Bothered by My Green Conscience book launch is…

by Franke James

Franke James at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience, holding large copy of book for presentation; photo by Central Image Agency

Bothered by My Green Conscience has officially launched in Toronto. Yeah!! It’s “DONE.” And with eccentric green glamour style too.

To be honest, I had no idea how I was going to “launch” my book. Where should I have it? What’s the best format to get people engaged? Who will come to it?

While I was musing and mulling over the possibilities, Roots stepped forward and offered to host a launch party and a book reading. Hmmmm… let me think about this…

Roots carries a long line of environmental books in their stores — and their Bloor Street store is a gorgeous, downtown venue — plus from 1995 to 1998 my design company had worked on creative projects for Roots — well, it didn’t take me more than a nanosecond to say, “Yes!”

The Backstory:

Many, many years ago, when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy….

I phoned up Michael Budman, co-founder of Roots with the idea that they should be on the web. Luckily he and Don Green (the other co-founder) agreed. And so we built their first website which debuted in January 1996. We had some fun features on the site including this one of Michael and Don bobbing in the lake.

Michael Budman and Don green bobbing the lake. Animation by the James Gang, 1995/96

One of the most popular areas on the site was a section called “Around the Campfire,” where Grade 5 and 6 students from two Toronto-area schools had written ghost and camping stories.

Around the Campfire screen designed by the James Gang, 1995/96

Fast forward to today, and you can see storytelling is still in my blood.

But now my stories for the virtual campfire include climate change…

CO2 toaster illustration by Franke James

Recap: The July 14th Launch Party

green brain illustration by Franke James

What’s bothering

your green conscience?

To get the party started, we handed out small cards asking guests to tell us what was bothering their green conscience. Would they confess their green guilt?

It’s amazing what people will tell you if you offer them a nice glass of wine (or organic beer) …

wine glass and card illustration by Franke James

photo by Central Image Agency

So many people showed up I was thrilled. Old friends, family, neighbors, green supporters, and lots of very creative people including Joshua Tusin from BlogTO, Kelly Rossiter from Treehugger & PlanetGreen, editor Lindsay Borthwick and the Green Living team, Anil Kanji from Greenpeace, Si Si Penaloza and Tania Leah Haas from, Kelly Drennan (aka @ecofashionista), Claire Blicker from Kate Walker & Co, book author Rona Maynard… You get the idea — there were lots of amazing people who lead really interesting lives! People I would have loved to sit down and have a good long chat with… but there was an event to get done!

Raymond Perkins Roots photo by David Stevenson

Raymond Perkins, Director of PR for Roots kicked off the evening by introducing Ron Dembo, Founder and CEO of Zerofootprint as the man who is helping Roots be green.

Ron Dembo at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

Ron Dembo spoke persuasively about the urgent need for action on climate change. He also introduced me and talked about my book — and the usefulness of my work as a storyteller in conveying hard truths. (My personal connection to Ron dates back eleven years when I did photography and design projects for his risk management software company, Algorithmics. Back then, who would have thought he’d be introducing me and my environmental book in July, 2009? It was a very special moment for me.)

Franke James at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience, reading card; photo by Central Image Agency

When I got up to speak I started by reading the Green Conscience cards that had been filled out by guests. There were so many things nagging at people… I laughed at many of them as they really rang true for me! Here are just a handful of the responses.

response cardI don’t know who drew this but I admire the chicken drawing and the organic eggs!

Here’s a good question about condo buildings, apartments and recycling…

response card

The one below picks up on a recent news expose about
our Mayor Miller and the greenbin fiasco!

miller response card

Here is one of my pet peeves… LEAFBLOWERS!!
leaf blower response card

(I sometimes imagine this happening to them!)

illustration by franke james of a leaf blower being sucked into the sky; card

Here’s an idea —  offset your green guilt by doing something really big and positive…

flying response card

The air as a giant sewer and dirty diapers! Are they connected?

smog and diapers response card

And here’s one we’ll be framing for posterity (as well as immortalizing here)…

response card

And here’s one I didn’t write, but could have!

blonde response card

I do feel guilt when I get my blonde highlights done.

Franke James, July 14 event for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

So, what do all of these confessions really mean? I think they are very important — for this reason…

Most people don’t think of themselves as ‘environmentalists’ and yet almost everyone has a green conscience that bothers them on a daily basis. That little voice saying, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t throw that in the trash, it goes in recycling…’ Realistically, some of us will throw it in the trash anyway, but the conflict rages in our head. We know that climate change is a big problem, but we feel powerless.

I think it’s time to raise the bar. We need to do more than just change a light bulb if we’re going to be successful in reducing carbon emissions. Each of us needs to listen to our green conscience, and then choose to do something ambitious. Something that will have a real impact in our lives. I call it ‘doing the hardest thing first.’ Because it’s far more satisfying (and FUN) to do something that is making a difference.

Franke James illustration of do hardest thing 1st;

Plus doing the hardest thing first also recognizes that few of us can be 100% perfect in our green lifestyles. Me, for example! I’m still eating imported strawberries and getting my hair highlighted, but I can feel good because I’ve got some big actions “right.” Like what? Well, we sold our only car, an SUV, in February 2007. We built a green driveway despite facing objections from the City. I can feel good about those actions.

