July 29, 2009

Equal Treatment for People and the Environment

All too often when approaching environmental issues we expect the solution to revolve around preservation of national parks and cutting back carbon emissions. However, there is another equally pressing environmental matter to attend to: Environmental Justice. This term is a blanket term that covers all kinds of equal treatment for people and the environment.

The EPA defines [Environmental Justice] as:

“the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies”.
This means that all people are able to enjoy the same level of safe access to clean air, water, soil and to be subject to the sight of parks, preserves and eco-friendly buildings. This also means that all people are equally protected against the dumping of hazardous wastes, excess pollution and toxic chemicals in their communities.

Environmental Justice is extremely important in the process to building a more eco-centered world. The tenets of Environmental Justice call for the undoing of many community practices that have allowed dumping toxic waste in impoverished neighborhoods.

These communities—mainly composed of blacks and other minorities—are targeted areas because of low land costs and cheap labor. Unfortunately, the industrial infrastructure enjoying the cheap operation is a source for pollutants and toxic waste.

A shocking 2007 study by the United Church of Christ examined toxic waste and race in the U.S. It found that communities of people of color and low socioeconomic status had a greater number of waste disposal facilities than any other community of people. In fact, it found that neighborhoods of commercial hazardous waste facilities are made up of 56% people of color.

The study ranks the top-ten states with disparities between the percentages of people of color living in host neighborhoods and those living in non-host neighborhoods. They are (including percentages of people of color in host neighborhoods versus non-host areas):
  • Michigan (66% vs. 19%)
  • Nevada (79% vs. 33%)
  • Kentucky (51% vs. 10%)
  • Illinois (68% vs. 31%)
  • Alabama (66% vs. 31%)
  • Tennessee (54% vs. 20%)
  • Washington (53% vs. 20%)
  • Kansas (47% vs. 16%)
  • Arkansas (52% vs. 21%)
  • California (81% vs. 51%)
  • Ultimately, Environmental Justice and the legislation that promotes it seek to amend old patterns of racism and classism to enable all people to share a clean and healthy world. The issue is about quality of human life. The treatment and continuation of environmental injustice makes a strong statement about the value of the lives of people in those communities. By dumping toxic chemicals (often unregulated) and building waste disposal facilities in poor and in communities of people of color, it sends the message that the people living there are not deserving of clean air or water.

    However, there are environmental watchdog organizations looking to reverse the harm caused to these communities and to promote widespread Environmental Justice. Here are just a few great resources for getting involved.
    Center for Diversity & The Environment - http://www.environmentaldiversity.org/

    Corp Watch - http://www.corpwatch.org/

    Environmental Working Group - http://www.ewg.org/
    You can even check your community's Environmental Justice score!

    What is your community’s score? Where you shocked or proud?

    This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with your questions.

    July 22, 2009

    Paying To Be Poor

    In a recent article Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown examines the cost of being poor. Brown states in the first few lines: “The poorer you are, the more things cost”. The cost, of course, comes in the form of money, time, convenience, and energy level. Brown points out that many of America’s poor are stuck with an unfair bill when it comes to the essentials like food, transportation, and housing.

    Photo courtesy of This Fffire

    The cost differences paid by the poor at their local corner store compared to a grocery store are likely to be huge. However, for many people without the time and transportation to get to big box stores, the $2.00 savings on a loaf of bread is hardly worth the hassle. The prices in these corner markets are, according to the article, almost always higher because their cost of doing business has a high overhead cost.

    Tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, and getting to work become a juggle of both time and money and often leave the poor with a higher bill than middle class folks. The poor must sacrifice their time, which could be spent with their families or working to attain the basic goods and services to sustain and improve their lives. Sadly, the options available to the poor, like shopping at the corner store or paying to have checks cashed at a payday loan service, are often the ones that require more money that is simply not available.

