193 posts categorized "Climate Change"

Organize, mobilize, and train the most affected residents: A Q&A with Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice

May 13, 2022

Headshot_Peggy_Shepard_WEACT_for_Environmental_Justice_Allie-HollowayPeggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She is a national leader in advancing environmental policy from the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities. Previously, she was named co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council as well as chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She serves on the executive committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the board of advisors of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Shepard has been awarded the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment, the William K. Reilly Award for Environmental Leadership, the Knight of the National Order of Merit from the French Republic, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and honorary doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.

PND asked Shepard about the importance of organizing to build healthy communities, sustainable policies that would bring about change, the root causes of environmental racism, the benefits of science and community partnership, nonprofit climate change strategies, the legislative response to environmental justice, and the need for climate migrants from South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to receive equal attention to the impact of climate change migration in their regions.

Philanthropy News Digest: The lack of power and representation in political and economic systems makes it difficult for communities of color to build climate resilience. What is the importance of organizing low-income people of color to build healthy communities for themselves, and how does your background inform the support communities need in advocating for the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment?

Peggy Shepard: I discovered the power of a well-organized community early on in my career. I had the opportunity to experience the communities that had resources and strong advocacy and those that did not, such as the community in which I lived. I was a Democratic district leader in West Harlem when the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was built in our neighborhood after originally being rejected by other communities that were whiter and more affluent.

Once the plant started operating, the odors and emissions were unbearable. At that time, the facility had open sewage pools, so the odor of raw sewage filled the air in West Harlem. It was so bad that residents had to keep their windows shut, even on hot days. Even motorists along the West Side Highway would roll up their windows as they drove by.

A core group of us began to organize people and develop a plan of action. We learned that the emissions coming out of its smokestacks failed to comply with federal clean air standards and that the air pollution was having an adverse impact on people’s health. We began to share this information with people throughout the community and invited them to join our campaign to force the city to address these issues. It took longer than we expected, but after we sued the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation in 1992, the city committed $55 million to retrofit the facility, and our lawsuit was settled for a $1.1 million West Harlem Environmental Benefits Fund. We decided to create West Harlem Environmental Action, aka WE ACT for Environmental Justice, to institutionalize advocacy in underserved communities of color with low income.

Our theory of change is to organize, mobilize, and train the most affected residents to engage in environmental decision making. We are a base-building organization where our members provide direction to and engage with our campaigns through membership meetings, trainings, and working groups on Climate Justice, Healthy Homes, and Worker Training. As a result, they are able to testify at legislative hearings, lead rallies, and attend lobby days to educate their elected officials. With their support, WE ACT has been successful in contributing significantly to the passage of a dozen or more bills at the New York City Council and the New York State legislature, laws that protect the health of children from toxins, and that support decarbonization and electrification. WE ACT started a 501(c)(4), WE ACT 4 Change, to engage our members and community residents in civic and political engagement through trainings, briefings, and candidate forums. Community-based planning has been a hallmark of WE ACT, and we mobilized 400 of our members and community residents to engage in developing the Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan, which prioritized energy security and democracy. We maintain an active and well-organized membership who inform and support our work at the city, state, and federal levels....

Read the full Q&A with Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Writing checks isn’t enough: A commentary by Jill Soffer

May 10, 2022

Gas_turbine_power_plant_fossil_fuels_GettyImages_ThossapholI am a climate philanthropist. I write checks to environmental nonprofits and sit on several boards. I grew up playing in the woods of western Massachusetts; now I hike the Rockies. Season by season I’m sadly witnessing the damage wrought by drought and fires, and, like so many others, I hope to protect this planet from the worsening climate crisis.

I’ve learned that writing checks isn’t enough.

In 2020, when I learned about Enbridge’s Line 3, the tar sands pipeline being pushed through northern Minnesota, I eagerly wrote checks to support the Ojibwe water protectors working to stop it. These brave people were camping on the pipeline route in the freezing winter, lying down in front of bulldozers, praying, singing, and getting arrested. I was more than glad to help. But I soon learned the sad truth: While I was writing checks to stop Line 3, my bank, Bank of America, was loaning Enbridge billions of dollars to build it. My money was funding the very projects we need to prevent.

