Green Exchange

Oceans #3: Can We Really Clean Up Ocean Plastic? (Mythbusting)

One main reason cleaning up the ocean is not going to work: so many of us underestimate the wrath of the sea. The many technical challenges are so much bigger than we realise, and while we all desperately wish the magic-bullet solutions will work…the cold hard facts tell a different story.

That’s what oceanographer Kim Martini tells us in this episode. She’s one of the only people to do a scientific peer review of the Ocean Cleanup Project’s feasibility study. The results are very interesting. The main questions we ask her: what exactly are the challenges we’re facing? And is there any hope for cleaning up the ocean, or will we have to live with this plastic soup forever?

Check out the Oceans series page for complementary resources & bonus materials.

Produced by Camille Duran
Published by Eleen Murphy
Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran

Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

Picture credit: Plastic Oceans Foundation

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

 

Coming Soon.

Oceans #2: The man Who Started Talking About Plastic Pollution

The story of ocean plastic, at least the one we talk about now, began 20 years ago. Before then, nobody was making noise about how our oceans were filling up with with this everlasting nuisance. One man changed this when he showed the world what damage we were causing.

In this episode, we talk to the man himself, captain Charles Moore. And we ask: just how urgent is ocean plastic pollution? Is it as important as climate change?

Check out the Oceans series page for complementary resources & bonus materials.

Produced by Camille Duran
Published by Eleen Murphy
Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran

Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

Picture source: The Telegraph

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

 

Coming Soon.

BONUS: 10 Minute Body Reboot

10 minute mind-body exercise for you to practice anytime you need. By yoga teacher and massage therapist Julia Zatta in Mixtape 10: An Alternative to Exercise Apps, produced by Green Exchange.

Mixtape #10: An Alternative to Exercise Apps

Life is tough, especially on our bodies. Many of us spend way too much time sitting in traffic, or hunched over our desks, staring at screens…and we know we need to do better, but sometimes it’s hard to add mind-body awareness to our hectic daily lives.
Well don’t worry, because we’ve got just what you need. In these 30 minutes, we’ll teach you the tricks you need to change your working life, and keep your body in tip-top shape. Our guest is yoga teacher and massage therapist Julia Zatta. The music is a cool and sooting mix of binaural beats that will give that hard working brain a rest.
This mixtape is designed for three specific situations:
  • S1: You’re really stressed and you need some way to wind down, without intoxicating your body.
  • S2: You’re in the mood to expand your consciousness, mess with your brain – with just your smartphone and a pair of headphones.
  • S3: You desperately need a new body-mind practice. We’ve got what you need.

And hey – if you want to put these exercises into practice, here’s the 10 minute workout from the episode:

Produced by Camille Duran & Eleen Murphy
Published by Eleen Murphy
Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

 Photo by Katalin Szarvas.

TRANSCRIPT FROM THE EPISODE

 Coming soon.

Earth Calling #8: Extinction

Something is wrong. We haven’t heard from Planet Earth in a while…does she still listen to our stories? We try to find out what’s going on, and to share one last story…

Produced by Camille Duran & Eleen Murphy
Published by Eleen Murphy
Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

 

Camille Duran [CD]: Okay Eleen, we need to do something, When is the last time I left her a voicemail?

Eleen Murphy [EM]: I don’t know a few weeks maybe

CD: I’m looking through my phone…July 23rd! It’s been more than a month and we still have no sign of her existence. No text message, no voicemail no call nothing!

I am sorry but we have to figure this out, we cannot keep pretending everything is fine because it’s not.

EM: No, you’re right, something is going on. Let’s take this from the start, shall we?

CD: Okay.

EM: So, one day she calls and says, “Hey I feel depressed, I want to hear positive change stories, you humans are making a mess,” that sort of thing.

CD: Right. And from there we start serving her positive change stories. We decide to focus on human beings that are truly making a difference.

EM: Yes.

CD: And it was working it seems, no? She was calling back to hear more.

EM: Yeah well…she was also calling back because you were flirting with her.

CD: Come on Eleen that cannot be the reason, and we were just making friends! I told you.

EM: It doesn’t matter, I guess…

CD: Right. Then we told a couple of rough stories that I think that we shouldn’t have told.

EM: Oh, like the one about North Korea? No actually, I think they were very empowering and pretty positive.

CD: So why did she stop calling from that point in time?

EM: Oh, I think I got it.

CD: Tell me.

EM: Well, maybe she has a love-hate relationship with us…with human beings, I mean.

CD: A love-hate relationship? What do you mean?

EM: Well if I was her, I would be very confused. Because there is a beautiful side to the homo sapiens-sapiens. It’s easy to fall in love with our species.

There is also a side that’s not so beautiful…

CD: Yeah you don’t need to explain that part I think everyone is aware of it. What’s your point?

EM: Maybe she couldn’t decide? Whether we’re worth it or not. I mean, even with all the positive change stories out there. She might feel humans are not doing enough. That we have no respect for what was given to us, although we have no excuse. I mean we’re conscious, smart…we’re supposed to know what we’re doing.

CD: So what? I don’t know where you’re going with this? What is she going to do?

EM: I don’t know, but that could explain why she’s not calling anymore. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense…

CD: I don’t know Eleen…

EM: We have to remember we’ve upset her natural balance. it’s not about us and our positive stories – who are we? We’re one species that’s been here for 150-200,000 years out of the four billion years that she was alive.

CD: Yeah, life on Earth appeared 3.8 billion years ago actually…

EM: Whatever! So many species have gone extinct in the history of our Planet, I’m not sure one more or one less is going to make a difference to her if you really think about it.

CD: So what? She’s going to get rid of us?

EM: What do you do if some tiny creatures start messing up your ecosystem? I know I reach for the medicine cabinet right away.

CD: She likes us.

EM: Maybe, but listen: we have to put things into her perspective! ….I mean, we can’t keep telling our environmentalist stories as if we were all high and mighty. Maybe we have to look at the bigger picture.

CD: I’m calling her again, I don’t give a sh*t. I have a story that she will love, she cannot ignore this one. I’m telling you…

EM: Come one man, think about this…we must be doing something wrong!

CD: I’m calling.

EM: Jesus, fine…as you like, Mr. Duran

[PHONE GOES TO VOICEMAIL]

CD: Hey, I know you still don’t answer and I am not sure what’s going on but I am not giving up. Here is another story for you, I hope you will give it the attention it deserves…

[SILENT PAUSE].

CD: Sorry I need to calm down one second. I just don’t get why you disappear like this… Okay. It takes place in South Africa. It’s a story about extinction, I guess that’s one theme that interests you. Actually, it’s about how human beings are preventing animal extinction from happening.

EM: Watch your tone, this is not helping.

