Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  45 minutes
Date:  2021
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 5 - 12, College, Adults
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
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Connectivity Project

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Examines the ripple effects of our actions in an interconnected world.

Connectivity Project

By exploring the ripple effects of our actions in an interconnected world, the CONNECTIVITY PROJECT series highlights how science and different cultures and traditions from around the world embrace the importance of interconnectedness. As we follow inspiring individuals who are making a difference in the lives around them, we see these connections exhibited all around us.

The three episodes in this series are:

INTERCONNECTIONS - Examines how different cultures and faiths from around the world have a common, time-honored awareness of an interconnected way of being. By raising understanding and awareness about these connections, we explore why this perspective is more important now more than ever before, as we realize that our actions and ways of being impact much more than we can even measure.

PLANTS HAVE WINGS - We look into the amazing realm of plants and their pollinators and, as all things are connected, discover that we are each an integral part of the pollination process. As we follow the story of an inspired bicyclist who is a champion supporting threatened Monarch butterflies, we learn how we are all a distinct part of the web of life. Not only are we deeply reliant on pollinators, they too are reliant on us.

SPEAKING OUT! - Activism is combined with interconnectedness as an indigenous high school student is inspired by the actions of Lois Gibbs (grass roots activist organizer from Love Canal in the 1970s). We follow Clarissa's journey to speak out and advocate for the right to clean air, for her family, school, and community in North Portland, OR.

No classroom resources available.

