Showing posts from December, 2017

Law student in Paraguay

Carlos, a student in Paraguay, works part time while pursuing his law degree. Paraguay needs more lawyers of the responsible sort. The World Bank ranks Paraguay 135th out of 192 countries for its rule of law . Today, I made a Kiva loan to Carlos, so he can pay his tuition and finish his degree. This loan is the special bonus I received from Kiva a couple days ago for making a donation.

Clinton Street Theater

It’s no secret that I’m a big supporter of independent cinemas. My time on the Brattle Theatre’s board has given me a view of the passion of the community of film fans who are patrons of these community spaces. Today, I made a Kiva loan to the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon. It’s one of the oldest continually running movie houses in the country. The theater changed hands in 2012 and its in need of some capital improvement, as well as working capital to host events. Those are vital uses of capital that will help keep the theater relevant in the age of Netflix. Unfortunately, this loan doesn’t qualify for the small Kiva credit that I mentioned yesterday. So I still have only a few days to make an additional loan.

Kiva donation

I’ve made a few loans to Kiva micropreneurs over the past six months. In many of those loans, I added a nominal donation to Kiva to the transaction amount. After all, Kiva is a 501(c)3 non profit, too. It needs to keep the lights on. Today, I made an additional donation to Kiva. As a special bonus, Kiva kicked back a small amount into my lending account, good only if I make a loan by January 4. More on that tomorrow.

350 Mass

I’m involved in a number of local grassroots climate activism organizations. But none seem as clued into the Massachusetts legislative processes as 350 Mass , the state chapter of They’re a wealth of information on what’s going on at the statehouse and they’re well networked. Today, I donated to Better Futures Project, the fiscal sponsor for 350 Mass. And I anticipate participating in meetings and actions through 350 Mass’s Cambridge node in 2018.

Community Cooks - December 2017 edition

Today, I cooked a dish for 20 through the Community Cooks program, as I do once per month. I’ve neglected to mention in the past where the food is going, however. Community Cooks organizes the volunteer teams, but the food itself benefits social service agencies. In our team’s case, the food goes to Respond , a Somerville-based domestic violence prevention agency that also operates a shelter. The homestyle fried rice is going to a great cause.

Supporting the Brattle Theatre

Although I’m no longer on the Brattle Theatre ‘s board, I am still a devoted supporter of the programming, the organization and of course the people. My experience as a patron and a board member have been so amazing over the past eight years or so, and I expect those experiences to continue. Today, I made my annual gift to the Brattle Film Foundation. The organization has found its financial footing and I am celebrating its successes with another donation, the largest that I make every year.

Food waste

Roughly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste. 40%! Put that another way, that’s 63 million tons of per year. Or think of it another way: That’s $218 billion of economic activity that puts food in the trash. Today, I supported a Kickstarter campaign for an organization called Serve, that hopes to harvest food that would otherwise go to waste and make soups and sauces for distribution to hungry families. This will not only divert food waste, but also feed the hungry.

The MAD food community

MAD is a Danish nonprofit that “brings together a global cooking community with a social conscience, a sense of curiosity, and an appetite for change.” What does that mean? MAD’s cornerstone is a symposium in Copenhagen which is kind of a culinary TED talk series on food topics, like sustainable agriculture, social entrepreneurship, science, health, and creativity. Today, I donated to MAD. The symposium and its other programs sound pretty interesting. But I’ll admit the main reason I donated is because of this Omaze campaign , in which one donor will be chosen to attend the re-opening night of Noma in 2018. Noma is of course the four-time winner of best restaurant in the world but it closed down in 2016. Wish me luck.

New Kiva loan

I’ve played around on Kiva, making five loans to micro businesses. My results had been mixed: one of the loans, to a farmer in Cameroon, became delinquent pretty quickly. However, today I got word that the farmer just paid back the loan, in full! Encouraged by his responsibility, today I made another Kiva loan , this time to a dairy farm in Newburg, Pennsylvania (population 336).

Super Bowl commercial

Last year’s Super Bowl drew 111 million viewers. It’s the biggest television ratings draw of the year — every year. And every year there is a cottage industry of commentators not only for the football, but also for the advertising. Wouldn’t it be nice if those ads were public service announcements, rather than cheap beer and snack foods? In February 2017, for example, more ads  than usual tended toward socially conscious messaging, even while they hawked consumer goods. Today, I backed # AirMyGlobalWarmingAd on Kickstarter. This is an attempt to crowdsource the $5.5 million it would take to buy a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl in two months — to raise awareness about climate change. The campaign was started by a fellow Climate Reality Leader and he’s lined up an agency to create the spot pro bono. The $5.5 million target will be a stretch, however, and I’m not sure he’ll get there. The fact that he’s not providing any substantive perks (not even a t-shirt) really works against h

Somerville School Lunches

Even with free- and reduced- price lunch programs, parents whose incomes barely exceed federal guidelines for receiving these benefits often fall behind on cafeteria debts. It’s the students who suffer. The School Nutrition Association estimates 75 percent of districts nationwide are dealing with unpaid bills, ranging from $2,000 to $4.7 million, depending on the size of the district. Today, I donated to a campaign that will help eliminate debts for Somerville parents who owe money for school lunches. The campaign was started by Canopy City, a local coworking space with a distinct focus on the local community.

