March 26, 2005

March is a special month for Planet Earth Foundation for many reasons. It is the anniversary month of the founding of Planet Earth as an entity, over a quarter century ago.

In March 1974, the founder, Keith Blume and vice president, Darryl Stromberg, visited Calcutta, India, arriving at night and witnessing thousands of bodies on the streets, who they first thought dead and then realized lived there. This was the city of the late Mother Teresa (whom Keith met with in later years), who made Calcutta a symbol in the heart of all humanity. Before dawn, Keith set off through the streets that were home for millions and met with them on their turf in an experience that had a major impact on the Foundation’s creation.

In 1975 work began on a documentary film on the interrelationship between major global issues such as violence, population and environment, with hunger as the focal point, showing that the planet must and could be turned around at a time when 13 to 18 million people, mostly children, died from hunger and related disease every year, while birth rates soared, fueling environmental devastation and the age-old violence caused by billions of people having no hope.

In March 1977, whirlwind meetings and film showings began in Washington, D.C. and the United Nations with Keith, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Roy Prosterman, former Oberlin President Bob Fuller, and the late John Denver and Annie Denver, which, along with the work of others such as the late Harry Chapin, who also appeared in the Foundation’s first film, led to major politicians of all stripes and the President of the United States becoming involved, establishing the White House Hunger Working Group. More films were produced on these issues and others, such as the threat of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear war. A book was published on the impact of media on the public in a democracy and acclaimed by the Library Journal and others, including the son of President Franklin Roosevelt, the late Elliott Roosevelt, who wrote the forward.

From the mid-eighties to early nineties, the Campaign To End Hunger brought global and local issues interrelated with hunger and the many organizations working on these issues to the attention of the American public with the help of people such as Ted Turner in committing substantial public service advertising, and with bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans. The Foundation also utilized its talents for many socially beneficial causes over the years through award-winning public service campaigns from Planet Earth Media, with the guidance, and particularly the commitment to the most vulnerable in our communities and our world, of chief executive, Lisa Blume, assisted by board members such as Anne Brixner, Jim Church, Dessiree Kane and Darryl Stromberg. Meanwhile, at the start of the millennium, World Campaign became an honored new voice uniting major global issues such as the environment, population, hunger, disease, poverty, human rights, war and personal responsibility under one ongoing project with the internet as its base.

Planet Earth has been blessed to be part of efforts to help millions of people and to change consciousness on crucial social issues. The Foundation has sometimes needed to be a pioneer in telling uncomfortable truths and paying the price for taking stands, which have always been the necessary precursors for change, personal and social. Planet Earth has both pleased and displeased those of all persuasions because we believe that ideology is the enemy of ideals. We believe that pragmatism, honesty, balance and tolerance are the solutions in a world that often doesn’t wish to see beyond the current vogue news crises—tragic and deserving of attention as they are—to the underlying issues which cause the most ongoing suffering to humanity and damage to our planet, and which will determine the future of life on Planet Earth.

We have watched the wretched of this world live and die, close-up and personal, sometimes with bullets flying and the stench of extreme poverty and disease surrounding us. And we have been melted by the smiles of those who have the least in material things and the most in their hearts. The Foundation is not endowed and has ultimately depended on the generosity and willingness of a few to put everything on the line for what they believe. Anyone willing to risk everything for their values has a keen awareness that we can all lose everything at any time. But we gain so much more in this short life by being willing to take this risk for something worthwhile. A public opinion poll on the eve of a quarter century of work by Planet Earth showed that the Foundation’s name was well known and highly regarded by the American public.

But if there is an opinion we care about most, it is of our children, the next generation. The founder of Planet Earth had the opportunity to speak to all 6th grade classes in a local school about Planet Earth’s work. Some of the comments in the many letters received in response follow:

Thank you so much for coming to our class and talking to us…it truly was amazing. I learned so much and you really opened my eyes to a whole new world out there. The stories you told were very powerful. Now I want to go to someplace in need so I can volunteer…Also, the commercials were clear and got the picture across. You really influenced me and made a huge impact on the way I view others. Thank you so much again.