[00:00:00.33] [mid tempo music]
[00:00:03.58] - [Narrator] How many times have you wondered, does my one life make a difference in the world?
[00:00:09.49] Do I have the potential to accomplish great things?
[00:00:14.29] Come with us on this journey, exploring interconnections through science and across cultures and time, noticing how your life impacts people, places and events around the world, whether or not you're there to see the results.
[00:00:33.29] Nothing exists in isolation.
[00:00:37.53] Your smallest act can have a ripple effect far beyond which you can imagine.
[00:00:44.61] We are a part of something much greater than ourselves.
[00:00:50.67] Welcome to the Connectivity Project.
[00:00:55.44] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:01:01.78] - We are all far more profoundly connected than anyone can possibly imagine.
[00:01:10.44] - We recognize that the land and the people are one and interconnected.
[00:01:18.65] - [Narrator] A butterfly beats its wings in Brazil.
[00:01:21.60] Weeks later, a tornado forms in Texas.
[00:01:25.16] Can these two events possibly be connected?
[00:01:29.10] You've probably heard of "the butterfly effect." Mathematicians call this "chaos theory." - So one of the characteristics of chaos theory is this idea that small changes for an initial condition can have big ripple effects later.
[00:01:47.07] - [Narrator] What are the implications for a world where small actions can cause large ripple effects that we cannot even trace?
[00:01:56.12] What are the implications for our place in this world?
[00:02:00.17] How can this inform the choices we make?
[00:02:03.90] - How many times have your choices right now been affected by just a simple statement somebody gave you?
[00:02:08.97] From a parent, a favorite instructor or from a friend?
[00:02:12.23] And that's the whole point of chaos theory is that you never know which is the initial event that will have the biggest effect.
[00:02:21.10] And so that means every opportunity we have, we don't know how precious that is.
[00:02:25.78] We don't know how important that will be later.
[00:02:29.33] - [Narrator] Because of the illuminating implications of chaos theory, scientists are re-examining their work in an interconnected way.
[00:02:39.26] The concept of the "food chain" learned by earlier generations has been replaced with the "food web." It is no longer just about who eats whom, but who is reliant on whom-- or what.
[00:02:57.66] - Ecosystems are understood as networks of organisms that feed on one another.
[00:03:03.70] And so describing life in terms of networks is part of a much larger change of worldview that is now happening generally in science and in society.
[00:03:17.07] I heard again and again, "Well, you may not know it, "but there is a conceptual revolution happening in..." And then you can fill in forestry, neurosurgery, anthropology, whatever field.
[00:03:34.89] So in order to understand networks, we need to understand patterns and we need to understand relationships.
[00:03:43.81] And that's what systems thinking is all about.
[00:03:48.80] - [Narrator] Although science and modern society have only recently begun using this way of viewing the world, it has been recognized and celebrated by diverse cultures and faiths around the world and throughout time.
[00:04:03.96] [female voice singing]
[00:04:37.03] - Connectedness from my worldview, and the worldview I believe of most indigenous wisdom keepers, elders, spiritual leaders is a deep knowing from inside and a deep sense of being profoundly connected to all that is-- everything in creation.
[00:05:00.22] There is no separation.
[00:05:01.67] All separation is totally illusion.
[00:05:04.73] And most indigenous leaders and spiritual leaders understand this.
[00:05:09.29] - "Aloha" is not just the catchy word that the tourist industry has sort of attempted to expropriate.
[00:05:20.49] It's a way of being.
[00:05:22.72] It is a state of being.
[00:05:25.22] Aloha defines not only our relationship to the heavens, but our relationship to each other.
[00:05:33.21] Aloha is love, but to engage aloha fully, it needs to move.
[00:05:39.66] It needs to flow from one person to another.
[00:05:42.98] [speaking in Spanish]
[00:06:08.33] [gentle instrumental music]
[00:06:10.56] - [Narrator] China, 1958.
[00:06:13.99] Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China, launched a campaign to rid the country of four pests.
[00:06:20.87] Sparrows were included on the list because they eat grain seeds.
[00:06:25.30] Across the country, people banged pots and shook trees, forcing the birds to fly until they died of exhaustion.
[00:06:33.03] But grain yields did not increase.
[00:06:36.44] Though adult sparrows eat grain, juvenile sparrows eat insects.
[00:06:40.64] Insect populations boomed.
[00:06:43.18] Locusts in particular swarmed over the country, devouring the crops.
[00:06:48.19] In the resulting famine, 35 million people died of starvation.
[00:06:53.28] Eventually China imported sparrows from Europe, in an effort to restore balance to the ecosystem.
[00:07:00.89] - There's a couple of modern belief systems that I think have led us astray.
[00:07:09.79] One is that man is superior to all other life, and that separates us from this tree, from the ocean, from the animals that live there.
[00:07:24.99] - And it's this disconnection that is destroying Mother Earth.
[00:07:29.38] Pushing all of Mother Earth's life support systems over the edge, creating the violence where we're doing incredibly horrific things to each other as human beings, all because we are profoundly separated inside first.
[00:07:44.36] Nothing is created outside until it's created inside first.
[00:07:47.61] So I'm trashing on the outside because I'm trashing the environment on the inside.
[00:07:51.62] And I'm critical of you because I'm critical of me.
[00:07:53.72] I'm separated outside because I'm separated inside.
[00:07:59.52] - [Narrator] For many people in many parts of the world, traditional values of connection have been usurped by values of over-consumption and unlimited economic growth.
[00:08:10.76] Too often, competition and greed rule the day.
[00:08:17.51] - Where I grew up, you don't talk to strangers.
[00:08:21.10] It's not polite to talk to strangers.
[00:08:24.55] Don't make eye contact.
[00:08:25.97] Don't waste your time talking to each other because it's not safe.
[00:08:29.79] And no one actually tells you that, but that's being modeled.
[00:08:33.25] Disconnection is being modeled.
[00:08:36.14] - We have a greeting amongst our people.
[00:08:38.22] We say, "Aang waan," we greet each other like that all the time.
[00:08:41.13] It means, "Hello, my other self." And that's a regular, normal daily greeting that we have.
[00:08:48.09] I actually see you as my other self.
[00:08:52.60] We are exactly made up of the same consciousness, the same essence, the same life force as each other.
[00:09:03.80] - A Bushman was explaining to a friend of mine that when he sees a little bird for the first time and he recognizes it as an individual-- So he recognizes it.
[00:09:15.07] He's not recognizing that it's a song sparrow.
[00:09:17.94] He's saying that's that song sparrow.
[00:09:20.45] And when he recognizes it, in the eye contact there's a moment of mutual recognition, almost a greeting, and it's informal.
