Friday, February 25, 2005

Murders in Brazil

Two more rainforest activists have been shot dead in the past week. Both were Brazilian citizens working on rainforest conservation programs and speaking out for the rights of indigenous people living in logging areas. One was killed in Rio, another in Papas state.

Info from

Another Brazilian Environmentalist Shot Dead
A Brazilian environmentalist has been shot dead, days after gunmen killed a US nun who campaigned to protect the Amazon rain forest from loggers and ranchers vying for its natural resources. Authorities said Wednesday that Dionisio Ribeiro was shot in the head late Tuesday at the Tingua nature reserve near Rio de Janeiro. Colleagues say Ribeiro had received death threats for some time because of his efforts to stop poaching and the illegal felling of palm trees. Ribeiro's murder follows the recent shooting deaths of Sister Dorothy Stang, an environmental activist and advocate for the poor, and Daniel Soares da Costa, an advocate of landless peasants.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Sister Dorothy link

There are numerous stories about Sister Dorothy available online. The best I found was on the Catholic News Service site.

CNS STORY: U.S. missionary nun who defended peasants killed in Brazil

Assassination of American Nun in Brazil

Saturday February 12, 2005, 74 year old Sister Dorothy Stang, an American nun and Brazilian citizen who defended the Amazon was shot by two gunmen as she was traveling to a sustainable development project in the city of Anapú. Sister Dorothy dedicated nearly half her life to give a voice to rural Amazon communities, defending their land rights, and fighting for a development model that would not result in forest destruction. She tirelessly insisted that a strong presence of the government in the remote regions of the Amazon was necessary.

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Sister Dorothy had worked in the Amazon for the past 37 years, living in Anapú since 1972. She opposed corrupt logging companies in the region. She was an outspoken critic of land grabbers and illegal loggers who use intimidation and violence to force small landowners off their land.

"...Sister Dorothy refused to be intimidated and she paid the ultimate price for it," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator who had worked with Sister Dorothy. “She worked selflessly for many years supporting the rights of rural workers and defending the Amazon from deforestation."
Her work made her the target of many death threats.

"The Pará government failed to protect her," said Adario. "But she was not alone. There are many others who risk their lives fighting against forest destruction and for the rights of local communities. The violence and intimidation must stop."

Approximately one-third of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon takes place in Pará, and the state is notorious for both environmental abuse and human rights violations.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Vagarious Temps

I'm in a situation with a temp agency that is making me ill. I'm trying for a temp-to-hire office manager position with a non-profit organization. If I get it, I will replace another temp who has been there for awhile. There will be a pre- interview for me on Friday with the President of the organization, and if I pass that test another interview with her staff next week. This troubles me as the temp-to-hire person who is there now is about to get the shaft, but my instinct is to stand up for that individual and help her keep her job. This pre-interview is being done on the sly. I'm not meeting the President at her office, but at a coffeeshop around the corner. We're going to have a bagel and a latte and talk about me. I feel dirty somehow, even though I've never met these people. If I don't go I obviously don't get the job, but if I do go somebody else gets fired. Is there a fundamental flaw in temp agency morality, or is my sense of justice and fair-play somehow overinflated?

So the questions I must ask: Am I really this desperate for full time employment? Does this woman have kids? Is she going to be able to find something else, or end up slinging burgers at the BK Lounge?

I don't know what the working world was like before the rise of temp agencies. As far as I know, they have always existed. There has always been a clerical pool that companies have pulled workers from. I've read a dozen articles that say the romance of a career that lasts a lifetime is dead, that Americans will have half a dozen or more careers in our lifetimes. Why? Why can't I find that one job that is perfect for me and makes me happy. Why must I push someone else out of a perfectly good job, or for that matter why should I be pushed out? It's not that I want to do this, but that I simply don't have any other options at this point in time. The system has removed my options and made me a viscious creature, a predator on the loose culling the herd. Damn, I really need to pay my rent before my landlady changes the locks. Sucks that this chick is gonna be on the street, but it's her or me. I vote for me and then wonder, what has become of me?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Grant Writing

I've spent a considerable amount of time researching grant writing in recent months, as well as working on becoming a more succinct writer. This blogsite, for example, is another attempt to improve my writing ability. In the days ahead I'll update this site to include a number of links to grant writing resources. I'll also post on various grantwriting topics, so this site will turn into a small grantwriting workshop. You'll learn as I learn. If you want to follow along with me as I write my own proposal, I have the ability to email you and let you know when I'm posting another item related to a topic you're interested in.

