An interview with Time Magazine reporter and author Pico Iyer
From a very young age Pico Iyer has had a close personal relationship with one of the worlds great spiritual and political leaders. In 1960 his father a professor of philosophy and a student of world religions was among first westerners to seek an audience with the Dalai Lama. Traveling from his home in England Iyer’s father journeyed back to his native India to meet the Dalai Lama then around the age of 24. In their conversations the Tibetan Buddhist ruler in exile and Iyer’s father discussed ancient mystic wisdom that had been unavailable to the outside world for centuries. And with the exchange of a single simple gift, they also established a connection between the Dalai Lama and Iyer that now spans almost 50 years.
"At the end of his conversation with the Dalai Lama in 1960 he said 'I have this little three year-old boy back in England and he was already quite interested in the story of your dramatic flight from Tibet into India'," Iyer said. "And so the Dalai Lama, with his great gift for the perfect gesture found a photo of himself when he was 5 years old and sent it to me. And so from the time I was three I had this photo of this little boy, 5 years old, already ruling 6 million people. I didn’t understand who or what the Dalai Lama was. But I could make a contact with this little boy sitting in this place. And I could see all the responsibility he had. So in that sense I grew up with the image of the Dalai Lama and stories of the Dalai Lama from the time I was a little boy."
From the gift of that photograph to their first meeting years later Iyer and the Dalai Lama have been become good friends. And through the course of his career as a journalist Iyer has cultivated a deep insight to the philosophy that has guided the Dalai Lama toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict between China and Tibet. In his new book The Open Road: The Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama Iyer shares his view of the spiritual and political path we all take to find peace in our lives and the world in which we live.
An interview with adventure filmmaker Dominic Gill
I don’t know about you. But I’ve got a hard time getting motivated, especially when it comes to doing something hard, something that might take a lot of time, cost a bit of money or might even be a little scary. Life’s journey can be tough enough just trying to get by making it from day to the next. But every once in a while, someone comes along that prompts you to action. They get you psyched up and excited because you can see they’re going places and the next thing you know you get swept up in the momentum and just like your own life’s journey heads in a whole new direction. You follow that person right down a new road of adventure. Last fall I met a guy just like that.
Dominic Gill was one a one of a few dozen movie producers I met during the 2009 Banff Film Festival. His documentary called Take A Seat follows his two-year journey by tandem bicycle over 20,000 mile of open road. Asking total strangers to pedal behind him on what his calls the stoker seat his travels brought a fresh sense of adventure into hearts and minds of everyone he met or who tagged along for the ride.
An interview with Peggy Shepard executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action Inc.
Racism is a word that seldom comes up in a discussion of environmental protection. Clean air, water and soil are universal human values that transcend ethnic identity or the color of one’s skin. But in metropolitan centers around the United States minority communities are being inundated with a disproportionate burden of pollution. Industrial waste, municipal garbage and sewage treatment plants are routinely deposited in areas predominately populated by low income African Americans and Hispanics.
In 1988 a community organizer named Peggy Shepard was asked to help address concerns around the creation of one such sewage treatment plant. A facility built in the New York City burrow of Harlem.
It’s been more than a month since the last podcast. Thanks to everyone for all the emails and Facebook messages asking for the next edition. After an action packed first season of production, the realities of life came crashing down like a devastating wave. The recession of 2009 made times a bit tough. Simply put the project was placed indefinite hold while I scrambled together a few odd writing jobs through the end of December and all of January. I had to work to make enough cash to pay our property tax bill. I’m happy to say that I recently wrote a fat check to city of Madison and now the project is back on track.
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I’ve learned a lot through that first season. With the collapse of traditional media, as newspapers and magazine continue to fold up under the weight of an antiquated model of communication, I’ve discovered that this form of storytelling, sharing music, art and adventure online is the wave of the future. With many creative souls out there building new high quality content for Internet there’s no shortage of great stories to tell. If you’ve been following along on the blog and on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been more than a little busy still traveling and finding new subjects to share with you. And in the process I’ve become thoroughly inspired by the work of many others who are pushing the boundaries of creative expression as they explore the heights and depths of the human spirit.
