Kenji Williams - Founder & Director of Bella Gaia - in Conversation with The MY HERO Project

by Wendy Jewell from The MY HERO Project

"Bella Gaia transported me back into orbit, to feel the beauty and power of the Earth." - John Grunsfeld, NASA Astronaut

"A new form of experiential portal - to make a deeper connection with our beautiful planet." - Examiner

Kenji Williams (http://www.bellagaia.com/)
Kenji Williams (http://www.bellagaia.com/)

Kenji Williams creates magic with BELLA GAIA, Beautiful Earth, his multi-media  presentation that offers a global perspective of planet earth and the magical marriage of science and nature "sharing a world bridge of music, visual arts, science and unique storytelling" that reminds us we all live on the same planet and need to be proper stewards.

Kenji Williams: award winning filmmaker, musician, dad, producer, theatrical show director and classically trained violinist will be part of The MY HERO Project's International Day of Peace event September 20, 2014.

Kenji tells us: "BELLA GAIA shows you how humans and nature are connected and how art and science are connected. It's an exploration of the relationship between human civilization and our ecosystem through time and space."

The MY HERO Project caught up with Kenji recently to talk about his work and his thoughts about peace and creating the kind of world we would all like to live in.

What was your vision for creating Bella Gaia?

"The vision was born when I met astronaut Mike Fincke who lived on the space station for a year. I asked him what changed when  he went to space.

He was a planetary scientist who had liked other planets better than earth before he went to the space station. But when he saw earth from space, he had a complete transformation and it became his favorite. This stunning image that we really are all living in one world together. From space there are no boundaries. His story profoundly inspired me to share his transformative experience to those of us who cannot go to space. That was the initial genesis and from there it was an organic process that kept growing.

 

 

Through the eyes of Astronauts (BELLA GAIA and NASA)
Through the eyes of Astronauts (BELLA GAIA and NASA)

I kept meeting people and then the doors started opening at NASA and their support has been amazing. These top scientists are frustrated that people are not paying attention to their knowledge and data.

My pitch was that you have to present scientific info in a way that humans can digest. We need to be moved and engaged emotionally with left and right brains which is what neuro-scientific  research confirms. My  initial presentation to these scientists using their data coupled with music made a great impact on them. They understood.

Now I have this formal relationship with NASA and they curate a lot of visualizations that are always updating for Bella Gaia. NASA also funds our education program. a school for engaging youth in science and environmental stewardship.

Apart from the NASA events, Bella Gaia is an artistic entertainment show with a concert length touring band that can go from very simple to huge. This year we finished production of a film version of Bella Gaia that will be distributed to museums and planetariums with extremely hi resolution formatted for them.

 

Kenji in performance BELLA GAIA (http://www.bellagaia.com/)
Kenji in performance BELLA GAIA (http://www.bellagaia.com/)

What have you learned about global PEACE by performing this amazing show about our planet and how interconnected we are?

"I really understood how I think people sometimes tend to oversimplify peace but with BG you can see the interconnectedness of humans and nature. There are so many factors about violence and wars that come back to the natural world.  Bella Gaia has opened my eyes to learning about the complex nature of our world and the reality that sometimes the solutions are very simple and just need to be implemented.

Despite the wars occurring at the moment, we are still here, we have not destroyed ourselves yet and that gives me hope that we can find a way to live harmoniously in the future."

How does using media, art and technology with people around the world impact their ideas of borders between countries and us being from one planet and all in this together?

"These are all tools to take down these boundaries and quite affectively. It's amazing how you can connect with anyone in the world instantaneously with photos and images in real time.  Even language is no longer such an issue with instant translations, further highlighting the gross nature of these arbitrary political boundaries and religions that separate rather than bring people together. This is why I am an artist. It opens people's minds and hearts."

 

 

Air Traffic seen from Space (BELLA GAIA and NASA)
Air Traffic seen from Space (BELLA GAIA and NASA)

Do you think that after seeing your performance and seeing how it is one planet that we all live on and how connected we are with Air Travel, ocean currents, etc. they might think about doing something to save the environment? Start to realize that our collective actions impact the planet and the environment?

