I went to Ecuador last March with G Adventures – they supported my trip with a ticket for me to see what they are doing in terms of protecting local micro-environments in the Galapagos. They also have started a program to place tourists to the area with local families, to infuse the tourist dollar back into the local communities.
This area is an incredibly sensitive and special area — of course, where Darwin’s observation of natural selection in finches that had been isolated by the islands, led to his insights about evolution.
Apart from the incredible beauty and magic of the area, I was really impressed with how the company, which is an ethical travel company whose mission is to empower local guides as “CEO’s” or “chief experience officers” — watched their ecological footprint; hired charming and idealistic Ecuadorans who were incredibly well-versed in their own culture and environment, and really empowered them to make the best decisions on the local level for the travelers and their own communities; and how they even supported the volunteer work of their guides in the towns in question.
Our young guide in Quito, for instance, was working with low-income kids in the capital city, which has a lot of poverty as well as a lot of beauty and historical richness; we ran into her at a tourist destination – the ‘center of the world’, a site that explains the science of the Equator — showing experiments about gravity and the earths’ orbit, etc, to her group of elementary school children. She works with them on her own grassroots literacy project, that gives them a hot lunch as well as tutoring and these kinds of educational field trips. G Adventures’ nonprofit arm, Planeterra, supported her in her project — it was very special to see her there with them, all of them learning intently. It adds another dimension to ‘spring break’ to help contribute even in a small way to something so necessary locally, and not just look at the culture and ‘consume’ it.
Also kind of amazing in this cookie-cutter world of corporate travel experiences is how they tailor what you do to what the local guides, or CEO’s, think is what is valuable about their own culture — rather than having to do what a corporate office far away in another culture altogether says is valuable; and you as travellers get input too, so you are on what often feels like a real adventure instead of what too often feels like a canned or theatrical experience with other tours and global travel companies. So for instance we were taken to an indigenous market in the Andes where we saw local Andean indigenous people buy and sell livestock — as well as selling crafts, food and so on in a setting that was very far from corporatized; we were taken to explore alleyways and small neighborhoods in Quito that were far from the usual tourist spots, to experience really unique local cuisine and music; and we got to explore condor reserves, leather works, cathedrals, local parks — and to witness (inadvertently) a massive demonstration against mining in the rainforest, that spontaneously brought thousands of Indian people to Quito!
It was incredibly refreshing to explore this remarkable country (and G Adventures goes all over the world) with local students, poets, environmentalists and activists — who also worked as guides and who thought creatively about what our group loved and what was a unique fit for us with all the things Ecuador has to offer. If we could have stayed longer, we would have taken bike tours into a cloud forest….hiked a volcano — and other delicious local experiences to add to what was already unforgettable.
G Adventures also funds such projects as a blindness treatment program and — including my favorite — a leadership conference for women and their local CEOs, from all over the world, that was held recently in California (They also host a conference for women at all levels in all offices (including CEOs) around the world.) Many of the women who came to the event had never been outside their country. You really feel the difference this kind of altruistic travel experience provides — in terms of feeling that your travel dollar is not grinding down the local communities but helping them with their own autonomy and well-being, cultural as well as environmental.
Do check them out if you are booking travel — that industry has such an impact for better or worse on communities and ecosystems around the world. I would like them to become a model for other companies through their success, so that corporate travel industries in general will have to compete for the ‘ethics dollar’ by investing in local communities and protecting local ecosystems.
I found that the ‘ethical travel’ difference really makes a difference to an excursion or vacation…and to the quality of one’s memories about it.
A new production by Keren Levi / NeverLike, 2012
“The Dry Piece is a pseudo-spectacle for five female dancers and their virtual doubles.
The work of Busby Berkeley, the legendary American director of 1930′s musicals and “The Beauty Myth”, a study written by the neo-feminst writer Naomi Wolf’s about how images of beauty are used against women as a currency of control, are the the starting point for the creation of this performance.
Exposing the space separating inspiration and manipulation, The Dry Piece will shuffle elements of showbiz with principles of research performance, inverting the spectacle inside-out.”
Tour dates: http://www.kerenlevi.com
Thank you for sharing this Keren!]]>
Still can’t forget Dawn Porter’s haunting movie about the messed up criminal justice system and how it monetizes the misery of the poor and often minority kids and their families who get trapped in it… in Georgia, there is no sentencing flexibility for judges for the most part, mandatory sentences mean that one stupid teenage mistake gets kids ten year or longer sentences in prisons where they are sure to be anally raped time after time…there are industries that profit from the system and keep people from escaping…the families get charged THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH for the kid’s ankle bracelet if he has house arrest…these are people who can scarcely pay their existing bills. The bail for shoplifting is FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS so because they can’t pay this people accused but not tried sit in jail for EIGHT MONTHS awaiting trial and plead guilty whether they did it or not just to serve the time and get it over with…since they lose families, homes and jobs while they are waiting for trial…and you give UP YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS in many ways when you plead guilty! You lose the right to the fourth amendment, you can be searched at any time..the right to vote — and you CAN’T GET STUDENT LOANS. If there were ever a clearer picture of how the system CREATES an endless supply of felons or ‘felons’ for profit motives..what is more likely to keep someone in a life of crime than forbidding them from every taking out a student loan once they have served their time? And why do you lose your right to vote…because you pled guilty to a crime? How is that related?
