Posted by: Noni | October 29, 2015

Greetings from Peru! I spent 9 days in Lima having a crash course in Spanish. It helps that I speak french which is somewhat similar but I still have a long way to go before I can carry on any sort of conversation. Luckily for me I have a wonderful guide and interpretor here in Cusco, high in the Andes.


Yeiber is from a small community, Maras, where they speak the original language Quechan. In Peru there are over 100 different dialects. He works as a tour guide and his company offers volunteer opportunities for youth from around the world.   Since the Spanish conquered the Incas much has changed in this country. In 1821 they gained their independence but have only recently began to be recognized for their diverse richness both geographically and culturally. Machu Picchu was recently  recognized as one of the Wonders of the World so tourism has exploded with over 2 million visitors per year. This has been great for the economy but not so good for the indigenous people who struggle to maintain their sustainable practices. Other influences they battle are pollution, mining and logging devastation and climate changes due to global warming. It´s important to support these people who are the keepers of the land. Small tribes fight valiantly to protect the rainforest from further destruction. The Amazon is responsable for over 20% of the earth´s oxygen so they have an arduous task. Please help me to share their story. We appreciate your support through contribution or sharing.

Posted by: Noni | October 22, 2015

Buying Local – A lesson from people of Peru.

A day at the local fish market

A day at the local fish market

So far my experiences in South America have been incredibly eye-opening. First off, I noticed that for a city with over 8 million people it is relatively safe and clean. Everywhere I go I am treated very well. It’s obvious that I am a gringo, blond hair and blue eyes, but no one has tried to take advantage of me or rip me off. (Like so many other places I have been) The capital city, Lima, is a bustling center full of taxis and buses who somehow manage to keep moving despite a lack of traffic control. The honking of horns is at times deafening and most of the vehicles show evidence of mishaps (dings and dents) but no one seems too preoccupied with fancy cars here. The houses are modest and the neighborhoods a mix of industrial and residential. I was surprised when I accompanied my host, Ines, to the lumberyard and hardware store. I expected a journey by taxi or bus, but instead, we walked around the corner and into a tiny shop jam packed with just about everything you could imagine. A woman behind the counter took our order and returned minutes later with the required merchandise. We went halfway around the block and through a doorway into the Capenteria (lumber yard) where there was a mixture of new and reclaimed wood products. These are small locally owned and operated businesses each staying within their own specialty unlike the giant conglomerations we have in Canada.

When we finished at the lumberyard my friend and I rounded a corner at the end of the block revealing a large open market. Kiosks lined the street selling a variety of items and offering a full banquet of food choices.  When we approached a stall selling fresh chickens Ines greeted the vendor by name and specified how she wanted her order chopped. (one leg with the foot attached, toes removed) Admittedly I was slightly grossed out, but after hearing stories of supermarkets changing the best before dates on factory grown meats, that had been sitting for who knows how long… well, this seemed a lot fresher. Instead of shopping for an entire week or month worth of groceries, the Peruvians buy what they need, as they need it. Fresh! Sure you can stock up on staples but why have bread in your freezer when you can grab a loaf off the corner that has come straight out of the oven.


Somehow we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that shopping for everything under one roof is easier. But is it really? And how much food gets wasted because we have a surplus that rots in the fridge? Personally I think running around a giant store with row after row of goods I’m not interested in, isn’t entirely convenient. People buy what they need, when they need it and they don’t have to drive across town to find it. Best of all the money spent stays in the neighborhood. It doesn’t go to some shareholder whose primary interest is to squeeze more profit out each transaction. In one store we received a coin that the next vendor pointed out as counterfeit. Ines knew exactly where it came from. We returned to the hardware store, handed him the coin and he promptly replaced it with a genuine one. Too many roof shingles from the building supply? They were returned within minutes with no explanation or paperwork required.