CD: This part of Africa has a history of illegal hunting. Over the last years they have been facing a real poaching crisis. illegal hunters go after the horns of animals to sell them on international markets for a lot of money. There is a species that is particularly endangered in the region: the black rhino.

[OFFICE STARTS SHAKING]

CD: The rhino family is one of the few species left from the perissodactyls – a group of animals that is more than 30million years old as I’m sure you know. The black rhino disappearing is a big concern of course and we are soon reaching a point of no return. But there are organised groups that are working hard everyday to maintain animal peace in the Balule Nature Reserve. This is the story of…

[SHAKING IS GETTING STRONGER]

EM: Camille, something’s happening

CD: No kidding!

EM: I think we need to get out of here…

CD: What the f**k is going? It cannot be an earthquake…

EM: I don’t know, do you think it’s her!?

CD: [ON PHONE] Hello? Come on speak to us….

EM: We have to get out of here, now… Camille, now!!

[CAMILLE DROPS PHONE, EARTHQUAKE SOUND OVERTAKES. PHONE BEEPS]

END

Quickfire #4: Our New Logohunt Game On Instagram

Next time you’re bored on your lunch break, try our new game on Instagram. We hide our logo in the a set of images we post on our profile @greenxeurope.In each new set of images, there is one logo to find. If you find it, send us a direct message telling us where it is, the colour, and the size, and we’ll send you something nice.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Oceans #1: Plastic Pollution, Crime & Nutrition – Plotting The Course

We live on a blue planet, surrounded by oceans. But how much do we really know about what goes on in our oceans? Where does all the plastic come from, and how do we stop it from getting in there? What does piracy, money laundering, and illegal dumping do to our oceans and our societies? And how exactly can the oceans help feed the ten billion people living on this planet?

In this episode, we set the stage for our Oceans series – our most ambitious one yet. We tell you where we’re headed, how to use this series, the questions we’ll be asking, and all the fun things we have planned. With this, you’ll be all set to start the adventure with us.

Check out the Oceans series page for complementary resources & bonus materials.

Produced by Camille Duran
Published by Eleen Murphy
Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran

Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

 

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Camille Duran [CD]: Eleen do you know why mussels never donate money?

Eleen Murphy [EM]: Uh… no

CD: Because they are shellfish.

EM: Wow, ok let’s get started!

CD: Yes, today we are starting a big investigation. Before we introduce this new series, should we run an equipment check, very quick?

EM: Sure.

CD: Pen and paper?

EM: Check!

CD: Telephone with battery?

EM: Check!

CD: Fiber-optic internet?

EM: Check!

CD: Snacks?

EM: A lot of them, check.

CD: Fast computers and software?

EM: Check!

CD: A time machine?

EM: Check!

CD: Problems to solve?

EM: Check!

CD: All access to international experts, celebrities and leading voices?

EM: Check!

CD: Listeners and partners with questions?

EM: Check, I think!

CD: A critical mind with an appetite for strong sustainability solutions?

EM: Check!

CD: Microphones?

EM: Check!

CD: Alright, it sounds like we are ready to start a new series! Eleen, would you do the honours and tell us what this investigation is about?

EM: We re going to talk about…

CD: No need to drag it out, they have read it in the title of the episode

EM: Oceans!

CD: Wow, what a surprise. So before we push the button, I thought you could tell us why oceans matter?

EM: Well what matters most is that there are a lot of dirty secrets out there around oceans. There’s a lot of stories we never hear about. But I think we should.

CD: Have we been misled? Again?!

EM: You’ll find out soon. But to answer your first question, I think oceans matter because:

We live on a Planet called the Blue Planet, covered by around 70% water. Each year, oceans produces almost the same amount of biomass as terrestrial habitats – around fifty0 billion tonnes.

CD: What?

EM: We just don’t see it!

EM: If you take the ocean-based industries… and look at their contribution to economic output and employment each year… it’s a big number. There are different sources but we’re talking about around two and a half trillion dollars per year – that’s like the economic output of a big country, like Brazil or the UK.

CD: Wow!

EM: Back in 2010 these industries were already contributing to thirty million jobs and the OECD tells us it could grow another 30% by 2030!

CD: That’s a lot of jobs!

EM: And of course, there are big, big challenges ahead of us that are far from being solved: ocean pollution, overfishing, permanent crime like human or drug trafficking, all the economic issues around the ocean, energy production, resource management in general…the list goes on and on.

CD: Wow, I think we all agree that ocean is a theme that deserves its own series at Green Exchange. If after that you still think oceans are not that important, please write us an email.

EM: We’ll reconsider.

CD: Eleen it is safe to say that this is our most ambitious investigation to date, we will have very special guest, tell you all the stories, even the ones we are not supposed to, we will podcast from underwater, hop aboard big boats…

EM: And small ones.

CD: Live podcast from big events, etc…

EM: And small ones.

CD: And go after big fish…

EM: …and small ones!

EM: Now that we know about the theme why don’t you tell us who this series is for Camille?

CD: Good question, I think a lot of us could benefit from this investigation. First, anyone who is keen on spending a good time, hearing crazy stories, and learning something along the way. You will be able to explain to your friends and colleagues what’s going on with our oceans.

EM: Without getting them bored.

CD: …Or you can also keep all the knowledge for yourself.

EM: That’s right!

CD: This series is for you if you want to clearly understand the root cause of the challenges we are facing on the blue side of our Planet. And what are the big investment and policy decisions we need to make as a society.

EM: Policy-makers?

CD: Yes, they should definitely follow our investigations. Many of them are lost in the deep blue. They have industry, NGOs and Facebook videos pulling them in all directions and they are the ones behind the big influential decisions.

EM: We’ll invite a few of them on the show maybe?

CD: All policy-makers are invited, let’s see who picks-up the phone…

EM: Who else?

CD: Journalists, media professionals. If you are getting started on this issue for an article or other piece of content, you are welcome to use this series as a source of ideas and cases. Or if you have stories or sources to contribute, send us an email at hello@greenexchange.earth.

EM: Journalists are an important part of the story here because those stories are so complex that it’s hard to get a quick overview.

CD: Then anyone with an interest in oceans really, whether on ocean pollution, overfishing, crime, money laundering via the ocean, economic & industrial issues… Welcome aboard!

EM: If I want to learn about animals, conservation, and the more traditional oceanography topics?

CD: Yes well then we will connect you to our favourite publications because that’s the part we won’t get into here.

EM: Alright.

CD: Eleen are you ready to get this party started?

EM: I am ready.

CD: Do you see the blue button in front of you? It’s time to press it.

EM: I’m excited!

CD: Let’s go!

CD: You know what’s one good thing about this topic? I am finally going to be able to use a voice effect that I created a while ago.