Yet more Indivisible Somerville planning

Today, I finally pulled together a draft strategic plan for Indivisible Somerville’s energy and environment lab. It’s of course just a draft and I expect that our team will revise it substantially in the coming weeks. But I hope it’s the last time that I need to spend significant time conceptualizing and drafting — thus blogging about it here.

The Pin Project

There are more refugees today than at any time in history: over 65 million people have been forced from their homes by war and violence. Can one small object give back opportunity to those who have lost it? That’s the objective of The Pin Project : to help displaced persons, returnees and refugees achieve long-term self-reliance through meaningful work. Today, I supported the Pin Project on Kickstarter.

More Indivisible Somerville planning

Today, I spent more time working to immerse myself in Indivisible Somerville’s technology and process infrastructure. It’s boring, I know, but there’s a lot to absorb. And there’s more to come, I’m sorry to say.

Volunteer work for CC Boston and IS

Today, I spent a few hours working on projects for a couple of volunteer organizations. First, there was Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter, developing the program for an event in January. Then, there was some work for Indivisible Somerville, trying to get up to speed on their infrastructure. It took quite some time and I have more to go on each project.

Letter to the Washington Post

Today, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post . I took the time to comment on an opinion column published by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse: “UPS and Pfizer’s dirty little secret.” It seems those two companies, among many others, still support ALEC, the climate denying organization that writes deeply conservative model legislation for states. So while both corporations tout their sustainability credentials on their websites, they are both funding and supporting an organization that is undercutting efforts to address climate change. Some times I wonder whether corporate leaders really know where their dollars are being spent.

Literacy Bridge

In areas of the world with low levels of literacy, capturing tacit knowledge becomes more challenging. Case in point is the wealth of health and agriculture information in the rural sub-Saharan Africa populace. Knowledge of farming practices is spread principally by speech, which limits its spread. A friend of mine started Literacy Bridge to address this deficit. At the heart of the programs is the Talking Book – an innovative low-cost audio computer designed for the learning needs of illiterate populations living in the poorest areas in the world. Literacy Bridge partners with local experts to produce, record and distribute relevant information in native languages and dialects. The Talking Books are then easily shared, allowing information to spread more quickly and broadly. It works; read about their impact here .  Today, I made a donation to Literacy Bridge.

Margaret Good for Florida's District 72

There’s a special election coming up in February in Florida’s statehouse. Attorney Margaret Good is running for the position against a real estate developer who is the son of the fourth wealthiest Congressman. Here’s a dossier put together by Sister District. Today, I donated to Margaret Good’s campaign .

Corporate Grassroots

I’m always interested in how corporations can improve their positive contributions to society. Today, I attended this General Assembly  panel discussion on “Corporate Grassroots: Starting a movement from within.” Interesting speakers from HubSpot, LogMeIn, and a diversity and inclusion consulting firm. Rather than sticking to the theme of how corporate grassroots movements — those moments when excited employees develop ideas and make them organizational realities — the conversation quickly shifted into one of diversity and inclusion. While that’s an interesting discussion in and of itself, I wish they had really kept on topic.

Indivisible Somerville strategy setting

Today, I worked with the Indivisible Somerville energy and environment lab team to develop a strategy for 2018. I know these meetings are beginning to sound redundant, but it’s important for us to get aligned so we can work toward having an impact. The good news is that I think we landed in a meaningful place, with an achievable strategy and a pathway to succeed. Unfortunately, it only exists on a whiteboard right now, so it’s up to me to articulate in some meaningful way for validation.

Climate Coalition of Somerville - December 2017 meeting

Today, I got together with the Climate Coalition of Somerville again, representing Indivisible Somerville. We’re waist-deep in planning for our Climate Social in January, at which we are bringing together all (hopefully) Somerville alderman to talk about climate. It’s actually coming together, with four or five alderman already RSVP’ing affirmative.

Holiday cheer

The holiday season has become a season of commercialism in the guise of “gift giving.” I’m all for the giving spirit, but the volume of stuff that is bought and sold in the last five weeks of every year is daunting. Today, I bought gifts for several family members. But many of those gifts are donations made in their name. It feels more in the spirit of Christmas to be helping out organizations in need. Plus, my family and I don’t really need more “stuff.”

