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Of Gratitude and Grains

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Author: the Inkslinger

It’s Thanksgiving, the day set aside for celebratory feasting with friends and family, and that national moment when we all pause to consider just how sweet life is and just how lucky we are. That’s a good thing. It’s certainly something my family will be doing today, and here’s something else we’re going to do: visit Free Rice for a while and help feed some global neighbors who aren’t as blessed with plenty as we have surely been. The Free Rice concept is simple, fun, and good for your brain and the world it lives in. The web site gives you a word and if you can define it correctly you donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program. That may not sound like much, but since going live in October, the site has generated donations of 3.2 billion grains. That’s tons of rice for hungry people around our planet and proof that when we each do a little, we can all do a lot. And on that note…

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all wherever you are!

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Want To Be Inspired? Read This!

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Beautiful, environmental housing in the midst of poverty. Samuel Mockbee was a gifted architect who devoted his life to ensuring those least able to afford it lived in the most wonderful places. In a world where only those who are already the healthiest and safest on the planet can afford organic food and clothing, non-toxic cleaners, and “green” homes, we should all imagine Mockbee looking down upon us. Here’s an excerpt from an article on Mockbee that appeared in Architectural Record:

Architect Samuel Mockbee was convinced that "everyone, rich or poor, deserves a shelter for the soul" and that architects should lead in procuring social and environmental change. But he believed they had lost their moral compass. The profession needed reform, he believed, and education was the place to start. "If architecture is going to nudge, cajole, and inspire a community to challenge the status quo into making responsible changes, it will take the subversive leadership of academics and practitioners who keep reminding students of the profession’s responsibilities," he said. He wanted to get students away from the academic classroom into what he called the classroom of the community.
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Fair WAGES At Work

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Every once in a while you are privileged to be able to work with people who have found a way to tackle some of the toughest challenges our society faces. While I’m passionate about politics, the environment, and health care, nothing is of greater concern to me than issues of justice & equity. And while we know that systemically all these issues are related, choosing to work on creating a new paradigm for low income, minority women is work that most of us are simply unable or unwilling to do.

Creating the opportunity for women to build a life for them selves and their families on a foundation of secure, respectable, and reasonably-paid employment is a dream that is beyond the reach of many Americans. WAGES is succeeding in creating this new possibility. Working with over 50 Latino women in the East Bay area of San Francisco, they have created three successful, worker-owned home cleaning business cooperatives that have changed lives and created hope.

Seventh Generation has been challenged to find ways to reach out to the low-income community. WAGES has provided us with the opportunity to provide education and to ensure these women benefit from using safer and healthier products in the work they do every day.

While our partnership is in it’s infancy, it’s one that fills me with hope and possibility. Check them out. And if you live where they’ve got a coop and need some healthy cleaning help, give them a call!

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How Much Of What We Make Should We Give Away?

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This Sunday’s New York Times magazine had an exceptionally thought provoking article entitled What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You? While I have often pondered the limits of my own generosity, this story created a whole new framework for me to think about what I am willing or at least aspire to do.

As you open all those requests for money you get in the final weeks of the year consider this: The United Nations estimates that the total annual global cost of halving hunger and extreme poverty, halting & reversing the spread of aids, and ensuring that all children attend primary school would be less than $300 billion. Peter Singer’s proposal in the New York Times would generate $404 billion dollars from the wealthiest 10% of Americans!

Check out his plan. The article is long but well worth the read. Singer proposes that the more you earn, the more you give away. He suggests that those who earn over $92,000 give away 10% while the richest 0.01%, whose average income is $12.7 million, donate 1/3 of what they make. Hey, who’s going to miss $4.3 million when you’re making that much?

I’m considering stepping up to the plate, but giving away 15% of what I make would take me well beyond the 10% I’ve been working up to!

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Global Giving's Gold Medal Winner Is...

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Author: the Inkslinger

Hey all... GlobalGiving's John Heckinger dropped the Inspired Protagonist a line this morning to let us know who won his organization's GlobalGiving Olympics. John writes:

Thanks again for the guest blog spot. India took the gold in a landslide, and all the results are on our home page. The "100 Slum Children of Sex Workers" were the big winners. During the competition, we had a visit from a legend, Inderjit Khurana, featured in the New Heroes Documentary, and her amazingly motivated son, Anoop. Inderjit's project came in second, but Anoop used the occasion to mobilize the extensive Indian diaspora community in California.

Our next big thing will be gift certificates. Just in time for the holidays! They're a great viral tool for folks who want to spread the good around.