    Brown’s article offers an interesting exposé of the economics of poverty and the means by which structures and institutions are placed specifically to keep poverty intact. We can expand this knowledge of the economics of poverty to understand the farther reaching effects of sustaining poverty. Not only is the cost of bread more expensive but also the cost of education is greatly increased. Transportation to and from school might not be an option for some students or perhaps the neighborhood is too dangerous to walk through. The cost of community colleges and technical schooling can not be afforded when their already limited funds is going toward paying more for basic goods and services.

    The result is uneducated people with less earning power in the workforce. Hence, the cycle of poverty and paying to be poor continues.

    The article is a bit short when it comes to solutions to these issues. This is where I believe community and national organizations like Literacy 'n' Poverty Project and C.A.R.E have the opportunity to come in and make change. These groups have the tools needed to combat injustices and dismantle the systems responsible for charging the poor for their poverty.

    By eliminating the injustices enacted on the poor that often cause monetary detriment, we are able to push forward programs promoting education, literacy and achievement among the poor. We must act together to change the status of poverty in America and strive to offer all of our citizens a fair chance to succeed.

    I'd like to start an open thread and ask all of you, what organizations do you feel offer concrete solutions to end poverty?

    This post was written by Laura Scroggs who is a feminist scholar living in the mid-west. She is currently an active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email info@makesocialchangeareality.com with your questions.

    July 20, 2009

    Envision the Change

    Social change is a must
    Not just for humankind
    But it can stem from just one human mind.
    With one thought we will find we can do right
    But imagine if we all join thoughts and unite.

    There's no limit to the change we can bring
    Enough to make the whole world sing in such harmony
    That we don't have to worry bout the next man harming me
    What a sight we can see
    But how can this be?

    My thought would be through philanthropy
    So our children could inherit a world of humanity
    That thought moves me fondly
    Let's follow in the words of Mahatma Gandhi
    And BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE in the world.
    Those words he lived and imparted before he died
    To show that change must come from inside.

    Don't hide behind the blinds in your mind
    Reach down in your heart and you'll find that
    Social change is a beautiful thing
    Imagine the change it will bring.

    From a world of poverty and stress
    To one of literacy wealth and success.
    Just taking the time to show I care
    As a people...we have to start acting on our ideas.

    There is nothing that I fear...because to me
    Change is imminent...But we have to want to benefit.
    These thoughts in my head are profound
    In ideas I can drown...
    How could I not make a sound?

    With words I paint a picture like an artist.
    In fact, I'm dedicated to tryna work the hardest.

    Barack showed me that change will come regardless.
    I take strides to open up doors.
    I change the world by enforcing the laws...And in this I take pride.
    This is not the time to shrink back...how could u even think that?

    If it wasn't for change
    Where would we be as a people...
    Think back...

    So let's put our best foot forward
    Whether its blogging or raising funds
    Let's not stop till its done...

    Empowerment and social change to the world has just begun.

    This guest post was written by Allan D., a poet from Brooklyn, New York.

    July 14, 2009

    10 Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media

    This post is a collaboration between Mashable's Summer of Social Good charitable fundraiser and Max Gladwell's "10 Ways" series. The post is being simultaneously published across more than 100 blogs.


    Social media is about connecting people and providing the tools necessary to have a conversation. That global conversation is an extremely powerful platform for spreading information and awareness about social causes and issues. That's one of the reasons charities can benefit so greatly from being active on social media channels. But you can also do a lot to help your favorite charity or causes you are passionate about through social media.

    Below is a list of 10 ways you can use social media to show your support for issues that are important to you. If you can think of any other ways to help charities via social web tools, please add them in the comments. If you'd like to retweet this post or take the conversation to Twitter or FriendFeed, please use the hashtag #10Ways.

    1. Write a Blog Post

    Blogging is one of the easiest ways you can help a charity or cause you feel passionate about. Almost everyone has an outlet for blogging these days -- whether that means a site running WordPress, an account at LiveJournal, or a blog on MySpace or Facebook. By writing about issues you're passionate about, you're helping to spread awareness among your social circle. Because your friends or readers already trust you, what you say is influential.

