40 Baby Tigers are Dead

Take action against animal trafficking

At least 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer at Thailand’s Tiger Temple this month. Authorities also found a dead bear and numerous animal horns on the premises. If you click the link, keep in mind that the photos are very graphic.

Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the wildlife department, made it clear that “the temple never registered these dead cubs. They are illegal.” Yes, not registering the cubs is an issue, but the fact that there were dozens of dead cubs in a freezer should be the glaring issue here. The head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, Edwin Wiek, says that this is proof of the temple’s participation in illegal animal breeding and smuggling.

The temple maintains that the abbot had nothing to do with the animal cruelty. Temple spokesperson Siri Wangboongerd even said, “There are news reports that this temple is part of the tiger trade route to the black market. How could we trade tigers? Who would do such a thing? This is a temple. This accusation is made without evidence.” So what is the presence of a freezer full of dead tigers supposed to indicate?

Take action against this tragic issue and other instances of wildlife trafficking with these resources:

Sign this petition to Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment at ForceChange.com. Its goal is to protect tigers from the temple.

Sign this petition at Change.org to ask Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resolve this issue.

Care2.com has a petition against wildlife trafficking in general that you can sign.

ForceChange.com also has a petition up against animal trafficking in Bolivia, where over 70% of animals die before even making it to their destinations. Baby monkeys are sold from Bolivia as cheaply as $10 each.

Also, be sure to research any animal sanctuary or wildlife center before you visit. Steer clear of animal attractions that have controversial histories, such as those on this blacklist, and help work to close them down. The list also suggests alternative animal sanctuaries known for their high standards of animal protection that you can visit.

Educate yourself at the World Wildlife Fund. Learn about illegal animal trade issues, from why it occurs in the first place to its rippling effects and what you can do. Be sure to sign their petition to hold the United States to keep its commitment to stop the ivory trade.

Share these actions with anyone you know who might be willing to be a voice against animal cruelty.

Take action on causes you support

Speak up for wild horses, the environment and more.

Ready to start off the New Year with a few activist actions? Add your voice to the following campaigns to help make 2013 a fantastic year of change and growth for our country—and the world itself.

End mountaintop removal: President Obama has expressed his aversion to mountaintop removal in the past, and the government has been researching the harm that this destruction causes while he has been in office. That said, the violent practice still persists, and we need to add our voices to its opposition to get it to stop in 2013. Click here to read more about this issue and to ask the president to stop mountaintop removal once and for all.

Protect mustangs from slaughter: Wild mustangs sort of amaze me. The fact that we have any wild horses left at all just warms my heart; there are so few wild anything left with us noisy, big humans taking over everywhere. I really root for these horses. Some people, however, like the governor of Nevada, would rather see these horses shipped to slaughter at an auction rather than revel in the beauty of the few we have left. Thankfully activists have chipped in to save the latest wild mustangs he wanted to have murdered, but his philosophy on the issue remains a disturbing one. Click here to tell him to stop selling horses to profit in such a brutal way.

Ask Obama to talk about climate change: He’s dodged this question quite enough, don’t you think? As we continue to run out of fossil fuels toward the brink of our own demise, we are in desperate need of alternative sources of good, clean energy, and it’s got to be done now—well, really twenty years ago would have been nice, but we’ll take what we can get. Click here to tell President Obama that it’s time to break this silence on climate change and to finally get a plan in action to break our oil addiction, once and for all, before it’s too late.

Help Hurricane Sandy victims: Did you know that the House still hasn’t approved disaster relief funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy? This is absolutely shameful. I think that two months of salaries from House members should be the minimum relief sent at this point. What is the point of government at all if the people aren’t being helped? Tell John Boehner to stop blocking this relief and help our citizens already!

Forget the canned goods - donate money!

Canned food drives are a shocking waste of resources

Once you think about it for a minute, a canned food drive is silly. Charities can buy food in bulk, often at an extra discount because they are charities. How much do you think a food drive would pay per can of tuna fish when they buy it by the pallet, versus the price you pay at the store?

The very idea of collecting cans of food, then employing the person power to sort, pack, transport and distribute them out to the poor, is ridiculous. It's a colossal waste of time, energy and funds. And yet we go through this pantomime every year, particularly in the wake of disasters and in the lead-up to the holiday season.
In fact, Slate's Matthew Yglesias has crunched the numbers. "You would be doing dramatically more good […] by eating that can of tuna yourself and forking over a check for half the price of a single can of Chicken of the Sea."
Now granted, many of us get roped into canned food drives at work, where there is social pressure to donate. No one wants to look like a stingy jerk. Go ahead and drop a few cans in there if you feel that you need to in order to save face with your coworkers.

