Friday, August 30, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Rainforest Action Network

I've been following the news of the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest these last few weeks. That's why today's Feel Good Friday organization is Rainforest Action Network.

A San Francisco-based organization founded in 1985, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) "defends forests, communities and climate through non-violent direct action, organizing and education."

They work with environmental and human rights groups in 60 countries "towards a world where the rights and dignity of all communities are respected and where healthy forests, a stable climate and wild biodiversity are protected and celebrated."

Programs focus on three major categories: forestsclimate and communities. Some specific projects are getting Conflict Palm Oil off store shelves, stopping the Keystone Pipeline, and distributing over $1 million in grants to indigenous-led organizations fighting to protect traditional territory in forests around the world.

RAN uses a three-pronged theory of change:
  1. Target the companies and industries driving the most deforestation and climate change
  2. Partner with and support frontline communities who feel the greatest impact from these challenges
  3. Identify and move the legislative and regulatory levers of change
They've been winning campaigns with this approach since the beginning. In 1987 Burger King agreed to cancel $35 million in cattle contracts that destroyed Central American rainforests. In 2001 they helped pass a conservation measure that protects 3.5 million acres of Canada's Great Bear Rainforest. In 2017 Abercrombie & Fitch adopted a policy to address deforestation and human rights abuse issues in their supply chain. You can read about more RAN victories on the How We Win section of their website.

If you'd like to support the work of RAN you can make a donation, volunteer your time, and keep in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RAN.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Feel Good Friday - APOPO

Today's Feel Good Friday is all about the rats of APOPO (an inspiration I will neither confirm, nor deny, is based on something I saw in my neighborhood).

The work of APOPO, a Dutch acronym describing landmine detection, is summed up in their tagline: "we train rats to save lives".

Since the organization's founding in Belgium in 1997, APOPO has been training scent detection rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. This 45-second video, made for their 20th anniversary, gives a quick overview of the programs.

This work is necessary because there are 61 countries in the world with hidden landmines that injure over 8,000 people each year and prevent communities from farming on productive land. Using metal detectors to find the landmines is a slow and dangerous process. Here's where the rats of APOPO come in.

Dubbed HeroRATs, the African giant pouched rats from Tanzania have a highly developed sense of smell, are easy to train and too light to detonate the landmines when walking over them. They're also fast! An area the size of a tennis court would take a human with a metal detector 4 days to clear. A HeroRAT can search the same area in 30 minutes! APOPO's landmine program is currently operating in Angola, Cambodia and Mozambique.

HeroRATs not focused on landmines are trained to detect tuberculosis. Each year there are 10 million new global cases of tuberculosis and 1.6 million people die from the disease. HeroRATs sniffing sputum samples are faster and more efficient than microscopy. HeroRATs can check 100 samples in 20 minutes vs. a human checking 25 samples per day. Samples identified as positive by the rats are verified by lab technicians. Watch a short video of how it works here.

Although it may seem unconventional, the results are impressive. Since they began over 20 years ago, APOPO has destroyed more than 106,000 landmines and the HeroRATs found over 12,000 TB-positive patients, improving clinic TB detection by 40%. To learn more, explore the website for stories of people who have been impacted by APOPO and read all the rat FAQs your heart desires.

If you'd like to support the work of APOPO you can make a traditional donation, adopt a HeroRAT, shop for merch or create your own volunteer position! Keep current on stories from the field by liking the APOPO Facebook page and following them on Twitter @HeroRATs

Friday, August 16, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Defenders of Wildlife

This week a policy change was announced that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. That's why we're highlighting a Feel Good Friday organization dedicated to protecting these animals and their habitats, Defenders of Wildlife.

As summarized on their website, "Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America."

All of their programs focus on one of these three broad imperatives:
  • Prevent species and their habitats from becoming imperiled.
  • Protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.
  • Restore the health of vulnerable species and their habitats.
You can check in on what Defenders is doing for individual animals or an individual place by viewing the wildlife or wild places sections of the website to find your favorites. One example is getting the voluntary tax donation check-off box put on tax forms for the California Sea Otter Fund and warning signs put on flushable kitty litter because it's harmful to the sea otters.

Other programs focus on: conserving imperiled species, advocating for international species, protecting wildlife habitat, promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife, defending conservation laws, innovating for wildlife conservation (science, meets technology, meets policy), and combating climate change. Whew! You can read details about these programs and blogs on current efforts at the "our work" section of the website.

Ready to fight for those who can't fight for themselves? You can help protect the Endangered Species Act by filling out this short form to write your Representatives and visiting the action hub for other ways to get involved.

You can also support the work of Defenders of Wildlife by making a traditional donation or adopting an animal (and getting a photo and a plush toy of the animal you adopt). Finally, don't forget to share the social medial love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Defenders.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Feel Good Friday - People in Plazas

With two mass shootings and a massive ICE raid in the U.S. this week, it feels trivial to post a Feel Good Friday story. And yet, that's the reason I started writing this weekly blog almost 7 years ago. I wanted to remind myself and everyone else that even while terrible events are taking place, good things are happening too.

So today, let's talk about the joy and music that People in Plazas brings to the community.

People in Plazas is an organization that produces free noontime musical concerts in San Francisco public spaces during the months of July, August and September.  As they explain on their website, "Our mission is to encourage visitors, residents and workers to use our outdoor public spaces. We strive to make these spaces "everyone's neighborhood".

Now in 15 locations across downtown San Francisco, there are over 120 concerts each summer reaching an audience of more than 30,000 people. People in Plazas also produces movie nights, poetry readings and artisan fairs - all to encourage community use of public spaces.

While it's a delight to stumble upon a concert on your lunch break, you can also plan ahead. Go to the website and look for concerts sorting by date, location, genre or even specific band. You can also find out who will be where by liking the People in Plazas Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PeopleinPlazas

Friday, August 2, 2019

Feel Good Friday - East Oakland Collective

I'm keeping this week's Feel Good Friday super local (to me) with the East Oakland Collective.

The East Oakland Collective (EOC) is member-based community organizing group. Founded in January, 2016 by East Oakland resident, Candice Elder, the mission of EOC is "serving the communities of deep East Oakland by working towards racial and economic equity."

They do this with programs focused on civic engagement and leadership, economic development, and homeless services and solutions. This includes the SuSu Lending Circle, which provides zero-interest loans to participants who pool their resources, and the Homeless Rapid Response Team which is on-call 24/7 to provide food, supplies, and crisis management services to encampment residents.

A popular program that's been in place since 2017 is Feed the Hood. It's a bi-monthly event that brings together volunteers to assemble and distribute lunches and hygiene kits to the homeless. Since they began, volunteers have given out 20,500 lunches and kits to over 4,500 people in Oakland. The next Feed the Hood date is on August 12th and you can register to volunteer here.

You can learn more about the origin of the East Oakland Collective by reading this article from Oakland Magazine and checking out more articles and videos on their news page. There are many ways to support the work of EOC. You can volunteer, donate money and share the love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @EOakCollective. #WokeEastOakland