I'm doing this primarily to get myself funded, but also to help my friends do the type of work they have in their hearts. I know I won't make any money off of this blog process. You're all great people and I'm damn lucky to know you. If you work for a nonprofit or you have a specific idea about something that you'd like to get funded, give me a shout. We may be able to help one another.

I've also done some research into writing business plans and small business startups, what types of loans are available and who can get them, what you need to take to the meeting with your banker, etc. I have a ton of info on this as well, enough that I think I could help a stranger get started. From the number of questions I've gotten from various folks in recent months, this seems to be a needed service. I'll be posting that info after I get some of the non-profit funding stuff online. There are a ton of resources, I'll put links on the left side of this page and delete what's there now. This website will double or triple in size in the coming weeks.

Also, you might notice that there's now a Google search engine at the top of this page. USE IT! I get paid everytime you use it! Also there will be banner ads on the top of this page soon, probably tomorrow, so CLICK ON THEM! I get paid everytime you click on one of the ads!

News from Erin in Thailand

Hope she doesn't mind, but I thought her email was fascinating so I decided to broadcast it to the world.

Greetings from Thailand,

Birthplace of Red Bull, where break dancing is still all the rage, and the belt buckles are bigger than Texas...or maybe it's just that the people are smaller.

I spent my first week here in a dusty bus stop of a town, not even an intersection to lay claim to--unless you count the river, close enough to the Andaman Sea to be a brackish tidal cesspool, but not near enough to catch even the faintest of breezes. It is this auspicious location, chosen purportedly for its perch halfway down the tsunami-afflicted west coast of thailand, that is the makeshift home to a few of the remaining volunteer relief organizations, and more specifically the one at which i attempted to volunteer for a week.

The search for the missing, still numbering just over a thousand in thailand, was called off last week, followed with all due haste by the departure of the press for juicier juice. Quick to vanish on their heels were some of the better known international aid organizations (cou-redcross-gh), leaving a massive gap between the government's noteworthy efforts and those of dozens of small, independent aid groups. It is a transitional period, with the need for emergency relief--food and water--drawing to a close, and more long term projects just getting underway, but holy crap what a mess! No one's talking to anyone else, everyone has a seperate agenda, plenty of funding, and no idea how to make it all come together.

I met up with my friend Ellen and two of her friends in Bangkok, and we headed down together for a week of work. She had been in touch with someone there, they were expecting us, but still had no idea how to make us useful. It was supremely frustrating: most days consisted of sitting around their office like rock star groupies waiting to jump at the chance to unload somebody's truck or run for takeout. The all-volunteer staff alternated between friendly and holier-than-thou, and the best we were able to manage was riding along to do a few drop-offs at the encampments and a few days of beach clean-up on our own initiative.

The camps are as depressing as could be expected; some in plywood barracks with hingeing window flaps as the only ventilation, others still in tent villages crammed tighter than a state park on the fourth of july. The people, though, were very friendly and seemed in good spirits--they've even organized a book for volunteers to sign, assuring us that when they have homes again we all will be welcome guests. I think the challenge is going to be convincing them it is safe to return to their villages. Some of these evacuees are from places that weren't even hit.

The testament to the tsunami's power came when we did beach clean up near a former village of 50 houses. These were concrete and rebar, real buildings! and just smashed, bent, and washed away. A lot of cleanup had been done, which kept it all from getting too emotional for me I think, but it was still a pretty shocking sight.

So all in all, week one has been frustrating. Wish I could have done more, but as one of the volunteers so bitchily pointed out, at least my "tourist dollars" were flowing in. So I'm back in bangkok watching my hair curl in the humidity, and for a real uplifting experience....I'm off to Cambodia in the morning! War-torn past aside, i am pretty excited and eager to begin my travels. Until next time!


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Wind Power in West Michigan

Sustainability was the theme of Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell's State of the City address on January 15th, 2005 . Given the unemployment situation in West Michigan, a speech not focused on jobs did not sit well with many area conservatives. The mayor's opponents have since critiqued his speech with calls for job growth. However, in a list of environmental initiatives, all of which are commendable, his Honor concluded with the following statement:

"This morning I announce an initiative aimed at reducing the City’s dependency on non-renewable resource power by 20% by 2008. We will begin the process of weaning ourselves from dependency on air-polluting power sources that use irreplaceable fuels. We will become more sustainable in our use of power.

