TED Conversations

Ricardo Williams

Media Director, IDEAS For Us, Inc.

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How are you helping your local community?

I am an ambassador of "I.D.E.A.S. For Us", a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and accredited NGO of the United Nations, advancing sustainability and solving environmental problems through youth-led action at universities, K-12 schools and communities around the World.

Recently we started a new project called "The Hive". Its a think (and do) tank aimed at addressing Global challenges through local solutions to advance sustainability. Our first Hive has started in Orlando, Florida, but this is a community initiative that we plan to spread to many other cities in the hopes of conquering the five pillars of sustainability: ecology, food, waste, water, and energy.

So my questions to the TED community is... Are you an environmentalist? Do you care about sustaining your community (as well as the world)? And if so, what steps have taken to do so? ... Or maybe you have some IDEAS for us?

And.... GO!

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    Jun 15 2013: Hi Ricardo,
    GREAT idea! Yes, I care very much about sustaining my community and the world.

    Each year, in this state, we have a Green Up Day, which is supported by state, regional and local governments, businesses, and all schools throughout the state, so there are various projects and programs during that week, as well as organized groups picking up trash along the roads and public spaces on Green Up Day:>)
    http://www.greenupvermont.org/

    Personally, I've always had extensive gardens which are visited by many people, so I get to encourage gardening, and I speak a lot about sustainability, the advantages of growing our own food, and the benefits to our environment of growing plants and water gardens. I have about 500 varities of perennials, water gardens, fruits, vegetables, herbs, tropical plants, etc.

    I have served on local and regional planning commissions, project review committees and transportation advisory committee for about 15 years, which gives me the opportunity to encourage environmentally friendly planning and development.

    Probably the most significant thing I did a few years ago, was challenge a toxic business (I was the wistle-blower) by requesting a jurisdictional opinion from the district environmental board. The toxic business had no local, state or federal permits to operate ANY business much less a toxic business. They were ordered by the state environmental court and the environmental board to vacate the site.

    I walk or bike rather than using a vehicle when possible, pick up trash along the side of the road when walking, recycle, restore, renovate and reuse EVERYTHING!
    Good luck with your wonderful project:>)
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      Jun 16 2013: Hi Miss Steen,thank you for your wonderful example in protecting the environment.

      I wonder how did you come up with the idea to blow the whistle?Did you feel responsible to stand up to a business? Would you be afraid of being retaliated in doing so in your country?
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        Jun 16 2013: Hi Jaden,
        I didn't know I was a "whistle blower" when I started the action. The business was on property adjoining my home in the village, and over the years, activities became intolerable with constant truck traffic, fuel emissions and dust from early in the morning to night, almost 7 days a week. I could not comfortably go outside in the gardens, and I kept all the doors and windows in my home closed most of the summer.

        I asked the owner if he could please compromise regarding hours of operation, so, I, and other people in the area could have a little peace and quiet some of the time. At that time, I assumed he had all appropriate permits. He told me if I didn't like what was going on, "get the hell out of town".

        I went to the town governing board with the issue, and they did nothing.....simply told me that the business was there.....deal with it. One of the business owners was chair of the local permitting board, so everyone else on the boards were protecting them.

        I called the district environmental board director and asked him to look into it, and at first he was hesitant, because this business did work for the state. He did look into it however, and discovered that they had no permits to operate, and were in violation of local, state and federal USEPA laws.

        There was always a question of retaliation, and it started with little things, then escalated to my home and property being damaged, and my life threatened. Yes I was afraid, and I asked the question many times.....do I want to let the issue go and feel more safe? Or do I want to do what is right for the environment no matter what the consequences might be? I continued to choose doing what I thought was best for our environment and our health.

        There are cases of retaliation in this country Jaden, and perhaps as more people are aware of these issues, that may be changing.

        My next step was to serve on the permitting boards. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.
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          Jun 16 2013: I found it is hard to make our voices heard while dealing with businesses as individuals.You just remind me that there is always a way to solve an environmental problem,same principle applies to our lives,put perseverance in,and being assertive.

          Here,people are not aware of the threats of such business,people would just ignore it if it doesn't concern themselves,frankly myself also.I think your case is the very paradigm of fighting for the environment,as the increasingly rampant pollution around the country. People,need to stand up now.

          ' If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem',I like this sentence,while I mulling it over,I found it just indicates the truth.If we want the problem solved,we must start moving ourselves.

          Thank you Miss Steen,this is the story,I received,you know that.
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        Jun 16 2013: Hello again Jaden, my wise young friend:>)

        Yes, it is difficult to make our voices heard when dealing with businesses, which generally have power and lots of money to take care of the "issues".

        You are absolutely correct...perseverance, assertiveness, courage and LOTS of patience. BECAUSE businesses have power and money, they can usually get people to back down, so it is indeed difficult to pursue.

        Yes Jaden....well said....if we want the problems solved, we must start moving ourselves. People sometimes have difficulty moving, because it is challenging, sometimes frightening, and it feels lonely without other people's participation. I thought I was the ONLY one.....alone.....until it was finished. Then people in the community said "good job Colleen".....I understand their fear and hesitancy to speak up.

        What might happen however, if more and more people are less afraid? What might happen in our world if more people were willing to stand up and let it be known that we will not tolerate abuse of our environment? There might be GREAT results!
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          Jun 17 2013: Hello Miss Steen,glad to continue,

          Business is just an example of superior power.I mean,in the real world we have laws,morals to guide us to play fairly,fair and square,but people who have stronger power are always tempted to suppress the weaker ones.When we have an advantage,it's challenging that we don't make use of it,though we are mistaken,like the business to get people to back down.What do you think of it?

          I think that's the direction we want the world to move on.If the people stick together,more willing to stand up,justice is more likely to be won. And we need more role models like you did in this issue,then will be more people be encouraged and rise up.
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        Jun 17 2013: Hi again Jaden:>)
        You are right.....we do indeed have laws and morals to guide us. Apparently, for some people, the allure of more and more power or money causes them to forget or ignore basic morals and laws.

        I would not say that all people with power always suppress weaker ones. It certainly happens often, and I also believe there are many people in our world who genuinely want to do the right thing, and they do.

        Making good use of power and money does not always mean suppressing others. It can also mean using power/strength/money to help elevate others. When the power and money over rides moral and ethical judgment, we have a problem.

        I agree with you Jaden.....if more people are willing to stick together working towards helping, encouraging and supporting a healthy global community, it could change our world.

        Thank you Jaden. That is the reason I share my stories. Sometimes, when we can see and feel that we are not alone, it helps us have more strength and courage to do what is right for the health of our environment, which sustains all of us:>)

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