Frustrated, I called my bank and had a respectful conversation with the chief sustainability officer. One person’s phone call didn’t change anything; a few weeks later the credit facility for Enbridge was completed. I also thought of divesting—moving my money out of these banks. The divestment movement is powerful. But I’m not Harvard or a public pension fund—my divestment would be neither newsworthy nor financially impactful enough for my bank to notice. Were I to divest, I would forgo any leverage I have.

So I decided not to divest but to engage, and this shareholder season, a huge opportunity to stop these projects awaits....

Read the full commentary by Jill Soffer, founder of Our Part and Banking for Climate.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Thossaphol)

The consequences of climate change: A commentary by Kathy Stevens

May 05, 2022

Cricket_Photo by Janet Holmes_Catskill Animal Sanctuary At Catskill Animal Sanctuary, we’re deeply connected to the 150 acres that have been our home for the past 21 years: warm pastures where contented cows sunbathe, ponds where ducks swim for hours, fields for horses to run and roll in, and graceful willows dipping their branches low for goats to nibble on.

Each year, Earth Day invites us all to reflect on our relationship to the land—particularly as we see the impact of human activity on our beloved planet. And at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the evidence is all around us.

Our vanishing trees

The consequences of climate change are being felt across the globe, with climate refugees (often already vulnerable people) at the forefront of this emergency. While we are more geographically fortunate than many, we, too, are experiencing changes at our Hudson Valley refuge that can’t be chalked up to the vicissitudes of “weather”....

Read the full commentary by Kathy Stevens, founder and executive director of Catskill Animal Sanctuary.

(Photo credit: Janet Holmes)

The only promising pathway to bringing about the peace and resilience: A commentary by May Boeve

April 22, 2022

End fossil fuel-funded wars, support a just transition

Earth_nypl_unsplashFor years, the climate movement has been demonstrating to political leaders that a transition to renewable energy is the only promising pathway to bringing about the peace and resilience we all deserve. This Earth Day, our movement is calling for an end to fossil fuel-funded wars.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has underlined the insidious and often deceptive ways in which fossil fuels have leaked into every aspect of the global order. While Russia’s military has been built on the back of fossil fuel profits, in this context, energy dependency has proved to be both a weapon and a weakness. It has limited the global community’s ability to respond in a way that doesn’t disproportionately impact average people and communities for whom this war—and others—lies beyond their control.

We applaud the recent decisions of the United States and the United Kingdom to ban all imports of Russian oil and gas, and hope the European Union enacts its proposed ban on Russian coal. Still, more must be done....

Read the full commentary by May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.

(Photo credit: New York Public Library via unsplash)

Find more articles in Philanthropy News Digest about  philanthropy’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Find more updates and resources on Candids special issue page on the philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights and sovereignty: A Q& A with Carla F. Fredericks, CEO, Christensen Fund

March 23, 2022

Headshot_carla_fredericks_christensen_fundFounded in 1957, the San Francisco-based Christensen Fund works to support Indigenous peoples in advancing their inherent rights, dignity, and self-determination. In 2020 the foundation implemented a new grantmaking strategy that centers its work on “supporting and strengthening Indigenous peoples’ efforts to secure and exercise their rights to their land, territories, resources, and sovereign systems of governance.” The shift from a regional approach to a rights-based one in support of the global Indigenous Peoples’ Movement is rooted in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Carla F. Fredericks joined the foundation as CEO in January 2021. An enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, Fredericks is an expert in sustainable economic development, finance, human rights, Indigenous peoples law, and federal Indian law. She has provided core support to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, serving as counsel to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in bringing their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline to international financial institutions, assisting the Maya peoples of Southern Belize in implementing the affirmation of their land rights, and developing a model for Indigenous-driven consent processes and remedy. As a faculty member of the University of Colorado Law School, in 2017 she relaunched First Peoples Worldwide—an interdisciplinary program that engages investors, companies, financial institutions, and policy makers with Indigenous peoples to promote implementation of Indigenous rights. Fredericks also serves as board chair of the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Endowment Trust, and is a member of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group to the Decolonizing Wealth Project.

PND asked Fredericks about the foundation’s right-based grantmaking strategy, the intersection of Indigenous people’s rights and climate action, and her work to integrate human rights into financial frameworks.

