Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stay the course.

As you may know, I was out of town and away from my blog during the first stages of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Since I wasn't able to offer suggestions immediately, here are a few of my thoughts now. Unfortunately, natural and human-made disasters happen all the time. To give our best response we need to prepare now and keep a high level of preparation all the time. Here's how:

* Fight hunger regularly so that food banks are well stocked before and emergency and fewer are hungry to begin with.

* Practice tolerance regularly so that when a crisis occurs, you'll know how to treat people with justice, equality and fairness, regardless of their class, age, or ethnicity.

* Conserve fuel regularly. That way you'll be better prepared when (not if) there is a shortage or the cost becomes prohibitive.

* Give blood regularly. You can do it every 56 days. 60% of Americans can give but only 5% do. Guess what that means in an emergency.

* Demand accountability regularly. If there is fraud in your organization, consider reporting it. You may not think it matters much now (even though it does), but in a time of crisis fraudulent activity can cause suffering and death.

* Be prepared regularly. Take Red Cross health and safety courses. Learn first aid, CPR, emergency response, and more so that you can be helpful in a time of crisis.

* Do the right thing regularly. Your contribution will help us all be better prepared for the next disaster.

Good works are not just for emergencies; they are needed all the time. Get prepared, stay prepared, then stay the course.

"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." - William Shakespeare

Monday, September 26, 2005

Be a witness.

It is sad, but, perhaps no surprise that NBC, CBS and ABC are refusing to air the Be A Witness television ad that "challenges the networks to do a better job of covering the Darfur genocide." Be A Witness is an organization and alliance of individuals dedicated to changing that. Perhaps if the genocide in Sudan were better covered, folks here and abroad would be more motivated to end it, and save the lives of thousands of people.

You can help: send a letter to the television networks asking them to improve their coverage of Sudan. Be A Witness provides a sample text. Just edit it to your liking and with one click it will be sent to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and FOX. Genocide IS news.

Here are some other ways you can get involved:

* Learn more about what's happening in Sudan.

* Divest from the Khartoum government.

* Support relief organizations that are working to ease the suffering in Sudan.

* Assist Sudanese refugees in the US.

* Write a letter of concern to your elected officials. Tell them the things that matter to you.

* Review the Tyndall Report which monitors the weekday nightly newscasts of the US television networks. Each week, the statistics quoted in Tyndall Weekly measure the time devoted to each story in minutes on all three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC combined).

* Write your local and national air and press media and let them know how you feel about the job they are doing. Hold them accountable.

Whether we like it our not, television has a lot of power. Let's make sure it is used for good.

"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." - Mohandas Ghandi

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Go, go, go with WVO.

"Huh? What's WVO?"

WVO stands for Waste Vegetable Oil, which is a energy efficient, sustainable, cheaper alternative to diesel fuel. It's sometimes called straight vegetable oil (SVO). I've written about biodiesel before, but WVO/SVO isn't quite the same, since, compared to biodiesel,WVO requires less processing and only minimal filtering (a blue jeans pant leg will work just fine) before use in your engine. On the other hand, biodiesel requires no engine conversion.

Many of the reasons for using WVO are the same as for using biodiesel:

* It supports the national economy.
* It improves national security.
* It improves engine life.
* It is sustainable and non-toxic.
* It produces fewer emissions.
* It's cheaper than diesel.

With a simple conversion, any diesel engine can run on WVO (or on biodiesel, with no conversion). Think of your truck, your tractor, your car. With so many restaurants willing to literally give away WVO, how can you go wrong? Here's how you can get started:

--> Learn more about WVO at and in this AJC article. (WVO/SVO versión en español aqui.)

--> Plan your engine conversion with information from,, and

Now load up on fuel and you'll be ready to drive vegetarian. Enjoy!

"The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in the course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time." - Rudolf Diesel (1911)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Give 1% for the planet.

Some smart and savvy folks started a drive called 1% For The Planet. 1%FTP has identified hundreds of worthy non-profit organizations that focus on the environment in numerous ways: sustainable development, environmental justice, education, conservation, and more.

Members of the 1% Alliance donate a portion of their profits to organizations to work to "create a healthier planet. Members recognize their responsibility to and dependence on a healthy environment and donate at least 1% of their annual net revenues to environmental organizations worldwide."

