COP 15 Plays Out a Sad Reality

Today I personally am not proud to be an American citizen. If you have not been following the Climate Summit negotiations in Copenhagen you will be surprised to know that at this moment countries around the world do not hold our country in high esteem and indeed it looks like we will be known for what we are: the biggest polluters on the planet and unwilling to change our lifestyles even when developing countries, who have added little to the global emissions build up, are beginning to suffer the effects of climate warming.

350.0rg sent a message last night that our current agreements will result in over 3.9 C degrees of warming by 2100. The goal was to keep parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide emissions to 350 ppm or below. The current commitments will be 770 ppm.  Obama will arrive in Copenhagen today but the expectation is that he’ll continue to offer only a 4% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. This is not much of a commitment in terms of what the rest of the world is willing to do. Mud on our faces…but worse, all our children and grandchildren will inherit a world where living may be a nightmare. I personally thought we would do better than this. But why? Special interests have always ruled American politics. Obama, like all others before him, has caved to these interests, and in trying to be reelected,  he has assured he will become a one term President. I am very disappointed in his leadership.

We can say without exaggerating that Americans shopped while Rome burned. Shame on us!

Copenhagen Tremors Draw George Soros Idea

Rumblings from developing countries over rumors of a separate agreement between the U.S., Denmark, and Britain that would allow developed countries to pollute more relative to developing countries, is causing tremors in the Cop 15 Climate Summit spirit of cooperation.

Many of the expected climate change impacts such as rising sea level will disproportionately impact poorer countries with less economic resources than rich countries.  Did we really think we could discuss, argue, and come to agreement on a world-community plan to mitigate environmental and economic impacts without addressing the age-old problem of have’s versus have not’s?

Philanthropist, George Soros, addressed this gap and called for the IMF to fund climate change adaptations in developing countries by investing $100B  in developing countries for green energy projects and adaptations necessary to adapt to climate impacts in those countries. Money will come from the funds set aside for financial recovery in world-wide economies. Soros addressed the 192-country summit.

Soros is responding to the possibility that the talks will break down due to The Group of 77 (bloc of developing countries) which contends that developed nations like the U.S., who have contributed the lion’s share of CO2 emissions over the last 150 years of industrialization, should make substantive commitments for reduced emissions and assistance to developing countries. Soros called upon the political will of the people to assure Congress will not delay to support his plan and significant commitments from the U.S. to the rest of the world community to reduce emissions.

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Lions, Tigers, and Bears – Oh, My!

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When Dorothy set off to find the Wizard of Oz, she and her companions encountered a lion in the dark wood – just as they had feared. But, the cowardly beast only drew their distain, for what good is a spineless lion?

Therein lies the dichotomy between our visceral fear of large carnivores and our psychological need for lions, tigers and bears to be wild, fierce and free – a ‘varmit’ or an icon. One gets them killed, the other immortalized. And, neither will help them survive.

Neither perception tells us why lions, tigers and bears are important. Remove the carnivore and prey populations multiply exponentially. Grazers mow down vegetation, producing more young, and increasing in number until food sources are used up. Disease and starvation then finish them off.

A wolf pack takes out the weakest of the herd, controlling not only numbers but removing the least adaptive genes from the population’s gene pool. A dynamic balance results between wolves, deer, and vegetation, and myriad lives dependent on them benefit, too.

That we do not understand the importance of this relationship was memorably recorded by Aldo Leopold. He wrote about an experience shooting wolves one afternoon – a common practice among Forest Service rangers then – wolves were vermin that needed eradicating. Leopold had watched the “fierce, green fire” in the wolf eyes fade in her death.

Dawning on his consciousness was the realization of a bigger death, a death of wild things and something greater still: the very foundation of a healthy ecosystem. The wild, beautiful landscapes that inspired Leopold, that support man’s livelihood, were created over centuries among myriad species until the climatic stage in a community was reached and wherein dynamic balance of populations is achieved by an elaborate set of checks and balances.