Philanthropy News Digest: You joined the Christensen Fund just as it shifted from a regional grantmaking strategy to a rights-based one. What does a rights-based approach look like, in concrete terms?

Carla F. Fredericks: Taking a rights-based approach means that we support and defend Indigenous Peoples inherent human rights, in and of themselves. Indigenous Peoples are too often seen as a means to an end to carry out solutions ordained by non-native people in power—especially in environmental and climate spaces. But Indigenous Peoples’ rights and sovereignty need to be restored and defended because these communities are inherently worthy of the same rights and protections that all people deserve.

Our approach centers Indigenous Peoples as rights holders first and foremost. It is rooted in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which is the global standard that both asserts and recognizes Indigenous worldviews and values and establishes a universal framework for recognition of their rights. UNDRIP is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Part of the goal of growing the recognition and use of UNDRIP by both Indigenous Peoples and states is to move Indigenous Peoples’ rights toward the status of customary, international, and/or domestic law. Our ultimate goal as a foundation is always to improve Indigenous Peoples’ lived realities in every way. This includes ensuring that Indigenous communities know their rights and protections under UNDRIP, and supporting them in defending these rights and protections. Rooting our strategy in UNDRIP is our contribution to the essential global work of ensuring that nation-states recognize and adhere to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, dignity, and sovereignty in order to improve their daily lives beyond just considering the well-being of the land and seascapes they steward.

In concrete terms, this looks like practicing trust-based grantmaking that advances self-determination and is not prescriptive. We’ve moved all of our grantmaking to general operating, multiyear support and have thrown significant financial support behind Indigenous-led funding mechanisms that fund Indigenous communities....

Read the full Q&A with Carla F. Fredericks, CEO of the Christensen Fund.

Climate change adaptation networks and collaboratives: A commentary by Melissa Ocana

February 02, 2022

New_orleans_hurricane_katrina_David_Mark_pixabayClimate adaptation networks drive resilience and transformation

The challenges local governments and nonprofits face today are almost absurdly daunting. Setting aside the perennial struggle to reconcile ever-growing needs and ever-shrinking budgets, the pandemic has devastated community health and local economies. Then there’s the massive, long-term challenge that exacerbates everything: the unprecedented storms, floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves of a changing climate.

Yet some local government and nonprofit staff charged with preparing for the effects of climate change have found hope—and help—in an unlikely source: their peers in other cities, near and far, in their region, and across the country. And philanthropy is playing an important role in nurturing these connections.

Networks offer a solution

Today, climate change adaptation networks and collaboratives are sprouting across the country, bringing people together for coordinated action and learning to protect human and natural communities.

Climate change is a complex and all-encompassing challenge, which requires innovative, multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral, and cross-government solutions. Climate adaptation networks foster connections among people who might not otherwise cross paths, and serve as structures for building capacity and expertise that enable more effective responses to climate change, from planning to implementing projects on the ground. By investing in these nascent efforts, funders can target their support to the frontline professionals best positioned to build resilience and transformation in response to climate impacts....

Read the full commentary by Melissa Ocana, the climate adaptation coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Extension and founder of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP)-affiliated Network of Networks Group.

(Photo credit: David Mark via pixabay)

‘Nonprofits must “live into” their missions both externally and internally’: A commentary by Anika Rahman

January 29, 2022

Hands_in_suits_GettyImagesRenewing nonprofits: Aligning power, money, and vision

In the nonprofit world, power and money can be uncomfortable topics. While we are focused on doing good, questions of power and how it manifests inevitably arise. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to confront issues of democracy and justice, has also catalyzed a reckoning across the sector.

Today, most nonprofits have begun to realize that they must “live into” their missions both externally and internally — these concerns are interrelated. For example, while it’s clear that leaders and donors often shape priorities, how power is distributed and decisions are made (including those about compensation) are less widely and openly discussed.

Aligning an organization internally means ensuring that its mission and priorities are reflected in its leadership and governance values. First and foremost, consistency is desirable in any organization. Second, staff and donors are increasingly demanding internal policy changes — calling for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), transparency, and shared decision making — because of a greater awareness of the impact of these interconnected concerns on an organization’s strategies and brand. Finally, equitable internal principles help develop future cohorts of leaders who will continue to advance the organization’s mission, promote DEIB, and strengthen the larger movements of which it is a part.