And this will kill you: PROSECUTORS GET PAID MORE THAN PUBLIC DEFENDERS. How can anything be more likely to skew an outcome and guarantee endless convictions? Not only are public defenders underpaid, they serve 150-180 clients AT A TIME. An important non-profit, Gideon’s Promise, has arisen to boost the morale of these brave often young men and women who devote their lives to the rule of law and to the principle that everyone deserve the best possible defense in our system.
Scary conversation at a bar with some of Dawn’s colleagues the first night we were in Sundance — they confirmed that when they talk to law students now, they are often asked, ‘How can you defend people like that?’ The notion that everyone, even ‘the worst of the worst”, deserves a fair trial, is not even solidly held anymore in America by LAW STUDENTS. I think the Guantanamo years have clearly taken this toll.
One beautiful line in the film, from a public defender, about why he does what he does, is something like, ‘Human liberty is precious and it should be difficult to take it away.”
Public defenders in Dawn’s film have about three hundred dollars left after student loans and rent and can barely take care of their kids. A major state by state reform that is obvious from this is to raise the pay of public defenders.
I felt how rigged the system was, as a mother of a white middle-class teenager. Dawn noted that some of these low-income teens are sent away for years from just being in a car with someone who had pot. I am certain that the affluent white teens in our social circle, children of my friends, would NOT get sent away for a decade if they were caught in someone’s Prius with some joints. White educated kids always always always get second, third, and fourth chances after doing something stupid or even after breaking some kinds of laws.
Dawn Porter is a young woman of great talent and humanity, an African American lawyer, whose first film this is. She has brought an amazingly important issue to life and they will be traveling the country showing the film to citizens’ groups and others…please don’t miss it.
I will ask her to share her secrets on this thread if she has time — how she gets kids in underfunded schools to be so proactive with philosophical ideas and other educational breakthrough she has pioneered … I hope she will post her wonderful Isaiah Berlin debate as well!]]>
Naomi Wolf: Interview with Jude Kelly and audience Q&A
Naomi spoke to Jude Kelly about the journey she has been on as an academic, a public figure, and a writer who became the voice of a generation when she published ‘The Beauty Myth’ in 1991.
She then answered questions from the Royal Festival Hall audience.
This session was part of the Women Of The World Festival at the Southbank Centre, 6-10 March 2013 in London.]]>
Above is the amazing panel discussion yesterday at the Women of the World Festival at the South Bank Center in London — where Peter Piercy, who identifies as ‘genderqueer’ — meaning, no specific or any chosen variant of understood gender categories — and Paris Lees, who is a male-to-female transgendered person, and the magical Jane Czyzselska of Diva, the UK’s biggest and best lesbian and bisexual magazine, and I all talked about genderqueer identity, the politics of physical self-presentation, the imaginary nature of rigid gender and sexuality norms, and the many good ways to disrupt gender and sexuality expectations.
Fascinating to hear Peter and Campbell X talk about their self-presentation choices, which mix elements of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as they defined them, and about how their status falls and rises in one conversation depending on whether the person they are talking to thinks that they are talking to a man or a woman — and white man or white woman, black man or black woman. The white genderqueer activist, Peter, said her status goes up as a white man and down as a white woman, and the black genderqueer activist, Campbell X, reported the reverse — and also that when people perceive this activist as a black man, there is sometimes a perception of physical threat.
I also got some amazing information from Paris, the transgendered activist; another transgendered audience member (male to female) the evening before had asked me for information on the male-to female post surgical vagina. I had to report that there was very little data. But fascinatingly too, Paris said that post-op and post-estrogen treatments, her sexual response is very different — she is less interested in porn and able to be more critical of it, and also she feels her sexual response more all over her body and less in one organ! She thinks that the shift from her brain being driven by testosterone to estrogen has also made her calmer.
How incredible an open conversation about ‘forbidden’ topics can be in an environment like the one Jane created, in which we are not afraid to look at science, hear firsthand accounts, and be willing to challenge our own cherished assumptions — to learn new things about ourselves and one another. Science, history and this kind of firsthand testimony keeps confirming that the gender and sexual ‘norm’ is variation and that there are no transcendental norms. ‘
This session was part of the Women Of The World Festival at the Southbank Centre, 6-10 March 2013 in London.
“Naomi Wolf’s latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, uses research by Concordia psychology professor Jim Pfaus to tackle the complex subject of female sexuality. On February 7, 2013, Wolf and Pfaus shared their fascinating research relationship with a live audience at Concordia University. The event was part of the Concordia – Globe and Mail national conversation series on aging well.”
More about Concordia University and the Globe and Mail’s national conversation series on Aging Well.]]>