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Saturday, September 19, 2009

‘Ecodaredevils' Award honors those who stand up for environment

By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard - 09/19/2009

Kathleen Kennedy was admonished by her own school board for showing "The Story of Stuff," a film about the environmental costs of rampant consumerism, but the biology teacher persisted.

The teacher from Big Sky High School in Missoula held firm and showed the film, saying it delivered an important message and cited its examples with good sources.

"As a teacher of high school students, I have to do something to get their attention," Kennedy said Friday at Montana Tech. "This (film) does a great job of putting things we buy in the context of a greater system." Such resolve is exactly what J. Nichols, a sea turtle researcher and conservationist, had in mind last year when he helped found the "ecodaredevil" awards. Nichols on Friday presented this year's awards to Kennedy and Katie Makarowski, an aquatic biologist working to conserve and restore rivers and streams.

Nichols was among the first researchers to prove that sea turtles migrate from the coast off of Japan to the west coasts of North and South America. He has authored dozens of scientific papers and book chapters and for years has worked on sea turtle and ocean conservation and restoration. His work has taken him to Mexico, Indonesia and along the West Coast, among other places.

Nichols said his inspiration for the award was his childhood heroes — Jacque Cousteau and Evel Knievel. While the two seem an odd mix, Cousteau spurred Nichols' interest in the oceans and inspired him to earn a doctorate degree in wildlife ecology and evolutionary biology.

Yet Knievel, it's little known, was a conservationist as well. He once hitchhiked with a bull elk rack from Montana to Washington, D.C., to draw attention to the culling of elk in Yellowstone National Park, an act that got him a meeting with officials.

"Would anybody classify Evel as an environmentalist and a conservationist — absolutely not," said Matt Vincent, director of the Butte-based Clark Fork Watershed Education Program and an Ecodaredevil award sponsor.

Nichols said growing up he emulated Knievel. He and his friends were always taking jumps on their bicycles and mimicking other stunts from the famous daredevil.

But he took a lot of lessons from Knievel beyond trying dangerous feats. Most of all, Nichols took away that everybody fails at times.

That's not a reason to quit, he said. In fact, he said every successful person has failed and yet learned from it to achieve great things. Nichols said that's a lesson people working to protect the environment need to take from conservationists such as Kennedy, Makarowski, one that Knievel always illustrated throughout his career.

"You undoubtedly will experience that burning, biting feeling that Evel Knievel did when he didn't land the jump, seeing places where you loved to spend time destroyed," he said. "But if you don't get back up, then we all lose, the planet loses." Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at nick.gevock@mtstandard.com.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CBS News: EcoDaredevil Awards to be presented in Butte

Two Montana women are being honored with an award that recognizes ingenuity and courage in the area of environmental action and science.

The EcoDaredevil Award was founded by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols and inspired by Butte native Evel Knievel. This year the award will be presented in the Copper Lounge of the Student Union Building at Montana Tech at noon on Friday, Sept. 18.

Katie Makarowski, an aquatic biologist, sustainability advocate and a recent graduate of the University of Montana's Masters of Science in Environmental Studies program, and Kathleen Kennedy, a teacher at Big Sky High School in Missoula, will be honored at the event.

Read more HERE

2009 EcoDaredevil Award Sponsors

Thank you to all the sponsors of the 2009 EcoDaredevil Awards!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Big Sky teacher who showed 'Story of Stuff' earns EcoDareDevil Award

By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian | Posted: Friday, September 11, 2009

By the time the dust settled on the so-called "Story of Stuff" debate, Big Sky High School teacher Kathleen Kennedy wasn't sure she wanted to teach any more.

But as the teaching community, University of Montana professors and much of Missoula rallied to her defense, Kennedy found herself revitalized and ready again for the classroom.
"I realized that there's nothing short of our future at stake, and I knew I had a role to play in that," she said Friday.

Her performance in that role has now earned her a national honor from an environmental group that has fashioned its award after another well-known Montanan, Evel Knievel.

It's called the EcoDareDevil Award, and Kennedy will receive it next Friday in Butte, Knievel's hometown, in a ceremony at Montana Tech. That's World Water Monitoring Day, which makes sense given that the award is bestowed by a group called Ocean Revolution.

"I just see winning the award as another way to talk about the importance of us paying attention to what's going on in the world," Kennedy said. "That's what motivates me, the chance to inspire people to not be complacent about the issues we're facing as a society."

That said, Kennedy doesn't see herself as a daredevil. She's a teacher. That means putting serious issues on the table, then helping students understand them and put them in context.