Yet such alignment has proven elusive for many institutions: There is often a gap between an organization’s stated values and programmatic and internal realities....

Read the full commentary by Anika Rahman, an advocate for human rights, gender justice, social justice, and climate action who most recently served as chief board relations officer at the National Resources Defense Council.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

The top ten philanthropy stories of 2021

December 28, 2021

Calendar_pages_GettyImages-93870456_grublee

For our final newsletter (subscribe here for our newsletters and alerts) of 2021, the editors at Philanthropy News Digest shared (in chronological order) the ten stories that we felt were particularly significant for philanthropy — both in the moment and for the future. We aimed to include stories that addressed major areas of philanthropic interest this year: climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, education, racial equity, and social justice to name a few.

 

Perhaps the most noticeable omission from the list is the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates, which we decided had not yet led to visible changes in the foundation’s grantmaking, although changes are expected in its governance structure.

 

What other social sector news resonated most with you in 2021? Please share your thoughts about our list on Twitter — tag us @pndblog — or leave a comment below.

Thank you for making PND a part of your important work on the vital issues of our time. We hope you all have a safe, healthy, and joyful end of the year and enter 2022 filled with hope.

— Matt Sinclair

 

DAFs may have cost charities $300 billion over five years, study finds

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The report from the Boston College Law School Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good found that the share of individual giving going to charities fell from 94.1 percent before the advent of donor-advised funds to less than 75 percent between 2014 and 2018, with an estimated $300 billion that otherwise might have gone to charities going into DAFs and foundations....



Asian American Foundation raises nearly $1.1 billion

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Established with initial commitments totaling $125 million from founding board members, the foundation has raised more than $900 million from foundations, corporations, and individuals in support of efforts to address a longstanding lack of investment in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities and combat anti-AAPI violence....



Marguerite Casey calls for funding police and criminal justice reform

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Launched on the one-year anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, Answering the Uprising: Closing the Say/Do Gap in Philanthropy is aimed at "correcting" the inadequate response of philanthropy to the racial justice uprisings in 2020....




MacKenzie Scott awards grants totaling nearly $2.74 billion

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Grants were awarded to nearly three hundred "high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked"....





Rockefeller, IKEA foundations launch $1 billion clean energy platform

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With the aim of reducing a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and providing a billion people with distributed renewable energy through mini-grid and off-grid solutions, the initiative will be run as a public charity designed to deploy catalytic capital more efficiently and at scale that supports the expansion of local renewable energy projects....



Nearly $40 billion pledged to accelerate gender equality by 2026

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Commitments announced at the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women included $21 billion from governments and public-sector institutions, $13 billion from the private sector, $1.3 billion from UN entities and multilateral organizations, and $4.5 billion from philanthropy....




Philanthropies pledge $5 billion to 'Protecting Our Planet Challenge'

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The commitments from nine philanthropies will fund efforts to meet the 30x30 goal to protect 30 percent of land and sea by 2030 in partnership with Indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society, and governments....




Powell Jobs to invest $3.5 billion in climate action over ten years

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According to an Emerson Collective official, the Waverley Street Foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change" and sunset after ten years....




GivingTuesday 2021 raises an estimated $2.7 billion in the U.S.

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The GivingTuesday Data Commons estimates that giving totals increased 9 percent from $2.47 billion in 2020, with thirty-five million adults in the U.S. participating, a 6 percent increase over last year....





Bloomberg Philanthropies commits $750 million for charter schools

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The five-year initiative is aimed at closing student achievement gaps — which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for students from lower-income families — and creating an additional hundred and fifty thousand seats at high-quality charter schools in twenty metro areas....

'Philanthropic capital must play a bigger role in driving the systems shift we need': A commentary by Leslie Johnston

November 13, 2021

Blah_blah_blah_sign_-_Fridays_for_Future_pre-COP26_Milano_Mænsard vokserAll hands on deck: Philanthropy's extraordinary moment

Pressure is on here in Glasgow. Governments are rebalancing commitments so that they are on the right trajectory for alignment with the 2015 Paris agreement's targets. Business and industry are stepping up to do their part in everything from reducing deforestation to tackling methane emissions. And the finance sector is raising its ambition, as we saw with Mark Carney's announcement that $130 trillion in financial assets — 40 percent of the global total — have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. I have heard from many COP-weary delegates that there is something different about this one. Pledges abound, and there does seem to be (finally) a sense of urgency.