One thing I enjoyed is when you talked about the time you went to Calcutta…when you talked about how you first got there and there was people lying all over the ground I felt sad and I realized how lucky I was to have shelter. That’s really great how the family that smiled at you made you do what you do now…I liked your videos because they are really simple and they are really good…You have had an amazing life…I think that it’s great that you want to be part of the solution, I will try to be part of it too.

Until I heard you speak, I never really (understood) how and why the population is so large. I also didn’t understand why so many people are in hunger. Before you told the story about the family, I never knew how much a smile is worth…I really appreciate your hard work and enthusiasm for helping those in need.

I really think that what you are doing is an amazing, caring, kindhearted and thoughtful thing to do…I was really amazed at what you did (in Calcutta)…to go out with them, join them, and most of all, smile at them. I also thought your campaign ads were a very good way to teach the world…Your visit has really influenced me and made me think about what I can do to be part of the solution.

I learned so much that I had not known before…I never realized those things in world hunger about so many people dying from starvation until you told us about it! I also enjoyed your movie productions and how they really showed how we could help…Thank you so much for coming in! I loved your speech!

What really touched me was that story about the family that smiled back to you even though they went through a lot of bad things…Your talk meant a lot to me…I’m really thankful that you spent your free time to talk to us about the homeless and poor. That question is still in my head, because I don’t know if I’m part of the problem or the solution. God Bless.

To the last writer, you are definitely part of the solution. To experience a twelve year old having the intellectual and moral integrity to question herself on such a level is an extraordinarily humbling and inspiring experience. May we all learn from her to always remain open to what we have to learn. If we all do everything we can now to hand a world to the next generation, which it needs and deserves, it appears the planet will be in good hands in the future.


February 14, 2005

The following is a summary of a lawsuit between Planet Earth Foundation and New York University by the Foundation’s attorney on this matter

Planet Earth Foundation (Planet Earth), an award-winning nonprofit organization which has provided public service media for over a quarter of a century, initiated a public service advertising (PSA) campaign in 2002 to help children with mental health concerns related to the events of September 11, 2001. Planet Earth was instrumental in getting a $1 million grant from a charitable foundation to New York University (NYU) to fund the PSA campaign. The PSA campaign was Planet Earth’s idea, and Planet Earth made it a reality. The campaign began in New York with an agreement with NYU’s Child Study Center for paid and free placement of PSAs produced by Planet Earth. A national campaign was also planned but NYU later stated it had no interest in a campaign, which would help all American children. Initial PSAs were broadcast in New York with additional PSAs in process. The initial PSAs were well received. Planet Earth provided substantially more in value through initial placement of PSAs than Planet Earth was paid. Planet Earth started the campaign, and was ready to complete it. NYU did not cooperate. Instead, NYU hired another ad agency, and sued Planet Earth.

Planet Earth contended that NYU breached its contract with Planet Earth and prevented it from providing additional PSAs and value, and that NYU infringed on Planet Earth’s copyright, causing substantial damages. Nonetheless, Planet Earth did not file suit against NYU, but attempted to continue its work under the agreement between Planet Earth and NYU and to explore resolution on issues in dispute. Planet Earth always has protected its intellectual property to the fullest extent and has successfully pursued others, which infringed its rights.

In June, 2003, NYU filed a suit with seven claims against Planet Earth. All claims were dismissed by the Court or withdrawn with the exception of breach of contract, which along with Planet Earth’s counterclaims for breach of contract and copyright infringement by NYU, were tried to a jury. NYU reduced its claim at trial by approximately 94% from damages it had initially claimed and was awarded half of this reduced amount, or approximately 3% of its original claim, by the jury. Planet Earth retained 25% of what it had been paid by NYU and also retained its copyrights to the materials it created.

There has been no final adjudication of claims or counterclaims. Post-trial motions and appeals remain. Although Planet Earth prevailed in NYU’s suit by obtaining a pre-trial dismissal or withdrawal of all claims excepting breach of contract, the jury verdict on the one remaining claim and Planet Earth’s counterclaims are irreconcilable with applicable law and the trial evidence, which has created good grounds for reversal by the courts.

Norman Zivin
Cooper & Dunham LLP
1185 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036


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