"A lot of people don't understand what public education is all about, and what teachers go through to teach things that are true," she said. "In terms of science, there are things that are true and there are things that are political. We somehow have to keep teaching the things that are true, even when it's hard."

That's what Kennedy had in mind in the fall of 2008 when she showed a video called "The Story of Stuff" to her biology class.

The video is a pointed critique of American consumerism and its role in the production of waste and climate change.

One of Kennedy's students told her father about the video, and he complained to Big Sky officials, saying Kennedy should have offered a balanced perspective to what he viewed as a liberal broadside.

That complaint eventually made its way to the Missoula County Public Schools trustees, who in a decision that was broadly criticized, decided that Kennedy violated board policy concerning the teaching of controversial issues.

That policy, which was both vague and murky, was eventually rewritten by a community group chosen by Superintendent Alex Apostle.

The community's overall response to the board decision heartened Kennedy, even as she faced the occasional criticism.

"It was pretty unpleasant at times, but I think over time that I realized that I needed to be out there fighting this fight," Kennedy said. "We have to have people who will stand out there and not fear the repercussions. Maybe that's the daredevil part of this thing."

Kennedy's fellow teacher, Kate Lindner, and a former student nominated her for the award, and University of Montana biology professor Erick Greene wrote a letter on her behalf.

"Kathleen served as a lightning rod on these important issues of being able to raise and discuss important and contentious environmental issues," Greene wrote in his letter.

Being that lightning rod had its downside for a while, but Kennedy's energy for teaching is now renewed.

"I'm really excited to be part of the discussion we're having with kids about how to solve the problems that face us," she said. "We need to get busy."

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or by e-mail at mmoore@missoulian.com.

2009 EcoDaredevil Awards: More Water, Less Stuff!

For Immediate Release
14 September 2009

Media Contact:

Justin Ringsak

Clark Fork Watershed Education Program (CFWEP)

Public Education & Communications Coordinator

Montana Tech Department of Technical Outreach

1300 West Park Street, Butte, MT 59701

(406) 496-4897; (406) 491-0922

jringsak@mtech.edu

www.cfwep.org


WHAT: 2009 EcoDaredevil Awards (www.ecodaredevil.com)

WHEN: Friday, September 18th at 12:00 noon (coincides with World Water Monitoring Day, an international outreach program that in 2008 had over 70,000 people in over 70 countries monitor water quality near their hometowns)

WHERE: in the Copper Lounge of the Student Union Building at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, MT

Come meet the 2009 EcoDaredevil Award recipients, Kathryn (Katie) Makarowski and Kathleen Kennedy (bios follow).

The first annual EcoDaredevil Award was presented on Earth Day 2008 by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols to Duke University doctoral student Elliott Hazen. An honorary award was also presented to Krysten Knievel, granddaughter of Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel in recognition of Evel's inspiration for the EcoDaredevil Award. Mr. Hazen was one of the co-founders of GreenWave, a student-led sustainability movement at the Duke Marine Lab. He also instituted a Green by Design class at the Marine Lab bringing in all sorts of experts from business, fisheries etc. to come and share visionary ideas about sustainability.

This year we will honor two EcoDaredevils from the legendary Evel Knievel's home state of Montana, with an award presentation on the campus of Montana Tech.

The 2009 award winner was chosen by a selection committee of nationally and regionally recognized environmental scientists/ activists who reviewed all nominations.

The 2009 EcoDaredevil Award will be presented in a ceremony at Montana Tech on Friday, September 18th on World Water Monitoring Day, an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.

Bios of 2009 EcoDaredevil Awardees:

Kathryn (Katie) Makarowski is an aquatic biologist, sustainability advocate and a recent graduate of the University of Montana’s Masters of Science in Environmental Studies program. Her advisors and peers describe her as innovative, courageous, determined and exceptionally effective in her work to sustain and restore our nation’s rivers, watersheds and fresh water ecosystems. One recommender commented that “Katie used a combination of politeness, persuasion and persistence” to get the job done on behalf of Montana’s environmental future. “Many students would give up when single, let alone multiple requests were ignored. Katie, however, was undaunted. She simply wore ‘em down with her charm and directness. She had the drive to do whatever it took that was ethical and civil!” Another colleague says “there is a greater purpose to everything Katie does…she embodies exactly the qualities this award aims to recognize: not afraid to speak out, but also genuinely amiable, driven, and accomplished – exactly the kind of person needed to spark environmental change.” Still another reviewer says of Katie: “She has no car, eats low on the food chain, reuses/recycles everything, and all with a smile. She joyfully lives life large on a tiny ecological footprint. An exceptional act of courage in our consumptive society.” Her passion for and commitment to our planet have attracted uncountable numbers of others to follow in her path. See Katie in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MbYiJsRVhE

