The Kings Of Democracy

By Iris Fen Gillingham

Iris is an incredible activist from the Catskill Mountains of NY. She not only is the crew leader of EG SUNY Sullivan, NY but also an active member of our RYSE youth council.

As a little girl when people said democracy, I thought it meant we don't have a king, or one person in charge of everything. The common people have more of a say in decisions, and we vote every four years to elect the leader that we want. I thought it was all fair and equal. Then I grew up. 

I would like to define democracy as a system that allows people to influence the government by electing candidates whose actions are beneficial to the people. I would like to define democracy as a system that promotes the well being of the population and distributes justice and equality. In the perfect world and ideal society, democracy would demonstrate a governance with the best interests of all and guidance from the populace, along with the coexistence of the earth, humanity, animals, plants, and civilization. 

I don't think we are a democracy by the definition of the word. Webster's Dictionary defines it as “a form of government exercised either directly by the people or through their elected representatives; rule by majority; the practice of legal, political, or social equality.” Yes, we vote for our representatives. But “Rule by majority” should mean that the mass vote actually elects the leaders we want, right? In the election of 2000, Bush won because of missing votes in Florida. It just so happened that his brother was Governor of Florida. If the American public were told the truth about the real life consequences of fracking and not the lies that the media has fed to us, what would the majority opinion be. If people saw the real facts and heard the stories of those affected by industry's greed, what would everyone think? Not all our political leaders are the ones to blame directly, but they are being paid off by the corporations to not say anything. We have seen this multiple times either directly or indirectly. We have witnessed it indirectly by an askew campaign finance system that allows the rich and powerful to fund political campaigns and make extreme donations. We have seen it directly in the multitude of elected officials who end up leaving office or getting arrested for taking bribes and peddling influence. (Such as Speaker Of The New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and Majority Leader Of The New York State Senate, Dean Skelos.) So is that American democracy? I’d say democracy is a word that is being warped. Do most people really know what the exact definition is besides that they get to vote for a few politicians? 

Social equality does not exist in America today. Flint is still without water and the Navajo Nation has been without water for years. The rich keep exploiting the poor, the minimum wage is still not enough to live on, and women are still paid unequally by some companies. In reality racism still exists. Heck, one of the presidential candidates is openly racist and sexist (and unfortunately now the next president of the US). The two main options are a woman who has been on the campaign trail for years and made decisions that negatively impacted communities, and a man who boasts about harassing women and kicking people of different ethnicities other than himself out of the country. These are the choices we have for commander in chief. I know many people who are disgusted with both candidates and say they will have to vote for the lesser of two evils. I don't think a true democracy means voting for one so that the other doesn't win. The election of 2016 has at most been interesting, scary, and ultimately has shown how bought out and false our democracy has become. 

Shouldn't democracy mean that every person has a chance, an honest trial? And the criminals that rob, lie, and kill, are put away, not the teenagers just trying to get by. The true criminals. The ones that rob us with a diamond studded pen and paper. The ones that lie right to our faces about their opinions and how they will help our families. The nicely dressed ones that kill us with cheap food franchises, drugs, toxic chemicals in our clothes, energy extraction operations in our neighborhoods, radioactive waste sites near our schools, fracking fluid in our water, and power plants by our children's playgrounds, to name just a few. The same ones that send soldiers in riot gear to take care of peaceful protesters that are bringing awareness to these killings.

Today the American democracy is loaded with nepotism. It wouldn't take very long to go through politicians names and find that they have relatives, friends, and colleagues also working in government. There is something to the old saying “it's not what you know, but who you know” This plays out very prominently in American politics. Today when I look at any politician or listen to what they are saying, I wonder if they are telling the truth. Is that what they believe? Are they going to actually do that? Many times the answer is no. 

Today's democracy system is ruled by a few with money and influence, not by the people. If the people had an influence it's because we went out in the street and rallied, protested, and challenged our leaders to listen to us! Political leaders will do what benefits them the most. In today's democracy it is vital that the people rise up and take action so that the heads of our country finally do what is best for us. Sometimes we win and other times we lose. Sometimes our efforts don’t make a difference in the passing of a pipeline, but sometimes it does. Then it reminds the leaders that they may be the head but we are the neck, shoulders, and body of this country. We must never give up. This imperfect democracy needs the people, otherwise it would be nothing. Yet sadly, sometimes the very representatives of the people are the ones killing us. The ones force feeding us lies, chemicals, violence, and division.

Some Earth Guardians at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution before the Democratic National Committee in Philadelphia this past summer.

