Tis the season … for the Heifer Project

If the crush of I-wannas and must-haves has you feeling trampled by the holiday season, consider The Heifer Project for those who might feel the same. The premise is simple:

A good dairy cow can produce four gallons of milk a day – enough for a family to drink and share with neighbors. Milk protein transforms sick, malnourished children into healthy boys and girls. The sale of surplus milk earns money for school fees, medicine, clothing and home improvements.

And because a healthy cow can produce a calf every year, every gift will be passed on and eventually help an entire community move from poverty to self reliance. Now that’s a gift worth giving!

You can give a whole cow or just a share, a water buffalo or a goat or stuff a stocking with a flock of chicks. Click over and check it out.

The photo is Close up Cow by mad paul. After a look at his flickriver, I think the mad part is for “mad skillz” – check it out.

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The Elephant and the Blind Men

Addo Elephant National Park by exfordy

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The above is the beginning of The Blind Men and the Elephant, an ancient Indian tale translated in 1873 by John Godfrey Saxe. Please go read this if it’s an unfamiliar tale … or read it anyway, as it’s stood the test of time.

The story came to me as I was pondering an assortment of modern calamities. It made me think about how our work on these problems is so remarkably compartmentalized.

We’ll spend $800,000,000,000.00 (or so) bailing out people who have been playing Games With Money: Other People’s Version. We’ll wonder if we should spend 5% of that staggering sum on three companies that are responsible for the jobs of 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 people (depending on who you ask) and the pension and retirement of many more. We’ll say that Social Security has a $10,400,000,000,000 shortfall looming (actually, the Bush Administration said that in 2005). We’ll lament at the fall of lake levels and the rise of seas and the melting of the Arctic and the death of species.

We’ll do everything, it seems, but sit down and take a good look at the whole picture, to see that we can no longer borrow from a future if we can’t figure out how to repay the debt.

The photo is Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa by exfordy* and can be enjoyed in their South Africa, 1999 slideshow (set). He writes:

This bull walked right by the car. If I had kept the window open I could have touched it. We had been told that if we stayed in our car we would be OK. A Japanese tourist had got out of his car the previous week and had been killed by an elephant.

*exfordy as in “Ex Ford Employee” – what are the odds that Michigan-crazy me I would find and choose this photo from the vasty herd of elephant photos under Creative Commons license on Flickr?????

See the girl as the solution: The Girl Effect

You can see the simple concept in the related vids above or at The Girl Effect website. Be sure to click through to The Girl Effect’s YouTube channel to see some of the other videos.

The Girl EffectThe Ripple Effect (stats from United Nations and other organizations)

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. ( Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30% to 40% for a man.

Vote. Everyone. Please.

Please watch this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCx0J3NiABY

If you agree that we have an economy to fix, two wars to end, veterans and veterans’ families to care for, cities and towns to rebuild, children to educate and nurture and feed and a planet to protect for the next generation and those after, then ask yourself: which candidate can help to put us on the road to accomplish all that and more?

If your answer as mine: the candidate who talks about doing it and has energized millions of people all across the country and the world, then please send it along to friends – tell them WHY they should treat this election as the most important thing they will do this week.

You never get another chance to be ten years old, to catch your first fish, to hear a story from your grandmother, to be a new father or mother, to watch your oldest graduate from college or dance at the wedding of your youngest, to see the Grand Canyon or whales off Alaska.

Vote. Everyone. Please.

The Numbers Game

There’s been a lot said against Obama’s line-forming, stadium-packing, arena-shaking star power, and I confess that it definitely gives me pause when I hear chants of “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” ring out. Again and again, I hear him say “This is not about me, it’s about you.”

This election is about you. And me. And all of us and what we want from the future.

Every political campaign in history has been about the numbers game – how many spears, how much money, how many votes. This election is no different … unless of course you’re thinking it’s about time to stand up and take a little responsibility for our future.

PS: If you’re in the Traverse City area, go see Bill McKibben at Lars Hockstead in Traverse City tonight!

Another Marshall Plan.

I’m not old enough to remember the Marshall Plan, or as Wikipedia sez, the “European Recovery Program”.

Major governmental initiatives I remember are mostly wars on nebulous foes like Drugs, Terror and  Objectionable Record Lyrics. Somewhere before I reached awareness that We the People of the United States of America could actually focus change through our government, We the People seemed to lose our collective appetite for ambitious campaigns. Maybe Vietnam and the social struggles of the 60s and 70s beat the New Dealing, Marshall Planning, Space Racing, Great Societizing impulse right out of us.

Whatever it is, the last 30 years have seen a nation that has attempted little that could be called ambitious, preferring instead to coast into the future. Unfortunately, neither the rest of the world or the world itself seems content to stop pedaling, and we’re left blearily standing on the curb watching the future race past us as we wonder if we’ll end up in the second or third world … or if there will indeed be a world for us or our children.

I heard yesterday that the average child in our country has a higher level of anxiety than the average institutionalized child in the 1950s. A large percentage of the population is dramatically strapped by energy, food and other prices that are outstripping income. We’re mired in war in two nations and unable to do more than watch as the Russian bear goes on the hunt again and tyrants the world around decide the paths of nations.

Our response? Drill here, drill now?

I hope that if nothing else, our dire situation will focus us to make a massive investment in the future of our country, our people and the peoples of all the world.

The photo is titled Jumptacular and that’s my family.

Bullet Train

Untitled by Zoriah

This morning on NPR I heard Brian Turner discussing and reading from his book Here Bullet. Boinging Boing-Boing:

Here, Bullet
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

You can read more and hear author Brian Turner read over at NPR.

About the Photo: It was taken by Zoriah. Be sure to view it bigger. Zoriah works in humanitarian photojournalism. Zoriah’s war slideshow is a powerful place to start.

Please check out some of these links and consider the fact that we’ve been at war in Iraq for longer than World War II (and WW I) and the Civil War. Longer in fact than any war save the Revolutionary War and Vietnam.