Fresh Truck

Low-income urban neighborhoods are suffer from a multitude of deficits in available services. One of them is lack of fresh food. While they have many convenience stores offering a few basics and lots of prepared foods (canned, frozen, etc.), fresh produce and meats are more difficult to obtain, affordably, within poorer neighborhoods. More than half of low-income Boston communities lack access to healthy food, contributing to disproportionate rates of diet-related health issues. The Fresh Truck aims to address the problem of “food deserts” in Boston. Fresh Truck runs weekly mobile markets – a school bus loaded with produce – and pop-up markets. It also works with partner organizations to make sure the food it markets is affordable within the communities it serves. Today, I made a donation to Fresh Truck, working to eliminate food deserts in Boston.

Operation Underground Railroad

Child sex trafficking. It’s a practice that universally abhorred. Yet it’s a problem that isn’t going away. Human traffickers enslave 24.9 million victims worldwide, according to the ILO . One organization that is fighting child sex trafficking is Operation Underground Railroad . In the past three years, OUR has rescued 745 victims and assisted in the arrests of more than 365 traffickers around the world. By rescue, I mean they have ex-special forces coordinate operations with local enforcement, and they travel around the world to extract children caught up in these circumstances. Today, I donated to OUR.

Somerville Climate Forward working session

Today, I participated in the second meeting of the Somerville Climate Forward working group on Community & Economic Development. Productive meeting with good ideas shared and some complementary thinking from a group that is ideologically diverse. One commonality in our thinking is the need to account for equity. Climate solutions, particularly around buildings, power and transport, are often expensive; all of the Somerville Climate Forward solutions ought to have an equity and affordability lens to them. It was good to get that out on the table.

Citizens Climate Lobby Climate Advocate Training

I’ve written a couple of times about the Citizens Climate Lobby, including the briefing call I listened in on back in October. They are an advocacy organization that is singularly focused on the politics behind getting federal carbon “carbon fee and dividend” legislation passed. Today, I took part on a conference call that served as part 1 of their Climate Advocate training . And I learned just how organized CCL is, providing a range of supports for advocates and “laser talks” that are 60-second explanations of different concepts that CCL advocates need to explain to people. Very bite-sized material with a theory of change that makes a lot of sense. I’m impressed and I’ll likely continue on with their trainings. With that said, the Boston chapter seems to have gone dark, so I hope it’s still up and running.

24 Hours of Reality

Today, I’m listening in on the Climate Reality Project’s 24 Hours of Reality broadcast. I became a sponsor for it a couple days ago, so I should even be listed in the credits. Here it is, which should continue through 6pm today, traveling around the world to highlight great work and interesting people around the world, all working to address the climate crisis.

Rebooting Indivisible Somerville's energy and environment lab for 2018

Today, I helped to facilitate an Indivisible Somerville meeting to re-boot the energy and environment lab. Some new people are hoping to get involved, so we’re setting an agenda for 2018, one that hopefully is achievable and doesn’t duplicate what all the other environmental groups in the city and region are doing. We’ll need a followup, though. Never enough time in one meeting.

Liam's Lunches of Love

Thanks to this Boston Globe story . I came across 10-year-old Liam Hannon, who lives in Central Square, Cambridge. For the past five months, Liam has wheeled a wagon around his neighborhood handing out handmade lunches with his father. It started with some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and has grown into something much bigger. Over Thanksgiving, for example, he worked with the Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center to deliver Thanksgiving meals to homeless families in the area. “He’s a normal kid who just has an abnormally big heart,” Hildebrand’s director of development, Krystle Kelly, told the Globe. He’s got a website and a Facebook group and he’s generated a following. Add me to the list. Today, I made a donation to Liam’s Lunches of Love, as he’s called the program, through Gofundme . That’s one heroic kid – a real inspiration.

Closet cleanout

Cheap fashion is another aspect of our disposable consumer culture, with deep ramifications for the environment and for labor, among others. I take care to make sure my clothes last, instead of disposing of them season after season. Still, sometimes a closet cleanout is necessary. Today, I ran through ,y closet but made sure everything found a home. I was able to direct some clothes to a consignment shop, where I’m sure they’ll find a new home. Other clothes I donated to Goodwill. But I was very selective about what I left there. A high percentage of donations to Goodwill end up in a landfill because people treat the shops as a dumping ground or their sentimentality leads the to overestimate the re-use possibilities of their favorite shirt, the one with a hole in the sleeve. So another lot of clothes I brought to H&M, because of their amazing recycling program . As they say, “As much as 95% of clothes thrown away could have been reborn or recycled.” That’s where H&M fits in wh

Citizen Producer of 24 Hours of Reality

Every year, the Climate Reality Project puts on its 24 Hours of Reality webcast. This is a full day’s worth of programming, traveling around the world live to hear about climate activists, leaders who are taking action and projects worth knowing about. It starts this coming Monday, December 4, at 6pm EST. Today, I donated to the Climate Reality Project and I’ll be listed in the credits of 24 Hours of Reality as a Citizen Producer during the broadcast. I hope to be able to watch portions of the webcast as well, next week.