Yet even after this flurry of announcements, there is no certainty that emissions will actually be lower by 2030. The updated United Nations synthesis report on nationally determined contributions continues to show emissions increasing, rather than halving, by 2030. It is also unclear whether we — collectively — are doing enough to address climate injustice and the deepening inequality in our societies. And critical voices are not at the table, with widespread criticism over a lack of representation from the Global South. Once the delegates leave Glasgow, there is also no certainty over how effectively companies, investors, and governments will be held to account for their commitments.

And that's where we need more philanthropic funders to come in. Philanthropy is society's risk capital, enabling business, finance, and industry to move faster. Yet despite our being in a crisis situation, philanthropic foundations still dedicate a minuscule percentage — an estimated 2 percent — of their approximately $750 billion in global giving to climate mitigation. This must change....

Read the full commentary by Leslie Johnston, CEO of Laudes Foundation in Zug, Switzerland.

Addressing global hunger — the equity challenge of our lifetime: A commentary by Barron Segar

November 11, 2021

Woman in traditional african clothes holding black beans_GettyImages_beingbonnyWhy global food security is the equity challenge of our lifetime

For more than half a century, the global food system operated with a singular mantra: Produce more food.  At the time of the Green Revolution in the 1950s, much of the world was in the throes of hunger as a result of the Second World War. The industrial agriculture model pioneered in places like the United States — monocultures of improved crop varietals fueled in their growth by chemical fertilizers — was unleashed on the world.

That system did its intended job well, driving global hunger numbers down. But today, its legacy has created new challenges of its own, including land degradation and an explosion of noncommunicable diseases resulting from diets rich in carbohydrates but low in important micronutrients. 

Today, too many people are at the mercy of, not willing participants in, the global food system. In a world that produces almost $90 trillion in wealth each year, some forty-two million people in dozens of countries face the looming prospect of famine. As many as eight hundred and eleven million people go to bed hungry each night, and a third of humanity does not have access to adequate food....

Read the full commentary by Barron Segar, president and CEO of World Food Program USA.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/beingbonny)

An urgent wake-up call for global biodiversity: A commentary by Jim Angell and Lee Crockett

November 08, 2021

Sharks_underwater_GettyImages_vchalPreserving ocean biodiversity begins with sharks

In 2014, the first and most comprehensive survey ever conducted of world shark populations concluded that, as a result of overfishing, habitat destruction, illegal trade, and climate change, 16 percent of the ocean's most magnificent, charismatic creatures were threatened by extinction.

This year comes a grim update: The percentage of the shark population "threatened with extinction" has doubled, to 32.6 percent.

The projections are based on real deaths — more than 100 million sharks are killed each year — that are driven by human-made decisions that imperil the health of not only our oceans and its fish but our entire planet.

These new findings are an urgent wake-up call for the United Nations' biodiversity conference, which began virtually this month and ends with in-person sessions in China next April. A cornerstone of the summit is the vital target 3, which asks every country that is party to the convention to conserve 30 percent of its land and waters by 2030. Seventy countries already have pledged to meet this target, including the United States with an executive order in January....

Read the full commentary by Jim Angell, a board member of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and a founding member of the cboard, and Lee Crockett, executive director of the Shark Conservation Fund.

'The greatest opportunity to develop jobs in a generation': An interview with Paula DiPerna, Special Advisor, CDP North America

November 03, 2021

Headshot_paula_dipernaAuthor Paula DiPerna is a strategic global environmental and philanthropic policy advisor who has consulted with numerous environmentally focused nonprofit organizations, including WorkingNation, with which she is collaborating on a report that examines green jobs potential and workforce needs. She also serves currently as special advisor for CDP North America, and previously served as president of the Joyce Foundation, president of the Chicago Climate Exchange, and vice president for international affairs at the Cousteau Society. DiPerna founded the Jobs and Environment Initiative, which examined how public policy on economic development and environmental conservation could work more closely together to generate employment and livelihoods in all the regions of the U.S.

