By Michele Leight, copyright www.Ashraya-NY.org. 2010
For many people it takes a disastrous oil spill to acknowledge our misuse of nature. Sad, but that is how it is. Long ago, the inhabitants of this beautiful country knew that it was important to honor the earth, and everything in it. They only hunted to survive - to eat - not for sport. The fuel they used was natural and did not harm either wildlife or the environment. They knew it was vital to live with the environment, not against it. Idyllic "Rocky Mountains," by the legendary American painter Albert Bierstadt, illustrated below, captures the majesty, pristine beauty and spirit of those times.
Currently, the BP oil spill is being called the worst in US history, and despite efforts of hundreds of entities, organizations and volunteers to plug the leak via topkill and other means and contain the damage to marine life, wildlife and shorelines, the spill has not been contained. This oil spill is an overwhelming disaster for all concerned, including our government. We have landed men and women on the moon, but to date there is not enough research or expertise to plug or cap and halt an oil spill that continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, 50 days after it exploded, killing eleven workers on the oil rig. The situation is so grave it has made headlines in all major newspapers and media outlets. BP have placed full-page advertisements in The Wall Street Journal entitled "Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response: What We're Doing; How to Get More Information," etc, including information on how to file a claim with BP. The link is provided at the end of this story. If your business has been directly affected by the oilspill and you are experiencing problems with a claim you have filed with BP, the US government is offering assistance expediting and implementing claims with the company at www.disasterassistance.gov
With each new disaster like this it is clear we need to decrease our need for and dependence on oil. Since this story was posted, the extent of the damage and destruction has turned into a nightmare that plays out daily in the media, with tarballs surfacing on beaches in Pensacola, and untold damage predicted for years to come to wildlife, marine life, beaches, shorelines, marshes and ecosystems. An ongoing demand for oil is at the heart of this disaster.
President Obama has admitted with regret that his efforts to improve regulation of offshore drilling have fallen short. He said "that oil and gas from beneath the gulf, now about 30 percent of total domestic production, would be a part of the nation's energy supply for years to come...'It has to be part of an overall energy strategy...I mean we're years off and some breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean energy grid. During that time we're going to be using oil. And to the extent that we're using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on exports.'" (The New York Times, May 28, 2010, "After Delay, BP Resumes Effort to Plug Oil Leak")
And it is not only the effects of oil spills we have to worry about. Across the world wildlife is losing its ground - literally - as their habitats are taken over for other purposes, mostly to feed some need of ours. The film "King Solomon's Mines" (1950) includes footage of animals living in the wild at a time when they were so plentiful hunters came from all over the world to "cull" - or so they said - "dangerous" animal populations, like elephants and lions, that threatened human communities. There is nothing virtual in this film. The wildlife, locations and indigenous peoples - excluding the stars - are real. In one memorable scene a monkey sits happily in Stewart Granger's lap after he spent a hot, hard, unhappy day escorting "hunters" whose primary goal was to take home trophies like elephants' tusks, buffalo horns and lions skins so they could brag about them at cocktail parties.
Ancient peoples in many cultures knew how to live on the land without plundering its natural wealth - including wildlife. Then we came along with our slick technologies and our greed, gouging out substances like coal from glorious mountains, plundering oceans drilling for oil for our cars and heat, and destroying animal habitats to make way for acres of slick new housing speedily constructed from non-recycled materials on land that has been razed and bulldozed out of recognition. All living things are uprooted in its wake. Wildlife is no match for bulldozers and toxic oil washing up on shorelines.
This is not the first oil spill, and it is doubtful it will be the last. Chemical dispersants are being deployed to break up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is not clear how toxic they are to marine life. The prognosis is not good because very little research has been done on the effects of dispersants on marine life due to inadequate funding. We successfully find funding for all kinds of things, but strangely, there has been scant funding for this, when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and two oceans lap the shorelines of this glorious country. Funding is the magic word that crops up again and again.