"One of the ways of learning the effects of a massive project like BG is gathering evaluation s of beliefs before and after the experience. What we have found is a 90% conversion of the understanding of the earth after seeing BG.  More potently, those who feel the earth is directly connected to their personal life and families went from 31% before viewing to 64% after. A lot of the current environmental movement messaging is not only politicized but abstracted by numbers and charts and realizing that polar bears are far away from most people.

Ultimately humans act on how we feel and how engaged we are. so the fact that we doubled this number about how the environment impacts their lives gives us a clue about how to communicate this critical issue."

You recently had a child. how much did that influence what you do regarding the kind of environment we will be leaving our children? What would you say to other parents?

"Obviously BG was created before I became a father so I was already thinking about future generations and thinking long term. I have a great love and care for all beings past, present and future. Having a child made it real in the physical sense. It has given me more reason and energy and motivation to continue."

To parents? Words are not going to change minds and I have had many experiences with climate skeptics but a recent event stands out. I was setting up for a show at the DC mall and was having a conversation with a climate skeptic who did not believe humans were partly to blame.  I said why don't you take a seat and watch and afterwards he came up to me and said I think you changed my mind. Sometimes it is one person at a time."

 

Kenji Williams performing BELLA GAIA (Kenji Williams)
Kenji Williams performing BELLA GAIA (Kenji Williams)

What can we all do in small or big steps to help create change regarding the degradation of the planet environmentally and with regards to peace?

"First no action can happen without a change of mind and heart. Action takes various forms and begins by simply talking and speaking about it with friends and family.

The more people speak out about it the more it becomes a culture and not a hot button issue and the more it becomes the norm with expectations that we can make the necessary changes needed. Vote with the dollars you spend. Buy locally. Be aware of where things are coming from - far or close? I try to shop at farmers markets as much as possible. If possible, choose where you live so you don't have to own a car.  I fly a lot which is one problem I wish I could solve immediately but I offset when I can by buying carbon credits. I buy local wind energy for my house from New York State. If you can use alternative forms of energy to power your house or apartment."

I think on an esoteric and spiritual level retaining a peace within yourself will emanate in everything you do and how you interact in the world with others.

That said these actions that impact the resources we consume are peaceful actions it's not just about climate change or resources. What we do directly affects what happens in other parts of the world."

If you have the attention of the world for 5 minutes what would you do or say regarding PEACE?

"My language is art and performance. So I would perform a 5 minute Bella Gaia piece."

Who is your hero and why?

"Elon Musk because he is a real game changer for the planet."

We look forward to Kenji Williams bringing Bella Gaia to The MY HERO Project's Peace Event this September 20th in Los Angeles.

 

Related Links

BELLA GAIA Beautiful Earth - BELLA GAIA (Beautiful Earth) shows you how humans and nature are connected, and how art and science are connected. It's an exploration of the relationship between human civilization and our ecosystem through time and space.
MY HERO story about Kenji Williams - Learn more about Kenji and why MY HERO AWARDED HIM OUR 2010 MY HERO MEDIA AWARD!
NASA Education Beautiful Earth Program - Beautiful Earth is a unique education experience for people of all ages that combines live music, a multi-media presentation of NASA visualizations and timelapses, NASA scientist and Native American perspectives of the Earth, and hands-on workshops at 5 partner museums across the U.S. Based on the success of BELLA GAIA, the program illuminates the connections between natural systems and human activities to inspire audiences to act as stewards for our shared resources and stimulate greater interest in STEM and NASA careers, and NASA Earth Science Missions.
BELLA GAIA video trailer - STUNNING.... you must click here and be amazed!
BELLA GAIA - UNEP Live Hotspots to Hopespots video - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and BELLA GAIA are launching a short film titled Hotspots to Hopespots - a multimedia presentation of scientific data and images on the planet's changing environment. Directed by award winning filmmaker, music producer and classically trained violinist, Kenji Williams, the film highlights this year's World Environment Day theme of food waste and showcases visualizations of Hotspots that have turned into Hopespots. These images are available on the UNEP Live portal, which is based on research led by UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA). The film, which also features data produced by NASA, BELLA GAIA and the Brooklyn-based data visualization company, Culture Shock, illustrates earth science stories from around the globe. The partners worked together to show real time anthropogenic activity spanning decades.

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