The American democracy system has many faults. We as the people must stand together and show our political leaders what kind of a world we want to live in. We can ask for changes in the system. Nothing is perfect; democracy certainly isn't. It is also an issue of social change. Our countries leaders are following in the footsteps of leaders before them and unless we create considerable social and political change, people are going to live and act in a warped democracy. The way it's structured is true to the definition of the word, but not the way it plays out which is a democracy ruled by the rich and influential. So are we really a true democracy? Do we call ourselves a democracy, but are actually ruled by invisible kings that influence elections and have their own agenda? Do we live under the monarchy of democracy? In a way, we are all subjects of the kings of democracy but it does not have to be this way. We can create the change we want to see. United we can all stand and make our voices heard by the kings of democracy, instilling what a true representative democracy is. Not a system where we are ruled, but one where the kings of democracy don't exist.

Humanity's Plastic Addiction: Saving Our Ocean

Plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans, our wildlife and ultimately on us as a human species.

The introduction of plastic in the 20th century has led us to become increasingly reliant on its use and now a large percentage of almost everything we buy contains plastic. However, while we are happy to use it we are less adept at recycling it and the sad fact is that less than 10% of the plastic we produce gets recycled. Of the rest 50% makes its way into landfill and the remainder is unaccounted for, more often than not getting washed out to sea, where it inflicts a substantial toll. 

While the top five countries which contribute the most to plastic ending up in the oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, we all need to play a part in reducing our own contribution if we are to bring about change.


What Practical Steps Can Be Taken?

Carrier Bag Tax: One recent government initiative in the UK has been to bring in a 5p charge on all carrier bags. The good news is that since this came into effect in October 2015 the seven main supermarket chains have seen an 85% decrease in the use of plastic bags. This means far fewer plastic bags will end up in landfill or in the oceans.


Fundraising and Volunteering: If you want to take part in the clean-up operation and conservation efforts taking place at the coastline closest to you The Marine Conservation Society encourages people to get involved in several ways. You can help by beach cleaning; sea search for experienced divers; or by fundraising so the society can maintain their conservation work.


Conservation as a Career: Some people might feel called to pursue conservation work as a career. One of the best ways to find out if it is right career path for you is to undertake a marine volunteering  program where you can collaborate directly with experienced conversations to discover what the work entails.


Being Aware of What We Buy: When we head to the supermarket it’s important to be aware of the packaging our produce comes packed in and to minimize it where possible. Opt for loose fruit and vegetables and then take them home in a biodegradable paper bag, instead of wrapped in three types of plastic. Alternatively shop at farmers’ markets where the food travels a shorter distance from source to plate, and within minimal packaging.

Recycling: It can sometimes be a hassle to recycle everything we throw away but it can make all the difference to what ends up in landfill. Sort items weekly prior to your rubbish collection and for larger items try to pass them on to someone who needs them using the ‘freecycling’ sites.

Earth Guardians Bhutan has done several clean ups where they separated recycling and made sure it went to the right facility to be properly recycled.


The Huge Problem of Plastic in the Ocean

The majority of plastic which ends up in the sea, over 80%, comes from land-based sources. One of the major contributors to this ocean pollution is our obsession with drinking bottled water. Over 200 billion bottles of water are consumed each year and over 176 billion empty bottles ultimately end up in landfill or the ocean. Even more seriously the situation worsens year on year with studies showing plastic marine debris is increasing dramatically.

One of the most serious problems with plastic is that it takes thousands of years to degrade. The plastic in the ocean often forms huge floating ‘islands’ where currents meet. One of the largest and most infamous is the Pacific Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean which has a larger surface area than Texas.

The action of the sea also breaks down the plastic into smaller pieces and this makes it particularly deadly for wildlife and ultimately for us. As the plastic deteriorates it absorbs other toxins and then enters the food chain, eaten by fish. This seafood can become contaminated with cadmium, mercury and lead and then places humans at risk when eaten. A proven carcinogen, Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is found in increasing levels in seafood, as is Bisphenol A (BPA) which research has shown interferes with human hormone function.

Plastic is also entering the ocean through the problem of microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads present in many shower gels and toothpastes, and millions of them get washed down the drain and ultimately into the sea every day. These tiny beads can be ingested even by plankton and then move on up through the food chain. There is great pressure on governments to take a stand and ban these deadly plastic additions to our oceans before the situation worsens. The UK government has stated that it will ban all microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2017 and in the interim some retailers are taking action themselves as seen by Waitrose’s recent announcement they will no longer stock any products containing microbeads.

It’s vital that every person plays their part by refusing to purchase products which contain microbeads and in addition stops adding to the mountain of empty plastic water bottles by drinking tap or filtered water and always taking your own refillable flask or bottle with you. We have been led to believe that plastic is disposable, but that is very far from the truth. Every item we throw away either ends up taking up valuable space in landfill or adding to the plastic pollution of the sea.

Earth Guardians every where are dedicated to using reusable items to decrease our impact on the world!