[00:09:28.09] But he says, "In that moment, "a little thread will form between me and that bird.
[00:09:31.88] "And if tomorrow I come out again "and it's the morning again "and I see that same little bird in that same area, "that thread will thicken.
[00:09:40.79] "And as I move through my life "and that bird moves through its life, "I eventually discover that it's a male "and that it has a mate, and this is its mate.
[00:09:48.80] "And they have a nest in that bush, "which is why I see it in the bush.
[00:09:52.02] "And it gets upset when the mongoose comes "and it says these things, "the same way I get upset when the lion comes by our family.
[00:09:59.17] "So I begin to see that we share common things "and the thread becomes a string, "and over time becomes a chord, becomes a rope." And then the Bushman says, "This is what it means to be a Bushman.
[00:10:10.10] "We make ropes with everything in nature-- "the stars, the sun, the moon, the winds, the weather, "the soil, the ground, the insects, the animals, the plants." [speaking in Spanish]
[00:11:00.48] - We have laws in Hawaii-- the Aloha Spirit law, that actually is on the books and actually says that all decision-makers and judges and people can invoke Aloha in making any kind of judgment or decision.
[00:11:22.51] - We really have to think about how to foster connectivity.
[00:11:26.18] How do we build the muscles, so to speak, to allow that river to get stronger and stronger and stronger?
[00:11:33.09] We're designed to be connected.
[00:11:35.37] And when our body-mind-soul-spirit complex, our being-ness, tastes real connection again in a safe way, we rush to it, and it fills out something in us that we were longing for, we didn't even know where were longing for it.
[00:11:54.73] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:12:04.90] [speaking in Spanish]
[00:12:20.09] - In this web of life, everything is connected to everything else-- directly and indirectly.
[00:12:28.35] If we looked at the world in a systemic way, this would help us to solve the major problems of our time.
[00:12:38.08] - [Narrator] The presence of interconnectivity inhabits every corner of our lives.
[00:12:43.24] From the air we breathe that comes to us from the trees to a death that sparks a global grassroots movement for racial justice, to a pandemic that becomes more than a health crisis.
[00:12:57.37] We can see that each of us is connected to places and people far beyond our own backyards.
[00:13:05.70] - When we see ourselves as being parts of a larger whole, that gets us to the point of feeling empowered, but it also gives us a sense of responsibility.
[00:13:15.60] Everything we do does have a ripple effect to the larger system.
[00:13:19.86] Each of our choices is an economic choice, but it's also a social choice, a political choice, an ecological choice.
[00:13:26.99] - [Kealoha] We have choices every day to decide to be in conflict or to be in harmony.
[00:13:36.21] To feel the oneness or to feel the separation.
[00:13:42.55] - [Narrator] Every decision is an opportunity to affect our shared world.
[00:13:47.24] The choice is up to each and every one of us.
[00:13:51.87] Keeping these interconnections in mind, what will you do with your opportunities?
[00:14:03.98] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:14:23.00] - [Cyclist 1] They're supposed to be right next to the fence, right?
[00:14:26.17] - [Cyclist 2] Then they don't get mowed?
[00:14:27.46] - There you go butterflies, live!
[00:14:30.46] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:14:38.29] - When I moved to Iowa, I sort of discovered the prairie.
[00:14:45.14] I was asking myself, "What do people do in Iowa?" I wanted to see that landscape that I found so intriguing.
[00:14:53.28] And enter RAGBRAI, which is a bike ride across the entire state.
[00:15:01.01] 20,000 people from all over the world descend on Iowa and ride their bike in this mass migration across the state.
[00:15:08.70] So I signed up.
[00:15:11.67] My roommate and best friend, we were riding together and just sort of were brainstorming what can we do while we're riding?
[00:15:19.12] Nature matters to us.
[00:15:20.31] This landscape matters to us.
[00:15:23.01] I've sort of always been into Monarch butterflies.
[00:15:26.26] Maybe we can plant things for the Monarchs as we ride.
[00:15:30.83] - [Narrator] Pollination is a dance between the plant and animal kingdoms, and provides a view into the world of interconnectivity.
[00:15:38.21] - There is this relationship that we have with bees where they don't really know us.
[00:15:42.84] And outside of honey bees, we don't really know them, but yet we benefit from each other.
[00:15:49.41] - I mean, fundamentally pollination is plant sex.
[00:15:52.89] I mean, it's the way that a plant reproduces.
[00:15:56.27] - [Narrator] Because plants can't move, some need help from butterflies, bees, birds and other creatures to help them reproduce.
[00:16:05.18] As these pollinators search for food, they unwittingly help in the reproductive process by carrying pollen from flower to flower.
[00:16:13.54] - More than 85% of plant species need an animal pollinator, usually an insect, in order to move pollen around in order to successfully reproduce.
[00:16:24.12] - The systems view of life involves many key concepts, and one of them is interconnectedness.
[00:16:31.48] No individual organism can be sustainable.
[00:16:35.37] No individual organism actually can be alive, because we all need this whole network of relationships with other organisms to stay alive.
[00:16:49.47] - Heyah! Heyah! Come on, come on!
[00:16:53.93] I'm just a small farmer.
[00:16:55.86] I mean, we grow food.
[00:16:57.16] We grow most of what we eat.
[00:16:59.30] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:17:03.45] [Jacqueline giggling]
[00:17:04.28] - [Man] Oh my gosh, that was brilliant.
[00:17:05.98] - That's great, what a surprise [chuckles]!
[00:17:13.63] People don't realize how critically important the bees are.
[00:17:19.12] Every time you go to the store and you're buying fruits and vegetables, there's a pretty good chance that a bee had something to do with that.
[00:17:27.99] If I want a tomato, I have to have bees.
[00:17:31.61] If we didn't have a sliced tomato on your sandwich, that's one thing, but what about no pizza?
[00:17:36.88] If you didn't have apples, then apple juice is gone.
[00:17:41.76] And apple juice is a sweetener in a lot of things, too.
[00:17:44.53] No more apple pie.
[00:17:47.07] Even though you don't think of bees in beef or chicken, the feeds that we give our animals are actually pollinated by bees.
[00:17:55.22] - [Kelly] One out of three bites that you take required a pollinator.
[00:18:00.75] - If we didn't have the bees, you wouldn't have that food anymore.
[00:18:05.28] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:18:09.29] - Unless you're looking, you won't see it.
[00:18:12.19] Unless you understand the story, you won't appreciate it.
[00:18:16.06] Different shapes, sizes, colors of flowers-- not to mention their different fragrances-- all play a role in attracting different pollinators.
[00:18:28.83] - [Narrator] One of the main strategies a flower uses to attract the desired pollinator is color.
