Thursday, 18 Dec 2003


The end of the year draws near and the pace heightens perceptibly. We try not to rush, but there are beggings and offerings to be gotten out the door; travel arrangements to be made for trips in January to coffee-producing regions in Latin America; cards of thanks to all the good people who helped make the successes of this year possible.

It has been a most interesting year for the Songbird Foundation. We started the year with hope and a certain trepidation. We end it the same way. Hope is the currency of our trade.

Yesterday, out the window of our office in Seattle’s Old Ballard neighborhood, there was a sharp-shinned hawk across the street in a tree limb with a tasty prize. Here we have it: Adaptation to less-than-optimal circumstances. Work with whacha got. And that’s what we do, too.

The holiday/end-of-the-year season is fundraising time. We have grant deadlines to meet before we write our personal cards, buy our presents, and contemplate parties and dinners with family and friends. We prevail upon board members to request of clients and associates that they make that tax-deductible contribution. (“If you haven’t got a dollar, a quarter will do. If you haven’t got a quarter, then God bless you.”) Then, as the last envelope is sealed and we can do no more, we sigh and smile. The sense of satisfaction runs deeper than surface anxieties.

Thanks to people like Paul Hawken we are beginning to understand that our wealth is derived from our natural resources and that sustainable strategies are the only way we shall endure. We can imagine we’ll keep pushing farther into the solar system or the universe beyond, like the acquisitive pioneers we are, and the abundance will continue. It comes back to hope, but in this case the perversion of hope, which is delusion. The Earth is what we have and what we are. As my friend Marlin says, “Honor the Earth, all else is speculation.”

The bright notes are small things like the sharing of an epiphany from someone in the United Students for Fair Trade organization who realized that “quality” is the only way the coffee farmers can capture the markets they need. Charity is not enough, at least not enough for equity. Another email from a coffee roaster and retailer announced that his business was converting more coffee lines to sustainable coffees and asked if we would add him to our Coffee Resources map (if you want to know where to find sustainably grown coffee in your part of the country just click on your state).

These are small things but they’re additive. The cup of coffee we have in the morning is a small thing. (By the way, today I’m drinking a cup of “Cubanito,” a coffee from Cuba. We can trade with China and Russia, deal with all the other “evil-doers,” but we can’t bring ourselves to open our doors to Cuba. Petty.) Asking who made what we bought this season, what it really cost, and who really benefited is a good practice for sustainable thinking. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but form certainly is. The only constant is change. Which reminds me, I’ve got to get on the boat and into the office to ask for some of that change from prospective funders.

It’s a beautiful morning again here in the Bird House (my name for the office I work in on the island). The mountain, Tahoma/Rainier, is blinded by the sun and the harbor water is calm. I long for the solace of the kayak, but I have miles to go before I glide. It’s another wait in the ferry line. Another day of figuring out the numbers and the language of inducement. Another day of accepting the stone as did Sisyphus, knowing it will be waiting at the bottom of the incline again tomorrow. Peace.