PND spoke with DiPerna about green job markets, diversity, and how growth in green jobs could affect the U.S. and global economies.

Philanthropy News Digest: Where are the green jobs in the United States currently, and how is that market changing?

Paula DiPerna: First we must define what is a green job. Most of the world, including philanthropy and the environmental movement, have not agreed on a basic point: If we believe the climate science, if we believe that water efficiency and energy efficiency are essential, and if we believe that infrastructure improvement is essential, then almost every job is a green job.

You cannot redo, recreate, and redesign the global economy without environmental considerations any longer. In that sense, the plumber, the electrician, the drywall installer — all these jobs will eventually be considered green. Which means it's impossible to talk about the scale without talking about a redefinition.

Read the full interview with Paula DiPerna.

Sustainable support for Haiti's local food system: A commentary by Frank Giustra

September 14, 2021

Headshot_Frank_Giustra_croppedWithout long-term investment, food aid for Haiti risks being a Band-Aid

The aftershocks of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 are not only being felt by those nearest the epicenter.

The latest disaster not only has left six hundred and fifty thousand people needing immediate assistance but also has exposed the country's more than one million farming families, who depend on a precarious rural economy. While aid agencies are scrambling to distribute the World Food Programme's pre-positioned food and import additional supplies, farmers are facing the possibility of their ready harvests of staple crops going to waste. The result is loss of market opportunity, incomes, and the chance to sustain their livelihoods long enough to support Haiti's economic recovery.

If the lingering effects of the last major earthquake, which displaced 1.5 million people in 2010, are any indication, the full impact could be devastating for the country's food producers, their families, and communities, who lose out twice: first to the damage from the earthquake and then to the subsequent short-term influx of cheap imported food.

Before this latest earthquake, almost half the country, or 4.4 million people, faced food insecurity, while an even greater proportion — including an estimated 90 percent of the rural population — were living below the poverty line. Given that 60 percent of rural families rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, it follows that any shocks that impact food markets will also have a lasting impact on their economic security and well-being.

Conversely, supporting this key sector now and in the long-term is a fast-track way to tackle poverty, hunger, health disparities, and inequality and build resilience to the secondary impacts of natural disasters....

Read the full commentary by Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, Giustra Foundation, Acceso, and Million Gardens Movement.

Impact investing in the 'creative economy' to strengthen local economies: A commentary by Deb Parsons

August 10, 2021

Fabric_bolts_arts_creative_GettyImages_oksixImpacting the creative economy with philanthropic funds

What do film and fashion have to do with philanthropy?

For a growing number of impact investors, these industries and others that make up the "creative economy" are a powerful lever to strengthen local economies, build resilient communities, and support an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Increasingly, impact investors are using foundations and donor-advised funds to make investments in a variety of local, national, and even international creative economy enterprises that are driving positive social and environmental change. With its focus on solutions that prioritize people and the planet, impact investing complements traditional grantmaking by leveraging the power of markets to create positive change....

Read the full commentary by Deb Parsons, managing director at ImpactAssets.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

[Review] 'Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future'

July 19, 2021

Book_cover_elizabethkolbert_under_a_white_skyIn her sobering yet captivating book, Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Elizabeth Kolbert examines the ongoing human attempt to control nature, a vicious cycle that often results in the creation of more problems. A staff writer at the New Yorker since 1999, where her work has been focused mainly on environmentalism, Kolbert is the best-selling author of The Sixth Extinction, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015. In that book, she curated a powerfully moving collection of first-hand accounts detailing the disappearance of multiple species. She brings that methodology to her new book, again using personal experience to drive her narrative — the narrative that "a future is coming where nature is no longer fully natural."

As in her previous work, Kolbert skillfully shows us how our actions are negatively affecting the planet, rather than just telling us that they are. She travels across continents to witness those human-made changes for herself and describes the devastation, sparing no details. Again and again, she shows humans attempting to create solutions to ecological problems created by solutions to earlier problems. We see this clearly in the first section of the book, "Down the River," which she opens by recounting her time visiting the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The problem began years ago, when the river was rerouted to better dispose of human waste — talk about living in the "Anthropocene" epoch. Then arose the problem of aquatic weeds in the river basin, so plant-eating Asian Carp were introduced, only to become a notorious invasive species capable of outpopulating the ecosystem's native organisms across the Great Lakes. The Asian Carp became such a threat only because the earlier alterations to the river and its sediment allowed for easy admission into these waters. And the solution has been to electrify the waterway, another example of our relentless need to "fix," at any cost and with no awareness of our surroundings.