[00:18:35.27] This is why we find such a wide assortment of hues in the plant world.
[00:18:40.16] These shapes have co-evolved with the pollinators, playing an important role in the communication between these species.
[00:18:48.22] The umbrella shape flower offers a landing pad for a bee to rest and feed efficiently.
[00:18:54.29] Wide-open flowers like this poppy invite easy access for a quick visit.
[00:18:59.70] - Some of the big, complex flowers like on a lupine with its keel and its banner, and it's really sort of big flower, and it takes, like, a strong bee to get in there.
[00:19:10.77] If you think about different flowers that are a little bit deeper, you've got to work harder to kind of get in there, so you typically need bees or butterflies that have longer tongues.
[00:19:19.13] So you've got a whole different suite of pollinators and insects that might visit them.
[00:19:25.29] - [Narrator] In some cases, flowers have markings that can act like an airplane runway.
[00:19:31.13] Best of all, some pollinators see ultraviolet colors, guiding the bee to exactly where the flower desires.
[00:19:41.00] There's a whole array of things we can learn about the fascinating ways plants communicate to the animal world.
[00:19:50.52] - The bees are like the wings of the plants, they're what enables each plant to communicate to the next plant.
[00:19:57.34] You can take this whole field of sunflowers, and all of a sudden the plants can talk to each other by virtue of the bees visiting them and doing their pollination.
[00:20:05.57] I love that.
[00:20:06.85] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:20:09.38] - Monarchs represent to me this intergenerational connections.
[00:20:14.77] The reason for that is the Monarch migration-- they overwinter in Mexico, something triggers them, so four or five generations of Monarchs make the journey north, all the way to Toronto, Canada.
[00:20:29.00] - [Narrator] On their journey north, they will stop along the way to lay eggs on milkweed plants, which will eventually become caterpillars and then turn into butterflies.
[00:20:39.37] This will happen four to five times until they reach their destination.
[00:20:43.67] On their way south, however, one generation will make the same 2000 mile journey.
[00:20:50.58] - And they end up in that same spot that their great, great, great, great grandparents were the previous winter.
[00:20:57.91] The Midwest is really central to their migration.
[00:21:01.15] - [Matt] Milkweed is actually the only food source for something like the Monarch butterfly.
[00:21:05.48] - Milkweed used to be widespread in the landscape and isn't anymore.
[00:21:11.67] - [Narrator] In the past two decades, Monarch butterfly populations have declined by almost 80%.
[00:21:17.27] - If Monarchs continue to decline, that means that many other pollinators are also suffering.
[00:21:22.60] Many other species of pollinators are even more endangered than Monarchs.
[00:21:28.08] - [Matt] You've probably heard a lot about colony collapse disorder.
[00:21:30.14] That is a decline in the honey bee populations.
[00:21:34.66] - [Narrator] In the last two decades, hundreds of millions of honey bees have been lost to colony collapse disorder.
[00:21:41.85] - When looking at pollinator declines in general, the same issues apply in terms of the different drivers, whether that's habitat loss, exposure to pesticides-- mostly insecticides-- diseases brought into that population, or even climate change and the effects of more severe and more frequent droughts.
[00:22:02.64] - [Narrator] The pervasive use of neonicotinoid chemicals in both large scale agriculture as well as home use is linked to pollination decline.
[00:22:11.77] There's a dangerous ripple effect to these practices.
[00:22:15.81] - When you go out and you put products on your lawn to make it more lush, the bees bring that stuff home ad it stays in the wax long after the lifetime of those first few generations of bees.
[00:22:27.17] Those chemicals are still in there.
[00:22:28.89] It's like having bed sheets treated with toxic chemicals and you sleep in them every single night.
[00:22:37.05] - 88% of Iowa was covered in tallgrass prairie when European settlers arrived.
[00:22:42.01] Now it's less than one tenth of 1% of the state.
[00:22:46.38] - [Mace] Today it's really about, how do we create this habitat that's out there?
[00:22:50.54] How do we protect that habitat?
[00:22:51.75] And how do we help turn around the declines that we're seeing in pollinators across the country?
[00:22:57.87] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:23:03.13] - Part of the reason I got the farm was to take a certain portion of the farm back to nature.
[00:23:09.87] - [Narrator] Pollinators thrive on diversity.
[00:23:12.67] There are many different kinds of pollinators and they need different types of plants to thrive.
[00:23:17.96] Too often in large scale agriculture, a monoculture is created with acres and acres of just one type of plant, basically creating a food desert.
[00:23:27.47] These are often treated with pesticides to make up for their lack of diversity.
[00:23:32.97] But some farmers are looking to better models to support a healthy ecosystem.
[00:23:37.94] - As part of any cropping operation, you wanna protect the soil quality, and buffers around crop fields are part of that process.
[00:23:45.91] Traditionally those buffers have just been brome grass, and they did a fine job on soil quality but it didn't provide native habitat.
[00:23:53.45] - [Matt] Removing small amounts of the farmland from production and putting in tallgrass prairie becomes a model for large scale agriculture.
[00:24:03.47] - We're literally right here next to the edge of the soybean field.
[00:24:06.50] So right here, we have milkweed coming in.
[00:24:08.70] We've got some coneflower back here.
[00:24:10.79] Other native flowers.
[00:24:12.77] We've got some goldenrod.
[00:24:14.03] - [Matt] The biggest audience for this are other farmers.
[00:24:15.91] They don't wanna kill bees.
[00:24:17.47] They see themselves as stewards of the land.
[00:24:22.12] - When riders first come up to the RAGBRAI booth, they say, "What's this?
[00:24:26.39] "What are you doing?
[00:24:27.23] "What are you giving out?
[00:24:28.62] "Are you selling something?
[00:24:30.60] "Is this a truffle?
[00:24:31.92] "Can I eat it?" There are all these questions, and we simply tell them what we're doing.
[00:24:38.09] So, using seed balls, just as you ride lob it from your bike and the following spring, they'll germinate.
[00:24:45.52] We've got all this loss of habitat because of agricultural practices.
[00:24:50.76] So the question then is, where else can this plant exist?
[00:24:55.77] What are the other available spaces?
[00:24:58.50] And in Iowa for example, there are 115,000 miles of roadside.
[00:25:03.46] That's so much potential habitat.
[00:25:06.24] We see many of those riders come back the next day and they are full of stories.
[00:25:14.15] Maybe full of frustration, because they couldn't find a roadside that wasn't sprayed or mowed.
[00:25:21.93] There was no place that they could throw their seed ball.
[00:25:25.35] And we start to think, "Well, why can't I find a good spot for this seed ball?" And so that's a great teachable moment.