    Recently, a group of green bloggers banded together to raise individual $1 donations from their readers. The beneficiaries included Sustainable Harvest, Kiva, Healthy Child, Healthy World, Environmental Working Group, and Water for People. The blog-driven campaign included voting to determine how the funds would be distributed between the charities. You can read about the results here.

    You should also consider taking part in Blog Action Day, a once a year event in which thousands of blogs pledge to write at least one post about a specific social cause (last year it was fighting poverty). Blog Action Day will be on October 15 this year.

    Make Social Change A Reality welcomes guest bloggers and volunteers to our team. Send us an email if you'd like to SHARE your VOICE and SPEAK OUT for change!

    2. Share Stories with Friends


    Another way to spread awareness among your social graph is to share links to blog posts and news articles via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Digg, and even through email. Your network of friends is likely interested in what you have to say, so you have influence wherever you've gathered a social network.

    You'll be doing charities you support a great service when you share links to their campaigns, or to articles about causes you care about.

    3. Follow Charities on Social Networks

    In addition to sharing links to articles about issues you come across, you should also follow charities you support on the social networks where they are active. By increasing the size of their social graph, you're increasing the size of their reach. When your charities tweet or post information about a campaign or a cause, statistics or a link to a good article, consider retweeting that post on Twitter, liking it on Facebook, or blogging about it.

    Following charities on social media sites is a great way to keep in the loop and get updates, and it's a great way to help the charity increase its reach by spreading information to your friends and followers.

    You can follow Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, the nonprofit behind this blog (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LnP on Ning).

    You can also follow the Summer of Social Good Charities:
    Oxfam America (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube)
    The Humane Society (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr)
    LIVESTRONG (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr)
    WWF (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr)

    4. Support Causes on Awareness Hubs


    Another way you can show your support for the charities you care about is to rally around them on awareness hubs like Change.org, Care2, or the Facebook Causes application. These are social networks or applications specifically built with non-profits in mind. They offer special tools and opportunities for charities to spread awareness of issues, take action, and raise money.

    It's important to follow and support organizations on these sites because they're another point of access for you to gather information about a charity or cause, and because by supporting your charity you'll be increasing their overall reach. The more people they have following them and receiving their updates, the greater the chance that information they put out will spread virally.

    5. Find Volunteer Opportunities

    Using social media online can help connect you with volunteer opportunities offline, and according to web analytics firm Compete, traffic to volunteering sites is actually up sharply in 2009. Two of the biggest sites for locating volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, which has almost 60,000 opportunities listed, and Idealist.org, which also lists paying jobs in the non-profit sector, in addition to maintaining databases of both volunteer jobs and willing volunteers.

    For those who are interested in helping out when volunteers are urgently needed in crisis situations, check out HelpInDisaster.org, a site which helps register and educate those who want to help during disasters so that local resources are not tied up directing the calls of eager volunteers. Teenagers, meanwhile, should check out DoSomething.org, a site targeted at young adults seeking volunteer opportunities in their communities.

    And if you are looking for volunteer opportunities with our organization, just head on over to the website and find out how you can get involved!

    6. Embed a Widget on Your Site

    Many charities offer embeddable widgets or badges that you can use on your social networking profiles or blogs to show your support. These badges generally serve one of two purposes (or both). They raise awareness of an issue and offer up a link or links to additional information. And very often they are used to raise money.

    Mashable's Summer of Social Good campaign, for example, has a widget that does both. The embeddable widget, which was custom built using Sprout (the creators of ChipIn), can both collect funds and offer information about the four charities the campaign supports.

    7. Organize a Tweetup

    You can use online social media tools to organize offline events, which are a great way to gather together like-minded people to raise awareness, raise money, or just discuss an issue that's important to you. Getting people together offline to learn about an important issue can really kick start the conversation and make supporting the cause seem more real.

    Be sure to check out Mashable's guide to organizing a tweetup to make sure yours goes off without a hitch, or check to see if there are any tweetups in your area to attend that are already organized.

