July 14, 2011

One Drop makes a difference

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Politics, Spirituality, Travel at 6:43 pm by dinaheng

Guy Laliberte has seen the world from a place most can only imagine. Today, he’s using what he saw to create greater awareness of the water issues facing humanity and the planet we live on.

Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, became Canada’s first private citizen in space when he journeyed to the International Space Station in September 2009. Knowing that his celebrity would draw attention to the space voyage, Laliberte decided to make a “Poetic Social Mission” out of his adventure.

The artistic event he created, presented simultaneously in 14 cities while he was on the space station, centered around water issues around the world. He established ONE DROP, a nonprofit organization that aims to eliminate poverty by providing access to clean water, and has made it part of his personal mission to create a better world.

“GAIA” (Assouline, $65), a new art book curated by Laliberte, shares more than 150 photographs of Earth taken by the Cirque founder from the International Space Station. All proceeds from the book’s sales will benefit ONE DROP, which aims to provide education, adapted water-access solutions and microfinance lending in developing countries to encourage sustainable development.

“Water is the source of life, and one person dies every 20 seconds from lack of access to clean water,” Laliberte says. “Whether it’s global warming, health care or biodiversity, water is at the center of our most pressing issues.

“There’s less clean water on the planet today. We’re using it in abundance, and we don’t regenerate it. With our current climate situation, there will be massive migrations, and in the near future, it could be the greatest crisis humanity has to face.”

The book, which pairs photos of the planet’s colorful and varied surface textures with inspirational sayings by noted people of all nationalities, is a beautiful reminder that Mother Earth is home to us all.

The words of Khalil Gibran, Galileo Galilei, Rachel Carson, Rumi, and Norman Cousins join with Chinese, Nigerian and Native American proverbs, a traditional Gaelic blessing and more to give voice to images of the Earth’s terrain that seem to come from heaven’s imagination.

“It was an amazing experience and privilege to go up into space,” Laliberte says. “I took pictures like any traveler, and when I started to share the pictures with friends and family, they validated that there was something more there. I met with Prosper Assouline, who produces the best hardcover books in the world, and ‘GAIA’ was born.”

Laliberte believes that companies should incorporate social activism in their business models, so at Cirque du Soleil, one percent of revenues support Cirque de Monde, a program benefitting at-risk youth around the world.

He says Cirque’s goal is to reach the same level of commitment — with another one percent of revenue — for ONE DROP. The ONE DROP effort, however, will be more active outside the company with fundraising events and partnerships with global groups like Oxfam International.

“We live in a global community, and I hope that ‘GAIA’ will bring different states of reflection to people,” Laliberte says. “The text carries strong meaning. Some words are more poetic, and some are strong statements, like the idea that the Earth provides enough for the needs of everybody, but not for everybody’s greed.

“We cannot be blind to the fact that the Earth is not balanced. There are millions who wake up who don’t dream about being millionaires. They think about having enough food and water to survive the day. Our survival will depend on our capacity to connect. To me, more than anything else on Earth, there needs to be more love.

For more information on ONE DROP, check out http://www.onedrop.org/en/default.aspx

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