While we have environmental hazards and disasters here in the US, threats against the environment are even worse in many other countries, where there are virtually no laws to protect the environment, and if there are, little or no hope of enforcing them. We share this space called earth. What happens in one corner of it affects another. At major airports across India there are advertisements proclaiming the demise of tigers, now down to between 900-1300, depending on which expert entity is counting. Globally, there are only 3,400 tigers left in the wild, when once they were plentiful. Poaching is one reason, destruction of their habitat another. A blogger writes: "It's apparently much more important that we preserve bankers who 'only' lost 3 million 600 thousand pounds last year than spending a minute % of their bonuses to save the tiger." This comment is in response to an article "The Five Year Race to Save India's Vanishing Tigers." This is happening with many species that are losing their fight against us. Marine life does not stand a chance against an oil spill, let alone chicks that hatch along any shoreline where toxic substances wash up with the surf - and stick like killer glue to any living thing.
There are good things happening here in America as well. We volunteer and do far more to raise funds in the US to help worthwhile and committed organizations whose mission is to protect the environment than many other countries. That is something to be hopeful about. That is a bright light in the doom and gloom. Without these organizations, and thousands of volunteers, the situation would be dire. We are all connected, and affected, by what surrounds us. Climate change is a global issue.
At last, some powerful organizations, businesses and corporations are beginning to get involved.
This spring, Christie's art auctioneers (www.christies.com) held a "green" benefit In New York to raise funds to help preserve the environment entitled "A Bid to Save the Earth." One of the beneficiary NGOs of their green auction is National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). There is a video on their website (www.nrdc.org), featuring Robert Redford and he says:
"The Gulf disaster is more than a terrible oil spill. It is a product of a failed energy policy, one that puts oil company profits ahead of people and the environment. America needs a safe, clean, and renewable energy, not more oil spills. That means politicians in Washington have a choice: keep bowing to the demands of big oil, or stand up for the American people. Tell President Obama to lead America towards a clean energy future."
The Sundance Institute, The Sundance Film Festival, and The Sundance Channel are the trailblazing creations of Robert Redford, who has been an advocate for a greener planet for a long, long time (www.thesundancechannel.org)
NRDC's mission is "to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends." This is a vitally important mission these days that will need increased support in the years ahead. The other 3 beneficiary NGOs of the proceeds of Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth" are Oceana, Conservation International and The Central Park Conservancy. All are unified in their commitment to help preserve this beautiful earth. Oceana has a petition you can sign to stop offshore drilling (www.oceana.org).
Aside from the damage done to the ocean, there is the devastating effect on family businesses that rely on income from fishing along the Gulf coast. To prevent contamination of the food chain - which is dangerous to us - fishermen are now banned from fishing in the oil-polluted waters by the government. The desecration of marine life, the marshes and shorelines has been well documented in heart breaking photographs - including one of baby herons dying smothered in greasy oil.
This is worth preventing. Protecting the oceans for future generations is worth investing in now. The destruction caused by this or any oil spill to marine life and shorelines is not limited to where it "spills" - it spreads elsewhere if a current picks it up. That damage will emerge later warn scientists, ecologists and environmentalists. I remember seeing a baby seagull smothered in oil in media photographs after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. What happened in the Gulf of Mexico is in danger of happening along any coastline in the world today where there is offshore drilling. If we in America have not found funding for research to better understand how to clean up oil spills - then who can? We are the wealthiest nation on the planet. An oil spill can happen in the middle of the ocean if an oil tanker accidentally sheds its toxic load.
This is from Oceana's web site: "The oceans are in crisis from over-fishing, acidification and habitat destruction. Oceana works internationally to alleviate these and other problems through policy-oriented campaigns."
Proceeds from "A Bid to Save the Earth" will go to organizations like these, which offers some hope that baby dolphins and heron chicks will be safer in the future, and they are only two species that are endangered by oil spills. There are thousands more.
Another beneficiary of proceeds
from "A Bid to Save the Earth" is Conservation International
(www.conservation.org), which describes its goals:
"Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity." Conservation International's vision is clear: "We imagine a healthy prosperous world in which societies are forever committed to caring for and valuing nature, our global biodiversity, for the long-term benefit of people and all life on Earth."
