Recently in Causes Category

Berkeley Humane Society Needs Your Help

Please re-post to boost the signal.

They had a fire this morning that destroyed most of their facility and killed several animals, including 12 cats. They need donations, volunteers to help with clean-up, and people to temporarily foster pets.

Wasn't I Just Saying...

I just love it when I start thinking or talking about something and then everywhere I turn around I see that topic. I don't know if it was that the topic was there and I just never noticed it before, or if I'm in tune with the universe or what.

But this morning I got the following in my inbox from the Sierra Club on "Can travel be good for the planet?" As you may remember, I was musing about just this thing a few weeks ago.

Let's face it: Every time you get in your car, on a plane, or even in a train or bus, you are responsible for carbon emissions. So how can you reduce your travel footprint? Try these five strategies:

1. Take fewer trips.
It may seem odd for a travel provider to tell you to travel less. Then again, we're not your average travel provider. Can you combine a week in the mountains with a family visit? Can you take one longer vacation per year instead of two short ones?Do you really need to attend that business conference in Vegas?

2. Explore your own backyard.
Sure, we offer great trips in 35 states and around the world. But have you checked out our local Outings program, run by Sierra Club chapters? From hiking in Yosemite to paddling in Florida, there's something for everyone. Better yet, volunteer for our Inner City Outings program and help get urban youth outdoors.

3. Be gas-savvy when you do drive.
Did you know you can boost your fuel efficiency by as much as 30%, just by slowing down from 75mph to 55mph? Learn more and take our pledge to drive 55.

4. Make your travel matter.
You can spend your vacation at mega-resort in Hawaii, or you can learn about saving Sequoias in California -- while hiking among said Sequoias. We believe that wilderness travel should not only be fun, but should leave you inspired, informed, and motivated to act. To take it a step further, consider one of our volunteer vacations.

5. Consider carbon offsets. Through our new partnership with NativeEnergy, you can now offset carbon emissions generated by your travel to and from your Sierra Club Outings trip by helping get renewable energy projects off the ground.

I can certainly vouch for the Sierra Club service trips. I've done two, one in upstate New York and another in Maui. Both were incredible trips and I highly recommend them.

I am so very proud of the city and state I live in!!

"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," the court said in the 120-page ruling, "and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples."

Read more about the steps to making gay marriage legal.

Is a Smaller World a Healthier World?


It's hard to go five minutes these days without hearing about sustainability and being green. As a long-time environmentalist this is both cheering and infuriating. Yay that the masses and big business have finally gotten on the bandwagon. Boo that they keep talking about everything as if they just discovered it, and in the same breath as some other fad. Caring for the earth is not a fad: it's a way of life. But it does make it easier to be an environmentalist. There are more tools and resources popping up all the time. The carbon footprint calculators that are springing up all over is such an example.

Ever since I heard Matt Jones talk at Adaptive Path's MX Conference last week, this idea has been rolling around in my mind. Matt talked about the work he was doing with Dopplr, and showed how they just added the ability to see how your travel is adding to your carbon use.

My carbon footprint isn't that bad for an American (notice I qualify it :). I don't eat meat, I ride the bus to work, I compost and recycle, I bring my own bags to the grocery, my detergents and bath products are natural and not tested on animals. Sure, there's lots more that I could be doing. And things that I used to do that I probably should get back to doing (whatever happened to my EcoSneaks?). But I try to pick the more earth and animal friendly options when I can.

Except in one place: travel. My carbon footprint always tanks when you calculate in how much I fly. Airplanes are big time polluters. As a consultant, I am on the road a lot. I also love to travel in my personal life. Exploring other places was a value that I grew up with. And I believe that you can't fully understand some place if you haven't experienced it physically.

Obviously , movies, museums and zoos, photographs, video conference calls, and virtual worlds like SecondLife go a long way to broadening our horizons. They are suitable surrogates for the real thing in a lot of situations. For many people, it's the closest they will ever be able to get to the "real thing." Seeing a zebra in a zoo is better than never seeing a zebra at all, right?

But this brings us to the dilemma I've been wrestling with. If we really want to cut back on our pollution, energy use, and greenhouse gas production, we really should stop flying around the world. The "good" environmentalist would opt for virtual or local surrogates whenever possible, right? As the web and other technologies get better, we won't need to use up resources to go someplace; we just get there from our living room.

But... I don't think I can fully subscribe to that. As wonderful and beautiful and amazing as the Egypt-wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York is, it just can't compare to standing in the great hall at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. I've been to the Acropolis on the Greece sim in SecondLife. It's cool, but it's nothing compared to actually being in Athens. There are cases where close enough isn't good enough. Sometimes you need to have a face-to-face conversation. You can't approximate visceral reactions.

I believe what Baba Diou from Senegal said, "You only conserve what you love, you only love what you understand, and you can only understand what you've been taught." Which says to me, don't give up on having real, authentic experiences. It is through those experiences that we learn. Travel to Kenya and go on safari to see the zebra. But find a way to do it that has the least impact. And it may mean cutting way back in other areas of your life to balance out the excesses elsewhere.

Turn Out Your Lights for Earth Hour

Tonight starting at 8 PM your local time, turn off your lights. Be a part of the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour. All over the world people are turning off from 8-9 PM to raise awareness of global warming. Hey, it's a step!

It seems my father and grandfather would be proud. They were always going around the house, turning off lights, yelling about illuminating rooms no one was in. I find myself doing the same thing.

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