But as a rule, canned food drives should be abolished. The inefficiency alone is devastating. But worse, participating in a canned food drive makes people feel like they have their charity bases covered. "Why donate money? I left two cans of pumpkin puree in the box at work." 
Cash is the most efficient way to donate to a charity. Every charity can put your money to good use. Better use, in most cases, than you could yourself. It doesn't require a whole bevy of volunteers and trucks to handle your check, and it's a lot easier than scooping through your pantry for a bunch of almost-expired canned garbanzo beans that no one's going to want to eat anyway.
Financial donations - even a few dollars at a time - also can be put to a much wider variety of uses. They can cover fuel costs for delivery trucks, help keep the lights on in the warehouse, and provide all sorts of other assistance (like help with electricity and phone bills) for the people the charity is helping. 
This year, skip the canned food drive: just give them a few bucks, instead.

Is this a fake charity?

Read about a job interview I had and tell me what you think.

Once upon a time, I had a job interview at a small company that purported to take funds for charity. I didn’t get the position, which entailed collecting money on the street. I didn’t really think about the company until later when I started to wonder if it was even legit. We had to take a personality test to find out if we would be a good fit for the job. 

My group job interview consisted of four other people, all of whom looked like extremely good prospects for a methadone program. I was the only one dressed in semi-professional attire--everyone else was dressed in backpacker hippie clothes and no one seemed all that lucid. 


The interviewer explained how the process worked. We would go out in teams and collect money for a specific charity using debit cards with re-occurring payments. I wasn’t suspicious at this point, but was nervous about the idea of asking strangers for money. 


We then went to a one-on-one interview process. He asked which issue I would eradicate in the world if I could: I said that I thought it was important for each and every person to have access to clean water and food. The basics. 


It wasn’t a bullshit answer, but it’s not necessarily what I think about all of the time. The guy seemed pleased by the answer, but the woman in the background was glaring at me for some unknown reason. He said that the teams had a high turnover rate when I asked about the quota system. He also said that Seattle was a tough crowd for fund raising. 


I never heard back from the guy or the company and I didn’t call back. It was the second fundraising interview that I’ve had where I questioned the integrity of the fund raising. Was the money getting collected really going to help the charity? If it was, how much was going to the business? 


To this day, I have no idea if the job or the business or charity was legitimate or not. I would have hated to learn that I was collecting money for a charitable cause that was not. The only saving grace for the whole organization was that it was supposedly giving people who would normally be panhandlers a chance at employment. 


The key word is of course supposedly. Who knows if any of the hires actually ever got paid?

Homeless shelters to close in protest of the end of Seattle's free-ride area

Is this the right way to protest?

I recently wrote about a woman who was holding a sign for cash on one of the exit ramps. But the reality in Seattle is that it is no joke. There are two tent cities and 16 homeless shelters, which house approximately 500 homeless shelters in Seattle. The facilities are now temporarily closed because representatives of the homeless are demanding free bus passes for the homeless. 

At issue is the closing of the free-ride area in downtown Seattle, which has long been a staple of the Seattle Metro system. The city of Seattle is claiming that the change in the free ride area will generate $500,000 revenue for the city. Representatives of the homeless are stating that the decision to end the ride free zone is extremely punishing to the homeless people in the city of Seattle. 


SHARE, the organization representing the homeless, has said that by closing the shelters now while the temperatures are mild, the group will then have the ability to allocate the money for bus tickets instead. 


SHARE’s decision to close the shelters is controversial, even with the residents of the shelter. Some are saying that it might be easier to get bus tickets than it would be to get alternate housing. Many of the shelters are at churches who agree to let the homeless stay on their premises if they are not there during the daytime. 


In response, King County has reminded its residents about the King County Metro Transit Incentive system, which allows residents with cars to donate free tickets to community organizations who can then re-distribute them to people who are in need. Thus far, 95,000 free bus passes have been donated to community organizations in need in King County. 


According to this:


King County is awarding subsidized bus ticket funding to the following agencies: Catholic Community Services, Child Care Resources, Compass Housing Alliance Renton/Shoreline, Eastside Winter Shelter, Heroes for the Homeless, St. Stephen Housing Association, Seattle Drug and Narcotic Center (Seadrunar), Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE), Sophia Way - Sophia’s Place, and Youthcare. Additional tickets will be awarded to agencies by the City of Seattle.