The web sites of these worthwhile organizations are a testament to hard work and hard fighting, because the entities they are up against are the most powerful in the world. And we need to look at our responsibility in all this, because we are creating a huge demand for commodities like oil.
I cannot imagine New York without Central Park. It is New York's green lung; the air in and around Central Park is so much purer than the rest of this city that we love so much - which, let's face it, can get pretty smoggy and fume-y at times. The increase in oxygen is felt as soon as we approach the park. The Central Park Conservancy maintains this oasis in the midst of one of the world's most populated, exciting and built up cities that uses tons of energy; a city filled with cars and vehicles that release tons of carbon monoxide emissions into the atmosphere each year. Their web site describes itself best:
"The Central Park Conservancy (www.centralparknyc.org) was founded in 1980 by a group of dedicated civic philanthropic leaders. They were determined to end Central Park's dramatic decline of the 1970s and restore it to its former splendor as America's first foremost major urban public space, as envisioned by its 19th-century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted Calvert Vaux. Today, the Conservancy's mission is to restore, manage, preserve Central Park, in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations." (Courtesy Central Park Conservancy web site).
I silently thank the visionaries
Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux and all those that funded
the implementation of Central Park as we know it today - including
thousands of residents of this city - as I walk under the verdant
branches of some of the most beautiful trees in the world, planted
decades ago. Those trees were once saplings. How great it is that
our forefathers - and mothers - planned ahead so that we could
enjoy them today.
All proceeds from the $2.4 million dollars raised at Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth" will go directly to the four environmental beneficiary NGOs (non-governmental organizations) mentioned above. Christie's waived all its fees and commissions for this event. Christie's CEO Ed Dolman said:
"I think it is important for Christie's to engage on an ongoing basis with the issue of climate change. Our way was to put together this innovative Green Auction, and we are very pleased with the results."
On May 6th, 2010, Christie's concluded its inaugural green auction, "A Bid to Save the Earth," raising $2.4 million dollars from the combined proceeds of a live auction on April 22nd and a silent auction on charitybuzz.com which ran from April 8th - May 6th.
"A Bid to Save the Earth" is an innovative collaboration between and participation of the philanthropic, environmental, business and cultural communities. The event was sponsored by Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors, (DBCCA), (the lead sponsor), which is the climate change investment and research branch of Deutsche Bank's Asset Management business (DeAM) one of the leading climate change investors in the world.
Responsible businesses that help to make our environment more sustainable and renewable - faster - are vital, and investing in the right ones can really help change the earth for the better. In 2009, Deutsche Bank unveiled the world's first scientifically valid, real-time carbon counter, a nearly 70-foot-tall digital billboard displaying the running total of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is located outside Madison Square Garden/Penn Station, in the heart of New York City.
Christie's media partner for "A Bid to Save the Earth" was NBC Universal, which launched "Green Is Universal" in 2007, (www.nbcuni.com), an ongoing initiative dedicated to raising Green awareness, greening its own operations, producing environmentally conscious film and television, creating incentives for communities to "go green" and educating both consumers and employees about sustainability and the environment. Media exerts an enormous influence, and is a leading source for change.
Barneys's was the event sponsor of Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth." Their innovative windows light up their Madison Avenue flagship store, and it is always fun to stop and look at them. Barneys New York partnered with organic clothing company Loomstate to create a beautiful limited edition T Shirt ($40) to raise money for the campaign under the 1 % For the Earth campaign. (www.loomstate.com).
Target sponsored the reception of Christie's live auction, "A Bid to Save the Earth," a star-studded, celebrity packed affair. Target (www.target.com - online) and its 1,740 stores nationwide need no introduction. It is an exciting, innovative company that gives 5 % of its income through community grants and programs like Take Charge of Education. Today that giving has turned into more than $3 million a week. They have been doing this since 1946. Target is a trailblazer. We need more great companies like the
MMB, (www.mmb580.com), a leading independent advertising agency in the US and Christie's branding partner, created "A Bid to Save the Earth" as the unifying theme for this worthwhile and groundbreaking initiative. MMB has also created children's brand Noah Wild, (www.noahwild.com), designed to empower kids to make a difference in the world. Proceeds from the sale of Noah Wild products go to 5 non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting animals and animal habitats.