EM: Oh no…

CD: It will make us sounds like we are talking under water.

EM: No please…

CD: [Under water] What? Eleen? Can’t hear you if you are staying at the surface!

EM: Alright.

CD: [Under water] Hey here you are. See, now we can see what’s really going on here.

EM: Wow.

EM: Okay let’s keep the special effects for later. Can you detail what are we going to talk about in this series instead?

CD: Right. Good question. I am sorry to inform you we are not going to be able to solve all of the oceans problems with one podcast series.

EM: No?

CD: No, so we picked three topics to start with. Plastic Pollution, Crime and Nutrition.

EM: Plastic pollution, crime and nutrition. That’s already a lot to deal with.

CD: Yes, and I will tell you more in a minute. But before that I would like to clarify a couple of things about this series and our approach to investigations in general – for those who are not familiar with Green Exchange.

EM: Mmh

CD: Point one, we are producing this series as an umbrella investigation.

EM: An umbrella investigation?

CD: Yes, it means it encapsulates other investigations and stories. Basically we are doing some cleaning. Because tons of content have been produced already. Some of it is good, most of it is incomplete, and some media out there is actually harmful to the Planet and society in general.

EM: Green Exchange cleans the house!

CD: That’s right, our mission here is to help you articulate your thoughts in a constructive way. We ask bold questions, we challenge everything and everyone –

EM: – all the time.

CD: Point two, we are going to talk to experts, policy makers, activists, other journalists, intergovernmental organisations and citizens, maybe a few celebrities are going to join us as well.

EM: Celebrities? Exciting.

CD: Well we have you already…Eleen…

EM: Aw, right, can’t get out of the house right now because of all the paparazzi.

CD: Just wear sunglasses and a cap.

EM: I’ll think about it.

CD: We’ll try to stay pragmatic and practical.

EM: Some philosophy may be necessary as well though.

CD: Yes, philosophy Green Exchange style. If the result of your actions hurts anyone, violate human rights or damages the environment, there is probably a better way.

EM: Probably yes. Now, I want to talk more about our three topics – plastic pollution, crime and nutrition – because you haven’t said what we are going after for each one. And I have seen a few crazy stories going around the office.

CD: True. Really Crazy stories. But before that…

EM: Noooo!

CD: I would like to suggest a little audio interlude that is going to help us visualise how people from around the world interact with the ocean. What is your relationship with the ocean? view from the shore, from a fishing boat? scuba diving? Let’s get in the mood….

 

[Audio Interlude].

 

EM: wow that was cool. You can really hear how different people use the ocean in different ways.

EM: Now can we please get to the crazy stories.

CD: I never said I would tell them right now.

EM: Ehh, I think you did Camille…

CD: Nope, you told me you saw some crazy stories circulate in the office and I said yep but you were asking me about our three topics.

EM: Alright. Moving on

CD: Okay back to our three topics?

EM: Yeah sure.

CD: Topic number one: Plastic Pollution. Whoever you are, you probably heard a lot of different things about how to solve plastic pollution. There is what industry tells us, what policy makers tell us, what NGOs tell us, the people, one video goes viral and we feel we solved the case.

EM: Yes like for instance the video from the young Boyan Slat who apparently found the magic solution to clean-up the ocean from plastic.

CD: Yes we are not going to talk about so much about that because that is just distracting people from the real problem.

EM: What do you mean?

CD: Let me ask you this Eleen. You get home and your house is flooded because you left the tap open. Everything is a mess. Water everywhere. The tap is still open. Water keeps flowing. What is the first thing that you do?

EM: I close the tap.

CD: Right. So that’s the only thing we are going to talk about in this series. How can we close the tap? In other words, what are real solutions to stop plastic from leaking into the ocean. And how much plastic do we actually need?

EM: Industry is telling us they are planning on increasing plastic production three-fold by 2050.

CD: On the other side, NGOs and researchers tell us that by then we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean.

EM: So let’s close the tap!

CD: We will do some myth-busting so experts can tell us what we should believe in or not? We will talk about the role of celebrities, in an episode called “The Hall of Shame”.

EM: The Hall of Shame? Can you explain?

CD: Yes, we are going to go on YouTube, and research the commercials featuring celebrities that have been promoting excessive plastic consumption.

EM: George Clooney comes to mind.

CD: We will call those celebrities via their PR agents and ask them to tweet something nice for the planet to show how guilty they feel now that we know the impact of those products.

EM: Exciting. You think they will?

CD: If they don’t they enter the Hall of Shame. It’s their last chance, Eleen. It’s their last chance.

CD: So anyway, regarding the investigation at the policy and investment level, we will focus on what needs immediate action.

EM: Looking forward to it.

EM: Our second topic will be crime?

CD: Yes, the ocean is stage to a lot of nasty business: crime in the fishery sector, human trafficking, drug trafficking, piracy (as we talked about in our last Mixtape), it enables money laundering and fiscal evasion, illegal fishing, dumping of pollutants (other than plastic). A lot to talk about here.

EM: Yes, this theme has become high on the agenda for a number of intergovernmental organisations.

CD: Here you can already feel the craziness of the stories we’re about to investigate.

EM: I do! How about our third topic?

CD: Nutrition from the ocean. This one is pretty straightforward: What’s the role of the ocean in feeding a ten billion people planet?

EM: Wow , a lot to unpack there as well.

CD: On all of those topics we will also get on the road, we are going to attend a selection of events, conferences, workshops and podcast from there, host debates maybe, so there will be some field action as well.

EM: Great!

CD: Is that enough detail to make you want to dive in, Eleen?

EM: I think we are all super excited at this point.

CD: Alright. One last word:

EM: Subscribe.

CD: It’s free, all you need to do is press that one button on your favourite podcast app and you will get notified every time one episode is released.

EM: Don’t forget to share Green Exchange with your friends and colleagues so they can start this adventure with all of us.

CD: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, fax, telegraph…whatever you need, we’re here to serve and we’ll be back soon with something blue.

EM: That’s it? That’s your closing line? Really?

CD: Ok, sorry it still needs some work. Let’s just say Ciao for now

EM: Yeah…Ciao!

CD: Ciao!

END

Mixtape #9: Pirates & the Wind of Change (Chapter 2)

Pirates never went away. From the troubling news stories about pirates attacking ships in Somalia, to dangerous digital hacktivists wreaking havoc online, there is plenty to discover – and even more to question. So, what can we learn from modern piracy? One thing is for sure: nothing in this story is black and white.