I’m sure many would argue that this system is outdated and archaic, but for me it made sense. A trip to the seashore for fresh fish convinced me wholeheartedly. I watched in fascination as a sturdy (strong as an ox from the looks of him) barefooted man waded into the ocean to receive the days catch from each of the returning boats. He hoisted the seafood onto his shoulder and plowed ashore where teams waited to clean and process it. I’ve only seen fresher fish when I caught it myself. No waste of energy transporting it to another location to clean and gut… sorted and stacked for sale within meters of the tide line. When I handed my money to the vendor it went into their pocket not someone else. Restaurants lined the shore competing for our business by calling out their specialties. No need to wonder where they got their ingredients from, you could see them grab the fish right off the pile and put it onto the grill.

bringing in the fishprocessing the catch of the dayfresh today

Since being here I have enjoyed each meal knowing there are no preservatives, additives or colorants. Sure, if you want a big Mac you can drive downtown but there isn’t one on every second corner like home. Variety is offered by the uniqueness of the business owner, not in how many brands of ketchup or salad dressing they carry. Everywhere I go I see things that are the same but that look different. Three stalls sit side by side selling fried chicken but each offering a slightly different rendition. It’s refreshing to be in a place where everything is unique; not cookie cutter uniformity. Perhaps that’s comforting to some, but I prefer an adventure and Lima has certainly dished that up.


It was over 3 years ago that I wrote this piece. I had been out of the country for many years and when I returned to Canada I was saddened at the blatant destruction and devastation caused by mining and oil projects. What had happened to the Canada that I had loved and been so fiercely proud of? I’m inspired now. The people of Canada have raised their voices and claimed ownership of their land again. A powerful message to the world that we don’t want corporate control or corrupt leaders.  The damage had been done, pipelines laid and tar sands dug, tailing ponds overflowing… but change, CHANGE is the new buzzword. We beat fear with hope. I hold Justin Trudeau to the task. I will watch his every move and scrutinize his policies. We have hope. I breath deeply and wait for the dawn of a new day.The Pipeline - An Ode to Enbridge

written by Alison Noni Richards (c) 2012

It’s been a long day but it’s far from over. I stayed up most of last night packing,  sorting, organizing and making sure I had crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s on my list of preparations. I’m no stranger to international excursions so I appreciate that careful planning is critical to a successful journey.  I had booked my flights well in advance (July 27 for a trip mid October) but my first glitch arrived via email in August with a  notification from Cheapo-air explaining that my itinerary had been modified. A stop had been added between Toronto and Lima with an 18.5 hour layover in Quito Ecuador. Really?  Can they change a purchased flight so the passenger arrives a full day later? I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and planned to make a trip into the capital city of a country I hadn’t expected to land in. Making lemonade from lemons so to speak.

The second glitch presented itself this morning when I arrived at the Go Train in Oshawa only to learn that the UP train  (express to Pearson airport) was backed up due to a truck hitting an overpass.  Thankfully I had given myself plenty of extra time for the commute. I arrived at the airport in advance of the required 3 hours prior to international flights.

My flight was relatively uneventful. I was surprised that they fed us not once, not twice, but 3 times. I had a stash of nuts and dried fruits squirreled away in my bag but they still remain untouched. We landed in San Salvador and I had 50 minutes to connect to my next flight. Turns out it was the same plane that I had just disembarked from. I sat in the boarding lounge of airport and watched all the people in utter fascination. I soon realized that I was one of the few people with light colored hair and blue eyes. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I watched a young couple juggle with their bags and attending to a child who seemed quite ill. I hoped that it was nothing serious and that they wouldn’t be on my flight. I wasn’t sure if it was a boy or girl. He/she had thick dark shoulder length hair and black eyes. I decided afterwards that it must have been a boy or his mother would likely have dressed her in something other than jeans and long sleeve button down shirt. The child starting coughing and that led to projectile vomiting. Oh boy! Now I really hoped they weren’t going to be on my flight. I had taken so many precautions to maintain my health before traveling, I didn’t want exposure to whatever she had. Unfortunately the child was in a high traffic area and I was concerned that people would walk through the vomit and track it into the planes. I jumped up and grabbed the stanchions used for making line-ups and blocked off the area. The attendants behind the check in desk seemed completely unimpressed.

