Honoring US President Jimmy Carter – A Road Not Taken Propaganda? Or, Lessons Learned?

by Barbara McVeigh

Filmmaker, Writer, TV/Radio Host, Activist and Educator.

We can do this” should be the mantra we all say. We can do this. On a global scale.

For forty years we have been enduring not a climate change crisis, but an ego crisis post the last major environmental decade in the United States of the 1970s.

Author Barbara McVeigh, second from left, with her daughter and divers of the Monterey Bay, California

I recall a civil conversation with my former father-in-law ten years ago about the health aspect of smoking cigarettes. He said, “When I learned how bad it was, I knew I had to make a choice. It was on me. So I quit cold turkey.”  Our conversation turned to environmental issues. He said, “People are adept at figuring a way when they have to. People will figure it out.”
I valued my former father-in-law. An Italian man who had faced the throes of Mussolini, World War Two, and then educated himself as a high level engineer and immigrated to the United States and thrived with a respectable life. I respected his words because he had lived through unimaginable atrocities and injustices of war. After he died, I learned he was Jewish, a heritage he had never mentioned once in the twenty five years I knew him. He had married a German woman and it was a beautiful love that united them for fifty years until his death, not allowing past history of divisiveness to interfere with their commitment to one another. 
When I learned about the extent of our environmental disaster ten years ago, like you, I was befuddled. The stakes had changed, and I needed to get on board fast to see what sort of social change I could muster, especially in my own community in Marin County, California which heralds one of the world’s worst carbon producing lifestyles in the United States. Though we can claim to have some of the most powerful, forward thinking environmentalists, such as Author Paul Haw-ken, Environmentalist Michael Stocker and Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos,  the elite lifestyle by many is ruining integrity for the rest of us, yet the financial elite have the most to offer. I recognized that quickly and then had to take a hard look at my own life before I dared to advocate anyone changing their lives.
I had the opportunity to make a film, reasoning we need stories to help inspire us. How about our children telling the story and advocating healthy oceans? So five years ago, I launched a first time small twenty minute film called Racing with Cope-pods in order to showcase twelve children standing up for their oceans. Dr. Sylvia Earle, the global leader of oceanography, joined our cause and that lifted our film into the international film scene overnight. Suddenly I found myself in a prestigious and highly responsible position, as a spokesperson, for the global oceans. I had never imagined myself, little me, in such a place, but I recognized in that moment that we all have the capacity to step into bigger roles than what we have been taught to do.
The film had success. During that journey though I recognized the lack of science knowledge as well as the hesitation for us to collect in order to make the kind of shift we all need to make – one of unity as well as respect for one another and all of life, as we support one another in what could be the greatest global shift in human history.
In researching my film, I stumbled across a disturbing correlation between American politics and ocean acidification. You can actually see the spike of ocean acidification in the early 1980s, a direct link to carbon consequences, as our oceans absorb carbon. What happened? I dug deeper to discover one of the most important forgotten discussions about one of the darkest environmental secrets  – The United States President Jimmy Carter who has been nearly forgotten in my country, even though he is still alive, actually tried to curb climate change in the late 1970s. We had a global leader who encouraged the American people to stand up to OPEC! We had a president who asked the American people to adopt sustainable energy of wind and solar. What happened? The Iranian hostage siege which was also a back room deal by the Republican Party helped to undermine President Jimmy Carter and ensure the election of President Ronald Reagan known as the “Hero” of the Republican Party. OPEC backed and supported Reagan. And, of course, Reagan knocked down all of Carter’s wind and solar sustainable energy initiatives and made the beginning of the big deals with Saudi oil and beyond.
The environmental conversation about climate change we are having today was a conversation in the late 1970s, as demonstrated in the Swiss made film A Road Not Taken and Robert Redford’s film The Solar Film. The book Rays of Hope, The Transition to a Post Petroleum World published in 1976 by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington D.C. clearly writes, with cogent scientific research, the crisis that was growing with fossil fuels and that which we are facing today. 
One could easily make the argument today that President Ronald Reagan of the United States, a global leader, is directly responsible for climate change after undermining visionary policies set by United States President Jimmy Carter.
Has this been the greatest propaganda effort of 40 years, undermining the entire global population?  Why isn’t Al Gore talking about Carter’s initiatives? This information about Reagan was very sensitive to me as my father had actually stood up to President Reagan in the last great act of solidarity in my country – the 1981 national union strike. 12,500 families were willing to lose everything as they strike against him to demand political honesty. We went broke and had many hard years following that strike. I even lost my guitar lessons as a 13 year old kid . . . and I was quite bitter about that for years. I wrote about this journey in my memoir: Redemption, How Ronald Reagan Nearly Ruined My Life  The dirty fact is, Reagan’s oil energy policies post the visionary Jimmy Carter, have nearly ruined us all!Or any major environmentalist? Are we facing an ego problem, of leaders vying for center stage as a hero who saves us?
That lost guitar lesson has actually served me. My project now, after much contemplation, is to bring forth a spirit of unity, a statement, recognizing the international language of music has the potential to bring us together, the first step toward collaboration and peace. This is the time to come together and show each other, that we, the people, do indeed respect one another and love one another . . . and we love and respect all life. 
My new film is called The Man Behind The White Guitar. It just received an award at the Alwar International Film Festival in Rajasthan,India. It’s a film that brings together many beloved international musicians, including social justice activist Harry Belafonte, Steve Winwood, Narada Michael Walden and even postumously The Beatles member George Harrison. The film follows the life of Brazilian Guitarist Jose Neto, a musician who is humble and in service to others. He never chased fame or money, but he is respected globally by some of the top world musicians because of his values and his powerful music played on his white guitar. 
This October many of us in California hope to shine a light on President Jimmy Carter, in time for his 96th birthday on October 1. And wouldn’t it be spectacular to create a global message to all our global leaders how, “we, the people”  celebrate the good ones, those with vision, hope and peace by bringing together world musicians for a global celebration by the people? 
Can we do this together? A website has been set up – www.jimmycarterjamboree.org -to call out also others who are leading by example with values and merit as we reestablish collective values across the world and inspire one another with peace, creativity, diversity and hold each other tightly . . . and show our children how we can do business to ensure their safe future as humanity comes together and makes right of the wrongs.
We can do this. “People are adept at figuring a way when they have to. People will figure it out.”
It’s a start. We have a world to move and we need to race faster than the fastest animal in the world, the copepods. Imagine. Let’s do it while we dance.
– The Man Behind the White Guitar – Please support a vision! 
Racing with Copepods, an educational ocean advocacy film, with Dr. Sylvia Earle