This mixtape is designed for three specific situations:
  • S1: It’s late and. you can’t sleep. You feel like exploring, taking this idea to the next level. Leaping forward. You wake up and log onto your computer. Go, explore. Make something happen while the world is asleep.
  • S2: While doing some cleanup in your storage room, you found this old computer from the early nineties that you didn’t remember you had. You’re thinking back to was like to work on a computer in the old days, feeling nostalgic and wondering how far the next few decades will take us.
  • S3: You are travelling at night. It’s late, and your thinking about the big things in life, what really matters to you. You decide to never give up on your dreams, and never give up on what you stand for, like a real pirate.
Complimentary Resources:
 
Featuring music from:
This is The Law of Life, Farah
Nightcall, Kavinsky
Zones Without People, Oneothrix Point Never
Tick of the Clock, Chromatics
Lady, Chromatics
Feel It All Around, Washed Out

 

Pirate Resources:

Donate for Famine Relief in Somalia [GoFundMe].

Learn about the Famine: In Somalia with Jarome Jarre [Video].

The eye-patch of the beholder: introduction to entrepreneurship and piracy, Steffen Roth [PDF].

Produced by Camille Duran & Eleen Murphy
Published by Eleen Murphy
Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

 

TRANSCRIPT FROM THE EPISODE

Camille Duran [CD]: This mixtape is the second chapter of our deep dive into the world of piracy. If you haven’t listened to Chapter One, you may want to start there because there are some important concepts that we will build on moving forward. Today, the focus is a little bit different because – in this mixtape – we will be looking at modern piracy. Piracy on water and on land, or online I should say.

What can we, change makers learn from modern piracy?

Like with all our mixtapes, music will be the central element of this episode. Perfect for moments of the day were you don’t want to think too much. Here we are in a different mood than with Chapter One.

This mixtape is designed for 3 specific situations:

Situation 1:

It’s late. Very late. you can’t sleep. You’re thinking too much, you’re trying to understand what’s going on, ideas are flowing through your head. You feel strangely motivated about making something happen. A project you’ve had for a while, something you’ve always wanted to work on, in your personal life, or your professional one. You feel like exploring, taking this idea to the next level. Leaping forward. You wake up, get to the computer. Log in. The light of the screen is blinding at first. Better now. Go, explore. Make something happen while the world is asleep.

Situation 2:

While doing some clean-up in your storage room, you found this old computer from the early nineties that you didn’t remember you had. You now remember it was working when you put it there. So it should still work? no? You decide to get it out of here and turn it on, just like the old days. Just to feel how far we’ve come. You use this time to remember what it was like to work on a computer back then. What did we do with it? Get your smartphone, count the years, realise the pace of innovation. Yes, it’s crazy. Take a minute to think about how YOU approach new technologies and change in general. Are you an early adopter? do you resist? in the average? Use this old computer story to project yourself into the future. Think.

Situation 3:

You are driving at night. It also works in the train or any kind of public transportation. Maybe you are back from a late meeting, or a dinner with friends you haven’t seen in a while. You’re thinking: “Shit, time passes”. Am I making the most out of it? Maybe, maybe not? How do I feel? What are 3 things I wish I had done last year? How can I make it happen this coming year instead? You look around, catch your own look in the rear-view mirror – or your reflected image on the train window.  You decide to never give up on your dreams, and never give up on what you stand for, like a real pirate.

03:39

CD: I have to say this mixtape may be most effective by night, but hey, use it the way you want, and challenge everything.

I think we’re ready to dive in. Last time we found a pirate nerd in our own team, “Shiver me Timbers” it’s Eleen Murphy, Producer and co-host at Green Exchange, Yo ho ho!

Eleen Murphy [EM]: Ahoy Matey!

CD: Ok, we should probably stop talking like old time pirates because we are back in the 2000’s now.

EM: Yeah true.

CD: So what’s on the menu today?

EM: What do you think about when we talk about modern piracy?

CD: I directly come to think of Somalia and those fishing boats taking over big tankers and merchant ships.

EM: Yes that’s what we are going to talk about. But not only, because piracy doesn’t always happen on water. The word relates to many kinds of activities. Like, did you know that piracy was a word used to describe stealing copyrighted works and information since the 1600’s?

CD: Oh really? I always thought digital piracy was called that because the internet was considered like a giant ocean.

EM: Yes me too, like the whole “surfing the net…”. Anyway, we’ll be talking about those pirates as well – the ones online who are shaking up the world, making waves I can say. And who we can actually learn a lot from.

CD: So today if I understand correctly we will spend some time on Somalia and some time on digital hackers.

EM: Yes, about 50/50

CD: Ok, let’s go!

5:20

[Audio Clip]

Narrator: It’s a voyage made by thousands of ships a year, passing through the Gulf of Aden. It’s also home to every captain’s nightmare…

[Music]

09:12

EM: So pirates never really went away.

CD: They changed their look though thank God.

EM:   …And the Somali pirates are just one example of sea-pirates that operate today – there are others as well. In Somalia – As often with piracy – it was necessity that drove people to raise the black flag. In 1991, the government collapsed and so its territorial waters couldn’t be enforced anymore.

CD: I see it coming…

EM: This lead to foreign fleets swooping in and trawling Somali waters, stealing their fishing stock and dumping pollutants.

CD: Because there was nobody to stop them.

EM: Exactly. And this destroyed the livelihoods of the local fishermen. At the same time, China started massively exporting to Europe from the Suez canal, meaning there was thousands and thousands of dollars worth of cargo floating past the Somali shores all the time.

CD: So…here was their opportunity to survive, and stand up…

EM: Right, and they took it. These people were fishermen first and foremost, but when the situation changed, they pivoted. To be fair, they sort of had to get into this. But they’ve been quick in making the leap towards a very different kind of life. At the beginning, they saw themselves as enforcers of the waters – scaring away the foreign fleets and demanding money from them, which they said was a form of tax for taking their fish and polluting their waters.

CD: And then, snow-ball effect,

EM: Yes, they went from a small band of raiders who started attacking ships, to the well-run criminal organisation we know today.

10:43

[Music]

12:31

EM: “They don’t care if we starve to death – that is what they prefer. They will never arrest anyone for fishing illegally in Somali waters but will arrest anyone for taking a gun to fight the trawlers”.

Those are the words of a local Somalian, Hawa Mohamed Saeed, about the international community at the time.

CD: I didn’t know all this, we have been drinking what the media told us, and as usual when we start digging…

EM: Yeah. As they say, there are at least two sides to every story. Nothing is black and white.

CD: One thing is for sure, some people out there should feel ashamed.

13:09

[Music]

15:22

CD: Anyone in particular we should talk about?

EM: One person who really sticks out, who’s a bit of a celebrity actually, is Abdullahi Abshir – often called Boyah.  Boyah was one of the first to turn to piracy, and was a a bit of a pioneer – he showed others the true potential of piracy and became the chairman of the 500 pirates operating in the region. He says he’s hijacked more than 25 ships.

