Saturday, November 29, 2008

Animals get hungry, too

One of my favorite organizations is the World Wildlife Fund, which is dedicated to saving animals from extinction and starvation. From their mission statement:
We seek to save a planet, a world of life. Reconciling the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth, we seek to practice conservation that is humane in the broadest sense. We seek to instill in people everywhere a discriminating, yet unabashed, reverence for nature and to balance that reverence with a profound belief in human possibilities. From the smallest community to the largest multinational organization, we seek to inspire others who can advance the cause of conservation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How to help end world hunger and poverty

Here's an article from eHow that outlines several different things that you can do to help make things better (shop at places that donate proceeds to charity, donate to Goodwill and Salvation Army, hold fundraisers, volunteer at soup kitchens, etc). I like this article because it focuses on relatively simple things that anyone can do to help.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fighting hunger article in the Washington Post

In this article entitled "How to Help" from last April, the Washington Post outlines several different food programs that are dedicated to fighting world hunger, including the UN World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, Care International, Mercy Corps, and World Vision, with links to each program.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Hunger Site

This is a site that sells items, and donates profits to charities that combat world hunger. There are some nice Christmas ornaments, as well as jewelry, and clothing:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ascend Alliance

This is an organization dedicated to helping children in poverty. Consider getting involved.

Monday, November 24, 2008

360 Days of Trash ( video)

So this guy collected all of his family's trash in the basement for a year. It wasn't as gross as you might think - all of his foodstuff went into a worm/composting unit (that's where the worms in the video were), and the rest was relatively clean trash. But he did it to make a point about sustainable living, and a pretty good point it is.

He writes about his experiences at:

World Hunger and Poverty Series

Since the holidays are coming up for many folks, I'm doing a series of posts regarding world hunger, pointing you to many different organizations that are dedicated to helping get food into the hands of those who need it. I'll publish a link every day for a few days, then every few days as we get closer to the holidays.

Please consider making a donation, and as always, before sending money anywhere, please investigate the charity fully to make sure YOU believe it is legitimate. There is a link to the lower right to a site called "Charity Navigator" that will help you in this endeavor.

Solar Aid

Here's a site that tries to help fight poverty AND climate change at the same time, by distributing solar lanterns in impoverished countries. This helps them burn less fossil fuels. Check it out, and consider a donation:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mama to Mama: Caps to Cap

So, Mama to Mama. Haiti is crazily poor and needs help in more ways than can be counted. It's almost so bad that to even think about helping is to despair at the futility. But we can't just get sucked into that state of mind, so people are doing stuff. Amanda at is. She's set up a program to gather infant caps to help keep poor Haitian babies warm. My son was given a couple of these at the hospital and my daughter (born at home) had them too. The heads of infants leak heat like crazy.

So something that's great about this is that you can download the pattern and make caps to save the lives of infants while recyling your ratty old T-shirts. Double win! A couple months ago, Cathy recyled one of my ratty old shirts into underwear. This project is easier. And better.

But hurry! They need the caps in Maine by 10 December, 2008 for the first batch.

They're also looking for receiving blankets. All kinds of opportunities to do good here.

Let us know if you do this and maybe we'll post some pictures when we get ours done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How You Can Save the World

A few months ago, Dave Howe -- president of the SCI FI Channel, started a blog devoted to how individuals can save the world. As I read through the entries, I enjoy the breadth of the domain. They're not just about green technologies or being polite or urban retooling. It's wide open.

If you hop over there right now, you'll see an overwhelming emphasis on Barak Obama. If you fit into the crowd that thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread, you can enjoy that part of things. If you're skeptical and tired of hearing about him, look past those five or so articles at the other stuff. Sustainable travel. Sustainable food. School reform. Even video games! It's all good.

So anyway, I've added HOW YOU CAN SAVE THE WORLD to my reader subscription and maybe you will too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Toy Society Christmas

I've got a post rattling around in my head about the value of giving the fruit of your intellectual pursuits away to the world for free. This isn't that post. But one of the cool efforts that I'm going to point you to when I do get around to it is The Toy Society. As I read it, it started as one person who makes toys (I think they've all been stitched and stuffed, thus far) and leaves them in public places with a note telling whomever finds it to take it home. A gift thrown out to fate!

I probably found it highlighted on craftzine's blog or something and have been subscribed to them essentially from the beginning. I instantly wanted to get involved and do the same thing. And I could have -- with or without coordination, I suppose. But I never got around to contacting them. Even as I watched drops happening all over the world -- proof that other people were getting involved.

