Todd MacLean || Creating a Global Chorus
At a Glance:
-Grew up on a mini farm, dubbed “The Funny Farm,” in Meadow Bank, PEI with his parents, Roddie and Miriam MacLean, and an older brother and sister
-Todd loves our Strawberry and Grand Marnier jam on toast, along with morning coffee!
-Received a BA Honours in English with a minor in Anthropology at UPEI and graduated in 2001
-Self-employed freelance writer/journalist and musician (teaches 35 private music lessons per week in piano, guitar and saxophone!!)
-Lives with his wife and two cats in an old farmhouse by the river in Pinette, PEI
-writes a weekly entertainment music column in The Guardian
-Gigs regularly with various acts – most notably with the Amanda Jackson Band these days
The Amanda Jackson Band
Tell us about your book, Global Chorus?
The idea for Global Chorus came to me in the spring of 2010, and it was fuelled by a long term anxiety surrounding humanity's current destructive presence on Earth, and the questions that arose from this concern. I had a statement/premise that rose up within me leading up to the idea, and it was this: "The right words said at the right time can have the force of a mighty river; and moreover, the right words said at the right time by the right people can wash away mountains of injustice, leaving only the seeds for a better world planted in their path." And so I felt compelled to reach out to people all over the world and ask them this same line of questioning:
"Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current environmental and social crises? Can we create the conditions necessary for our own survival as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope and can we do it?"
I thought if I could somehow reach the right people – the leading thinkers on Earth today – and ask them these questions, that the power contained in their answers, the insight, the guidance, could be enough to inspire even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our time and place in this world. My dream was to compile a daily reader of 365 different people, featuring one person's response on our future for each day of the year.
The title Global Chorus dropped into my head pretty easily it seemed, perhaps due to the big part that music plays in my life. And, after working on the idea for 4 years – 10,000 emails later – I had found a publisher, finished the project, brought on board pieces of words from Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, David Suzuki, Maya Angelou, Jamie Oliver, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama and hundreds more, and the book called Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet was released in the Fall of 2014.
The contributors in the book are a diverse and impressive group of people. How did you get so many great people to join this project?
My tactic from the get-go was this: Patient, persistent, always-cordial email communication. It seems to be amazing what you can bring together with this kind of approach. I had to do a lot of Google searching for contact info too – and this became sort of like a sport fishing game for me. Ha ha! At first I was really not good at it, but I think I got a pretty good handle on it over the years. Google and my Apple computer played a big part in the feasibility of this project – and so when my wife Savannah and I were down in California on the book tour in December, 2014, we actually had a bouquet of flowers and a signed book delivered as a thank-you gift to the headquarters of both Google and Apple.
Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
Firstly, I can say that I was (and still am) inspired by all of the people who are in this book – all 365 of them. They are my heroes, because they are refashioning the human presence on Earth in their working days, in such brilliant ways – coaxing and shaping our evolution in the right, sustainable, harmonious direction. I do short daily meditations, and I've had a prayer saying for a long time now that I say when I read meditational books that guide and inspire toward a better Earth – I place my hands on the book and I say, "Please help me help you to find us all." That really is just a statement that naturally pours out of me that I've been saying for at least a dozen years now (and I've never really told that to anyone before, by the way!) – and so, in that regard, it's clear that I have an inspired directive energy within me to be a messenger of sorts. In other words, inspiring others is what inspires me.
This project seems like a huge undertaking. Tell us about the moment you realized you could do it.
The moment I realized that it could be possible was when I received the first response for the book, from Dr. David Suzuki, in May of 2011. That took several patient (and persistent) emails to his assistant, but eventually, it did actually miraculously pan out, and I still remember the thrill of that moment like it was yesterday. Savannah and I jumped for joy around the house. And yet, then I realized, "Oh...and now 364 more to go..." It was like realizing that I could climb a mountain, and then looking up with my neck straining at the towering Everest before me.
Tell us about the different organizations you’re supporting through this book?