The wolf he had just killed was one of the key checks and balances where it lived.

Until that moment Leopold lacked the understanding that he later reflected only a mountain could possess. Mountains have the long view, he wrote, whereas humans are newcomers. A mountain has no fear of wolves … only deer – because the deer will mow down its trees and the rains will wash away its topsoil and cause all kinds of havoc on the mountain.

Thinking like a mountain requires that we look down the long road behind us and way ahead to understand the present truth.

The cattleman that compares the life of a wolf against the current market price of his cow misses the much greater value of leaving the wolf wild and free. That “home on the range” where his cattle roam depends on a well functioning natural community to maintain it.

Leopold was writing about this phenomenon in 1949. One would hope that nearly six decades later, we would be a wiser country, wiser for the scientific data that proved the wisdom Leopold intuited through observation alone.

We know, for example, that the return of large carnivores to their native habitat can lead to an increase in plant and animal diversity and ecosystem complexity:

“Their removal can unleash a cascade of effects and changes throughout all ecosystem trophic [feeding] levels reducing biological diversity, simplifying ecosystem structure and function, and interfering with ecological processes.  Their return to impoverished ecosystems can reverse the cascade and restore diversity and complexity to ecosystems.

We are witnessing such ecological rebirth in Yellowstone National Park following the return of the wolf to that ecosystem.  Riparian willows and cottonwoods are returning because elk spend more time moving and hiding to avoid becoming wolf scat.  With their table reset, beavers are returning to the streams.

These ‘ecological engineers’ provide homes for myriad critters from aquatic insects to fish to songbirds.  The extent of changes is certainly far more complex than we can observe or document.”   [Dave Parsons, Conservation Biologist, The Rewilding Institute’s Carnivore Program[1]]

Yet even with our increased knowledge wolves are still exterminated as happened recently in Alaska. The governor of the state supported an illegal aerial hunt on 14 denning adult wolves followed by the point blank murder of fourteen pups. The justification given was to boost caribou populations in Southwest Alaska. Short term solutions will eventually deliver the opposite result if conservation biology is correct.

Ironically, Alaskan wildlife agency personnel were the arbiters of the killings. Over the sixty years since Aldo Leopold’s epiphany, a lot of good science has been conducted, laws put in place as safeguards of keystone species—a species that influences the ecological composition, structure, or functioning of its community far more than its abundance would suggest[2] In other words, lions, tigers, and bears…

In 1996 I attended a public meeting in Springerville, Arizona convened over the “elk problem.” Present were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Commission, White Mountain Apache biologists and tribal officials, ranchers, tourist industry reps, a hunter’s association, residents and students. It became apparent right from the start that a classic show down between conflicting interests was about to happen, and a full airing of our dichotomous American character.

The problem appeared to stem from an exponential increase in elk populations. A ranch owner testified how elk herds of 600 to 1,000 head could be found in her valleys and meadows on just about any given day, leaving in their path a swath of denuded range. She demanded that Game and Fish raise the limits for hunters to help bring the population under control. As she made her plea she turned to the Apache contingent. For they did not kill elk unless they needed meat and entertained the elk herds’ presence within the boundaries of their reservations at night when the animals sought refuse there. The vast reservation stretches as far south as Phoenix encompassing 1.67 million acres. The rancher wanted the Apache Nation to help kill elk and bring the herds under control. They would not, they said, based on ethical principles and the belief that restoring the natural systems would be the only true answer to controlling the population. (I think I caught a twinkle in one tribal elder’s eye as this statement was made.)

Tourist agencies pleaded that the presence of elk, seen from the freeways and in the camp or motel areas, drew thousands of families who enjoy seeing wildlife. Tourism brings millions of dollars in revenue to the community they reminded the assembly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deferred to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. But first they made a statement about the traditional range of the Mexican gray wolf, a natural keystone species of the disrupted ecosystem. Reintroduction of the gray wolf in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest and southern Arizona’s Gila River communities was just getting underway.