The King County Metro Transit Incentive system was instituted in advance of the end of the ride free zone in downtown Seattle and might help alleviate the needs of the homeless who are in need of bus passes to get downtown to apply for jobs. 


According to the Seattle Times, the SHARE organization is required to keep the shelters open based on a contract with the Seattle of city for which it earned $400,000.


Justice for a young Afghani girl

A sad story of human trafficking

I just read the saddest, true story about an individual that I’ve seen in a long, long time; a Afghani girl was forced into wedlock at the age of 13 after being purchased by her in-laws for $5,000. She refused to have sex with her husband. As a consequence of her actions, her in-laws tried to force into prostitution, which she refused, and then put her in a basement with hay and shit for months on end. 

The police eventually discovered Sahur Gul and placed her in a woman’s shelter in Kabul and three of her in-laws have been given 10-year prison sentences because of the torture and abuse that they instilled upon the girl. 


According to the New York Times, those around the family had seen enough to know that something bad was happening, but didn’t have enough leverage or ability to stop the systematic abuse of the innocent victim and didn’t know what the exact nature of the crime was. 

Unfortuantely, Sahur Gul’s story is not uncommon in Afghanistan: many believe  that many more women will suffer without the means necessary to stop the violence and abuse to women. This belief stems in part from the fact that foreign aid to Afghanistan is dwindling at a rapid rate and that United States forces and their allies are withdrawing from the nation of Afghanistan. 


There are less women’s shelters to house the women and girls affected by this violence, and there is a deep-seated fear that the violence against women will continue in the nation. The New York Times also quotes a women’s rights leader who mentions that there are several instances within Afghanistan where women have been murdered and no one knows about it. 


Human slavery is not only common to Afghanistan; it happens frequently in Southeast Asia where poor families sell their daughters into prostitution or labor. 


According to the United Nations, as many as 2.4 million people are the victims of human trafficking at any given point in time in the world. Two-thirds of the victims are women. Again, the saddest part about human trafficking is that so few of the victims are rescued; roughly as many as one in one thousand victims are rescued from human trafficking at any point in time. 


Make your pledge and stick to it

Need some help sticking to a goal? Want to make a difference? Make a pledge.

Whether you are hoping to change the world but you need a little help or you just want to change yourself with a bit of accountability, you can do it at PledgeBank. PledgeBank is an online community where you can start your own pledge and ask others to help you with it.

For example, say you want to raise $100 for your local food bank, but you can only give part of the money yourself. You might make a pledge that says if 9 people donate $10, you will, too. Then people pledge with you and help you accomplish your goal.

The intent of the site is positive change through “positive peer pressure.” It might be a daunting task to build a new library, but what if the whole community pitches in? You might post that you’ll give $20 if so many others will, too—or that you can give nails if others provide hammers, wood, etc.

Not everyone uses the site for community change, however; some use it for personal development. If you’d like to set a personal goal, such as quitting smoking or walking every day, vow to do so if so many people join you. Then you have virtual partners who are engaged in the activity with you, helping to hold you accountable to your goal.

Take action today

Here are a few ways you can make the world a bit brighter this week.

Send a Love Bomb to Daisy: I have written before about Love Bomb, a wonderful project where we send a little note of encouragement all at once, every Thursday, to a person who could really need it. It might be a woman who lost her job, or a man who lost his wife; it’s always someone who could really use, well, a love bomb! This week’s Love Bomb goes to Daisy, a little girl faced with cancer for the third time in her life. Please click here to learn more about Love Bomb and to send a note to Daisy and her family.

Ask Shell to clean up its act. While we worried so much about the oil spill that ravaged our own country and beyond, we might not have thought about how oil spills effect the whole world. They continue, whether we are aware of them or not—such as the multiple Nigerian Shell spills that ruined the drinking water for the people in that area.  Please write to President Obama and ask that he sanction the company, forcing it to literally clean up the damage it has done and help the people of Nigeria recover from these harmful oil spills.

Help preserve farmland: Click here to learn more about the conservation funding in the Farm Bill and ask your Senators to support it, if you do.

Write the President. If you are like me, you write angry e-mails to the president on a regular basis—no matter who is in office! However, yesterday my little girl, age six, did something to pass the time while I was sick that really amazed me. She drew the president a picture and wrote him a simple letter of encouragement. Wow! Imagine what kind of positivity we could invite by sending our leaders some love and encouragement rather than our constant ire. I gladly put a stamp on that thing and addressed it for her, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same, no matter your political views.