I watched with concern (for the child) and relief (for me) when the family boarded a flight through the adjoining gate. The next leg of the journey would have me land in Quito Ecuador. The first surprise of my trip presented itself upon meeting my seat companion. Nathalie smiled and greeted me as I settled into the aisle seat. Within seconds of our introduction there was a huge connection. We soon discovered that we had a great deal in common. She is an Investment Officer for EcoEnterprises Fund. I was in South America to shoot projects exactly like the type she funds. We had plenty to share on the 2 hour flight. I was particularly interested in visiting one of the initiatives that had been running successfully for 10 years. Eco Lodge Rainforest Expedition is run and managed by the local indigenous people.

After landing in Quito, I hit my next glitch. I was not able to leave the airport upon arrival since it was 1 o’clock in the morning and not safe to venture out on my own. I decided to snooze in the airport until morning then travel by bus into the city for breakfast. Here’s where my next glitch came in. As I wandered around a virtually deserted airport I spotted my backpack on the conveyor belt. I had been told it would be checked straight through to Lima. Thank goodness I saw it! Also was the fact that this was a new airport and farther from the city than the old one. I would have had to take a bus to the old airport then one into the city and return by same or taxi… all with my baggage, so chose instead to explore the area around the airport. I couldn’t risk missing my next flight.

I was tired from 48 hours with little sleep but my excitement kept me charged. Luckily all airports have free WiFi so I was content to read and study more about the region. Turned out that Quito is close to Zero Latitude and Zero Longitude. I was pretty much sitting right near the equator. I managed to keep myself entertained until my flight the next evening and after 2 days on the road I was finally landing in Lima!

My host, Joel,  met me at the airport and we pushed our way through the crowds to find a taxi outside. I was bombarded with offers… Taxi, Taxi! The men shouted and waved keys at me. Joel politely declined all offers and found a man he thought to be suitable. It was a highly competitive environment. When we arrived at his home I was met by his cousin and my first awkward exchange of broken English and unintelligible Spanish began. I slept well and was greeted in the morning with a traditional breakfast.

maca con lache

Maca con leche, freshly made papaya juice and bread with cheese. When I first saw the size of the juice (served in a beer mug) I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish it. Turns out it was no problem. My first day in Lima was spent in the city center. The sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming and I found myself wanting to photograph everything. (I took over 700 photos in less than 3 days) Vultures perched on edifices, lunch, street performers, a ride to the top of the city and an evening at a wonderful interactive water park.

Lima Peru Beautiful park with interactive fountains and displays

On the way home we opted to take a taxi instead of bus because I was dragging my feet a bit. (**notes from my cell phone)
**A taxi just hit our bus but no one seemed to notice. When he pulled along side us; our driver delivered a curt reprimand and we continued as if nothing happened, it was a non event. I’m certain that damage was done but, judging from the condition of the vehicles on the road, it’s just part of the daily commute.  Sort of the way North Americans may brush past each other on the sidewalk and mutter a pardon or excuse me under their breaths. As we traveled from the Barrio to the city diesel fumes and dust wafted through the windows.  The radio offered a mix of traditional Peruvian, CHINCHA NEGRA (music of the blacks) and remixes of American favorites executed with guitar and flute. Each bus, often a multi passenger van, has a helper who collects the money, calls out for passengers and navigates through the congestion.

We had a bit of a slower start on day 2 of exploring the coast since I was slightly jet-lagged and exhausted from the previous day.  We boarded a bus for the city where we would transfer to another to go up the coast to Chancay. The beach there was stunning. Lots of shore birds and children running in and out of the surf.