Does that mean I’m expecting YOU to sell your car or build a green driveway? Nope. If someone had said, “Franke you must sell your car and build a green driveway!” — I would have told them to take a hike… But because the idea came from within, I was happy to do it. As a family, we see lots of benefits now: improved fitness, we buy less stuff without a car to haul it around in, and we save $10,000 a year! There are lots more green goals I want to accomplish — but I’m pleased that we’re moving in the right direction.

So, I’d like to ask you, “What is the hardest thing you could do? What is the one thing that would really whack down your carbon emissions? What would you take pride in doing — and want to tell your friends and family about? What could you tell your future grandchildren you did to combat climate change?”

I know I want to be able to say I did more than change a lightbulb.

How about you?

Paradise Unpaved illustration by Franke James;

That evening I read my visual essay Paradise Unpaved. Often, I present my work with a digital projector, but Roots wanted the evening low-tech. So, I made up a big book to read on stage and showed the pictures to the audience.

Franke James holding big book copy of Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

Franke James holding big book copy of Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

Franke James holding big book copy of Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

I also showed one of the PermaTurf pavers used to build our green driveway.

Bill James laying permaturf pavers; photo by Franke JamesFranke James and Bill James laying permaturf paver;

The pavers interlock to create a drivable, load-bearing surface that can withstand 100 tons per square yard (enough for a fire engine). The 13″ squares are made of recycled plastic. Soil and grass seed goes inside each honeycomb cell. When a car drives on it, the grass blades flatten, but the roots are protected inside the cells and do not get damaged.

In the image below you can see what our driveway looked like one year later, with the grass grown in.

Franke James; photo by David Stevenson

green driveway 1 year later, photo by Franke James

So how relevant to the audience was all this information about building a green driveway? Well, just in case someone wanted to build their own as a long weekend do-it-yourself project, I did point them to my step-by-step articles.

But what benefit is our green driveway on a bigger environmental scale? While it’s nice for me to have a green driveway, what difference does it make to you?

Lots! I pointed out these facts:

1. Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of lake water pollution in urban areas. The more permeable surfaces we have in Toronto, the less polluted stormwater that runs into the lake.
2. More permeable surfaces (like Green driveways, green roofs, & rainbarrels) could save the City and taxpayers money by not having to build larger water treatment plants. For example, our driveway saves 10,000 gallons of stormwater a year from going into the sewers. (That’s an 80% reduction from when we had an interlocking brick driveway.)
3. Upgrading Toronto’s stormwater storage and sewer treatment plants carries a hefty price tag of $500 million.)
4. Winning approval from the City to build our green driveway (despite initial objections) has ‘greened’ the way for others.

I also gave the example of the Chicago Green Alleys program, which sees the same benefits as our green driveway but on a much larger scale — 1,900 miles in fact! (See: How Alice in Wonderland thinking can win over City Hall.)

chicago green alleys handbook

I wrapped up by making an observation that I think is really significant…

The insurance industry is on the front lines of climate change — and they are not happy about it. Climate change is costing them money: One violent rainstorm in Toronto in August 2005 cost them $400 million in individual claims! And that is just one storm and one city. For them to “win” they need to be able to accurately predict future risk. Climate change is making that extremely difficult.

“Even a 2 degree temperature rise is likely to lead to more intense storms, some significant droughts and a largely unknown effect on sea level. If we miss the target, we make the crossing of tipping points more likely, some of which can radically change the magnitude of the risk.” Trevor Maynard, Manager Emerging Risks Team, Lloyd’s of London

And Patrick Liedtke, Secretary General of the Geneva Association said this, “If left unchecked, global warming may make the cost of some insurance “unbearable.”

A frightening thought, indeed!

But it makes you think. If the insurance industry, which is extremely conservative, is taking proactive measures to combat the risks of climate change, shouldn’t we? They were after all the ones that warned us about the risks of smoking, drinking and driving, and many others… (And they gave us lower insurance premiums if we promised not to engage in that risk-taking behavior!)

Franke James and Raymond Perkins at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

As we said our goodbyes, I thanked Michael Budman, co-founder of Roots, for hosting the event.

Franke James and Michael Budman at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

I also announced donations of my book illustrations (giclees on bamboo paper) to two environmental organizations which have given me support and encouragement. I am donating “Suzuki as the Greenman,” to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Suzuki as the Green Man illustration by Franke James; photo by Central Image Agency

And one print to Greenpeace Canada. I’m thinking one from the Real Poop on Social Change would be fitting. In his book review, Anil Kanji quoted me saying, “If people can be convinced to pick up dog shit, who knows what social change is possible?”

The Real Poop on Social Change illustration by Franke James;

So, was it time to rest? Nope. Four days later, on July 18th, I did another book reading…

Franke James at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

And signing at Roots! My thanks to everyone for your tremendous support!

Franke James at book reading for Bothered by My Green Conscience; photo by Central Image Agency

I’m happy to say,

“It’s DONE! And it was FUN!”

Please check out the Facebook photo album from the event.

If you missed the launch and book readings, please drop by the Roots store at 100 Bloor Street West, in downtown Toronto. You can buy the book, plus see twenty-one of my book illustrations — printed on bamboo paper — which are on exhibit until the end of August.

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