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Donor Profiles: “What You Scatter Matters”
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Tlaloc Tokuda grew up in a Japanese American enclave in Los Angeles. Both his parents were active in the community, church, coaching and PTA, and Tlaloc’s house was the neighborhood hangout. Tlaloc struggled with structured learning and started hanging out with a hippie crowd. A friend introduced him to books exploring Asian American, Native American and Black experiences, sparking his passion for social justice and exploring the world.
Tlaloc hitchhiked all over California. He returned to LA and volunteered with the Head Start program in the Watts neighborhood in southern LA. Enjoying the experience, he went back to school to teach with Head Start. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he pursued a master’s degree.
Tlaloc became interested in yoga, vegetarianism and Hinduism and decided to travel to India to complete the field work for his Master’s degree. He embarked on an odyssey, hitchhiking across the United States, and spent three months traveling through Europe before traveling overland to India via Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
While in India, he spent time at Auroville, an international community focused on peace and human unity. Tlaloc planted trees over a barren five-kilometer wasteland. Today, the area is under a tree canopy and is considered one of the most successful reforestation projects in India. He immersed himself in the local lifestyle, learning dry land cultivation and wearing traditional clothing.
After circling the globe for 4 1/2 years (2 years in India and 2 1⁄2 years travelling), Tlaloc returned to Hawaii where he completed his master’s degree in Education and the Environment, detailing the reforestation work he did in India.
Next, Tlaloc spent a few years in Saipan working as a solar technician. He later received a grant to earn a Ph.D. at the East-West Center, but when his wife became pregnant, they chose to return to her home in Australia. There, Tlaloc worked at an Aboriginal school that stressed indigenous culture. Later he worked for Oxfam, an international development organization, and also taught part-time at the University of New South Wales on sustainability and social justice, which he considers inseparable priorities.
Currently, Tlaloc travels between Hawaii, Australia, India and Vietnam. In India and Vietnam, he lives on about $10 per day, and lives frugally while in Hawaii and Australia as well, riding a bike for transportation and cooking meals at home. “I was fortunate to have been a hippie and learned how to live lightly on the planet. I have always lived simply so that others may simply live,” he says.
Tlaloc was in Vietnam when the Covid-19 pandemic began. A few months later, he returned to Hawaii to help care for his mother. At 98, Tlaloc’s mother created her own will, which inspired Tlaloc to make his own long-term plans.
Tlaloc chose to include Friends of the Earth in his estate plans because of our shared focus on the environment and social justice. When he was younger, his parents stressed tithing. Because Tlaloc doesn’t contribute to a church, after providing for his son and stepdaughter, the remainder of his estate will go to environmental, First Nation and social justice organizations. “I donate and volunteer in the spirit of solidarity, not charity,” Tlaloc shares.
Believing climate change is our most urgent priority, Tlaloc is grateful to younger generations leading the fight around the world. As he says, “It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that matters.”