This may not be as difficult as it sounds. One potential answer has always been there; tousling our hair on a spring afternoon, cooling us in the summer and chilling us to the bone in the winter. Wind. West Michigan has an abundance of it. Our coastal climate is ideal for wind generation and wind is a reliable, renewable, and free fuel to create electric power."

How does one city, all on it's own, move to construct a wind farm large enough to power 20% of the city? Where does the money come from to buy the land, and where does the money come from to buy the generators? Certainly this requires an enormous private investment, or it becomes a regional effort by several communities all along the lakeshore. Either way, somebody stands to get filthy rich off of this. You may ask yourself, as a lowly individual Grand Rapidian, how do I get a cut of the action? Will local construction companies get hired? Will my rates go up as I switch over to green power? How do you convince Grand Rapidians to pay more for green electricity when they don't have a job or they're only making $5.15 an hour?

An example of a city that has partially switched over to wind power is Eugene, Oregon. It's a college town, home of the University of Oregon. I lived there for 10 years and watched the city promote the switch to wind power beginning in 1997. Eugene is slightly smaller than Grand Rapids, but growing rapidly. The Eugene Public Utility District now buys a significant chunk of it's energy from a wind farm in Wyoming. Yes, even though Eugene sits an hour from the Pacific Ocean, it buys it's electricity from a facility in the Rockies 1200 miles away. It's cheaper to buy power from an existing facility several states away than it is to build a new facility in your hometown. In addition, there was a 10% rate increase for those Eugene citizens who voluntarily switched over to the new green power. Those who did not want green power pay the same as they did before, and their electricity still flows from Portland General Electric's nuclear power plant and the hydroelectric, salmon-killing Bonneville Power Administration. The power lines are all connected, it's one grid. You end up paying 10% more to feel good about yourself, but the electricity is mixed. You have no guarantee that the power flowing to your refrigerator is from a windmill, it could be a nuke plant dumping radioactive waste in your backyard or hydroelectric dams that are driving the extinction of several species of fish. They have a marketing problem.

We should build our own facility on the big lake's shoreline and sell green electricity to folks thoughout the Midwest. If the mayor's idea is to succeed, our windfarm should be large enough to generate enough power to sell to everyone who wants green power in the state. If we go the same route as Eugene, we will not be in control and we will pay higher prices for green electricity. I support Mayor Heartwell on this one, it's a big upfront investment that will pay off. We all want cleaner air and it's blatantly obvious that the anti-environment Bush administration is taking us in the wrong direction. Let's also make a few bucks by selling the folks in Chicago and Detroit green power. The city should immediately offer tax incentives to wind generator manufacturers and urge them to relocate to Grand Rapids to begin the process.


The American Wind Energy Association

Wind Power Becoming a Better Bargain, NY Times, Feb 13, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

Support for Colorado University Professor

Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of the opposition. I have been waiting for so long for someone with balls to rail against the neo-conservative movement of imperialist mass murder and global domination. Finally, an academic mind worthy of merit, Prof. Ward Churchill. Here is man worth listening to, at least for a hour, and a man I would truly like to have a beer with. Unfortunately, Prof. Churchill's position at Colorado University is in danger because of an essay he published on 9/11 and the resulting wars.

Here are some of Prof Churchill's so-called "controversial" statements in his essay Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, as reported in the Rocky Mountain News, 2/8/05 (I have no qualms with RMN, excellent journalism):

1) The attacks on Sept. 11 were "a natural and inevitable consequence of what happens as a result of business as usual in the United States. Wake up."

2) "The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course."

3) The Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children who were killed in a 1991 bombing raid and for economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.

4) Hijackers who crashed jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "combat teams," not terrorists.

5) The people killed inside the Pentagon were "military targets."

This man may lose his job because of these statements. For myself, I cannot fathom living in a country where the people do not fight for free speech and take steps to preserve our individual freedoms. No one's position, especially a tenured professor whose job is the disbursement of knowledge and opinion, should be in jeopardy for what he/she says. This is simply wrong.

The attacks on our liberties that we've endured under the current administration are heinous crimes. The Bush/Rumsfeld War Machine, along with the International Perpetual Global War Corporation, must be stomped out of existence by the hoards of free thinkers who truly want to live in peace with freedom of expression. I stand with Ward Churchill.

The students at the Colorado University are indeed fortunate to have Churchill and, as evidenced by recent attendance at his press conference, many are obviously supportive of his position. Booyah, Ward, Booyah!