CD: Do people call him Boyah because everytime he was coming back from battle with cargo and hostages everyone would say “Booyaa”?

EM: Yeah probably, thank you for this very relevant comment…

CD: Sorry..

EM: Booya was a lobster diver, who watched the lobster population disappear because of the foreign ships. So, with a few others, he captured three fishing vessels, kept their catch and ransomed the crew. When other fishermen saw his success, they began to follow.

CD: Where does your lobster come from? Have you checked? So he was a brave man…

EM: Also a quick adapter – he learned to go with the flow. At some point – around 1997, the foreign fishing fleets started getting protection from local warlords.

CD: Oh God, so now there are mercenaries involved in protecting the big boys?

EM: Yes, and those ships became really too dangerous to target. So Boyah and his men started going after commercial shipping vessels instead.

CD: Pivoting again.

16:48

[Audio Clip]

[Music]

18:34

CD: Okay so they put their hands on cash, goods, cargo? What  do they do with it?

EM: The money they took was shared with everyone. Half went to the attackers, a third to investors. The rest went to anyone involved – interpreters who dealt with the hostages, the guards. And 15% always went to the poor and disabled of the community.

CD: Robin Hood style.

EM: He’s been called that, yeah. The local communities did prosper thanks to the pirates. They were often given support, sanctuary, even government help. But if you can imagine, all these young men who come from poor backgrounds, suddenly have access to loads of cash and support…things of course went a bit wrong.

19:13

[Music]

22:38

EM: When all this started to turn into a big criminal organisation, Boyah started to realise their support was dwindling. Around 2008, the communities began to turn on them and demand that they stop. Boyah called for a cease-fire. They were a few of them ready to quit –

CD: Quit?

EM: With conditions. If the local leaders found jobs for their young underlings and help the pirates form a coast guard to protect Somalia from illegal fishing and dumping…

CD: Right

EM: Boyah often says that he knows what they’re doing is wrong. It looks like they wanted to find a way out if possible…

23:16

[Music]

24:40

CD: So…did they ever find that way out? What’s happening there right now?

EM: Well, after their peak in 2012, they almost stopped completely because commercial ships started carrying armed guards. There was also an international anti-piracy fleet, which included a NATO-led component, and an European Union one as well.

CD: There you go, thank you all for addressing the root cause.

EM: Right. But those new resources have been busy the last few years because of the migrant crisis – and the pirate attacks have started up again this year.

CD: Oh really?

EM: Yeah, see, one of the main issues with the response is that they conflate piracy with terrorism, and that this counter-piracy action doesn’t really address the origins, motives, and realities of Somali pirates.

[Audio Clip]

Interviewer: So, this must cost hundreds of millions of dollars to have these navel ships going up and down the African coast – what’s the alternative to this?

Interviewee: Well, it’d be a much better use of the money if they would actually try to prop up Somalia’s government or help the country create a government that could police it’s own coastline. I mean, they’re not catching very many pirates. As we mentioned, there was a shootout in which some hostages were actually killed. They’d be a lot better off putting that money –

Interviewer: Or make a deal with the pirates! Just say, “why don’t we just pay the pirates an annual fee to stay home?”

Interviewee: That would be a lot more efficient.

Interviewer: There must be more imaginative solutions that would actually do something to develop Somalia?

Interviewee: People aren’t that interested in the fundamental problems of Somalia. Piracy gets a lot of headlines, and Al Qaeda activity in Somalia gets a lot of headlines, but no one really talks about spending money on trying to create a system of government that can solve all these problems, or let Somalia solve their own problems.

26:22

EM: Somalia has been struggling with civil war, poverty and violence for decades at this stage. And the problem hasn’t gone away – locals are blaming their government in the Puntland region for granting foreigners permits to fish in Somali waters. So we’re back to square one.

CD: Sh*t they got it rough in Somalia, also with no rain in two years and the famine, they are one of those regions that really need help. We put a link on the episode page if you feel like sending a few euros to help a family, they are some very direct channels to those people now, without all the typical intermediaries that we don’t really like to go through.

EM: Yes it’s very complex in this region.

22:06

[Music]

29:16

CD: Eleen, you’ve changed my whole perspective on the Somalian piracy case. Thank you.

EM: You’re welcome.

CD: Should we now move on to the world of digital piracy. That’s an interesting space as well…

EM: Yes and here there is a lot going on so we are just going to look at a few big picture learning lessons. I thought we would take the hacker group Anonymous as an example – which is probably the most famous out there. But there are many others.

CD: Good idea, they are the ones whose symbol is the iconic Guy Fawkes mask right? Oversized smile, moustache, red cheeks.

EM: They’re one of the most powerful and decentralized movements in the digital world. A lot of people see them as heroes in the face of things like government oppression for instance.

CD: Yes, their story is fascinating and in the episode notes you’ll find a couple of documentaries and resources for you to get the whole picture if you want to hear more about them, I think it’s worth it.

EM: It’s actually amazing how big and powerful they’ve become considering they have no leader or directives though.

CD: No leader or directive you’re saying?

EM: Yes, and that’s our first learning lesson from digital pirates – be a starfish.

CD: Be a starfish?

EM: Yes!

30:28

[Music]

33:04

EM: So, in a formal organisation, you could see there’s a head at the top and if you kill that, the organisation is dead. But if it’s like a starfish…you can kill one arm and it just keeps going and the arm will eventually grow back. So the point is that decentralizing power can make you more effective and resilient.

CD: It’s very inspiring to see that a growing number of organisations manage to operate like this now. The trick is really how to create that movement in the first place. Getting the momentum going.

EM: Yes and there is another dimension to this. Which is the second tip I would like to bring to the table. We seem to operate better in small flexible groups. This way you’re more agile, fast and flexible. Like, on the outside, Anonymous looks like one huge, chaotic organisation. But members can peel off into smaller channels and work together on a specific target. Not everyone has to know everything, which saves time and keeps things flowing.

CD: Yes and this way to operate has made its way into many organisations in the private sector, especially large start-ups with critical mass of employees or NGO movements as well. Some public sector organisations are also experimenting with this management structure. How about you? Did you think about all this for your own project?

34:25

[Music]

36:58

EM: I think one of the biggest keys to their success is how they outsource not just talent but ideas as well. Anonymous is basically a large pool of people with different skills. Those people will come along and see how they can help and jump in. People also jump in and share their ideas for a campaign and if others are interested, it happens. So that gives Anonymous a huge amount of resources to draw from, and keeps their fingers in all sorts of pies.

CD: Ah, I didn’t know this expression. Do you make pies in Ireland?

EM: We sometimes do.

CD: We also see this trend growing in a number of organisations.

