Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Everyone is Connected, Yet No One is in Control”: An Interview with One Young World Ambassador Erin Schrode

Erin Schrode photo credit @Oneyoungworld
This year, at the second annual One Young World (OYW) summit in Zurich, more than a thousand young activists will converge to discuss critical global challenges. Erin Schrode of Ross, California is one of those activists. The co-founder and spokeswoman of Teens Turning Green, a non-profit that promotes global sustainability and youth leadership, Erin has been called a “sustainable prodigy” and “the face of the new green generation.” At the age of 20, she is a blogger, columnist, public speaker, full time NYU student (she won a scholarship), and has already spearheaded numerous projects with the modest goal of changing the world.

Erin, who founded a project for Haitian students in need after working in earthquake disaster response, makes me and most of my 20-something friends look like fatigued and elderly large-bottoms. It would probably be annoying if she weren’t so damn inspiring. Recently, I was lucky enough to talk to her about what issues she’s taking with her to One Young World, whether she’s gotten any flack about her age, and what she thinks of the fact that her generation is labeled “apathetic.”

Here’s what Erin had to say.

Kathleen Hale (KH): Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Is there something in particular about your experience that shaped you as an agent for change?

Erin Schrode (ES): Well I was born into a world of green. When my mom was pregnant with me, she read a book called Diet for a Poisoned Planet.You name an eco product, practice, or guideline and it was a part of our life.

In essence, active citizenry is in my blood. My mom once went to a county meeting with a friend finishing chemo, and heard that cancer rates in our county had risen 60% in nine years, but that there was not enough funding to do any studies. In reaction, she organized a door-to-door march with 3,000 volunteers going to 60,000 households in one day to gather data for a scientific epidemiological mapping project. Our motto is: dream and do. No task, organization, industry, government body, or lobbying group is too big to take on. I cannot imagine my life any other way.

KH: Do you think people take your activism less seriously because of your age?

ES: I’ve said it before – to large crowds, rooms of politicians, media cameras, among others – and I will say it again: we are the future, so start paying attention. It is in your own best interests to become familiar with the habits, wants, and needs of the future voting block, consumer population, workforce, parents, industry leaders, politicians, clergy, and media personalities.

So yes, people have said to me, ‘go to school, get life experience, then come back and talk to us’—and I don’t profess to know it all, or even a small portion of much of anything, for that matter. But I can still take on issues I feel passionate about. I feel like, more so than at any time in history, we have the power to make ourselves heard; the digital revolution has not only made information instantly available at our fingertips, but has also enabled us to disseminate messages at the drop of a hat. Everyone is connected, yet no one is in control—and that is the decentralization aspect working to our advantage, empowering the masses of people.

KH: Wow. You are like way younger than me and way more articulate—I literally just got shivers.

ES: …Thank you.

KH: So, what’s the most condescending response you’ve gotten to your work?

ES: I am typically able to handle flippant comments about the superficiality of advocating for eco and socially responsible living. Some responses, however, have really gotten to me—particularly a selection of the hundreds upon hundreds of comments on a feature profile written about me last year, which ran as the cover story of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. In addition to chastising me about my looks, bubbly teenage demeanor, optimistic outlook, and family wealth (of which there is none; I live with my single mom in a rented home and have been on scholarship my entire life), I found these (direct quotes from written comments) to be particularly condescending:

Could you be a little more sanctimonious and self-aggrandizing, please?

Gag me with a compostable spoon.

Another trust fund hippie saving the world on mommy and daddy’s dime. Sorry Erin, I can’t hear your lectures over the sound of the 50,000 BTU motor that heats the pool in your mom’s $5M Ross mansion.

KH: Ugh, I think it’s really annoying that people call us an apathetic generation—and then, when people like you get up and take a stand, they jump all over you for your insolence and criticize your tactics. What do you think about the idea that our generation is apathetic?

ES: Well, my catchphrase is, “APATHY IS OUT!” I see hope in my generation’s love of new technology—if for no other reason than we like to make our voices heard. Presently, too many words represent too little action for too few. My generation is of the instant gratification age, liking things to happen in short snippets, and very quickly. 140-characters is the new sound bite – and we have learned to use that brevity for high impact results. We can hold individuals, companies, and governments accountable, and are beginning to do so more and more frequently, in our own way.

KH: At the first OYW summit last year, Bob Geldof told delegates that in order to institute change, they needed to become unreasonable people…Do you consider yourself to be unreasonable?

ES: Oh yes.  I would call myself quite unreasonable, in fact. You must be unreasonable in order to bring about necessary and veritable change. Living and breathing activism and humanitarianism day in and day out is not something that one can “turn on” or “turn off.”  It requires a commitment to go out on a limb, to imagine something better and share that vision with the world.

Our earth and its people are facing a great number of mammoth challenges today – and we need to shake it up in a big way, ushering in a new era of socially responsible and environmentally sustainable practices for individuals, corporations, and governments. If I’m seeking to electrify other people to join me in this cause, I have to first hook them with the dreams and visions, expose them to the pressing need for deep-rooted change. Why should we not dream dreams, as Desmond Tutu says? What have we to lose? Nothing, really. The way I see it is: let’s envision something better than we have, and make enough of a ruckus to bring it to life.