But now! Now they're organizing an event. With an explicit invitation for we readers to get involved in a massive holiday toy-drop. So I'm going to do two things. I'm going to email them right now. And I'm going to post this note so that you guys can maybe get involved too. So, what do you say? Let's make a better world this Christmas season through (nearly) anonymous giving.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Civility Solution

Another book by the same author that wrote Choosing Civility that I posted yesterday. This one focuses on how to deal effectively (and politely) with the rudeness of others. His main point, is that if you deal with the rudeness of others with rudeness yourself, all it does is make the situation more rude and acrimonious. Rarely does the original rude person think "gee, I should have been polite" after you been rude back.

Anyway, the book is called The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude and it's got 4 of 5 stars at Amazon, and I think it could be a helpful book - how to derail rude behavior in others, without resorting to rudeness yourself. I might add, the only two people who have given it anything other than 5 stars, was someone who was complaining about Amazon's service (not the book itself), and the other called it "namby-pamby", and as most of the comments point out - the reader may have missed the point, or misapplied the scenarios.

Anyway, if you've read the book, I'd love comments about it here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Choosing Civility

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article that mentioned a book called Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct. It focuses primarily on how to BE polite. As I mentioned yesterday, most people consider rudeness a serious national problem, but none of them consider themselves rude. This might be the book for all of us. I suspect that most people don't even realize when of if they are being rude.

It's rated 4.5 stars by 19 people at Amazon, and it's available both in paperback and for the kindle, for those that have one.

I haven't read it yet, but will review the book here once I've read it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ethical experiments

A few months ago, my husband and I were waiting for a table at a Mexican restaurant in Shakopee, when we overheard a father berating his young son. I think the boy was about 4 or 5 years old, and the man was really unleashing a vicious diatribe against the boy. My husband and I were appalled. Those man's words were of a kind that really scars a person. We had no evidence of physical abuse, but this definitely crossed the line into emotional abuse.

We did nothing.

Should we have intervened? I don't know.

I've heard that abusers will often escalate their abuse when strangers step in. I also don't have a problem with some nasty words being traded - I can take some name calling, if it will distract the parent out of the nasty mood. But I would have some concern that the intervention will cause an escalation against the child, or that the presence of my husband might actually cause an altercation. Alone, I doubt the man would have done anything more than tell me to butt out. But with my husband present, I think it might have escalated to something more serious. Both of us have wondered about that kid many times. I hope he is OK, and that the dad was just having a bad day, and that his behavior was the exception and not the rule.

Would intervening have done any good? I don't know. If anyone can offer any advice in intervening in an abusive situation, I'd welcome it here.

Anyway, there is a story in Oprah about a show called What would you do? that runs ethical experiment, using actors enacting scenarios, and seeing if strangers will intervene. Scenarios such as a racist clerk berating a Muslim woman (both are actors) and seeing if other customers will intervene (six side with the clerk, 13 stand up for the woman, and 22 nothing). Another includes having 3 junior high girls berating a 4th girl, calling her a loser, and seeing if anyone stopped (some did, some didn't). Another scenario involved a man and a woman fighting in public, with the man becoming increasingly aggressive with the woman - an obvious case of spousal abuse. Most people did nothing, or advised them to take it elsewhere (it's OK to beat your wife, as long as it's not in public?) Only a few stopped, and only one woman helped her to safety.

There are lots more scenarios. You can read about them here:
and here:

You can see video clips at the latter link - be sure and scroll down and see the many different dilemmas that they've looked at. It's my hope that we will be inspired to step in when necessary, do nothing when not necessary, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

Rudeness on the rise

In this CNN/Oprah article, it talks about how 80% of Americans think that rudeness is a serious national problem, but 99% think that they themselves are not rude.

Hmmmm.... there's a bit of a disconnect there.

Anyway, it's an interesting article, with a few good tips (and some appalling anecdotes about awful behavior. I was especially shocked by the gynecologist who talked on his cell phone for 10 minutes while his patient was in the stirrups. She never went back, unsurprisingly.) Give it a read:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stranger buys a foreclosed home and then gives it back to owner who lost it.

So I read on FoxNews that a woman went to a foreclosure auction, met the person who had lost the house, talked with her, and then did something amazing:

She bought the house for $30,000 (it was originally worth $80,000), and then told the woman who had owned the house previously, that she could move back in, and make payments to her, instead of to the bank.

Wow. That's awesome.

Here's the rest of the story:,2933,445110,00.html

We need more people like that woman.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Healing after a contentious election

I was in Target 2 days after the election, and the checkout clerk was still wearing her "I voted" sticker. I remarked on it, (saying something like "oh, you're still wearing your sticker" in a friendly voice) and she glared at me, and said in a voice tight with anger, "Yes, I'm still wearing it, because I'm angry. My vote didn't matter, now did it?"

I was stunned.

