Addicted to novelty since 2001

From Ali to Web of Change

Thanks to an invitation from Chris Breikss, I submitted a photo to a Flickr contest being run by imagine1day, a non-profit focused on child education in Ethiopia.

The contest asks participants to “submit a photo and 50 words or less that represent greatness for your chance to win”. Here’s the photo I offered:

Rebirth of a Nation

The photo is totally banal, but I love the story. Here are my 49 words:

This is Robben Island, a prison in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here for 18 years, and he worked in this lime quarry. During breaks, Mandela and fellow political prisoners sat in a cave, debating politics. Together, they created the soul of an Apartheid-free South Africa.

The prize is two tickets to the premiere of “Facing Ali”, a boxing documentary I wrote about earlier in the summer. It’d be neat to go, as I’m friends with the director Pete McCormack and his partner. If you want to help me out and have a Flickr account, drop by the photo and leave a comment. That’s the criteria for winning the contest.

In finding that photo, I stumbled upon of this scanned newspaper article that I wrote about back in 2005.

It’s probably the first time I was ever published, and it’s a sad little essay about being an environmental defeatist. Click to brobdingnangate (an awesome term I stole from Phil):

I am an Environmental Defeatist

Yes, yes, I did have robust hair back in the day.

Of course, I didn’t turn out to be an environmental defeatist. If I was, I probably wouldn’t work on campaigns like Save the Great Bear or TckTckTck. If I was an environmental defeatist, I wouldn’t be quite as psyched about this awesome two-minute video depicting Avaaz’s successful Global Wake Up Call from ten days ago:

Set Woo Woo to Awkward

We talked a lot about TckTckTck, activism and social change in the five days I recently spent on the far side of Cortes Island, at the Web of Change conference. It’s the second time I’ve been.

The first time I went was back in 2006, and I found the conference a bit vexing. As with this year, the people were awesome–smart, dedicated and incredibly welcoming. However, I felt pretty intimidated by the high woo woo factor and Hollyhock’s particular philosophical–one might say downright religious–bent.

I tried to go back this year with a more open mind and a higher tolerance for the woo woo. I once again found my fellow attendees–there were only 90, so I met nearly everyone–friendly, super-smart and all seemingly world-changers. The sessions were mostly good. Zak Exley’s talk entitled “Revolution in Jesusland” stands out as particularly excellent. He’s a labour-organizing progressive who moved to Kansas and ‘infiltrated’ the Christian Right because he married an evangelical Christian. He’s been blogging about the experience, and about a remarkable thing that he sees happening in Middle America:

There is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants–and even separation of church and state.

In terms of our work, I was kind of an outsider compared to many other attendees. They’re advocates, campaigners and change-makers for organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation or BC Health Coalition or Knowledge as Power. Me, I run a marketing company. They know a ton about advocacy, online and off. I have never actually made a protest sign.

Still, I learned a ton and will hopefully be back next year. As with my occasional work in the arts, I’ve always found it stimulating to step a little outside of my daily focus to gain insights and meet new people. I often find that, down the road, I draw fruitful connections across these domains which I would have never otherwise seen.

Now, if I can only convince Hollyhock to serve the occasional piece of chicken.

Here’s a blog post that Gibran wrote about his experience of the conference, and a bunch of excellent photos that Philip took.

8 Responses to “From Ali to Web of Change”

  1. phil

    Wow, all that hair!! :-) Personally, I think you’re more of an activist then you let on!

  2. Rumon

    Great photo/commentary, Darren (commented on Flickr under my non de lens, tag) – good luck with the contest.

  3. Derek K. Miller

    Funny, I think the first time I appeared in the newspaper was on a similar topic, but my basic point there (also a bit pessimistic) was against the term “saving the Earth.”

    The planet and the biosphere overall, I argued, will be fine — it’s survived worse calamities than humans (not least the poisoning of the atmosphere by oxygen when cyanobacteria started photosynthesizing 3 billion years ago). When we speak of environmental preservation, we’re trying to save ourselves.

  4. Mordecai

    We survived the woo-woo with our dignity intact, that’s what’s important. Excellent meeting you sir.

  5. NextGenWeb

    […] their blog posts both, Darren Barefoot and Sarah Schacht say that perhaps the most amazing thing to come out of WoC ‘09 are the […]

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