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Posted on May 4, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 4)

Holger Keifel: He calls it his “30 million dollar,” you know, because apparently he got $30 million for the fight. You know, he wears it like a war scar, or a trophy. Mike Tyson, you know, like while you mention his name, I photographed—he was the last person I photographed. And actually, he’s a very, very nice guy. You know, at least now at this point in his life, he—I met him like three years ago, which was a bit different. But he was surrounded by a different kind of people, and now things are going very well for him.

Howie Stier: Your portrait of Mike Tyson—it’s surprising; it’s very different than the photos when he was known as Iron Mike. He looks distinguished; he looks very thoughtful. So he’s changed now?

Holger Keifel: We don’t know how long it’s going to last. But at this moment, he seems a very happy man. He called me a freak, but you know, I pushed him a little; I asked him if he would take the shirt off. And he said no, man, you know, I don’t want to do that. He’s—he’s getting, he’s in pretty good shape; not, of course, not in fighting shape. But, so I let that slide for a little bit, but then I asked him like a few minutes later, because I just wanted to have a different kind of photo of him; he said, man, you a freak or something? I told you already, I’m not taking my shirt off. But I don’t blame him for that, you know, and I told him, Mike, you know, I had to try. And he understood. It was all cool. I brought up “The Hangover,” and he was so proud of it. And you know, like, I photographed him last year in the spring, a good year ago, and then he said—so, but he was very happy about his little cameo in “The Hangover,” and being in “Hangover II” also. That’s nice, that’s nice, you know? It’s good when people, when things are going well for people, and he is very appreciative.

Howie Stier: Holger Keifel, thank you so much for putting out this wonderful book, and thank you for speaking to us today.

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Holger Keifel: Thank you.

* * *

Kasia Anderson: I’m Kasia Anderson, associate editor at Truthdig. And I’m speaking today with Sharon Smith. She is a budding eco-activist—pardon the pun—and author of “The Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World.” How you doing today, Sharon?

Sharon Smith: I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Kasia Anderson: And I understand you took some time off your busy schedule at Yale to speak with us, yeah?

Sharon Smith: Yes, I just completed a final [Laughs], and here I am.

Kasia Anderson: With all your copious spare time, you’ve written a book. So can you set the stage for us about what, you know, what led to your writing this book and what your various causes and interests are as an activist?

Sharon Smith: Sure. I wrote this book, “The Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World,” based on my experience working for more than 10 years with young people across the United States, on all sorts of issues—reforming the global finance sector; reforming the lobbying industry; reforming dirty fossil fuel-producing industries. And I was so struck by how much has happened in the past year because of the work of young people. And often that work is very invisible. So I wrote this book to both make those stories visible and also tell just the ordinary American how they can follow in the footsteps of these young folks who have so inspired me.

Kasia Anderson: Well, if they were invisible, how did you find them?

Sharon Smith: Well, I had the great pleasure of working with Earth Island Institute and the Brower Youth Awards. So we offered a prize to six young people every year across North America for exceptional leadership, and I was able to read hundreds and hundreds of stories of young people who were doing this work in their communities. It was a challenge every year to just select six folks, but that was the inspiration for writing this book, to be able to take these lessons to a much wider audience.

Kasia Anderson: Now, just something that’s of personal interest to me—and I’m getting a little meta on you here—is, what is it that you see that young, this young crop of activists are doing, that’s maybe new in the way of protest or activist, you know…what are they doing that we haven’t seen before?

Sharon Smith: I don’t know if it’s so much what people are doing that’s new, as the scale of what people are doing. So to give some context, 10 years ago when I was getting started in the environmental movement, I went to a conference that at the time was the largest-ever youth environmental conference, and—it’s called Eco-Conference—brought together a thousand people. And that blew my mind a decade ago. Well, four years ago—excuse me, two years ago, and then again two weeks ago—I went down to D.C. for Power Shift, which now is the nation’s largest climate-change gathering, and it’s all young folks from across North America. And more than 10,000 young folks gathered together. So I think what we’re seeing is the scale, and the amount of folks who are doing the same types of organizing tactics—it’s protest, it’s writing to legislators, it’s pushing for legislation, it’s changing things on their own school campuses and in their communities—but it’s just happening on a scale that we’ve never seen before.

Kasia Anderson: And what do you think, if anything, that the Internet is adding to this mix that’s indispensable? Is it just that the young activists are, you know, very good at multitasking online, or are they doing, you know, are they reaching out through various channels online to organize and to get their message out?

Sharon Smith: Well, that’s definitely a huge part of the success. And I’ll tell a story from a young man, Alec Loorz. He was trained by Gore to give presentations focused on climate change, and in fact he started doing that when he was very young, about 14 years old. And he is using the Internet to coordinate a series of marches and events across the nation this very Sunday, on Mother’s Day, called the iMatter Marches. And he’s done all of that work from California using technology and these tools—the same tools that folks who started 350.org. It was a group of students from Middlebury who were graduating, deciding how do we make an impact on the world, and wanted to work in climate change—didn’t want to rally thousands of people to get in their cars or fly to D.C. and spew a bunch of carbon. So they used the Internet to coordinate a decentralized day of action, where everyone had the same message and visual materials that they could upload photos of, and send to Congress with the same unified message. But what they were able to do with 1,200 decentralized actions all across the nation, which then bloomed into 7,800 actions across the world in their latest day of action. So I mean, I really think the tools that young people are using to decentralize this, we don’t have to all gather together in one space to press for change, particularly on federal or international levels; we can do it from our community with the people we know and love, but do it as part of something bigger than ourselves.

Kasia Anderson: And ah, your book—which is, once again, called “The Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World”—not at all ambitious [Laughs]—contains, it says, more than 30 inspiring stories about young people and their various causes. What is it that got these people interested in their particular causes? Was it something that hit close to home in most cases, or…you know, there’s so much clamoring for their attention through media and, you know…that, what was it that kind of sparked their interest to becoming proto-activists?

Sharon Smith: You know, it’s so different for every single person. I know folks in the book—for example, someone actually developed cancer and used his experience of healing himself to start exploring toxins in the environment, and started working on a project called Grow Food, connecting young people with organic farming opportunities. I know another woman who was working and really frustrated by the lack of access to green space, and…places in the outdoors for folks in her community in the Bay Area, and started organizing around that. You know, it’s—some people are touched by something that’s very personal, or very local, or impacts their health or the health of a family member, and other folks sometimes travel on a spring break trip and go to Appalachia and see what’s happening, and get inspired by something halfway across the nation. So it’s just such a mix of things, but that’s really the focus of the first chapter: How do you identify the one issue—when there’s so much that needs to be changed in this world—how do you find the one issue where you can make the biggest difference.


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