End of year existential rant and giving ideas: For humans
“In a place without people, be a person.” -old saying, source unknown to me.
I am a parent and a 41-year-old human denizen of planet earth, climate warrior, dormant mountaineer. So like others of my ilk, I spend a lot of time in mid-life/existential crisis. That state of mind is ameliorated to some extent by my charitable giving, often done at this time of year. To that end I’m offering Grist readers my annual philanthropic suggestions. I will preface the suggestions with a short description of the conditions of my life that lead, on any given day, to me enjoying my limited philanthropy so much. An average day in my life, which I imagine is similar to many people’s lives, explains why I find the act of giving palliative if not redemptive.
Last night, my 4-year-old Elias chugged a sippy cup of water before going to sleep. Woke up in a pool of urine at 1:30 A.M., freezing. (Elias did, not me.) My wife Ellen stripped his bed, I took off his PJs. He came into bed with us. I woke around three o’clock with a negative epiphany: “I will never be as fit as I was when I was a high school teacher coaching the telemark team, skiing two days a week and one whole day on weekends. And the reason I will never be that fit is structural: tele is an insane workout, and my knees can’t take it. And second, I wouldn’t have the time anyway.”
So I went to work feeling pretty tired, and was schlumping up the stairs from the finance dept where I was talking about obscure finance aspects of wind farm development and accelerated depreciation, thinking to myself how beaten down I felt and how I would never be as fit as when I was teaching high school, and I opened the door, which bounced off my “postman shoes” as people call them here, and rebounded into my temple. Which hurt like a mother@#$%^&, and I walked into the bathroom to see WTF was going on, and I had a gaping cut. Easily a one- or two-stitcher. So I look in our first aid kits at work which have 1) infection control kits (for performing surgery? Dealing with a bio attack?) And 2) band aids. So I hop in the car, drive to Carl’s pharmacy, buy some steri strips. Fix my injury in the bathroom after waiting for a contractor from next door to get done taking a dump. And I’m back at it, 10:55 AM. Thinking: “I still got it baby.”
So you can see why helping some desperate causes helps me get through an average day. And here are some good ones, most of which I’m involved with in some way so, like all things human, consider this a compromised and subjective, awkward and self serving enterprise.
First, you should give to Grist. (See, I told you this would be self serving and compromised. Come on in! The water’s warm!) But seriously, daily, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people like me get critical information on key environmental issues quickly and with humor. That’s a blessing but also a driver of change.
And if you care about good journalism and free press, which is a key to protecting our crumbling democracy against corporate dollars, you should support the newspaper from which Grist came, High Country News. (www.hcn.org.) That’s where Chip Giller, Grist co-founder, (with Lisa Hymas) got his start.
And if you still care about good reporting, you should support Climate Progress, (www.climateprogress.org) a Grist partner and an incredible climate science resource, led by the combative and brilliant Joe Romm who I’ve been friends with for years and who I admire as much for his no-prisoners stance as for the fact that he is a gracious and mature adult: one thing he does as much as anything is praise and recognize the good work of others, when they do good things or win awards. That: recognizing the success of others (even in your field) as your own success, is the mark of maturity, even possibly transcendence.
If you care about climate change, you should support Protect Our Winters (www.protectourwinters.org) which I’m on the board of and which is mobilizing the power, celebrity, and leverage of the $66B winter sports industry on climate action. Their budget is tiny, but their impact is huge, and their constituents are rabid and fit, with the endurance necessary for the fight ahead.
I don’t feel too conflicted about recommending groups that I sit on the board of because I chose to sit on the board FIRST because I think the organizations are great. So another one I’d recommend is Colorado Conservation Voters, if you live in CO, http://www.coloradoconservationvoters.org/, which effectively mobilizes voters to protect democracy and the environment, also on a shoestring. Nationally the LCV does the same thing.
If you want to do more on climate, there are some relatively big NGOs that continue to impress me by how they tap corporate power in creative ways to drive disproportionate change. They are NRDC and CERES (www.nrdc.org and http://www.ceres.org.) both of which groups often call me out of the blue to say: “Hey, here’s an idea.”
If you care about equity and poverty and effective international aid that uses local resources and talent, then you should give to Partners in Health, where most of my money goes, http://www.pih.org. If you haven’t read Tracy Kidder’s book about founder Paul Farmer, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” you are missing a plain fun read.
If you don’t give much money away, then you should go to http://www.1lifecampaign.org/index.html, which in two minutes outlines Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save, and will help you understand why you need to give more money away.
And if all that doesn’t seem like its of much interest to you or you’ve just had a pipe explode in the house that busted the budget, then at least know I’m there with you experiencing similar daily grievances. You don’t have, by any chance, have some Advil I can borrow?