Kathleen Kennedy of Big Sky High School in Missoula, MT is an educator through and through, loved by students and teachers alike. In her Wildlife Biology class she challenges students to think beyond the textbooks and critically consider the environmental costs associated with the status quo. For her efforts raising awareness of important and contentious environmental issues, in particular, screening the award-winning short documentary “The Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard (viewed more than 7 million times online), she received many bitter personal attacks, felt abandoned and betrayed by the school system and considered quitting teaching. The debate and associated controversy reached the NY Times and filled many pages in local newspapers. But Kathleen, to the delight of many, has recommitted herself to teaching. As a result of this, she has attended many conferences and workshops on how to teach about environmental issues in an honest and fair way and her work has stimulated important discussions about academic freedoms. In the face of great adversity, Kathleen has stood her ground and emerged as a stronger and better teacher. The kind of teacher that will lead the next generation into a more sustainable future. http://www.storyofstuff.com/

Dr. Wallace "J." Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author, and dad. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves. J. is a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and founder/co-director of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, and co-founder of SEE Turtles, a sea turtle conservation tourism project. He earned his MEM in Environmental Policy and Economics from Duke University's Nicholas School and his PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Arizona. Blog: www.wallacejnichols.org



OpEd: We're All EcoDaredevils Now

(Wallace J. Nichols)

On October 17, 1938 Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel was born in Butte, Montana.

Following his sophomore year in high school he got a job in Anaconda's copper mines as a diamond drill operator then as driver of a large earth mover. As the legend goes, Knievel was fired when he did a motorcycle-type wheelie on the earth mover and drove it into Butte's main power line, leaving the city without electricity for several hours.

After stints in rodeo, ski jumping, the army, semi-pro hockey, back-country guiding and insurance sales he settled into a career as a professional Daredevil.

Hundreds of jumps and dozens of spectacular crashes later, on February 28, 1971 he set a new world record by jumping 19 cars with his Harley-Davidson XR-750.

Such is the colorful mix of reality and legend spanning Knievel's life. He took his place in history as rock star, action hero, athlete and folk legend all in one. His death-defying jumps awed millions around the world.

But back in 1961, before he achieved worldwide fame, Knievel hitchhiked with the rack of a bull elk from Montana to our nation’s capital to protest the culling of elk in Yellowstone. The Kennedy administration responded and countless elk were saved.

While no one would argue Knievel's conservationist credentials, his fearlessness, grit and persistence were world class.

In the face of new, daunting challenges, his response was all action, full-speed, non-stop.

Today, we face ever more serious crises—loss of biodiversity, contaminated rivers and lakes, a warming planet, collapsing fisheries, looming food and water shortages, and a growing population that bodes for more of the same. Left to the status quo, scientists forecast a “2050 Scenario” in which our planet is hotter, dirtier, and overcrowded with nine billion people who are left to wage wars for what little remains.

Jumping this eco-chasm will be the greatest challenge we have ever faced. It will require revolutionary changes in society and technology.

To succeed, we must be brave, creative and outspoken. We must undertake the audacious, the impossible and the dangerous. We must risk our financial, social, and physical comfort. We must state the heretical, radical truths about our present situation. We must not be dissuaded, cajoled or convinced that our greenest dreams cannot become reality.

In other words, we must become EcoDaredevils.

Changing light bulbs, inflating tires, eating organic and toting reusable bags are each important gestures. But it’s going to take action far more thrilling to make it over this canyon. We must do something much bolder for the planet—something that invites personal risk.

It's not enough to leave the solutions to our most pressing environmental problems in the hands of the professionals, the experts or the government. That strategy will surely continue to fail.

The lack of adequate response to this deepening crisis means that we are all EcoDaredevils now. Like it or not.

They say that Evel Knievel broke every bone in his body at one time or another. But, he kept on jumping. His steely will kept driving him back to the bike and up the ramp.

This week in Butte, Montana we'll honor two exemplary EcoDaredevils for their work, persistence, and commitment to protecting our planet in the face of personal and professional risk.

Inspired by the spirit of Evel Knievel, motivated by our global ecological crisis and called to action by future generations. We are all EcoDaredevils now. Strap on your helmet, let's ride.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2009 EcoDaredevil Awards

WHAT: 2009 EcoDaredevil Awards

WHEN: Friday, September 18th at 12:00 noon (coincides with World Water Monitoring Day, an international outreach program that in 2008 had over 70,000 people in over 70 countries monitor water quality near their hometowns)

WHERE: in the Copper Lounge of the Student Union Building at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, MT

Come meet the 2009 EcoDaredevil Award recipients!