Kolbert offers another example of a well-intentioned "solution" that has only made matters worse. In the Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, which she describes as one of "the fastest-disappearing places on earth," the cause is once again human intervention, as our need to control the flooding of the Mississippi River has prevented coastal lands from being able to renew themselves. And, of course, the solution is more intervention — to the point where "the Louisiana delta is often referred to by hydrologists as a 'coupled human and natural system.'"

This theme — the merging of nature and the unnatural — is emphasized further in the next section of the book, "Into The Wild."Here, we see a range of attempts to save species and ecosystems from invasive human impacts. A group of scientists in Death Valley work around the clock to preserve the Devils Hole pupfish, possibly the rarest fish on the planet, by maintaining an exact, but entirely unnatural, replica of their habitat. Pupfish are now a "conservation-reliant" species, meaning we've sent them to the brink of extinction but are now trying to bring them back. Kolbert then brings us along on her travels to the east coast of Australia, where the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached, to witness the creation of "super-corals," those that can — or scientists hope they can — withstand warmer temperatures and more acidic waters. This has been coined "assisted evolution," another term that accurately describes the era in which we are living. Kolbert's first-hand accounts show how we have forced our way into natural processes — those that were doing perfectly fine without us but are now reliant on our assistance.

The seeming absurdity of our solutions is apparent yet again in the concept of "geoengineering," the large-scale interventions in Earth's natural systems that we are pursuing to combat climate change. It is to this phenomenon that Kolbert dedicates the final section of her book, "Up in the Air." She acknowledges how frightening geoengineering is: It might not work, and it will most likely be implemented when it is so late that it is the only hope. However, such "negative emissions technologies" just might save us. We may soon be relying on companies that inject carbon dioxide underground so that it eventually turns to rock. Or we may be spraying light-reflective particles into the atmosphere to manage some of the incoming solar radiation, a process which would turn the sky from blue to white — and where Kolbert gets her title. But again, Kolbert admits her fear: this is all an unknown.

Kolbert also sheds light on how the environment is faring during the COVID-19 pandemic. She calls the immediate lockdown "a vast, unsupervised experiment," one where our energy usage changed almost instantaneously. It is assumed by many that this was a positive change; with everyone at home, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide should be down. However, "in May 2020, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere set a record of 417.1 parts per million." Even with declining emissions, it is clear that once CO2 has been emitted, it lingers in the atmosphere. This adds a frightening piece to the puzzle, because even if we were to completely halt all greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric concentrations will continue to rise — for who knows how long.

Through this series of experiences and forewarnings, Kolbert points out how deeply we have embedded ourselves in every natural process. Species are now dependent on us to survive, islands will soon be inundated, and we are not far from bleaching the sky white. Clearly, we are well beyond the point of being able to preserve a "natural" nature. However, what Kolbert also suggests is that while there is no scenario in which our involvement in nature completely stops, learning how to live in a way that doesn't drive species to extinction or reroute rivers would be a good starting point. Perhaps there is no world in which humankind's will to control nature to suit its needs changes, the book seems to suggest, but we must collectively become aware that all species have a contributive impact — impacts that we also rely on.

For now we are stuck at this midpoint, where problems are being generated by the second. Still, Kolbert points out, "people are ingenious. They come up with crazy, big ideas, and sometimes these actually work." While it is this "ingenuity" that got us here in the first place, maybe all it will take is one great idea to get us on the path to this peaceful coexistence. Of course, this reviewer is left with slivers of skepticism, as anyone pondering the vastness of these problems might be. I like to remain optimistic, however; I believe that the mindset with which we move forward is just as important as the capabilities we bring with us. If we truly believe that we can overcome the problems that we created, I am hopeful that we will succeed.

Izzy Nesci, an intern in the Insights department at Candid, is an environmental studies and sustainability major at Barnard College.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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