This kind of thinking and acting - innovative, sustainable, imaginative, creative, looking to the future - makes America great. We love to shop here, so why not make that habit help support a more sustainable and renewable future? And now, finally, it is time for a review of the highlights of "A Bid to Save the Earth" live and silent auction that generated $2.4 million dollars, funds that are going to do some real good out there.
The live auction was a star-studded event co-chaired by David and Susan Rockefeller. The auction was led by Christie's renowned auctioneer Christopher Burge, who livens up any auction with his grace and humor; and Chevy Chase presided as the master of ceremonies. The top lot of the live live auction was Damien Hirst's "All You Need Is Jealousy," which raised $92,000. Damien Hirst said his participation in the Green Auction was for "a worthy cause that I couldn't say no to."
Artists continuously innovate, and present us with possibilities and hope, because they are visionaries. Art helps us imagine a better world, better everything. Many artists generously donated works to Christie's Live Auction, including Keith Tyson, Subodh Gupta, Kenny Scharf, David La Chapelle, Olafur Elisasson, Jenny Holzer, Zeng FanZhi and Matthew Ritchie, among others.
Other highlights and top lots of the live auction included one-of-a-kind adventures like a round of golf with President Bill Clinton, a Los Angeles package that included two tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, and a fitting with Giorgio Armani. The fashion and entertainment industry is incredibly generous in their support of important issues and causes. Reading through the list of donors to this event is also a reminder of the generosity of spirit and effort that goes into them. It is possible to help while having fun.
The Silent Auction was open to bidders worldwide from April 8th-May 6th, powered by www.charitybuzz.com a leader in cause marketing, that aligns nonprofits with international brands and celebrity icons to raise funds through innovative online auctions. Their impressive track record includes pop culture experiences, special events, luxury destinations, exquisite art, jewelry, fashion and sports memorabilia. It is mind blowing how many wonderful fundraising events take place in America. You might want to organize a fundraiser after you go on their site!
The top-selling lot of the Silent Auction was "Rolling Stones, Broken Record," by Mr. Brainwash, which raised $105,000. Those marvelous Rolling Stones...still "wowing" us, energizing us, after all these years. Other top lots of The Silent Auction included an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview of the famous Barney's New York holiday windows with Barney's Creative Director, Simon Doonan, which raised an amazing $60,000! Barney's windows are showstoppers. Another fun offering was Sixth Sense Destination Spa in Phuket, (palms...surf...$26,000), while a really popular silent auction item was a one-hour tennis lesson with John McEnroe, which raised $20,000.
The many stars and celebrities that attended Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth" included stunning Oscar nominated actress, director/producer, Salma Hayek, who has a foundation called The Salma Hayak Foundation. Salma Hayak's support of many causes is impressive. All you have to do is type in her name on any search engine and an amazing list of her commitment to many charities and causes and personal achievements come up.
Sam Waterston's face is beloved and familiar to us here in the US, and he also represents justice to millions across the world for his unforgettable portrayal of the D.A, in "Law and Order", the longest running TV show in history together with "Gunsmoke," " a show that is part of all of us. I cannot imagine not seeing Sam Waterston on TV in this role.
Other guests at "A Bid to Save the Earth" were Candice Bergen, Brian Williams, (a generous giver of his time to support important causes), Joyce Varvatos, Rogan Gregory, (founder of www.Loomstate.com an organic clothing line), Al Roker, Ann Curry, Matt Lauer, and Natalie Morales (part of our TV family), Kelly Cutrone, Cornelia Guest, Derek Blasberg, Willie Garson, and many others. Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann is classic Hollywood royalty, a fashion model and the co-founder of a non-profit for charity projects around the world called www.justonefrickinday.com. She is the daughter of Isabella Rossellini, and grandaughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini.
