Marianne Larned is the best-selling author of the “Stone Soup for the World Series” and founder of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization that develops multicultural digital educational tools, leadership training, and Sustainability Summits that empower leaders for a greener future. Her latest book, “Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes” features the stories of 100 climate change trailblazers, environmental justice warriors, educator champions, sustainable business leaders and other changemakers from around the world.
We spoke with Marianne about her new book and her thoughts about the fascinating and inspiring folks creating innovative and sustainable solutions to the global climate crisis.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Stone Soup for the World series began over 20 years ago. Given the great response, the first Stone Soup book, “Stone Soup for the World” led to an educational curriculum and the founding of our nonprofit, the Stone Soup Leadership Institute. After working with the community of Martha’s Vineyard, we were invited to work with other communities in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Oakland and Boston, where we used the book and curriculum to create a large, multifaceted endeavor for training and empowering youth leaders.
While I began writing my second book about young people, I was always collecting stories in all these communities. As I searched for a quiet place to finish the book – on Vieques, Puerto Rico, Virgin Gorda, BVI, Hawaii, the Philippines and Sri Lanka – we were asked to empower their young people too. Working alongside these communities, starting in 2003, I came to see and have first-hand experience with the urgency of climate change and the importance of training young people in sustainability innovations that could prepare them for today’s realities.
To respond to this dire need, we founded the Institute’s annual Youth Leadership summit on Sustainability and year-round programs. This kept me pretty busy. Along the way, I collected more stories – many of them are featured in the book’s chapter Emerging Leaders. Then, September 2019, I was privileged to hear Greta Thunberg speak at her first U.S. event in New York City. That was the moment I knew it was time to finally bring this book, highlighting the work of young climate activists from around the world, into being.
Why do you believe this book is especially important today?
The climate crisis we are facing is urgent. We don’t have any more time to waste in addressing it urgently, and effectively. The youth featured in this book are doing just that in any number of ways, from inspiring and growing climate activism to creating inventions that can begin to clean up some of the worst environmental problems we have created—for example, plastic pollution in our oceans. We need to know what they are doing and help them. They can’t do it alone, but they are indeed leading the way in exciting new directions.
There are so many inspiring stories in the book – can you give us a couple of examples of the young changemakers you profile?
Daniela Fernandez has started an organization called the Sustainable Ocean Alliance that has a special accelerator program that has helped to launch 29 ocean tech startups. They also have a venture capital fund to further support these companies, and the many more that they expect to create. Francois van den Abeele has created a very successful business, Sea2See, from his home in Barcelona: they are retrieving plastic pollution from the ocean and making fashion eyeglasses and other products from it.
As a student working in a coffee shop in Scotland, Fergus Moore figured there had to be a better way to dispose of coffee grounds than just adding them to landfill; he and his childhood friend and neighbor got together and have created a start-up called Revive ECO, and the prototype for an invention that can convert coffee grounds into environmentally friendly products.
And in Hawaii, Vincent Kimura has built multiple green businesses to help small farmers. His most impactful venture, Smart Yields, gives farmers access to up-to-date data on their land through the use of a mobile app that provides real-time monitoring and analytics of their crops. These are just a few of the stories. There are so many more, and they are from all around the world. It’s incredibly exciting.
We see a lot of initiatives out there today trying to effect change, some more successfully than others. Were you able to discern two or three lessons learned from the successful group of young heroes you spoke to?
One of the things that comes through loud and clear, time after time, when these young heroes are asked what is needed to solve the problems we’re facing, is that we need to work together in order to successfully create meaningful change. This means across national borders, across generational boundaries, across cultural divisions. Another thing is the importance of choosing a problem and doing something about it, even if that something is small. The people featured in this book have great wisdom about how one person working on a small positive change has a way of growing, and involving other people.
What do you feel are the greatest challenges that these young climate change heroes face (or will be facing soon)?
The greatest challenge they face is the same challenge we’re all facing: how can we mobilize enough cooperation and the political will to deal with the problems of climate change in time to make it possible for future generations to live in peace, health, and security on this beautiful planet of ours?
With those challenges in mind, what gives you hope that they’ll tackle them and bring about change?
Their optimism, dedication, determination and ingenuity give me hope. They are not wasting any time bemoaning the fact that so little has been done in past generations to avoid our getting into this crisis in the first place. They are focused on how to turn things around. We need to help them do that. Now!
Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes is available online and in bookstores. For more information, visit StoneSoupLeadership.org/book or follow @stonesoupleader on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.