You’ve heard me mention my friend Fitz Cahall. He’s the creator of my favorite podcast The Dirtbag Diaries. Fitz has new project that recently posted the Internet, a series of short films that depict the lives of adventurers chasing their passion through course of a year, a season.
I connected with Fitz toward the end of last year during the Banff Mountain Film Festival. There I saw the premiere edition of the 22 part film series The Season. It’s an exciting yet, moderately paced thoughtful contemplation on what motivates ordinary people who do exceptional things in the outdoors. At the Banff Centre for mountain culture, in Alberta Canada, I also met Fitz’s partner co-producer and director of the SeasonBryan Smith.
Produced exclusively for distribution online, the Season brings Internet adventure storytelling to a new level. Directed by Bryan Smith this new film series illustrates the narrative behind the lives of people like each of us who aspire to lead a rich live in adventure.
Delegates from about 190 countries are gathering over the next two weeks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Although this is a landmark event, the largest meeting ever to discuss the environmental future of our planet. I’m a little concerned that we may not be talking about the most important issues.
The other night on NPRDavid Kestenbaum reported on the first day of the conference. In his report on All Things Considered he said everyone pretty much agrees that we have to do something about climate change. But how I see it where the problem lies is that the delegates also seem to share the same disagreements
In fact most of the disagreements, they’re all about money. Developing countries like Bolivia are arguing “Hey The global warming problem? you in the developed world made it. So to solve it you’re going to have to give us money to adapt and to keep our emissions down as we grow.
The industrial growth that caused the climate change crisis in the first place will apparently continue. You see it seems that the Copenhagen delegates are really only arguing about who gets to continue to pollute the atmosphere with carbon gas emissions and how much. The conversation so far seems to be relegated to trading carbon credits for cash so the developing world can continue to build factories and produce consumer goods. But at what cost? What about the environment? And what about millions of disenfranchised people in the U.S. and around the world that will be most directly impacted as our planet’s climate continues to change in the wake of human progress?
I won’t be attending the conference in Copenhagen. But a few weeks ago I did attend the Breaking the Color Barrier to the Great Outdoors conference in Atlanta. A few hundred African American Environmentalist gathered to talk among other things about the role people of color can play in protecting the natural world. There I met Majora Carter, the 2005 winner of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. She received $500,000 to developed her ideas on creating sustainable urban communities. And while we didn’t talk about Copenhagen in particular Carter has a rather unique perspective how best to curb some of the social effects of Climate Change.
The McArthur Foundation dubbed me an urban revitalization strategist. Which I love, because of the work that I did around pioneering one of the first green jobs training systems in the country, really doing community based, led project development in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country that’s also one of the most environmentally challenged. And the idea was that you can do development that met both the environmental as well as economic needs of a very poor communities and give them the tools they need to enjoy it and be a part of its development.
The environmental issues that our planet faces aren’t limited to carbon emissions. Though green houses gases are indeed the primary cause of global warming it’s the institutions and practices of human behavior that create them. Carter believes that we need to develop community based initiatives that produce green jobs and allow ordinary people take an active part in the cessation carbon emitting industries. In order to make lasting change in the fight again climate change we have to rethink how we develop and live in our urban centers. And for many communities around world that’s going to mean taking a hard look at issues of social justice, how we treat the urban poor as well as racial and ethnic minorities. I’m James Mills and you’re listening to The Joy Trip Project.
We’ve explored much of the modern world. Today very little is left to tempt the imagination. We’ve succeeded in climbing the highest mountains. We’ve traveled to the depths of the ocean. There’s not much of our planet that we haven’t seen. It would seem then now that what remains of adventure, at least on earth, isn’t to discover where human beings have yet to go but instead where we’ve been.
A new film by produced in cooperation PBS and National Geographic takes a look at the discovery and exploration of an ancient civilization. The new film The Secrets of Shangri-La: Quest for Secret Caves premiered at the 2009 Banff Mountain Film Festival. In this edition of The Joy Trip Project producer and professional mountain guide Peter Athans takes us on an amazing journey to reveal the great mysteries of a long-ago culture once forgotten.