Originally published on The Huffington Post and One Young World Newsroom

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nanum Munhwa for Peace and Justices

Park Nohae in the middle with two students

Park Nohae a labor, poet, thinker, agent of peace and democracy and the citizen of South Korea founded Nanum Munhwa “cultural hearing” in 2000 after releasing from prison. Nanum Munhwa is a non-profit social organization, which mainly focused on Global Peace Activities and deal with crises like “emerging ecological disasters, increasing polarization, war, famine, diseases and the disappearance of the spirituality.”  
The missions of the organization are towards peace, foster democracy, save lives of people and planet and create a community of friendship and hospitality. Interestingly, the organization has been already passed 10 years with the contribution of 3400 members who are farmers, students, house wife, youth and activists. It does not accept any sponsorship from the government partnership, large multinational corporations or media publicity to maintain independence and self-determination because “we think this is our responsibility to separate between good and bad money” says the general secretary, Sohee Im.

Let me describe you little bit how Labor Park become a poet and an agent of peace and democracy. When Park Nohae, was imprisoned in 1976 by the authoritarian dictator in South Korea, he was a socialist and a labor. However, he was already a poet, thinker and agent of peace and democracy in 15 August 1988His first poem “faceless” was published when he was in the jail but immediately it was banned by the then dictator. But it did not stop him to write rather encourage him. Again in 1991, he was arrested by Korean CIA for 7 years and 6 months. In 1993 he published his 2nd poem, while he was still imprisoned. In 1997, He published the collection of the essay called “People are the only hope”.  Finally in 15 August 1998, he was freed by the democratic government. Then he decided to open an Organization, Nanum Munhwa.

Some of the projects carried out by Nanum Munhwa..
Photo @Organization Website
Park carried out several campaigns and movement for Korean and people around the world (please refer the jpeg photo the organization which describes clearly about the work). He also traveled several countries to support people for bringing peace in their respective countries. To say few, when the US invaded Iraq, Park wanted to go to Iraq and supports the Iranian. As a result, he managed to go to Iraq in 2003 to help children suffering from wars, hunger and diseases. He didn’t stop there rather it was just a start of his journey to support people all around the world.  After he came from Iraq, the organization started protesting against US Embassy in South Korea, “People used to say ‘Why do you stand for foreigner not local people’” says Sohee Im. She further added smiling; “finally they have understood us after 10 years”.

 In 2005, Aceh in Indonesia were suffering from severe poverty after the Tsunami, so Park started a movement to support goat for the victims so that the victims can survived. Similarly in the same year, the organization started one person demonstration in front of Samsung. “Many young Koreans are attractive to work in Samsung because of the salary and the benefits but many people die while operating. We want Samsung to apologize publicly for not even caring human body like a machine” states Sohee in a soft voice with gloomy face. As park believes that his feet compel him to go with a spirit and powerless love. “Once again I go where the spirit in my feet compels me to go. I shall go on a powerless love” a quote taken from the park which was shown in the slide presentation during our field trip.

In 2006, his feet compel him to go to Ain Al Halwa, the biggest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, where he got chance to meet with Children. He fell in love with the children and dream to open a school so he opened Zaituna (peace in Arabic) Nanum Munhw School. After opening school in Iraq, it was a time to support Korean democracy in 2008, thus the organization including other civil society organizations organized 100 days candle light with teenagers especially girls. Candle light was a symbolic image of democracy and social justices in South Korea. Girls wore the T-Shirt which says “We are the candle light girl” to support the peace movement for democracy. In the same year, he went to Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa to help people.  

In 2010, he went to Peru and Bolivia to support people. He also organized a photo exhibition “Like them I am here”, photos that were taken by him during his travel. Additionally, last year he published the third poem “So you don’t disappear”. Some couple of months, he went to Burma to support the people by building school in Burma. “We just want to support them by building school; we don’t want to control Burmese people. They should be educated by their local teachers, love by their local parents and study in their own land” replied by Sohee when one of my friends asked “why do you build school but not education?”

There are many activities that are conducted by the organizations but these are some of the few which interest me. To know more about the activities, please visit here: It was a fruitful and very inspiring visit to hear what one person can do to make differences in the world. Poet Park is one of many individual who is working harder to make the world a better place to live, where most of us take for granted. I remembered a famous quote from John F. Kennedy where he says “One person can make a difference, and every person should try.” When we try to help people, if we face any challenges we try to run away from the problem and/or start another work by leaving the existing work in the middle. I hope park life story will help all of us to be prepared and face challenges. Last but not the least thanks to my Korean friend Ran for arranging this wonderful trip couple of days back.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

One Young World Co-founder Kate RobertsonTalking About My Work

After the One Young World Conference in February 2010, I was selected as a Impact Ambassador for Media Impact. Being an impact ambassador, I was asked to write a resolution for media impact and a call for action. This is what I have written after attending several meetings and conference call via Skype with One Young World board members, five other impact ambassadors, few selected ambassadors and One Young World staffs.

 "In the belief that all people must have access to full and free information to foster democracy and hold governments, corporations, and individuals accountable, we demand that governments publish media policies and cease censorship, particularly of international media and social networking sites that make knowledge accessible and affordable to all citizens.

We call upon One Young World Delegates to go to governments and request that they explain their media policies and publish and publicise their government's response using social media."

The call for the action will be voted in One Young World conference which is going to held in zurich Switzerland from 1-3 September. However, still I am in search of 1050 euro for sponsorship. Every individual can support any amount (minimum 10 Euro) directly here at my profile Profile and Sponsorship for Sunita Basnet . I would be happy to discuss what I can do for you in return. The below is what the co-founder has said about my work.