Miranda Kerr (girlfriend of Orlando Bloom) and Doutzen Kroes also attended Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth," to show their support for the "green" auction. Miranda and Doutzen are most famous as Victoria's Secret Angels, and recently also as trailblazers that are taking the "skinny" out of super-modeling - a trend that will hopefully gain momentum. In February of this year they were among four voluptuous Angels (with Allessandra Ambrosio and Isabell Fontana) air-lifted to Italy for a prestigious fashion show after a casting director decided to break away from unhealthily skinny models - at last! Beautiful Doutzen is shown here wearing a green dress on the green carpet.
Events like this generally consume a lot of energy, and "A Bid to Save the Earth" was carbon off set by NativeEnergy, a climate solutions pioneer and recognized leader in the US carbon market, offering services that reduce carbon emissions to fight global warming. NativeEnergy uses its distinctive "help build" model to support the construction of new carbon reduction projects. By helping finance construction of Native American, family farm, and community-based clean technology projects, their customers help communities in need of building sustainable economies. Their web site is inspiring, demonstrating the very best of America and the American spirit. It includes a moving story, part of which I would like to include here. I found it by clicking on "Greensburg Windfarm/at www.nativeenergy.com:
"On May 4th, 2007, an EF-5 tornado leveled Greensburg, Kansas, destroying 95% of the town and leaving a path of devastation 2 miles wide. Eleven of the towns 1400 residents died in the disaster. In their communal search for meaning in the days that followed the catastrophe the people of Greensburg individually and collectively agreed to rebuild their town.
They committed to making Greensburg the greenest town in America.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress President Obama said:
"Greensburg...is being rebuilt by residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. 'The tragedy was terrible' said one of the men who helped them rebuild. 'But the folks here know that it has also provided an incredible opportunity.'
NativeEnergy is extremely proud
to play a necessary role in helping build the Greensburg Windfarm.
As the exclusive REC/offset marketer for this historic project
we are excited to offer everyone the opportunity to join this
American renewal project by purchasing the carbon offsets this
project will generate."
The places we love and frankly take for granted are being eroded stealthily. The photographs of great natural beauty shown here say it all. They are a reminder of what is at stake. Nature and wildlife is no match for us when we decide to destroy. We can help prevent destruction by supporting organizations that are in the frontlines of the fight.
In a report for The New York Times (May 4th, 2010), entitled "Concerns Up and Down the Food Chain," about the oil spill in the Gulf, Leslie Kaufman wrote that spring is mating and spawning season for all marine life in the gulf. If a jar is filled with plankton from local waters in spring, it will most likely contain the larvae of 80 species. The eggs and hatchlings are surface dwellers, with little or no ability to swim away from the oil slick:
"'Eggs and Larvae that dwell near the sea surface are especially vulnerable,' said Jeffrey Short, Pacific research director for Oceana: 'The components of crude oil can produce developmental deformities at low concentrations, and any such deformities are ultimately lethal to organisms in the wild."'
Now that the stardust has settled, fun has been had, and an amazing amount of money raised, it feels good to think of that money being put to work for the earth. The beneficiary NGO's of "A Bid to Save The Earth" need ongoing support for the work that needs to be done - starting with the oil spill.
In the end, we have to change our ways to change the environment. Businesses will fall over themselves to sell us renewable energy products if we embrace them. They respond to our checkbooks and cash registers! That is what good business is all about. It will be worth it. This earth, and all living things that dwell in and on it are precious.
The four beneficiary NGOs of Christie's "A Bid to Save the Earth" are:
National Resources Defense
Conservation International: www.conservation.org
The Central Park Conservancy: www.centralpark/nyc.org
Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response
For assistance or information,
please call the following 24/7 hotlines:
To report oil on the shoreline: (866) 448-5816
To report impacted wildlife: (866) 557- 1401
To make spill-related claims: (800) 440-0858
This information was provided in an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal on May 24th, 2010.
For those needing assistance filing or expediting claims alreadly filed with BP, please go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov.html http://www.disasterassistance.gov.html/