Thanks to all who voted, all who helped, and all who are keeping Earth's needful many in their hearts and at the center of their deeds this holiday season. You're making the world spin in a good direction.

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Our Latest Guest Blogger Invites You to Join the Games for Good

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Author: the Inkslinger

We're big fans of the people at GlobalGiving. We love the work they're doing and the results its producing for those in need around the world. So we’ve invited GlobalGiving's own John Heckinger to be a guest blogger. Welcome, John!

Hi, everyone. I wanted to drop in and let everyone here know about our special GlobalGiving Olympics, an event that’s bringing people together to lend a hand to some people who could use the help.

Between October 9, 2006 and October 31, 2006, all projects on GlobalGiving are competing for $75,000 in prizes. In the places where we spend our funds, this is a large and powerful sum.

It could create access to clean water for 250,000 rural villagers in India, where poor water quality is the leading cause of death for children under 5. Or it could save 10,000 people from treatable illnesses at health clinics across Sub-Saharan Africa, where 25,000 die each day from such diseases. Or it could lift 250 families out of poverty in Kenya, where 13 million people live on less than $1/day.

The big question is who gets to decide who gets the prizes and what good gets done. The answer is everybody in the world. That’s because anyone anywhere can come to the GlobalGiving Olympics and vote by making a donation. The GlobalGiving project that generates the most donations will receive the $50,000 grand prize. The choice is in everybody’s hands.

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Is This Policy Dumb, Stupid or Both?

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If I could say it any better I would. But Thomas Friedman’s 9/20/06 column in the New York Times on taxing ethanol imports highlights the political and structural obstacles to common sense.

Friedman writes:

Thanks to pressure from Midwest farmers and agribusinesses, who want to protect the U.S. corn ethanol industry from competition from Brazilian sugar ethanol, we have imposed a stiff tariff to keep it out. We do this even though Brazilian sugar ethanol provides eight times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it, while American corn ethanol provides only 1.3 times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it. We do this even though sugar ethanol reduces greenhouses gases more than corn ethanol. And we do this even though sugar cane ethanol can easily be grown in poor tropical countries in Africa or the Caribbean, and could actually help alleviate their poverty. Yes, you read all this right. We tax imported sugar ethanol, which could finance our poor friends, but we don’t tax imported crude oil, which definitely finances our rich enemies. We’d rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote antipoverty.

The question is what do we do to change this ridiculous situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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From Amazon Clearcut to the Vermont Forest

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As I reflect on our week in Brazil, I have struggled to find a context to hold the experience we had. I am still struggling so this is a work in process. First, the world is a big, big place, and the challenges it faces take on a new dimension when you see them with your own eyes. How many times have I said that I am committed to making the world a better place without having seen most of the world I'm referring to? Without understanding what a better place means for most of the people living in that world?

I am humbled by the experience of joy and community I had within what I assumed would be dreadful poverty. In the shanty towns outside Rio, there is garbage in the streets and men with machine guns making life far less certain that I could have ever imagined, but there are also smiles on the faces of the children.

In the Amazonian rainforest, where at least 20% of the land has been clearcut, a huge Cargill facility was recently constructed that will attract ever more clearcutting to supply the company with soy. This is a place where homes are burned, priests have their lives threatened, and everyone has their own story of corruption. Yet communities are successfully reinventing themselves, hope is not lost, and a beauty that is more than your eye’s can hold remains to nourish your soul.

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Audio Postcard From the Edge of Rio

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I'm traveling in Brazil this week with friend and co-conspirator Gregor. We'll be visiting Greenpeace projects in the Amazon Rainforest, but we've begun our adventure in Rio de Janeiro, where today we ventured outside the tourist zone to explore the city's infamous "slums." What we found defied our expectations on every level.


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Download this podcast

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Week In Review

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It’s the end of a great week. We had dinner Wednesday night with the Treehugger team who joined about 9 folks from Seventh Generation at my home for a meal made from ingredients that come from within 100 miles of our home in Charlotte, Vermont on Lake Champlain. We had a great discussion on the state of, fate of, and what’s needed to create a more effective sustainability movement. We then spent yesterday taking a wonderful journey up to Glover, Vermont to visit the Bread & Pupet Museum, an amazing creative and activist inspiration. More on all that later.

For now I just wanted to salute Grist for launching a much needed series that focuses on Poverty & the Environment here in the the USA. It's a subject that get’s far too little attention. Check it out.

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