    8. Express Yourself Using Video

    As mentioned, blog posts are great, but a picture really says a thousand words. The web has become a lot more visual in recent years and there are now a large number of social tools to help you express yourself using video. When you record a video plea or call to action about your issue or charity, you can make your message sound more authentic and real. You can use sites like 12seconds.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube to easily record and spread your video message.

    Last week, the Summer of Social Good campaign encouraged people to use video to show support for charity. The #12forGood campaign challenged people to submit a 12 second video of themselves doing something for the Summer of Social Good. That could be anything, from singing a song to reciting a poem to just dancing around like a maniac -- the idea was to use the power of video to spread awareness about the campaign and the charities it supports.

    If you're more into watching videos than recording them, Givzy.com enables you to raise funds for charities like Unicef and St. Jude's Children's Hospital by sharing viral videos by e-mail.

    9. Sign or Start a Petition


    There aren't many more powerful ways to support a cause than to sign your name to a petition. Petitions spread awareness and, when successfully carried out, can demonstrate massive support for an issue. By making petitions viral, the social web has arguably made them even more powerful tools for social change. There are a large number of petition creation and hosting web sites out there. One of the biggest is The Petition Site, which is operated by the social awareness network Care2, or PetitionOnline.com, which has collected more than 79 million signatures over the years.

    Petitions are extremely powerful, because they can strike a chord, spread virally, and serve as a visual demonstration of the support that an issue has gathered. Social media fans will want to check out a fairly new option for creating and spreading petitions: Twitition, an application that allows people to create, spread, and sign petitions via Twitter.

    10. Organize an Online Event

    Social media is a great way to organize offline, but you can also use online tools to organize effective online events. That can mean free form fund raising drives, like the Twitter-and-blog-powered campaign to raise money for a crisis center in Illinois last month that took in over $130,000 in just two weeks. Or it could mean an organized "tweet-a-thon" like the ones run by the 12for12k group, which aims to raise $12,000 each month for a different charity.

    In March, 12for12k ran a 12-hour tweet-a-thon, in which any donation of at least $12 over a 12 hour period gained the person donating an entry into a drawing for prizes like an iPod Touch or a Nintendo Wii Fit. Last month, 12for12k took a different approach to an online event by holding a more ambitious 24-hour live video-a-thon, which included video interviews, music and sketch comedy performances, call-ins, and drawings for a large number of prizes given out to anyone who donated $12 or more.

    Bonus: Think Outside the Box

    blamedrewscancerSocial media provides almost limitless opportunity for being creative. You can think outside the box to come up with all sorts of innovative ways to raise money or awareness for a charity or cause. When Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with cancer, for example, he created Blame Drew's Cancer, a campaign that encourages people to blow off steam by blaming his cancer for bad things in their lives using the Twitter hashtag #BlameDrewsCancer. Over 16,000 things have been blamed on Drew's cancer, and he intends to find sponsors to turn those tweets into donations to LIVESTRONG once he beats the disease.

    Or check out Nathan Winters, who is biking across the United States and documenting the entire trip using social media tools, in order to raise money and awareness for The Nature Conservancy.

    The number of innovative things you can do using social media to support a charity or spread information about an issue is nearly endless. Can you think of any others? Please share them in the comments.

    Special thanks to VPS.net

    vpsnet logoA special thanks to VPS.net, who are donating $100 to the Summer of Social Good for every signup they receive this week.

    Sign up at VPS.net and use the coupon code "SOSG"to receive 3 Months of FREE hosting on top of your purchased term. VPS.net honors a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee so there's no risk.

    About the "10 Ways" Series

    The "10 Ways" Series was originated by Max Gladwell. This is the second simultaneous blog post in the series. The first ran on more than 80 blogs, including Mashable. Among other things, it is a social media experiment and the exploration of a new content distribution model. You can follow Max Gladwell on Twitter.

    This content was originally written by Mashable's Josh Catone.