Take action with the National Women’s Law Center. There are several actions that you can take today, from supporting jobs for women and families to ensuring that all women have access to birth control.

Ask Congress to support the Violence Against Women Act. This bill (S. 1925) expands the protection of the Violence Against Women Act to LGBT victims, Native Americans, and immigrants—people left out of the recently passed H.R. 4970. Please call your member of Congress and urge that this real act, S. 1925, be passed. You can contact her or him at 202-224-3121.


Take Action Thursday

Here are just a few ways you can help create a positive world today.

Whether you’re strictly an armchair activist or you’re constantly in the physical trenches trying to improve our world, here are a few action items you might want to check off for the week. Be sure to post your own links and action items in the comments section!

Tell the Boy Scouts to Practice What They Preach

It’s incredibly disheartening to know that one of the most popular children’s organizations in America is still promoting discrimination! We don’t support any Boy Scout functions in our area for this sole reason. Please click here and ask the Boy Scouts to practice the kindness that they claim to do in their own pledge.

Find Out About the Peoples’ Rights Amendment

There’s a lot of talk about corporations having much more power than people these days, and much of it is not untrue. Click here to find out about the Peoples’ Rights Amendment, and what you can do to support it.

Put a Safe Space Kit in Every School

GLSEN is working hard to put a Safe Space kit in every school across America to help support GLBT teens. Now is an especially crucial time to carve space out of each school for these students who often have nowhere else to turn—and who even have politicians outlawing their right to talk about their sexuality in schools. Click here to help create a safe space near you.

Help Birds

Love birds? Want to help abandoned parrots or other feathered friends in need? Find out five different ways you can help parrots from the Humane Society of America by clicking here.

Learn About Racial Privilege

In order to eliminate racism in our world, we have to acknowledge privilege—even when we don’t see it, and even when it means looking at ourselves and our own culture differently. Please click here for 13 great resources about racial privilege.

Send a Message to a UN PeaceKeeper

I know that PeaceKeepers in The Hunger Games are a mostly awful lot, but the UN PeaceKeepers are usually people who dedicate their lives to keeping real peace and stopping violence. If you like, please send a message to a PeaceKeeper here as a part of the Thank a PeaceKeeper Program.

Help Fight Poverty and Natural Disasters

If you can afford it, send Mercy Corps a gift to help them fund programs that feed children, send aid during natural disasters, and provide other emergency support.


Take a Stand Against Injustice

Wherever you see it, whenever you see it.

My daughter and I have been learning about many of the leaders in our past, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln and many others. She is very curious about why we do bad things to one another—such as maintain slavery or not allow people the right to vote—and sometimes I am simply clueless about how to answer her. Why, indeed!

There is a bumper sticker that I like to quote to her, and I don’t know who said it, but it’s simply, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” She is just learning about the concept of justice, and how it’s important not just for her to have rights, but all other girls and boys, too. So one thing we’re doing right now is attempting to fight injustice when we see it.

One particularly hard thing we’re doing is boycotting the local Chik Fil A. The place has chicken, the only meat we really occasionally eat (well, she also eats fish now and then; I don’t like it), and it’s still pretty new to our area—so boycotting it is hard. It even has a kids’ play place inside, which makes it even harder! I have to admit, I don’t miss the constant Christian music, nor the side of bigotry served with our meals. That’s the reason we are boycotting, of course—because Chik Fil A is against gay marriage, equality, and gays existing in the first place, claiming they can be “rehabilitated.” To me, this fight—particularly the fight for gay rights such as marital rights, adoption rights, and work rights—is akin to the Civil Rights movement, and it seems like it is a fight that we are waging today that my daughter will indeed have to continue as she gets older.

She minded at first—mostly because she misses the play area—but now she understands why we don’t give them our money and she’s all about it. When we drive by, she asks if they are still being mean to gay people! I say that they are, unfortunately, so we go home and write another e-mail together; it won’t be long and she’ll be writing them on her own. Right now, I just type out what she wants me to say, which is usually a very kind but stern “Please be nice to everybody and let boys marry boys and girls marry girls if they want to!”

Our tiny family boycott may not mean much to others, but it’s our way of standing up against injustice and learning about how you change things. My daughter says that Dr. King was brave and he got people more rights by boycotting and speaking out about bad things, so that’s just what we’re going to do.