Day 3

**We hit major traffic on the freeway and a group of school children played in the street taunting joking with those idling in the snarl. Our co-pilot (the drivers helper) jumped out and wove his way in and around the trucks, cars and buses clearing a route for us to sneak through.  We exited the freeway into the barrio and the children squealed and cheered. A young man sitting opposite gestured toward my phone indicating that I best stash it in my bag. Another passenger slid my window (which was wide open) shut with a stealthful nonchalance. I began to understand that we were in dangerous   territory.  I was reminded how fortunate I was to have such an amazing friend who was guiding me through these days in the big city. I looked out my dust tinted window and watched as vultures circled overhead.  I felt like I was in a cartoon. As we snaked through the slums I took a moment to reflect on how grateful I was for all the freedoms and opportunities I had received in my life as a Canadian.

After a few twists and turns we emerged on a feeder route that ran parallel to the traffic which remained at a standstill. The assistant to the driver (I wish I knew what they were called) exited through the open door while the vehicle was going at a fairly quick speed. I have no idea how he managed but we were back in the flow which had come to a near stop.  Sweat poured off Joel and he removed a tissue from his pocket to dab his face. Pieces of lint clinged to his skin and I reached to help wipe them off. The blaring of horns drowned out his response which I soon took for embarrassment. The next thing I know he tapped my arm and I followed him from the bus onto the pavement. No danger of being run down by motionless transports. We back tracked about 100 yards to an opening in the barrier and then used an overpass to enter an industrial district.  We followed the freeway for about a kilometer then turned left into a whole new would. The air was heavy with perfume and when my eyes adjusted to the dim interiors through garage door openings I realized we were in the flower district.

What a wonderful detour!  I asked if I could take pictures but from the look on Joel’s face I knew the answer.  I saw a woman talking on a cellular and asked if I could use my phone instead of the Canon Rebel in my bag.  We entered a market and I hastily popped off a few shots as we passed by the displays and stalls. We exited through a different door and were back in bright sunshine again. I was happy to have the memory of the experience and cared little about the quality of the images.
We continued on our way until reaching a busy intersection where we caught another bus. After a short trip through the heart of Lima we were delivered to a terminal where cruise coaches lined up waiting their departure. One was pulling out as we entered and we boarded it (while it was still moving) and pushed towards the back to pick seats on the side facing the ocean.

We had about an hour trip to reach our destination so Joel tipped back he seat and promptly fell into a deep sleep. It never occurred to me that he may be stressed with the task of being my keeper. The ride north was uneventful except for a rotation of street vendors that got on and off at each stop. They were selling nuts, chocolate, drinks or traditional Peruvian foods. We passed a succession of towns, a large naval military base and a water slide park then turned toward the coast and the ocean appeared again shining like a crystal beside the barren cliffs.  The road was narrow and as transport trucks and buses passed us I could feel the vibration of the wind between us. I decided to keep my camera lense well within the window for fear of having it sucked from my grip.  When we reached the outskirts of Chancay the cliffs receded and gave way to fertile agricultural land. I saw corn, cabbage and a patchwork of greens and brown.

to be continued…

Posted by: Noni | September 17, 2015

Saying goodbye to Summer

IMG_9736I’ve been fortunate to spend a good deal of time this summer tending to a lush garden just outside of Toronto in Oshawa. My aunt and uncle have lived there for over 53 years but still add new plants each season. The high temps during August were hard on these perennial hibiscus but with frequent watering, at one point up to 3 times a day, we managed to save them.

Lucky for southern Ontario it wasn’t too dry a summer. The western provinces were plagued, and still are, by raging fires and drought conditions. In Canada we all too often take water for granted. I was recently reminded of just how precious this non-renewable resource is when I attended a reception at the Toronto Exchange hosted by WINDS OF CHANGE.  (More about them in an upcoming post)

As I watered our tranquil sanctuary this morning I thought about how lucky we are to turn on a tap and have access to a seemingly unlimited supply of clean water. photo credit - alison richards Yesterday I was ordering a personal water filter for my trip to Peru and was considering the multitude of illnesses that many face each day by not having a reliable source of clean drinking water. I reflected on the poverty created by droughts in agricultural regions as I photographed the dew of late summer morning.