Mention of the wolf acted like a match on tinder. The auditorium erupted in arguments from the ranchers and tourism folks alike who didn’t welcome wolves in the woods.

Then, a rancher rose to speak. He had the look of one who spends his days in the sun.

“We are victims of our own schemes – me included. First we saw the wolf as our enemy and we systematically exterminated it. We saw it killing too many elk, too many cattle. We feared for our own lives. Once it was gone we began to notice how the elk and deer populations grew each year. Now we watch as they eat the meadows down, even strip the bark. Well, maybe its time we examined our own nature to see how we can control that!”

Back at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy got her wish to go home, the tin man a heart, and the lion, courage. Maybe the wolf, the lion, the tiger, the bear, the shark, the grizzly will be restored, too, at some time when our own wizardry returns us to the natural order of things.


[1] http://www.rewilding.org/carnivoreconservation.html

 

[2] http://glossary.eea.europa.eu/EEAGlossary/K/keystone_species

A refreshing voice for education’s true purpose

Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs and the people they inspired have a lot of important things to say about our educational system. Here on a site for a new school developing with the same principles in mind, is an excerpt from the Bogg’s work on the true purpose of  education. Of particular significance now, a time of when our notions of who we are as Americans is being challenged by the collapsing economic system that gave our society its purpose for two centuries, is the context of the Boggs work. Detroit – a city at the epicenter of a crumbling set of values that dehumanized rather than built community. The most basic ideas about who we are and what the American Dream is creating is discussed with a rare clarity that makes so much sense to me today. Take a couple of minutes to read their clear thoughts on the purpose of education.

This reminds me, too, of another essential book on education by David Orr: Education with Earth in Mind.

Remembering the Revolution: Grace Lee Boggs

Are any of you wishing for clarity of purpose among American citizens, and leadership that recognizes the imperatives of the time?

Grace Lee Boggs is as consequential at 92 as most activists and writers at 50 or 60. Good work has energized her with a refreshingly clear vision of America. Interviewed on Democracy Now (I recommend taking time to listen to her perspective from a half century of social activitism) Boggs describes the revolution begun with the 1960’s civil rights movement; the speech by Jimmy Carter that called upon us to look at ourselves and which created the counterrevolution demonstrated by the Reagan years, then 9-11 and the Bush Presidency.

“Human relations matter more than economic growth,” Boggs sites as the revolution, first brought to light in the civil rights movement, then extended to women, and then into the environmental movement.”

She believes that racism is still a profoundly strong fact of America’s psyche, responding to the recent attacks on the Obama administration, Obama’s denial that it is racially derived, and the comments of Jimmy Carter that racisim against Obama is strong and abominable.

Boggs is voicing something I have felt missing in the last twenty years: that dialogue begun in the 60’s that addressed the most important ideas of democracy and that were lost in a wave of economic bottom-line thinking with Reagan and which as we see through the next three administrations did NOT result in economic security for this country.

She feels the Obama administration has missed where we are as a nation, that he and his Harvard-trained staff, are unaware of what is happening – she described as “linear thinking.”

Boggs has written a new introduction to the The American Revolution written by her late husband James Boggs. I just ordered it.  Another good source  exploring true democratic movements under the media’s radar but none the less vibrant, is Democracy’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe.

Are any of you wishing for clarity of purpose among American citizen’s, and leadership that recognizes the imperatives of the time: as Boggs points out, this is about downsizing our expectations and realizing our previous wealth was dependent on impoverishing the rest of the world. 9-11 was the resounding message that the rest of the world is no longer going to tolerate that. This is a time of having less and accepting that as not only okay, but a way into a better future.

Winning Grants – Its All Upfront

Avoid having your grant proposal stuck in a “stranger pile” in some far and distant foundation office. It’s not about a grant writer: it’s about a team and a grantwriter.

trophy

I recently read an article in the Journal of the American Association of Grant Professionals that rang true in my experience as a nonprofit consultant. The article referred to the lonely pile of unsolicited grants on a foundation officer’s desk  –  the “stranger” pile (Lundahl, Journal of the AAGP, Fall 2008: Vol. 6, No. 1).