[00:25:35.99] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:25:41.29] - I spend a lot of time thinking about the interrelationships of all the things on this farm.
[00:25:48.72] I ask myself all the time, "This decision that I make, "this small act that I do, "how does that impact nature?" - It's very easy to go to the grocery store and pick up any meal and never even think about the farmer who planted the plant which brought the pollinator.
[00:26:05.80] - [Narrator] The magic of pollination has been a crucial part of the web of life on our planet for millions of years.
[00:26:12.57] Now more than ever before, we are an integral part of the pollination process.
[00:26:18.95] This has not always been true.
[00:26:21.40] Our daily choices have a significant role in the future success or decline of this essential, precious and delicate process of life.
[00:26:33.92] - The systems view of life is a change from seeing the world as a machine to seeing it as a living network.
[00:26:41.82] We have realized that the material world is a pattern of interdependent relationships.
[00:26:53.63] - We as a people, and as an Earth, need all of these parts.
[00:26:59.58] Every little piece of the Earth needs to be there for it to exist.
[00:27:04.93] And so my role in that system is to not do harm.
[00:27:11.30] What are my little day-to-day decisions that are gonna help that?
[00:27:15.62] - Plant native wild flowers, or native shrubs and trees, that can be beneficial to pollinators.
[00:27:22.22] - [Jacqueline] Plant flowers around that bees like to visit, especially flowering herbs.
[00:27:26.60] - [Matt] Really question your insecticide use around your house.
[00:27:29.99] - [Jacqueline] Buy organic, because it takes the chemicals out of the system.
[00:27:33.85] - [Matt] Vote with your dollars.
[00:27:35.16] Supporting efforts banning the use of those neonicotinoids.
[00:27:40.97] I feel like I could come up with an example from almost every state in the country of something that somebody is doing at a significant scale for pollinators.
[00:27:51.19] And for me, that's incredibly exciting.
[00:27:54.40] - [Kelly] The other whole area of impact is with the people.
[00:27:57.92] Rolling seed balls at these events, whether they're riding their bikes and tossing it into the roadsides.
[00:28:02.56] The wife of the farmer, it's her job to mow, and now she's thinking twice about that little strip along the road.
[00:28:11.42] - These are all things that anybody can do, and you can kind of pick which one you wanna engage in.
[00:28:16.90] - We have to make decisions that really make a difference so that everything we do allows nature to thrive and grow.
[00:28:24.67] And then we will too.
[00:28:45.80] [midtempo instrumental music]
[00:29:01.96] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:29:05.70] - We're so busy and there are so many problems in the world, it's overwhelming.
[00:29:10.13] You pick up the newspaper and look at all these things that are going on.
[00:29:14.40] Where do you start?
[00:29:17.57] - [Narrator] Sometimes we wonder, do our choices matter?
[00:29:21.43] Does what we do make a difference and have a ripple effect in the world?
[00:29:26.05] Meet Lois Gibbs, a quiet housewife from New York.
[00:29:30.48] In 1978, her family began experiencing grave health problems.
[00:29:35.55] She was compelled to speak out.
[00:29:38.05] - I got involved in advocacy because I had to survive and I had to save my children.
[00:29:43.46] This is not something I chose to do.
[00:29:46.25] My son was in an elementary school on top of a toxic waste site.
[00:29:50.52] - [Narrator] From 1947 to 1952, the Hooker Chemical Company used the Love Canal section of Niagara Falls as a dumping site for toxic waste.
[00:30:00.71] In the decades that followed, the residents of Love Canal experienced dire health consequences, such as leukemia and birth defects.
[00:30:09.94] With such well-known problems the houses were unsalable, and the families were trapped.
[00:30:16.19] - More than 50% of the kids were affected by some sort of malady related to this toxic waste.
[00:30:22.95] And so she set out to do something about it 'cause nobody was doing anything.
[00:30:28.75] - I was a very shy, introverted person.
[00:30:33.85] Even when I went to a PTA meeting, I wouldn't ask a question.
[00:30:37.37] I would ask my girlfriend to ask the question for me.
[00:30:40.26] And so here I'm going from this one place in my life to knocking on a door talking to a stranger, and it was a huge transformation.
[00:30:51.57] - [Narrator] For years, Lois led her community through a fight for justice that captured national attention.
[00:30:57.11] They fought against corporate irresponsibility, local and state governments.
[00:31:02.12] Eventually, they won their battle, were reimbursed for their homes and relocated.
[00:31:09.10] - What she did didn't just have ripple effects in her community or her state, but nationwide.
[00:31:16.49] The U.S. was the first to put together a government agency to protect our air, to protect our water, those sorts of things.
[00:31:24.83] - [Narrator] Lois' efforts led to the creation of the EPA Superfund, which is used to identify and clean up toxic waste sites in the U.S.
[00:31:34.03] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:31:36.01] The ripple effects of her actions had clear and measurable results.
[00:31:41.00] But did the ripple stop there?
[00:31:43.83] Perhaps you've heard of what mathematicians call "the butterfly effect." A butterfly beats its wings in Brazil, weeks later, a tornado forms in Texas.
[00:31:57.00] - The butterfly effect, it's a very powerful metaphor.
[00:32:00.08] It's also a very beautiful and evocative metaphor.
[00:32:03.68] It's a metaphor for the fact that in living systems and in chaotic systems, there is a non-linear interconnectedness.
[00:32:14.69] This non-linear interconnectedness has the consequence that very small causes may have very large effects.
[00:32:25.84] - If we think in sort of a personal way, how many times have your choices right now been affected by just a simple statement somebody gave you?
[00:32:34.97] From a parent, a favorite instructor?
[00:32:37.47] And that's the whole point of chaos theory, is that you never know which is the initial event that will have the biggest effect.
[00:32:46.82] [school bell ringing]
[00:32:50.17] - Roosevelt High School along with all of North Portland, especially in the neighborhood of St. Johns, is right in the middle.
[00:32:58.37] It's completely surrounded by industrial areas.
[00:33:01.89] It's also surrounded by railways.
[00:33:04.14] So when you think of all of the things that could contribute to air pollution, we're right in the vortex of it and we're all downwind from it.
[00:33:12.74] When you think of global climate change, just think of that warming.
[00:33:15.55] Hot gets hotter, cold tends to get colder, so in winter you see more severe winter storms...
[00:33:20.12] One of the reasons I chose to work at Roosevelt is because I was hoping that I could somehow make an impact.
[00:33:27.48] I think if people are wondering how to empower the next generation, I think we need to start rethinking how we educate them.