EM: …Making pies?

CD: No, I mean open innovation schemes. You bring in your innovation pipeline players from the outside world, partners, customers even, it should be quite inclusive.

EM: Let’s be clear, it does not mean that everything done by anonymous will be good. That’s the price of being a starfish. You have to live with the idea that not everything will be perfect.

CD: What else can learn from Anonymous?

EM: Don’t get comfortable. When it comes to the online world, you really need to stay sharp and ahead of the curve, because there are always weak points and pitfalls that someone’s just waiting to exploit.

CD: That’s right, keep on your toes.

EM: Yeah, and you can expand that idea. We shouldn’t get comfortable with how our lives are right now either. We can fall into habits, learn to ignore or put up with things that just aren’t right…

CD: There’s always opportunities for us to challenge the status quo, find new ways to work, new ways to interact as a society.

EM: Exactly. There is one thing, that makes Anonymous, and sea pirates so dangerous and threatening – putting violence aside: They demonstrate different ways of doing things. Different ways to work, different ways to protect their communities, different ways to live – both online and offline.

CD: Right.  Their existence says a lot about our societies and our failures (economic inequality & exploitation, imbalance of power & right of access to information).

EM: Our fascination with piracy also says a lot about us as well – our love of freedom, adventure, and the rebellious spirit of piracy. Probably because we need more of it in our daily lives.

CD: That’s a good way to conclude, thank you for all those insights Eleen, this was fascinating.

EM: My pleasure!

CD: And you? How do YOU feel about piracy? What can you incorporate into your day-to-day? Let us know what you’re up to. hello@greenexchange.earth twitter, Instagram facebook. You know where to find us. We’ll be back soon with more music, sounds, knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, keep up the good work in the meantime!

39:49

[Music]

END

Mixtape #8: Pirates & the Wind of Change (Chapter 1)

Listen up ye landlubbers! We’re taking you on an adventure…back to the golden age of Piracy. Yes, piracy – because pirates helped shape the world as we know it today, and there is much we can learn from them. This is a story of innovation, rebellion against tyranny, adventure on the high seas, and breaking the rules to make a fairer world.
Jump on board and let us take you there…
This mixtape is designed for three specific situations:
  • S1: Your working on something big, something that blow everything else out of the water. Or maybe you’re preparing for the most important interview of your life. This will get you in the mood.
  • S2: You need a really fun, adventurous escape moment. Let your imagination take over.
  • S3: Taking the dog for a walk? Bored? Let us bring some action and excitement into the moment.
Complimentary Resources:
 
Featuring music from:

Pirate Resources:

Actual Pirate Code [Article].

Produced by Camille Duran & Eleen Murphy
Published by Eleen Murphy
Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

 

TRANSCRIPT FROM THE EPISODE

Camille Duran [CD]: Ahoy sailor! Today we take a deep dive into the world of piracy.  Piracy? Are you kidding me? What does this have to do with sustainability? aren’t we supposed to talk about social and environmental change? Isn’t this Green Exchange? – Talk shows for change makers?

Yes it is. Calm down. Let me explain. Pirates are not what we think they are. Yes they were probably a bit [Laughter sound] and sometimes even a little bit [Maniacal laughter sound]. But they have played a very important role in periods of history that were both tumultuous and critical. And they keep influencing our world every day. They just don’t operate on water anymore. For most at least.

This mixtape comes in two chapters. Chapter 1 today will be about pirates of the old times, Chapter 2 -coming soon – about modern pirates, from sea pirates in Somalia to computer hackers and other forms of piracy we know today.

Sailor, it’s time to ask yourself. What can we learn from pirates throughout history?

As always with our mixtapes, music is what will transport us into this adventure.

And I have to say: the sounds we will be playing today are of the epic kind. To be more precise, this mixtape is designed for 3 specific situations:

  • Situation 1: You are on a big piece of work, writing the report of your life. Or maybe you are preparing for an important meeting, or your dream job interview – you want to make this a turning point in your life – and why not – in history. At your service, this music will get you in the mood.
  • Situation 2: You need an escape moment – How about training your imagination? How about reinventing your life in different times? What would you look like in 1750 for instance? Where do you work, what do you do in the morning? Where do you go on vacation? Haha – and how about your friends and colleagues? imagine meeting them up the in 1750?

“jack… I didn’t know you were a pirate!”

[Jack Sparrow audio clip]

  • Situation 3: You are going on a hunt. Well actually you’re just going to pick up mushrooms on a Sunday. Well… actually you are just going to walk the dog… See? how boring is this. Bring some action into your moment. Again, use your imagination. With this mixtape, you are going to run in between the trees – duck the arrows that evil forces are throwing at you, shut down a fire, save a dear from drowning in the river, help a baby fox find his mother, clean up all the plastic littering, and come back home with a bag full of mushrooms for dinner. Wow, what a ride

Yes, we push you to performance that’s what we do at Green Exchange!

Be careful, this music may make you feel like a hero. Well wait, you are a hero, you may just not know it yet?

To make this mixtape as relevant and realistic as possible, I need help from someone who is a real pirate nerd. Yes, those people exist. Pirate nerds. Let me tell you, those guys are as valuable as researchers and historians even. And they are most likely funnier to talk to.

So let me look at my notes… who do we have … let’s see?

Eleen Murphy [EM]: Ahoy!

CD: Hey Eleen? I didn’t know you were joining, great, so I was looking for our pirate nerd to help me on this mixtape

– yes, that’s me!

CD: What? You a pirate nerd?

EM: Oh yeah…

CD: Ah now I understand why this mixtape got on the editorial calendar…

EM:Haha, my evil plan!

CD: Well ok, ….Help me understand, how pirate nerdy are you?

EM: Well, let’s see…I wrote my school dissertation on pirates, there were posters all over my room, I’ve watched every type of treasure island adaptation out there, know all the movies and video games about pirates…and my cat is called “Calico Jack”

CD: Okay okay I think you qualify. I can sense the excitement. A dream come true at Green Exchange today ladies and gentlemen – Let’s talk piracy with Eleen Murphy

EM: Haha!

05:24

CD: Okay what do we start with?

EM:A sea shanty.

CD: What’s that? A type of ice cream?

EM: No, it’s basically a maritime work song.

CD: Ah okay, I see, so like a work song, you mean for labour work on the ship?

EM: Yes, It’ll get us in the mood, and then we’ll start decrypting what we, change makers can learn from pirates.

CD: Let’s go, from now on I let you hold the ship’s wheel Eleen, Just don’t make us sea sick, that’s all I’m asking

EM: Keep looking at the horizon.

CD: Alright…

[Music]

CD: Wow.

EM: So first, let’s clarify what kind of pirates we should be talking about, piracy is a vast area.