Odds of being funded from this pile are small to improbable.

If a foundation has no clue who you are, you have not done your homework, the upfront preparation that makes all the difference. It takes time.  The message: plan ahead.

Grant writing is not about putting a proposal together, though that is an important component of it. I think of the proposal writing as the culmination of many steps that have taken place upfront.

  1. Clear definition of what your organization needs.
  2. Compelling justification that you are the one to fulfill those needs.
  3. Staff and/or partners have met to discuss the strategic goals and objectives.
  4. Research has taken place to identify a group of funding agencies whose mission is a bullseye for your project.
  5. Board members and staff are ready to visit or call the foundation, corporation, or government office when possible. When the investment in your organization is critical (usually capacity building or start-up) then a face to face meeting is really productive. *Investment in airfare and hotel to meet personally with a foundation clearly #4 in this list is well worth it. My experience is that it may take a year before it pays off. But they may fund you significantly and if you meet your objectives and the need is great you be funded over and over again.

Before you think of applying for a grant, ask yourself how you could get the job done without it. Can you trade services with another organization, share a staff member, charge a fee for service, partner with a group that will donate the services inkind? This should always be your question even when it is clear you’ll need grant funding as well. Most foundations are more certain of you if your project is recognized as worthy by other funding agencies.

So, the message is this: it’s not about a grant writer, it’s about a team and a grantwriter.  It is about long range planning.

Check out Grant Champion Web Site which is full of free products and very excellent advice. See my website, WriteForChange,  for more about grant writing and nonprofit consulation.

Good Books Are Food for My Imagination

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is reading a good book. I am reading Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horsesthe cleanest prose of riveting power since reading Hemmingway. I feel the Norwegian soul and walk its wooded shorelines with Trond Sander and gradually learn about his life in a plot that reaches back and forward, an intrcate weave of life’s experiences as a youth comes of age, reflected by the man.

On another page herein I have listed the Ten Books of Enduring Relevance to me, and today on Yoga Journal I found a list of “Ten Spiritual Classics” by Gerald Rosen that remined me of great books in that genre. Autobiography of a Yogi kept me enthralled for weeks as I listened to the books on tape.

I’ll admit to being a reader who still likes to hold a writer’s creation in my hands, feeling the pages, and cover, imbibing the fragrances of old books… leather bound, or mildewy. I enjoy going to used book stores, finding a buried treasure that has a dedication, underlining perhaps or scrawled notes by previous owners. I’ve not ventured to a Kindle or its like but would like to know if you have and what you think of the experience.

My sister brought Library Thing to my attention. She is using it to set up her own library catalogue and share books she is reading with other avid readers. You might want to check it out on her blog. Scroll down on right.

May you find yourself reading an enthralling book in some cozy corner with a cup of hot tea at hand. I am off to the main library to find one or more books from Gerald Rosen’s list to reread. Sighhhh

Susan

What Truly Motivates Us? It’s Not What You Think!

This period of time for small business owners like me  challenges the imagination. It is a whole new playing field and a differenct set of rules. I am confident of my products, have a proven track record of success but the truth is funding dollars have dwindled and nonprofits, at least, are thinking up new ways to leverage their impact that may or may not include monetary methods.

During this time I’ve decided to do more creative writing and spend time in the presence of creative entrepreneurs who offer light in the shadowy path of an evolving new economy. TED.com is a constant source for innovation in business, social and scientific thinking. This link takes you to a presentaion by Dan Pink, career analyst. Pink’s address is startling: he debunks the old idea that money is a  motivation for performance. I highly recommend you put your feet up and take time to listen to this. It encouraged me to view the new business environment as one that is creating an opportunity for the best kind of work to evolve in America.