships. More than 220 journalists from the region have been fellows in this programme.

Read more coverage on IPS TeraViva online newspaper

Passing the buck or passing the planet? Saving the Planet is everybody’s business!

Passing the buck? Cartoon by W R Wijesoma

Passing the buck? Cartoon by W R Wijesoma

This was one of the most memorable cartoons drawn by W.R. Wijesoma, Sri Lanka’s pre-eminent political cartoonist (and my one-time colleague). If I remember right, it first appeared sometime in the late 1980s in ‘Mihikatha’, Sri Lanka’s first all-environmental newspaper.

Alas, both Mihikatha and Wijesoma are no more among us. But the message in this cartoon is more timely than ever before.

“Is this what we are going to hand over to our future generations? Please……no!” was the emphatic message from Yugratna Srivastava, a 13-year-old Indian girl who addressed over 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters on 22 September 2009 for the historic Summit on Climate Change.

Passing the ball – or buck – is something that governments are good at. Most governments are so narrowly focused on the now and here, and sometimes rightfully so, that they have neither the time nor interest for medium to long term scenarios. As I wrote earlier this week, “it’s going to take many more meetings, bickering and hard bargaining before the leaders begin to think in terms of the next generation.”

This is where citizen action comes in. Governments are not going to save this planet from environmental catastrophes; if at all, it would be the ordinary people. This is the premise of TVE Asia Pacific’s latest Asian TV series, Saving the Planet.

Where does the buck stop?

Where does the buck stop?

Governments, experts and big corporations alone cannot solve all these problems. Real change requires changing how each and every human being lives and works. Education becomes the biggest key to achieving environmentally sustainable development at local and global levels.

Filmed in six countries in South and Southeast Asia, Saving the Planet profiles groups working quietly and relentlessly to spread knowledge, understanding and attitudes that inspire action that will help humans to live in harmony with the planet. They often work without external funding and beyond the media spotlight. They have persisted with clarity of vision, sincerity of purpose and sheer determination. Their stories inspire many others to pursue grassroots action for a cleaner and safer planet.

We tried out a creative idea for the series opening sequence (20 seconds), an extended version of which became the series trailer (see below). It was planned and filmed in all the six countries where the stories came from — Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand. In each country, our roving director-producers filmed different individuals – young and old, men and women, in all their Asian diversity – passing around an inflated ball made to look like planet Earth.

I know my colleagues had fun filming these sequences, and back in our studio, it was also great fun to mix and match these various shots to create the apparently seamless passing around of our planet in peril. (Who said planet saving cannot be fun?)

Watch Saving the Planet trailer (1 minute):

Now it can be revealed: our original inspiration came from an unexpected source: the world’s largest media corporation, Google! In one brainstorming, our then production coordinator Buddhini Ekanayake remembered an open challenge that Google had made online just before introducing their email service, GMail. Google asked people to “imagine how an email message travels around the world” using a video camera.

In all, Google received over 1,100 clips from fans in more than 65 countries around the world — each one of them a different creative idea, playing with the iconic Gmail M-velope.

“The clips you submitted were amazing and it was hard to choose selections for the final video,” Google said when releasing the outcome of this collaborative video project.

See Gmail: Behind the Scenes (Final Cut)

Read more about the GMail collaborative video on Google’s blog

Watch all submissions Google received for its GMail promo video.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Talent borrows. Genius steals.” You can decide which of these we have done!

‘Saving the Planet’ new Asian TV series is ready for release!

It's planet saving time...and everybody is invited!

It's planet saving time...and everybody is invited!

Can ordinary people help save our planet?

What does it take to change their attitudes and lifestyles to consume and waste less?

For over two years, my team at TVE Asia Pacific and I have been working on a new TV series, modestly called Saving the Planet. It will be released at a regional conference in Tokyo, Japan, on 22 August 2009.

In this Asian series, produced in partnership with Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), we profile successful initiatives that combine knowledge, skills and passion to create cleaner and healthier environments.

It was filmed in six countries in South and Southeast Asia: Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.

The groups profiled in Saving the Planet often work without external funding and beyond the media spotlight. They have persisted with clarity of vision, sincerity of purpose and sheer determination. Their stories inspire many others to pursue grassroots action for a cleaner and safer planet.

Watch the series trailer here:

The dedicated website has just been revamped for the launch.

Watch out for more updates!