[00:33:35.51] Make the topics that you're supposed to be teaching, apply those to your community.
[00:33:41.72] Start making the connections for the kids.
[00:33:44.61] - Just how bad Roosevelt High's exposure to toxic air pollution is?
[00:33:49.48] According to Neighbors For Clean Air, it ranks in the top 1% nationwide for exposure to toxic air pollution.
[00:33:58.28] [ominous music]
[00:34:04.06] - [Narrator] Air has no geographic boundaries.
[00:34:06.87] It recognizes no country or government.
[00:34:09.55] It might be the most important thing we all have in common.
[00:34:37.96] - The airshed in the Willamette Valley can be described as an ecological place where everybody is sharing the same air.
[00:34:46.37] So years ago, when seed farmers burned their fields, a good percentage of Portland's pollution came from agricultural burning.
[00:34:54.45] That air also traveled east or west depending on which direction the wind blows.
[00:34:59.95] If what we do in Portland affects The Dalles, if it affects Eugene, if it affects Seattle, then we have to define then our relationships.
[00:35:08.72] And I think we have to be honest with ourselves as to what our choices do mean.
[00:35:15.19] - [Narrator] As we have seen with the wildfires of Northern California, what occurs in one place can be felt and have significant impacts far beyond where it begins.
[00:35:27.81] [midtempo instrumental music]
[00:35:34.36] - So I've got a club who have been trying to learn more about air quality.
[00:35:39.96] Lois Gibbs' name came across my desk when I was a Junior in high school.
[00:35:45.01] I remember just thinking like, wow, what a neat lady.
[00:35:48.50] What an incredible story of one woman just saying, "I'm not gonna stand for this." When she was able to come to Roosevelt and speak to my students, it was a real full cycle sort of thing.
[00:36:04.42] - I love sitting in living rooms with real people.
[00:36:07.30] They're real and they're saying, "We have this problem.
[00:36:09.19] "How can we work together to fix it?" - Things like manganese cause real problems, not the least of which is cancer.
[00:36:14.68] And so you've done some testing?
[00:36:17.95] - Clarissa Craig Howtopat is one of my students, and I just love her to death.
[00:36:26.00] She's so determined, and she's got such a great work ethic.
[00:36:29.58] And she's relatively shy.
[00:36:33.15] - I grew up on Warm Springs Reservation.
[00:36:35.51] I live in North Portland with my sister, dad, mom, and myself.
[00:36:45.60] My sister has autism.
[00:36:47.73] She's six years old.
[00:36:50.19] She's crazy, she's a handful.
[00:36:53.82] I don't know, I'm just a protective sister.
[00:36:57.87] I basically wanna keep danger out of her way and just knowing that this is something else that could be endangering us just by breathing.
[00:37:05.76] She said, "I'm worried.
[00:37:06.89] "I'm worried about how it's gonna affect my sibling "and how it's gonna affect future generations." And I was like, wow!
[00:37:13.96] She's got it. She's got it.
[00:37:15.63] She understands that this is not just a issue for now.
[00:37:18.49] This is an issue for generations to come.
[00:37:21.31] And so the rest of the group nominated Clarissa to speak for us at the State Capitol.
[00:37:28.26] - In a genuine mix of learning and activism, these students went down to Salem to voice their support for legislation that would help Oregon manage toxic air pollution.
[00:37:40.40] - The students are with the Chemistry and Air Pollution Club.
[00:37:44.01] Thank you for being here today.
[00:37:46.24] - We went to go talk to Speaker Kotek and Neighbors For Clean Air.
[00:37:53.37] I'm Clarissa. - I'm Zach.
[00:37:55.65] - We're all from Roosevelt High School.
[00:37:57.85] This is my teacher.
[00:37:59.32] We're trying to get people's awareness on the air in North Portland.
[00:38:03.00] The biggest concerns coming out of the study was that we...
[00:38:07.28] They can talk to other people, bigger people to help them know what we're trying to accomplish.
[00:38:15.03] - She's starting to find her voice, which is really pretty incredible to watch.
[00:38:19.70] And I hope my students pick up on that, that regardless of who you are, your strengths as a student, no matter what your race is or how much money you make, you have a voice.
[00:38:31.81] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:38:34.94] - [Narrator] The following year, with the help of many voices from the community, almost $400,000 was allocated for future air quality monitoring in Portland.
[00:38:45.41] Kendall Jensen's class received a grant to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with Oregon senators about the dangerous air quality in their community.
[00:38:54.98] The Math and Science Club tripled in attendance.
[00:38:59.02] And most recently, Oregon became the second state in the nation to pass a bill regulating the use and operation of diesel trucks.
[00:39:08.56] - People can win these things because people have power.
[00:39:12.05] They just don't realize the power actually is right there in their own hands.
[00:39:17.17] - I think Lois really had something with, you start at home, you start locally.
[00:39:23.54] And even if it's a little thing, or it's a big thing like going to bat with the government, you gotta start somewhere and do what you can.
[00:39:32.11] - Since everything is interconnected, it doesn't matter where you start.
[00:39:38.05] So if you ask, "What can I do?" I would say, do what you are already doing, but do it differently.
[00:39:47.76] If you are a teacher, teach differently.
[00:39:51.00] If you're an architect, build different buildings.
[00:39:54.93] If you are a farmer, farm in a different way.
[00:40:00.08] - [Narrator] Whether it's making choices to benefit the planet, or standing up for racial and social justice, we've seen that when we change our actions, we open up new possibilities for ourselves and our world.
[00:40:15.73] Because our world functions as an interconnected network we call life, our decisions, our actions, initiate ripples that in fact make a difference.
[00:40:28.45] - The reason why this is possible is that these nonlinear systems embody feedback loops.
[00:40:38.05] So you can have a small effect which travels around the cycle and is enhanced.
[00:40:45.34] Then it goes around again and becomes larger.
[00:40:47.90] It goes around again and becomes larger.
[00:40:50.49] And it goes on and on, it becomes larger and larger until it has a very big, full blown effect.
[00:40:57.03] - This ripple effect of, she did this, I learned about it in high school, it motivated me, I became a teacher, I'm teaching students.
[00:41:10.19] It's hopefully motivating them and making them see that one person, whether it's Gandhi or Lois Gibbs, you can make a big difference.
[00:41:21.01] - You look around the country and what do we have?
[00:41:23.98] It didn't happen by accident.
[00:41:26.01] It happened because people took a risk-- and it's a risk, there's no question about it-- but took the risk and stood up and spoke out.
[00:41:35.03] It doesn't mean you have to spend your life doing this stuff, but if everybody spoke up, what a different world we would live in.
[00:41:48.72] [upbeat instrumental music]
[00:42:05.67] [midtempo instrumental music]