CD: Ok, you tell me. Who can we learn from?

EM: Ok I’ll start from scratch, there are lots of different types of people called pirates, which makes it confusing. It’s messy, but generally when we talk about pirates we think of the “OG” pirates.

CD: The OG pirates? Can you explain?

EM: Basically those who didn’t work on behalf of any country, like Blackbeard – they roamed the seas in search of treasure. They were enemy of every state…

CD: Okay, so bad guys on a ship, drinking, raping, stealing and treasure hunting. Is that who we need to learn from?

EM: See? that’s the common perception…The golden age of piracy was a time of brutal oppression and you know we had those big colonial powers trying to take over the world. Pirates were often those who escaped this oppression.

CD: Ah I see.

EM: So, like, many pirates were escaped slaves, who would have had no other means of making a living. Blackbeard’s crew is thought to be made up of 60% black people – freed slaves mostly.

CD: Oh that’s why the crews were always very diverse.

EM: Yes, Pirates formed their own societies, and went against this status quo.

CD: Ah that sounds friendlier to my ear. So they were change makers?

EM: You can say so…

09:59

[Music]

12:42

EM: Morality, law and justice play a big part in this topic. It’s argued that pirate societies were the most egalitarian societies of their time, bringing together multi-ethnic crews, allowing a form of gay marriage.

CD: Haha nice!

EM: Yeah! They also had a strict moral and ethical code – which isn’t what we usually think of, right? They even had healthcare system.

CD: A healthcare system? with the little card and your photo on it?

EM: That’s right

CD: How was it called? Williamacare? How about that.

EM: And democracy – with each man having a vote. They worked as a team, each sailor being part of a bigger whole.

CD: Wow, I never saw it like that this is fascinating .

EM: All this was a direct backlash to the tyrannical rule on merchant ships. And we need to put this in perspective: Pirates had separation of the powers and democratic “government” aboard their ships at least one century before France.

CD: Who brought it on in 1789.

[Music]

16:17

CD: Eleen, I am so into this, the music and everything, I feel like you and me are on a ship called “the Black Sheep” navigating the tumultuous seas of podcasting. Our listeners are probably willing to join our quest at this point! What route should we occupy?

EM: Well, that’s one interesting thing we can learn from OG pirates actually. They strategically occupied the waterways that formed major trading routes.

CD: Oh – so they were not far out in the ocean?

EM: No, they were typical occupying the Bahamas for instance because that’s were all merchant ships going to Spain were passing by. They were really good at finding the strategic spot. Rather than challenging their targets head on, pirates surprise and attack their enemies at their weakest points, giving them no time to react.

CD: Okay so – lesson learnt: Take a strategic position in the space you want to occupy. Be ready for when opportunities show up.

EM: And fire!!!!!!! Fireeeee! Fireeeeee!!!!!

CD: Wow, I never saw you so excited Eleen…

[Music]

20:53

CD: Let’s talk about Captains’ powers, shall we?

EM: Unlike merchant vessels, on pirate ships, captains weren’t able to secure special privileges for themselves at their crews’ expense. Their lodging, provisions, and even pay were nearly the same as everyone else.

CD: They had their own cabin though. No?

EM: Yes but at any time, crew members were free to come in unannounced and yell at the captain if they were doing a bad job. Your privileges were quite limited and if you were not a good leader, things could rapidly change.

CD: interesting idea. So a pretty flat organisation

EM: Yes.

[Music]

25:52

EM: You’re going to like this, I brought with me a few common rules from the world of piracy:

CD: Tell me.

EM: Lights out at 8pm

CD: What? no drinking and partying every night?

EM: Lights out at 8pm I said!

CD: Copy that…

EM: No gambling. Keep your weapons ready for battle. No stealing ….

CD: Wait a sec…

EM: From other pirates, I mean.

CD: Ah right

EM: All disputes are settled on land, with pistols. And… wait for it….Musicians have Sundays off.

CD: Wow – interesting. But I have this image of them drinking and partying on some island.

EM: After big victories maybe, they have some down time.

[Audio Clip of Jack Sparrow]

27:43

CD: Story of the day: Is there a pirate that stood out in your research?

EM: Yes definitely. Do you know the story of Ching Shih?

CD: That sounds Chinese

EM: it’s , it’s a female Chinese Pirate that has been called the most successful pirate in history.

CD: Oh yea? More than Blackbeard?

EM: Well to give you an idea Blac k beard was leading 4 boats and 300 men – at his peak.

CD: Okay…That was peak Blackbeird. What was peak Ching Shih?

EM: 1800 pirate ships and an estimated 80,000 men.

CD: What? 80,000? Sorry to ask but How did a female pirate in China in the 1800s rise to that level of power?

EM: Well it’s a long story but I’ll make it short. She was ex-sex worker, and…..

CD: A sex-worker…ah I see.

EM: Married to Cheng I (or Cheng one, I’m not sure how to say it), who was commanding the red flag fleet of pirates. It was big fleet already, his main achievement was to unite many rival fleets under the same flag.  And he married her in 1801. The thing is: She demanded equal control of the fleet as a condition for her marriage.

CD: Wow.

EM: She was actively participating in all piracy activities, like a few women in history. When he died, she took over and since then built a legacy that completely over shadowed the one of her husband.

CD: How did she do this?

EM: Well, Back when she was a sex worker she was hanging out with very influential people and business men. And some say she learnt a lot about the financials and politics at this point – and there is evidence that she was very savvy. She also maintained a very strict code of conduct across the fleet.

CD: Right. I suppose you don’t carry on at that level if you’re a clown. What happened to her?

EM: The fleet was undefeated for 3 years, they were really dominating that period. And in 1810, Ching Shih could finally retire by accepting an offer of amnesty from the Chinese government.

CD: Wait? What? She retired? that’s it?

EM: Politics, there was a lot of tension, another pirate fleet called the black flag fleet recently surrendered, and she felt she was going to lose control. So it looks like she made a wise decision given the context. She died  34 years later at age 69.

CD: In a retirement home?

EM: More or less, haha.!

CD: But this is boring, Eleen…

EM: Ah but you have to put this into context. And she had tremendous influence over Chinese popular culture.

CD: Wow, that’s an unexpected ending for that kind of profile.

EM: Yeah I don’t think retirement happened very often. She was probably the only one to do so.

[Music]

32:07

CD: Let’s throw the anchor Eleen, It’s time to end this first chapter about piracy. We learnt a few lessons, what can we conclude?

EM: Well I think one main point –  is: it’s not about breaking all the rules – it’s about making better ones. We can’t celebrate everything that pirates stood for (because yes there was a lot of murder and violence), but we should definitely follow their example of trying to make a better, more equal world & be brave enough to stand against the big tyrannical powers of today.