I’m asking that you take a moment each time you turn on a tap and give thanks for fresh water. Use it sparingly. Cherish our resources. We’re too often careless with a commodity that many millions are denied. Thanks to Rob Scott, co-founder of Winds of Change Canada, for sharing your expertise with families in Nicaragua while stimulating opportunities for growth by building windmills to pump ground water to surface.

I’m inspired by these types of programs and will be documenting sustainable communities in Peru where both locals and international activists are creating meaningful, impactful change.

Posted by: Noni | September 7, 2015

Searching for greener pastures… and greener lifestyle

In 2010 I returned to Canada after living abroad several years. I had visited many countries and witnessed firsthand how differently people lived in other parts of the world. One of the first things I noticed was how North Americans were over consuming and extremely wasteful.
Environmental Impacts of Consumption
“Calculations show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.” (World Watch Institute)
There’s no shortage of land, it’s strictly a distribution problem. On average Canadians discard 40% of their food.  As a filmmaker I used my journalist skills to dig for information. Paper waste carbon emissions toxic foodglobal warming… Understandably overwhelmed by the facts and statistics, I felt I had to do something.
I decided to create a program to bring awareness and to teach simple ways to reduce our impact both locally and globally. My interactive transmedia experience, 30ZeroZero (30 days, Zero Waste, Zero Impact) was a great success. I adjusted my habits and reduced my waste to minimal amounts while influencing others to do the same. But after 4 years of buying local, riding transit and re-purposing goods I felt it wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more.
My dream is to live off-grid, build a tiny home and grow my own food, but where, when and how? I came up against so many obstacles. I realized that money was the root of problem. We live in a capitalistic society based on a failing monetary system.  Occupy Wall Street pointed that out, but did protesting  really change anything?  I aligned myself with scholars, scientists and activists to delve deeper, hoping to find simple solutions.
Stop Reset GoIngienous Designs and the Institute for Future Living inspired me to use my talents as a storyteller to document how change can, and will, make a difference.
On October 13th, 2015 my journey begins with a trek to ruins of an ancient civilization in Peru, Machu Picchu. After a personal retreat to acclimate (high altitude)I will begin documenting various new and established communities in South America that are striving to maintain sustainable practices. Permaculture, off-grid communities and shared resources in small hubs are models of future lifestyles required for preserving both our planet and humanity.
I’m asking for your help in producing this learning tool. I’m a minimalist whose proven I can work on a shoestring budget but there are costs that are stretching my savings too far. I humbly request that you consider sponsoring me for expenses like:
Communications – Phone & Internet connectivity
Camera Equipment – repairs to existing gear and additional items suitable for jungle and remote locations (charging batteries won’t always be possible)
Transportation – I travel green and will bus/hike/ride-share when possible
Medical – Vaccinations, insurance, medications and safety supplies
Crew – Guides, translators and when necessary extra camera and audio operators.
Post Production – editing, music, graphics, voice over and additional interviews with experts
Accommodations – While for the most part I will be living out of a backpack or participating within the communities I’m documenting, I may require a safe place to rest between locations.
Contingencies – When traveling abroad theirs always extra expenses that pop up. Whatever is left over will be used towards marketing and distribution of the film.
If you have resources, ideas, extra air-miles or anything you think may help me realize this project I’d love to hear from you! 

Thanks for your good intentions and well wishes.

Share or support this project 

There’s no doubt in my mind…. Canada is in dangerous hands.

Government Passes Anti-Constitutional Surveillance Law During Ottawa Shooting.

Posted by: Noni | October 6, 2014

Sheriff’s Office Re-Victimizes Rape Survivors

If you think there’s no such thing as rape culture, you need to read this.