Here's how you can get involved:

* If you are a business owner, sign up to be a member of the 1% alliance. It's good business, responsible behavior, and the right thing to do. Plus, it builds trust, respect and loyalty with your customers.

* Shop with members of 1% Alliance. That way, you'll get the goods and services you need, and know that 1% of the profits generated from your purchase will go to a good cause.

* Write the businesses you patronize and ask them to join the 1% Alliance. They may even let you help choose the organizations they support. For example, GreenKarat asked and I answered. In this way you can help ensure that your priorities are recognized by the companies you do business with.

* Donate 1% or more of your time, money, or other resources to an environmental organization whose work you respect. Encourage others to do the same. I especially like MedShare International.

This is a great way to make sure your money supports the causes your believe in. Imagine that changes that would result if everyone gave 1%!

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children." - Native American proverb

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

End redlining.

Redlining is "practice of denying or increasing the cost of services [or goods] to residents of certain areas. The term "redlining" comes from the practice of marking red lines on a map, which banks would do in order to delineate areas they did not want to lend to." You've probably noticed redlining if your driven or walked through neighborhoods different from your own. How do the gas prices compare to those you pay? What about food prices? There are lots of different types of redlining:

* Food redlining happens when "large-scale supermarkets abandon lower-income communities for their more affluent counterparts, leaving entire communities little or no access to affordable, quality food." This contributes to health problems as well: correlations have been found between access to supermarkets and diet-related illnesses (e.g. diabetes).

* Financial redlining restricts access to mortgages, loans, insurance and other financial services. This contributes to housing segregation and discrimination. Predatory lending is also part of this problem.

* Advertising redlining happens when certain products are primarily advertised in certain neighborhoods, regardless of the neighborhood's relative use of the products. Ever notice where tobacco and liquor billboards are located? (Seems the tobacco companies are trying to get black folks to start smoking more, even though white folks are better customers.)

* Housing redlining. In this illegal practice, real estate agents often steer "white homebuyers away from {racially] diverse neighborhoods and lead black and Hispanic homebuyers to lower-income areas." Why do we so often assume that folks of difference class, race, or ethnicity cannot live together?

"So what can I do?"

--> Request full disclosure. If financial and other institutions are forced to disclose discriminatory practices, public or legal pressure may force them to change.

--> Demand just treatment. If you or someone you know is being treated unfairly, demand a change. I learned this early. When I was young, my mother was often dissatisfied at the quality and freshness of the produce in our neighborhood. Instead of driving to another (wealthier, white) community to shop (an option many of our neighbors did not have), she repeatedly talked to managers and supervisors to demand better quality food. If we don't ask for changes, how can we expect them?

--> Press for legislative changes that outlaw redlining. Click here for information on how to communicate with your elected officials, media and community leaders.

--> Boycott business that continue unjust, unfair or unethical practices.

--> Be inspired to action by the successes of folks who've fought: food, financial and other forms of redlining. You can make a difference for yourself, your family, and your community!

"Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can."  - Ashleigh Brilliant

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Keep the promise.

In September 2000, all 191 United Nations Member states pledge to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Once met, the lives of billions of people will be saved and/or improved. Five years later, progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Here are the goals and here's how you can help"

Millennium Development Goals:

* "Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: Halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and who suffer from hunger." End poverty.

* "Achieve universal primary education: Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling." Each one, teach one.

* "Promote gender equality and empower women: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015." Cherish women.

* "Reduce child mortality: Reduced by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five. Cherish youth.

* "Improve maternal health: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio." Improve health care.

* "Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases." Close the 10/90 gap.

* "Ensure environmental sustainability: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources. Halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020." Insist on environmental justice.

* "Develop a global partnership for development: Implement an open, rule-based trading and financial system, more generous aid to countries committed to poverty reduction, and relief for the debt problems of developing countries." Insist on economic justice.

Do a search for "Millennium Development Goals" for more information, and help make our world a better place. Keep the promise.

Just a note, I won't be blogging for the next few weeks. So please peruse the archives in my absence. There's plenty you can do to keep busy while I'm away.

"True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost." - Arthur Ashe