CD: I don’t know what you’re talking about Eleen.

EM: I think Fairness & Cooperation was Key to their Success?

What helped them be successful was that everyone on board had a vested interest in their success, and all bounty was shared equally. This is a good lesson for us to keep in mind (cooperatives, shared spaces, workplace as a democracy, etc). There is more of course but I think we went through the most interesting points.

CD: Yes that was great, that’s all we have time for today, but don’t miss chapter 2 were we’re going to dive into modern piracy and see if there anything we can learn from. Eleen I think you’ll be our pirate guide for next chapter as well

EM: Yarrrr!

CD: …Okay, well get some rest in the meantime. We hope you enjoyed this mixtape, we’ll be back soon for more, we’ll let you go occupy the waters of change until next time, ciao!

END

 

 

Earth Calling #7: Waste Pickers VS. Trash Giants – A Hero’s Fight For Justice


Planet Earth has been a little too quiet lately. Maybe this story is what she needs to hear. It’s about Nohra Padilla – a brave and dedicated fighter for social and environmental justice. She spent her life working to change the fate of waste pickers in her city of Bogotá, Colombia. And around the world.

Complementary Resources:

 

Produced by Camille Duran & Eleen Murphy
Published by Eleen Murphy
Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

Photo used on thumbnail: By Juan Arredondo, for Deutche Welle.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Camille Duran [CD]: Hey I’m worried

Eleen Murphy [EM]: About what?

CD: Planet Earth, she hasn’t called in 3 weeks. Something is wrong. Where is she?

EM: Well obviously she’s here, we’re standing on her as we talk.

CD: You think our stories are too extreme?

EM: Our stories are appropriate I think, they’re always based on positive change, I don’t think that’s the problem.

CD: Mmh.

EM: I’m sure she’s fine. She might just be busy watching TED videos.

CD: I should try to call her. Just to check in, it’s weird

EM: Yeah, give her a call…

CD: Thing is I don’t know how to dial her number, there is no country code

EM: have you tried?

CD: No … Okay… I am going to give it a shot. straight numbers no country code. Do we have a story to tell her?

EM: Yes, let me think, oh, you can tell her the story of Nohra Padilla. It’s a good one. Here it is. I’m sure she’ll love listening to it, and appreciate the gesture.

CD: Let’s see… Hey Eleen – Thanks for being the best, You always have good advice.

[VOICE MAIL]: “Please leave a message for “Planet Earth” after the beep”.

CD: Hey… it’s Camille…. I’m worried, you haven’t called in three weeks so I thought I would check in, you don’t answer my text messages, is there anything wrong? Actually I even have a story I want to tell you.

It’s a bit weird to do this via voicemail but this way you can listen to it whenever you want. I hope you like it.

Okay… let me get into the storytelling mood…

It’s the story of a little girl from Bogota called Nohra. She is 7 years old.  Her family came to the capital after fleeing violence in the rural areas of the country. Now they spend most of their time picking up garbage at the foot of this huge municipal landfill where tons and tons of waste are dumped every day. That’s how they make a living.

Actually they are not picking up garbage – that’s not how they see it. They are treasure hunting. They sift through mountains of trash looking for the most valuable materials they can find. Either for themselves, or to sell. There are not the only ones of course.

Thousands of people in extreme poverty are treasure hunting as well.

It’s a tough job, physically, mentally, it’s dangerous, and it provides very little money at the end of the month.

One day, the local government prohibited the access to the landfill. No treasure hunting anymore. So people started taking waste picking to the streets. And that brought other kinds of problems. Daily discrimination was one of them.

The community of waste pickers was marginalised to the point where it became forbidden to “pick up trash” as they said. We are talking about the livelihood of tens of thousands people in the city that was taken away by this law.

At this point the little Nohra had grown up. We are in 1991. Nohra had now become a well respected waste picker. She had developed an extensive knowledge of material identification, was able to organise and optimise operations, and she had a solid hard-working reputation. Most importantly, she had a dream.

In her dream, informal waste pickers became recognised as environmental stewards. They were paid correct wages by the city. They were organised, respected. Social justice. In her dream, waste pickers were a true competitive force against the trash multinationals who promote infrastructure intensive solutions that are nothing else than expensive and centralised power structures.

She had a dream. And she knew that everything is possible.

So in 1991, Nohra and her team started organising the waste pickers in cooperatives. That was a huge piece of work. They started from nothing. They had to get people educated, to recognise their own value, they had to organise processes, teams, secure space, and go through all the legal matters that would give the cooperatives a legal right to operate. They had to be able to bid for governmental contracts.

No one could believe they were taking this on.

Little by little, they were getting ready, and once they started going after those contracts, they had to face other kinds of problems. They were being robbed, they were humiliated as well. Nohra was receiving death threats so she requested State protection – which was denied.

All this was a sign that they were starting to drive real change in the system. The trash multinationals could see the storm coming. But it was a long long battle. We sometimes feel good things can happen overnight but they usually don’t.

We are now in 2013 – 22 years after the first efforts to organise cooperatives. 22 years. That year, Nohra and the cooperatives won a landmark court battle.

As a result of this victory in court,  Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro issued a decree mandating recycling throughout the city, stating that recyclers are to be paid for their services and establishing a system whereby recyclers can sort through material before it goes to a landfill.

In other words, the once informal waste pickers became official personnel of sanitation of the city.

As you can imagine, it was a ground breaking victory. They did build a system that can handle, sort and process 1500 tons of waste per day. Grassroot baby.

Through this work Nohra created the perfect bridge between social justice and environmental goals.

Waste pickers typically lived in extreme poverty with little to no employment rights. But in recent years many of them have seen their earnings double or triple. And everyone is now aware of the role they play for the city.

Nohra Padilla created a model. She showed it is possible. And She now represents the country’s recyclers association – and beyond her dream coming true in her home country… Nohra’s model is inspiring communities of waste pickers all around the world. Her international union counts more than 1million and a half waste pickers from 5 continents. 1 million and a half. The little seven year-old girl learning waste picking at the foot of the Bogota landfill turned into an international hero.

I like this story very much. Another one showing everything is possible as you told me the other day. Okay well, that’s it, I hope everything is ok and that you’ll  call back soon. We miss talking to you.

EM: She’s going to like this.

CD: Yes, I hope so. Maybe we are approaching this all wrong…

EM: What do you mean?

CD: Maybe we are not giving her exactly what she needs.

EM: Ah, I wouldn’t worry too much about all this. Hey we’re late, we need to get going…

CD: Where to?

EM: We have the kick-off meeting for the new series about Oceans!

CD: Ah that’s right. Talking about the Blue Planet… I’m coming.