Other Risks to the Environment

Plastic in our seas is a major risk to the environment but it cannot be considered in isolation. Whilst we are tackling the problem of reducing our plastic waste we must consider other factors which contribute. All factors together cause a devastating effect. These are some other major factors to consider.


Water Pollution

Our water is a precious resource and yet we don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. The use of plastic mulch to cover the soil on farmland allows farmers to better control soil moisture and nutrients. However, it also encourages faster runoff and this can allow pesticides to be transported towards rivers and the sea where it enters the food chain.


Climate Change

Few people are now unaware that industrialisation and the rise in CO2 have led to drastic climate change. The increase in greenhouse gases has led to a rise in the surface temperature of the planet; increasingly unpredictable weather patterns; and the melting of the ice caps, most notably at Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf.

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, and this has come from heavy industry and the massive increase in transport which has happened around the world. More people than ever own cars and take flights on a regular basis; and this doesn’t even touch on the billions of tons of produce transported around the world daily.



Deforestation is another factor in climate change. As forests are destroyed, there are fewer trees to absorb CO2 and thus levels rise still further in the atmosphere. Deforestation is occurring for several reasons: to make room for agriculture and urban areas; to satisfy our ever growing need for palm oil; and to make commercial items such as paper, furniture and building materials for homes.

With our planet at risk it is important that every individual does what they can to use natural resources wisely; to minimize their consumption; and to recycle at every possible opportunity. It’s also vital we all raise our awareness so we can put pressure on retailers and governments to make the changes which matter most.

Post written by : Joe Thomas

Earth Guardians Bhutan CNR's Cleaning Campaign along Metsina Stream

The environmental health of the stream is of paramount importance to innumerable aquatic lives in it and beyond. For the assurance of a clean and safe home, about sixty five members of Earth Guardians Bhutan CNR did a thorough clean up of the heavily polluted stream. It is also known that the downstream community uses the same stream to feed their paddy fields even though the water is quite toxic and waste-ridden.

The zeal and enthusiasm of youth led environmental enthusiasts ensured the health of the stream and the vicinity of Metsina town. The stream was heavily polluted with wastes of all kinds being next to the automobile workshop and the shops. It has become the dump yard of Metsina town because the town doesn't have a single proper place to dump their wastes. We collected over 180 sacks of wastes from the stream within four hours of our dedicated hardwork. Drenched and exhausted in the dirty stream, sixty five of us cleaned about 300 meters ofthe waste-ridden stream starting from the top of Metsina till the end of the town.

We are happy to get the necessary help from the newly elected tshogpa(one of the political parties in Bhutan), Mr.Kuenzang Dorji. In his conversation with some of the office bearers of EGBCNR he expressed his interest and commitment to collaborating with us in any social activities in and around Metsina. We would like to thank him for the refreshments for our much deserved social and environmental youth campaigners.

The cleaning campaign is funded by the College of Natural resources in fulfillment of its mandate as a concern institution for the social and environmental well being. We would like to thank the college management and look forward to similar support in near future. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Environmental Officer of Punakha Dzongkhag who helped us to get the Municipal Waste collecting vehicle. Mr.Tshewang Lhendup, who an alumi of CNR and Assistant Research Officer with RSPN, also sponsored us with two cartons of mineral water. We would like to thank all our dedicated EGBCNR members for your unwavering support in all the activities and we look forward to the upcoming club activities!

Standing Rock: Breaking Open to Feeling

By Grace Slocum

This is my story of how I came to be at Standing Rock and what I witnessed while being there.
Standing in the darkening summer/autumn transition night, I hear the song come through the microphone. He is holding his phone up to the mic, and this song is leaking through …

It starts out soft and slowly we, standing in a circle, catch on and start to sing together, join together in a chorus of voices which are straight harmonic expressions of our souls. Our hands are touching, and we are turned inward together. I feel it with my whole body. I have to go. I need to go to Standing Rock this weekend. All the stories fall away, and I am standing naked in truth. This is what is most important. Something bigger than my own mind extends through me like a hand and propels me forward.

I feel on fire. I feel determined. I feel it in my heart. A heart pull, tugging me to this land that I have never been to before. This land that is a sacrifice zone, so `business as usual` can continue. Tugging me to these people that historically my own ancestors have slowly pushed out of their homes. It is my responsibility to the people of the past, to the people of the present, and to the people of the future that I show up and support this encounter in any humble way that I can.

I arrive back in Boulder and something is missing. Some part of my limbs still remains with the people and the land I have just come from. I feel a bit dismembered. I remember. What it is like to be living in a community of shared power, of sacred chaos, of prayer, of deep purpose, of water. Images flow through me, and my body rumbles as it begins the process of integrating back into modern life.

The image of the grass flowing in the wind like water.

The smell of the sage as hundreds of people pass through its smoke.