'This is probably one of the most important projects on earth at this time. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity and its necessity. You have hit the core of not just the problem but of where we should all be focusing our attention. I was so deeply moved by this work' Jean Houston, Co-Founder, The Foundation for Mind Research

'I think about our current situation in our nation and around the world and how this pandemic revolves around 'connectivity.' I have been able to use your curriculum and first video as a tool to help explain this historical moment in our world...Because of your project I have a tool to talk about these issues/situations with my students in a way that they can understand. It has opened up so many good discussions in a time when we need to have good, honest discussions.' Brent Criswell, 5th grade teacher, Lincoln Elementary

'I think you are on to a great project. I love the way you present its various parts as petals of a lotus.' Fritjof Capra, Scientist, Educator, Systems Thinking leader, Author, The Systems View of Life and The Tao of Physics

'A really awesome resource for teachers...I found this project and resource to be relevant to what we are facing with climate change and finding hope and resiliency to keep trying to make a difference and as educators helping our students do the same.' Jennie Pardi, Education Coordinator, NatureBridge Outdoor School

'The Connectivity Project - whether shown individually or as a complete set - ought to be viewed by every single person around the globe. Combined with a guest speaker/panel of individuals and providing viewers with the opportunity to go deeper in discussion with others leading to civic action steps ought to be required at minimum in organizations committed to global awareness and sustainability efforts. The content of the Connectivity Project can and should play a role in macro and micro level discussions regarding the creation of a better tomorrow.' Corey Thompson, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, Urban Education, Cardinal Stritch University