The Belle Jar

Trigger warning for rape

When Lori O’Brannon found a card in the mail from Clark County Sheriff’s office addressed to her 18 year old daughter Josie, she didn’t give it much thought. The card, a blue, standard post-card sized piece of cardboard, said that the evidence department had something to release to Josie. Lori figured that it was probably something innocent enough, left over from Josie’s wilder days when, as Lori put it, Josie had “been in trouble” a few times. So Lori called the number on the card, made an appointment, and drove Josie to pick up the “evidence.”

Neither of them could have predicted what was actually in the brown paper bag that the Sheriff’s office handed to her: a soiled grey shorts and a pair of women’s underwear. Both Josie and Lori recognized the articles immediately – they were what Josie had been wearing just over three years earlier, when she’d been…

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Posted by: Noni | August 27, 2014

Hand written letters from climate scient

Hand written letters from climate scientists – How they feel about #globalwarming

Posted by: Noni | August 25, 2014

We against They… The Battle Continues

I found this draft in my WordPress dashboard from January 2012. I don’t know why I never published it. It was finished, except perhaps a few tweaks for grammar and spelling, but for the most part complete. What I find most interesting is that it’s more relevant today than it was back then. We’ve come a long way, but our work is far from done.

January 31, 2012

When I think about being a westerner, I think about having certain freedoms. Having traveled to and lived in the east, specifically Muslim countries, I particularly appreciate that I was raised with a privilege that many women don’t have in other countries, freedom.

There’s a lot of hoopla lately about censorship of the internet, privacy acts and democratic rights to peacefully protest. I’ve been paying close attention not only to my corner of the Universe but to the world in general and I’m a bit disturbed by what’s going on. A general movement towards the erosion of our freedoms seems to be taking place.

I wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t happening to me personally or if I hadn’t witnessed first hand some pretty weird shit. I know I just used a cuss word in my blog and I rarely do that (actually never) but I wanted to get your attention. I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s a lot going on in the way of people-powered change this past year.



Political upheavals, mass occupations, record numbers of signatures on petitions and generous support of humanitarian causes have been front and center both in the mainstream media and our private social networks. I spend 2-3 times more reading and sharing information than I did last year. My social reach has increased and my Klout score has rapidly risen.

Why? Possibly because besides being fed-up, people are afraid. Shit’s going on and we don’t like it. (there I go again with the cussing) We want change. When we discover something that smells rotten, we share it with our friends, and they share it with their friends, and so on and so on.

I no longer think of myself as an individual; as a woman born in the west. I think of myself as part of a greater whole, part of the solution, part of the mass. My horizons have broadened and my connection to my fellow beings has strengthened. Through internet and on the street, I am joined in solidarity. I am no longer alone in my struggles for justice. My posse is behind me, we shout in unison at injustices.

The Big Boys have noticed that we’re stepping up and speaking out… and guess what? They’re starting to play even dirtier. Manipulating government, lobbying for stricter controls, arresting peaceful protesters, suing whistle-blowers, launching smear campaigns and producing anti-truth propaganda… They have deep pockets and will stop at nothing to protect their interests.

Who are THEY? The greedy corporations, corrupt politicians, CEO’s with carbon footprints big enough to stamp out us little guys. And they are doing just that… and they will continue to do so for as long as they can get away with it.

So what are WE supposed to do about it? How do we protect our rights, salvage our crumbling democracy and protect our precious wilderness and resources? We do exactly what we’re already doing. We stand up, speak out, sign petitions, write letters, sit-down (or sit-in) for those who can’t and blow whistles at those who violate us.

Who are We?

Well first off, what we’re NOT…

  • Radical Ideologists
  • Anarchists
  • Terrorists
  • Wing Nuts
  • Hippies or Homeless

We ARE citizens of the world. Global ambassadors of humanity and preservers of the planet. We are proud and strong. We are determined and steadfast. We are NOT giving up.


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