The bright colors of feathers. The weathered smiles. The sad eyes. The touching of the ground with tobacco.

I see an image of a mother with her child. I remember Shea and how we played, and he took me down to the water and taught me about wandering, freedom, and saying sorry. I remember the bee and how it came to me and wanted me to know about the pain of separation. We cannot do this anymore! It screamed! Living apart is like hell. Recognize us! See us! We are sentient! Like you! No bad, right, good, wrong, better, worse. The moment you think you are better than us, we will sting you, hard. Because that is not the way. It is pain for all of us if you continue to live like this… and shirk your destiny as caretakers of the Earth.

Water Protectors.

We are not protesters, we are protectors.

I watch as he raises his hand up in prayer, addressing the spirits. Calling out, his voice strong and singing. Hello beautiful, brave world! I am here! I praise you. Oh, beautiful water, thank you. I give thanks, and I am humbled by you.

I fall back from the others and find myself amongst the grasses. I tread near a tree that overlooks the plains. I bend softly down and place my hand near it. Hello cousin, hello friend. May I feel your rough and tumbled skin? I sink my hand into its flesh and feel the grandmother hiding inside the bark. She gives me a warm smile. A smile that makes my body writhe with deep feeling. And suddenly the grief pours through. I am sorry, I hear myself whispering. I am sorry what we have done to you. I am sorry that we have forgotten. That we cut you without asking. That we cut you down sometimes and do not even use all of your limbs, leaving you sitting there, bleeding out. The blood is not easily visible, yet I know it is there. I know you are bleeding and crying out, but we cannot hear. My heart hears. My heart hears you, and I bow my head in deep sadness. I bow my head in shame and humility for the division amongst us. For the ignorance, the blinders over our eyes and ears. I plead for forgiveness. May we make this right again. May we restore balance between our relations. May the crying out of the grief-stricken ones awaken the cold hearts of many, and may we rise, to meet ourselves in the tides, the skies, and the trees.

I am struck to the core by my experience at Standing Rock. It continues to swirl in my bones. The front lines will teach you what is real, I hear echoing around inside. They will give you a chance to touch what is really happening in our world. It is a place where anyone is welcome who feels the heart pull to relate differently with the world around us. It is a coming together, a unity fed by the uniqueness of each person`s particular gifts, skin color, and voice. Unity that is informed by the past, grounded in the present, and looks with hopeful and focused eyes to the future.  There is no centralized form of power at Standing Rock. It is the emerging of and returning to a community that is planted by power with one another instead of over.

I feel that this kind of power is stronger than any corporation or any sum of money. This kind of power is the kind of power that will carry us into a sustainable, just, and livable world.

Before heading into Sacred Stone Camp, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said to me: `In a way, Western culture has taught you to shut down and shut off your feeling. Now, we need you to turn that back on.`

A verbal invocation to feeling. To communities of urgency. To fierce recognition of our times and what they are asking of us. To setting a strong boundary. With love, with tenderness, with compassion. No, we shall not allow this anymore. No, you shall not pass.

We are building a new way.

Visit to stay up to date on whats happening and find ways to support!

Grace Slocum is currently a Naropa student, eco-poet, healer-activist and sound artist. She is an edgewalker and is dedicated to decolonization. You can follow her on her blog: or soundcloud:


A Day in Court

Our day in court was more than we could have ever expected! It was actually mind blowing and during the hearing all of us plaintiffs kept looking back and forth at each other in disbelief and excitement by the questions and comments Judge Aiken posed to the Federal Government and the Fossil Fuel attorney's. 

It was evident that Judge Aiken understands the imminent danger of our planet and the future of all species living on it because of climate change. 

The Federal government tried to argue that they don't need the courts to intervene because the EPA is doing their job - but Judge Ann Aiken called them out, by pointing out that we wouldn't be in this crisis if the EPA was doing their job. Our future hangs in the balance and this court will play a big role in deciding the kind of world we will be left with. 

Judge Aiken will release her decision to move our case forward to trial or not within the next 60 days. We are confident she will decide on behalf of our future, her children and all the children that will inherit the planet.

So everyone is aware we are suing the Federal Government to implement a climate recovery plan that would get our carbon emissions back down to a safe zone of 350 ppm and mass reforestation in the U.S.

Xiuhtezcatl speaking at the press conference after the hearing. Photo credit - Robin Loznak

Water is Life: Story of the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network

Water is Life: Story of the Kiribati Children Campaigners Network

Kiribati - There are 33 low-lying coral atolls of Kiribati that straddle the equator; have a total land area of 849 sq km and a population of about 110,000.  According to Pelenise Alofa, Coordinator of the Kiribati Climate Action Network; “Kiribati Is Water Land”.  The coral atolls are just some 3 meters above sea level except for Banaba which is a raised island.