''Since everything is connected, it doesn't matter where you start.' This series of short films provides inspiring stories and vignettes that support a greater awareness of the interrelated systems of life. The film series will be a great jumping off point for students, teachers, and community members who are interested in considering a range of environmental studies, stewardship activities, or advocacy that can make a difference.' Tori Derr, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, California State University Monterey Bay

'Intriguing and thought-provoking in ways that the traditional science student might not think...Your films are doing a masterful job of potentially bringing the kids who are not interested in science or have never seen a science connection to their lives into the fold.' Jim Clark, Co-founder, Next Generation Science Innovations


Sustainability Award, Cinema Verde International Film and Arts Festival
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Eugene Environmental Film Festival
McMinnville Short Film Festival
Global Impact Film Festival
ECOFemininism Short Film Festival
PDX Short Docs Film Festival
Synergy Film Festival
Hold Onto Your Shorts Film Festival
Freeland Film Festival


Main credits

Madrone, Rose (film director)
Madrone, Rose (film producer)
Madrone, Rose (photographer)
Consentino, Robert (film director)
Consentino, Robert (narrator)
Consentino, Robert (photographer)
Rue, Melissa Gregory (film producer)

Distributor credits

Rose Madrone

Rose Madrone

Rose Madrone

Co-Director: Robert Consentino
Co-Producer: Melissa Gregory Rue Writers: Rose Madrone, Robert Consentino
Editor: Heidi Zimmerman
Camera: Robert Consentino, Rose Madrone

Docuseek subjects

Cultural Anthropology
Environmental Anthropology
Multicultural Studies
Environmental Justice
Women's Studies
Public Health
Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Ethics
Social Psychology
Animals and Animal Rights
Environmental Sociology

Distributor subjects

Earth Science
Environmental Ethics


air quality, bike riding, choices, collaboration, commonality, comparative religion, diversity, ecology, education, environmental cleanup, environmental ethics, equality, farming, flowers, gardens, health, homelessness, inclusivity, indigenous, insects, inspire, making a difference, nature, patterns, pollination, ripple effects, science, spirituality, supporting pollinators, systems thinking, teaching, toxins, volunteering, voting, working together, youth, rights, reality, speaking out, worldwide, shorts, short films, series, Ilarion Larry Merculieff, Kealoha Piscotta, Greg Dardis, Fritjof Capra, Anita Apulef, Jon Young, Lois Gibbs, Kendall Jensen, Clarissa Howtopat, Kelly Green Guilbeau, Jacqueline Freeman , Mace Vaughan, Matt O'Neal, David Gossman, monarch butterflies, ragbrai, iowa, bike race; "Connectivity Project"; Bullfrog Films; documentary; doc; env; environment; sociss;

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