Friday, 21 August 2015


Julie is an artist, teacher and environmental activist in London, Ontario, Canada. She has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from the University of Western Ontario, a Master of Fine Arts from the Instituto Allende in San Miguel Allende, Mexico and a Bachelor of Education from Althouse College, University of Western Ontario.

My defining moment was at my convocation at teacher’s college in 2005.

I was 48 years old and had spent the last 20 years or so studying art, travelling to Europe and completing my masters degree in Mexico at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel Allende in 1999, where I lived for almost 10 years.

I began teaching as a way to make money in Mexico and found I liked it and had a good rapport with kids.  So I came back to London, Ontario in 2004 and attended teacher’s college at Althouse College, University of Western Ontario, in 2005.

Having been in an art bubble for a long time, I was very unplugged from politics or world events.

I went to my convocation because I had met so many wonderful young women teachers and wanted to have a chance to say goodbye, because none of them were from London.

The speaker at the convocation was Maude Barlow, the Chair of the Council of Canadians, and although I had no idea who she was or what she was talking about, I found her to be passionate and articulate and inspiring. So I went to the library and found she had written a lot of books, especially about the water crisis.

When I located her books in the library, I first read her biography, which detailed her beginnings with the Trudeau government.  Her activism is legendary and I am so proud that we are now friends and meet in our work with the Council of Canadians.  I joined them right after the convocation but it took several more years of study and research and learning about the planet physically before I became an active member. 

The next thing that happened was that I saw Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. 

Al Gore actually came to London, Ontario, and did his presentation at the London Convention Centre where I was bar-tending. I saw the reaction in the room to his slide show. They got up and gave him a very polite standing ovation and then they just stampeded out the door. It would seem they could not wait to get away from the information that he imparted.

That really sparked my curiosity and I started reading more on that subject.

For me, it has been the most wonderful learning curve as I become more educated about everything!

I had great teachers along the way...Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, William Marsden, Timothy Flannery, Jared Diamond, Lester Brown, Annie Leonard, Tzeporah Berman. Allana Mitchell to name a few.

I watched documentaries on geology and climate, the arctic, the acidification of the oceans, the extraction industries, deforestation, pollution and consumerism, the tar sands...

I learned about physics and money and the stock market until all this info started spilling into my artwork and then into my teaching.

My preferred medium is batik.  You paint wax on cloth that resists the dye baths.  Each layer of colour is added on moving from light to dark.  It is a slow process that requires some patience and attention to detail. 
Sunfest: 2011  ©juliepickencooper
I am also an avid printmaker, working with lino and hand printing (as I don't have a press). I have recently been sewing pictures as next show will be entitled:  An Elephant Never forgets Climate Change. 

With all the research I was doing on topics about the oceans etc, I began making work about these subjects, marine life, which I had never considered before.

Sunfest 2011 @juliepickencooper

I also educate about the environment through a journaling project, called The Environmental Art Project.

I go into schools and we create books that experiment with different art techniques and push the layering of paint and crayons as far as we can go.  We prepare the page with colour, texture, writing statements. drawing and pictures.  I have been working on this for about 5 years. 

I was lucky enough to find a school that would let me test and work out my ideas with four grade levels.  I volunteered my time and the school gave 500.00 for supplies and I spent 6 months working with the students and trying out the ideas. 

A mini lesson would accompany each workshop about deforestation, ocean acidification etc.  I started the whole thing off with The Story of Stuff video, which I see as being the heart of the problem: consumerism.

From a grade 8 class
From a grade 8 class

I once did a grade 8 work-shop with 4 classes.  We did three workshops with the students and they produced this work, which was photographed and collected into a book that was sold to raise money for an arts/music/dance program for underprivileged kids.

 *artwork used with artist's permission

Sunday, 16 August 2015


Mandy is from Bridgetown, Barbados. For the last four years, she has been running an environmentally friendly business, Octopus Three, which makes recycled paper products, like gift cards and business cards from a mix of waste paper and banana tree waste. She also teaches the children of Barbados how to make recycled paper, and also about environmental issues, through her Environment Education Program. 

Seven years ago, I was talking to my neighbour about recycling. We were in his garden, after dinner, just good company, a nice warm evening as expected in Barbados.  

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but David, my neighbour, who is a very positive and educated man on many topics, started talking about recycling and having recycling bins in the community. 

We didn't have a recycling program in Barbados then—though we do now, we are finally putting that in action, alongside sustainable living. I was born in the UK, where it was familiar to recycle, so being in Barbados and not having recycling, when I threw certain things in the garbage, it always felt strange. 

While talking about recycling with my neighbour, it led me to say that I felt like I wanted to write an environmental magazine, but it had to be made with recycled paper. 

So afterwards, since I am an ‘acting person’, I taught myself how to make paper and started producing cards, business cards etc. 

Before I knew it, I had a recycled paper product business called "Octopus Three", registered in Barbados. 