It was obvious that a) she had to be awfully angry to say something like that to a customer and b) was spoiling for a fight, and nothing I could say would help the matter. So, I said nothing, but was left both shaken, and saddened.

I can't address her anger. Nothing except perhaps time will heal that.

But, I can say this: your vote DID count. It DID matter. No, your candidate didn't win. But mattering, and winning are two different things. What your vote means, is that it sends one tiny message to the president-elect that not everyone agrees with him. That his presidency isn't mandated by everyone. That he must listen to and address those individual messages of dissent, or he will fail.

Your vote, win or lose is the only way you can make a difference in some cases. I have NEVER agreed with the "America, love it or leave it" mentality. To love a country is to strive to make it better. If we didn't love our country, it wouldn't be worth the effort toward trying to make it better. And voting is one of the ways we can struggle for the better.

I also have never liked the "United we stand, divided we fail" mentality. The truth is that part of what makes America great, is the fact that we have stood, and will continue to stand, as an often divided people. That our divisions do not mean we cannot work together. We have stood as an oft-divided people since the close of the Civil War, nearly 150 years now. Look at countries like the former Yugoslavia, the USSR, Rwanda, South Africa. Look at the religious divisions that have caused nearly constant fighting in Ireland, and the Middle East. We - despite our divisions - have managed to survive, and improve. Look at how we treated Japanese Americans in World War II. We rounded them up, and imprisoned them in internment camps. But after 9/11/2001, there certainly were random acts of violence against Muslim Americans, but there was never a concerted effort to imprison them.

And 50 years ago, the marriage between a white woman and a black man that produced President-Elect Obama would have been illegal under many state miscegenation laws. In that 50 years, we've come an awfully long way. Paraphrasing Reverend Al Sharpton: "Obama couldn't have been elected on the black vote alone. Many whites voted for him too." So we haven't healed the divide between conservatives and liberals, religious and non-religious. But perhaps some day we will.

To, continue to vote. Continue to make your voice heard. Because it does matter.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Take down the election signs

Lets take down those political signs, and dispose of other election-related stuff, now that the election is over. Be sure to properly dispose of everything. Can the metal frames for the yard signs be recycled? Plastic goes in the trash, paper fliers should be recycled.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Be an ant and VOTE (a metaphor from A Bugs Life )

It's election day tomorrow. People say that their vote doesn't count. But they are wrong. It does count. It really does.

Because there is strength in numbers. Watch the video, and ignore the parts about the "grasshopper world order" and pay special attention to the grass seeds/ant metaphor.

That's why your vote counts. Please go to the polls tomorrow, and cast your vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pay It Forward

"Pay It Forward is a multi-level marketing scheme of the heart. Beginning as a seventh-grade class assignment to put into action an idea that could change the world, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) comes up with a plan to do good deeds for three people who then by way of payment each must do good turns for three other people. These nine people also must pay it forward and so on, ad infinitum. If successful, the resulting network of do-gooders ought to comprise the entire world. Trevor's attempts to get the ball rolling include befriending a junkie (James Caviezel) and trying to set up his recovering-alcoholic mother (Helen Hunt) with his burn-victim teacher (Kevin Spacey), who posed the assignment."

Yeah, it's a little schmaltzy, and yes, the ending is a bit contrived, but I think we can all take some inspiration from it. I have been fortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of the pay-it-forward idea on a couple of occasions, and it really made my day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Can I Do?: An Alphabet For Living

Another handbook:

What Can I Do?: An Alphabet For Living

Concern for the health of our planet led award-winning actress Lisa Harrow and her husband, internationally renowned whale biologist Roger Payne, to create the performance piece Lessons from Copernicus. But Lisa and Roger found that, following performances of their show, audience members frequently wanted to know: What can I do to help? What can we all do to stop the destructive impact of our current way of life?

What Can I Do? is Lisa’s response, a guidebook on how to take action. What Can I Do? initially accompanied performances of Lessons from Copernicus as a resource for audiences to take home. Its immediate success led Lisa to expand the guide for public and educational use.

Now available to the general public, What Can I Do? is at once practical and charming. The book is written as "An Alphabet for Living," providing readers with an extensive annotated list of Web sites where anyone can begin to explore the practices of sustainable living. Each site in the book has been selected for its wealth of information and links, and each serves as a valuable tool for finding fresh ways to view the world and live gently in it.

A wonderful resource for both new and renewed interest in sustainable living, What Can I Do? makes a great gift. The advice inside covers a broad array of subjects: from stopping the junk mail in your mailbox to reaping the economic and social benefits of green business; from buying sustainably harvested seafood to donating and recycling your obsolete electronics; from finding local food producers to getting your town to turn garbage into soil-improving compost.