The mandate with Global Chorus is, while bringing intellectual/inspirational fuel to readers around the world, to also bring monetary aid to organizations who are doing work to recover, protect and sustain life on Earth. And thus, the net proceeds from the project are going to three different organizations:
- Jane Goodall has been a true hero of mine for a long time, and she founded a wonderfully globally-effective organization called The Jane Goodall Institute, that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. JGI also have an excellent and productive presence in Canada too.
- The David Suzuki Foundation's mission is to protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future - and this goes hand-in-hand with the focus of Global Chorus. They are one of the leading environmental organizations in Canada.
- The Canadian Red Cross continues to be a highly effective humanitarian aid organization that brings much-needed relief to areas all over the world when it is needed most – and it is an honour as well to have them on the list of the three beneficiary organizations from the net proceeds from Global Chorus.
What ignited your passion for the environment?
There have been many experiences and things that I have learned through life that have ignited my passion for the environment - but mainly I would have to cite: 1) Growing up in the countryside of PEI where I hung out with animals a lot, and regularly played (and peacefully sat beside) a stream in the woods. I wish that every kid in this world could have that kind of experience growing up, because there seems to be so much of value that these kinds of experiences can teach you. 2) Being fortunate enough to have great teachers early in life like my Eliot River Elementary grade 6 teacher Bill Hogg who had an environmental studies component part of his curriculum in that 1990 school year. 3) Being the youngest in the family, and learning a lot at an early age from my environmentally educated and artistically passionate older brother and sister.
I imagine there are moments when you’ve been afraid to share your work with the world. How do you face and overcome those fears?
You just have to realize that everyone has fears, and yet, that no good would be brought to better this world if we all stayed roadblocked by them. Fear and Love are on opposite ends of the energy spectrum: And
Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to sharing your passion/work with the world?
Speaking of Love, I would unquestionably say in response to this, my wife, Savannah. And I thank her hugely for it!!
Todd and his wife Savannah
What advice do you have for aspiring writer/editor/creator?
Spring out from the energy of every door that slams in your face, to then find that other door to try (because, let's face it, there's always another door).
What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?
My high school science teacher Lloyd Theuerkauf gave us a lot of great advice in those years – but one of the best things he said was something like, "Folks, do your best, and try hard. And if things don't go exactly the way you were hoping, that's okay too. Most likely you'll probably still eat breakfast tomorrow." He also said, "Folks, when I go to the grocery store, I buy a little bunch of yellow bananas, and then a little bunch of green bananas. That way, you'll have some ripe yellow bananas when you need 'em later in the week." Works in so many ways!
What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
I've received a lot of kindness from family, friends, and Loved ones in my life, and so this is a really hard question to answer. But, one thing that comes to mind is that in 2003 when I was living in Toronto and playing in a band at the time, I was talking on the phone to my aunt Beryl (who passed away in 2008), and she just all of a sudden wrote a cheque for $3000 to me in that conversation, and immediately mailed it to me, so that I could buy a keyboard with it. I still use that Roland keyboard, and I am forever thankful to her for it.
Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?
Jane Goodall. She came on board very early in the Global Chorus project as well – which really helped the snowball to roll powerfully with it – and as I said above, she has long been a hero of mine, particularly in terms of her adventurous and steadfast passion, and her profound strides toward uniting humanity and the animal kingdom together. If I do ever experience the ultimate honour of meeting her...well...I will have to find some way of summing up a mountain of gratitude and admiration all in one moment!
What's in-store for you in the coming months?
Global Chorus is taking on a new life in publishing (and more!) this coming Fall – and I have been hard at work on these developments. Stay tuned to: globalchorus.ca for news!
Where can people buy Global Chorus?
You can buy the book on PEI at bookstores like The Bookmark and Indigo in Charlottetown, Coles in Summerside, The PEI Preserve Co. and other stores around PEI this summer as well. And online you can also order Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet easily at Amazon, Chapters, and at the publisher's website, Rocky Mountain Books- which also features a whole host of different ways to buy the book in paper and electronically.