Recycled paper is made the way paper has always been made. I collect shredded waste paper from offices, break it back down and add banana tree waste, if desired, to make a fresh piece of paper, which is biodegradable. 

In March of this year, I launched my Environment Education Program. It is a 3-day program whereby students get to make recycled paper, and we talk about environmental issues both locally and internationally, and also focus on solutions. EEP creates a fun way of exploring how we live our lives and how that is affecting the planet. 

Education is key to understanding anything, as a parent teaches a child to use a spoon, the same method can be used in Climate Change. First step: put it in their hands. Every piece a paper a child makes in my classroom, I am putting the solution in their hands.

When one of my students at the launch of my EEP program said the best thing about the day was that "the head mistress told me to come". I have and will never forget that moment as long as I live, to be told that by a child who was 6 years old.

The ministry of Education has given me a letter which states I can run this program in every school in the country and as of this September [2015] my first school is the school for the deaf. I want them to have a voice in the discussion.

I would describe myself as an environmentalist. I defined myself as such when I got accepted to go to the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Toronto (July 9-10, 2015). I have never forgotten that night of conversation at my neighbours 7 years ago, and what it has led me to.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015



Christina is the author of All Out of Womb: A Collection of Birth Stories. She works part time for the recreation department for the Town of Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, and is the Founder of Little Sprouts Eco-Club in Muskoka; a non-profit organization that educates children on the protection of their local resources.

Years ago I had watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and while it opened my eyes to the state of our planet, I will admit, I was still in denial back then. After all, I didn't have kids. I was fresh out of college and just starting a lucrative job in the advertising industry. Life was good for me, and while his message was strong, and it did in truth shake me to my core, I figured it was a problem far into the future that I would one day need to deal with.

I feel as though that day is now.

Here I am at 32 years old, with two children and a husband, all of whom I feel responsible for ensuring a healthy future. Among other things, I can now see that climate change is a threat to that healthy future.

Aside from climate change, as a parent I’ve become concerned over the past few years about the foods and other household products my family consumes and uses. One could say this was the beginning of my passion for a better future for my family. After much research stemming from documentaries like Food Matters, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, many Ted Talks and articles from Facebook groups like March Against Monsanto and Food and Water Watch, our family decided to make the switch to an all-organic, non-gmo (genetically modified organism) household. The entire process took about a year to overhaul everything, right down to my vegan mascara.

When it came to household purchases, I felt back in control of ensuring a healthy future for my children. However when it comes to climate change, I’ll admit this task seemed much more daunting. Sure I can purchase organic bananas and ensure that their shampoo is made from all natural ingredients, but how do I ensure that they have good air quality? Or that their water won’t become contaminated? How can I be sure that they will have the same opportunities growing up that I had, without thinking of the many natural disasters that could potentially destroy so much of their resources here at home?

These were all questions that I would lay awake thinking about. I had that familiar feeling that I had with the organic switch; something needed to be done. I couldn’t just stand back and watch all of these things happening and do nothing anymore.

That time is now.

I began researching ways to combat climate change and came across the Climate Reality website. It was as if all the stars were aligning. There just happened to be a free training coming up in a few months in the city of Toronto, just two hours away from my home! I applied, crossed my fingers and waited for a response. At 10:00pm on a Tuesday night a few weeks later I received an email from Mario E. Molina, the Director of the Training. I had been accepted.

Since coming home from the Climate Reality Leadership Training in Toronto [held in July 2015] I’ve felt a renewed purpose to advocate for my children and educate others on not only the bad news about climate change, but the GOOD news too.

It helps me to connect with my fellow Climate Reality leaders and see what they are working on in their respective communities. It not only motivates me to do more for my own community, but it reminds me that there are hundreds of others just like me who actually do care, and who are putting their emotions into action.

I truly believe when I walked into the Climate Reality training that I was on the right path in my life. I have always been one to recycle and compost and care about the Earth, but this has given me one big push to really take hold of it and give it my all. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Welcome to the 'Green Awakenings' Online Anthology!

In July of 2015, I had the pleasure to attend Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Training Conference in Toronto.

There were 600 attendees, people from all walks of life, and from all over Ontario, and Canada and the world.

This was a life changing event, not just because I got to hear Al Gore speak so brilliantly on the issue of climate change.

But because I got to meet so many amazing people. Inspiring people. So called 'ordinary' people, like you or me, who are taking action on climate change and a wide variety of environmental issues.

At this conference, there was a moment when were encouraged to share 'our stories' at our table groups, stories about how we came to interested in environmental action, how we came to be at the conference.

After the conference, I got inspired by this, thinking:

Wouldn't it be cool if...I could interview this diverse group of interesting people and document those moments of 'green awakening'?

Was there a catalyst? A defining moment? What caused that inner shift inside? How did they move from a state of complacency to one of action?

How inspiring to read about people making changes in their life!

That is the basis of this online anthology.

Who are the people fighting for the protection of our home, our planet?

I'd like you to drop by this site and meet them!