Nature, Saving the World

How To Save The World: Find Hope and Duplicate It

How to eradicate poverty and save the world:  the secret is in an article from Fast, called “Don’t Solve Problems, Copy Success.”  Talks about how in a seemingly no-win poverty-stricken area in Vietnam, a community solved the malnutrition problem not by bringing in new equipment or sacks of grain, but simply by observing what was working, however slight, and duplicating those efforts and behaviors.

“When Jerry Sternin arrived in Vietnam, the welcome was rather chilly,” begins the story.  Sternin had traveled there with his wife and 10-year-old son. None of them spoke the language.  They had minimal staff and meager resources and ten thousand starving children.

“If addressing malnutrition required ending poverty and purifying water and building sanitation systems, then it would never happen,” said Sternin.

Yet they succeeded.  How?

“Find a bright spot and clone it,” say the authors, Dan and Chip Heath.

“That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope,” says the article.

Ignoring the experts, Sternin traveled to a local village and called together all the village’s mothers. He asked for their assistance in finding ways to nourish their kids better, and they agreed to help.

Together, they found the fattest, healthiest kids and analyzed what their parents were doing to get them that way.  Then, they simply taught those habits to parents who were not doing them.  The results were astounding.

Read the full, wonderful, fast-sticky read here.  It applies to solving any problem at all.  If it inspires hope in you, clone it and pass it around!

Nature, philanthropy

Christiane Amanpour: Billionaires Giving Back

In a special Thanksgiving edition of “This Week,” Christiane Amanpour sat down with Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and Ted Turner.   The interviews make you glad to be alive.

Warren Buffett, the third richest men in the world says: “…everyone in my office is taxed about 30% while I’m only taxed 16.5% — not because of loopholes or tax breaks, but because that’s the tax break Congress gives the rich in the hopes it will trickle down.  It doesn’t [trickle down].”  He says he and the rich in general should be taxed in accordance with the rest of citizenship.  He has my attention.

16.5%!  Nice tax bracket.

Gates Buffett Turner Give It Away
Give it away now...

“I’ve got everything I possibly need,” Buffett said. “I’ve got a whole bunch of what I call claim checks on society. Little stock certificates. They sit in a box and have been there for 40 years. They can’t do anything for me,” he said, but “they can do a lot for other people if intelligently used.”

Melinda Gates emphasized the importance of education, certainly globally but not just abroad. “In the U.S. we feel the greatest inequity is education, that not every child in this country is getting a phenomenal education,” she said. “And they ought to — that’s the civil rights issue in our country.”

Ted Turner has focused on education of another kind: education about the peril posed by nuclear weapons to humanity. Both Turner and Buffett support the Nuclear Threat Intuitive, which works to reduce the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

The Giving Pledge is an organization these folks have started, now joined by 40 billionaire, who have pledged to give away the majority of their wealth.  Not just to give it to the wind, to re-invest it into the society that allowed them to make it in the first place.

(By the way, they all talk about how some give time, attention, patience is often just as relevant as philanthropy in the economic sense.  So far no one talks about giving good blog – but here I will: All Giving Bloggers: good job giving your writing, time, and words.)

There’s so much more to this story – it’s the biggest story of the 21st Century without a doubt. Philanthropy is infusing all relevant programs: health, education, innovation, nukes, environment….  This post is categorized under Nature to call attention to the fact that somewhere in human nature is this momentum toward philanthropy – towards loving-common-sense.

Fantastic program, Amanpour.

If you’re wondering, here’s a taut backgrounder on today’s philanthropy in business.

Green Reviews

Review: Harmony, with Charles, Prince of Wales

This is a review of Harmony, the TV Show that NBC aired last Friday, November 20, 2010.

Summary: it was hard to watch/listen to.   Compared to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, it was about a third as good.

Green snooze

To be fair, to see Inconvenient Truth we got off our butts and went to a movie theater.  We paid money, got popcorn, and sat down with a crowd of like-minded people.  You could call that ‘receptive state of mind.’  For Prince Charles’ Harmony – which aired in U.S. living rooms at 10PM on a Friday night – I for one was quite horizontal, sleepy, popcornless, probably hungry, and had Facebook going.

A strong TV show can usually distract me from Facebook.  Even The Office reruns, even Family Guy, and definitely Frontline are more interesting than who had what for dinner, streaming live on social media.

But Prince Charles is hard to listen to.  He reminded me of George Bush.  Not in point of view, obviously, but in an eerie way that’s hard to put a finger on.  Yet now that I’ve pointed it out you’ll think of George Bush every time you see a Prince Charles interview.

Charles seems stiff, bound and perhaps erotically frustrated.  Like there are invisible ropes around the guy – not like a puppet but like a masochist.  He can’t quite relax, can’t quite release himself, and he doesn’t mind.

Charles – like Bush – seems to have something to escape from rather than something to say.  Either or both of those men may in fact have a brilliant message, but all you hear is “wah wah wah” like Peanuts parents.

It’s like when a singer is self-conscious and not really delivering the song but giving up a lot of personality.  A few with loads of charisma can get away with that – but very few.  Some said George W had that charisma in person, but obviously not on TV.

My guess is Charles has abundant charisma in person.  Which throws off filmmakers – because they don’t realize until late in the editing stage that they really, objectively, got nothing.

You want to say to Charles or George W:  Now, enough about you.  No one cares about you personally – give us the info and just stamp it Certified by you but keep yourself out of it.  Could say the same thing to Bono (Africa) and Sarah Palin (Alaska).

Suggestion to Prince Charles: have the Frontline producers do your next film.  And have someone else narrate it.  You may appear in brief interviews.  British directors/editors are not allowed to touch the production (just trust me on this).

New York Times put it gently by saying, “And while ‘Harmony’ is serious-minded and the prince’s dedication is quite admirable, there is something a bit stagy and embarrassing to his presentation. ….  He speaks passionately, but with a slow, plummy emphasis on even ordinary words that is distracting to an American ear.” – Nice review by Alessandra Stanley

The film’s co-producer Stuart Sender told Reuters, “A lot of the things that are very close to the prince’s heart, and have been at the center of his work for a long time, are featured in the movie.”  Yes.  And?

“In a lot of ways people are going to meet [Charles] for the first time,” Sender said.  “People are really going to be amazed and surprised to meet the prince in a way they never have met him before.”

And that is true.  For that, it’s worth watching the show if you have a chance.

Suggestion: have your Facebook page loaded, popcorn buttered, and have some friends over for support.

photo credit: Porcupine napping, from


Vote for Prince Charles: Harmony

The Prince of Wales, Charles, is on public tv right now.  His house outside of London is totally green, with organic farming.  His new book, Harmony, is about taking environmental sustainability seriously.   Charles says, “Somebody has got to defend nature, and stand up for it.”

Prince Charles harmony as destinyGood for him.  It’s nice to see another world leader come out and make a real stand.  We have Bill and Melinda Gates making a stand with philanthropy, and now Prince Charles coming forward and taking a stand where Al Gore used to be.

Applause, applause.  Not sure I’d want to have a beer with any of these folks – but they do get my vote.


Sun Chips Bag Goes Up to 11

Sun Chips recently stopped selling its compostable chip bag because of market ferver over – laugh now – the bags being too loud.

With that comes images of college kids getting caught in the kitchen late at night over Christmas break, elbow-deep in a chip bag.  And the guys from Spinal Tap coming out from behind the fridge to talk about turning it up to 11.

I mentioned this to a colleague at the software company where I work; she’s a 40-year-old Technical Writer who looks and sounds like Sarah Palin.   She said, dead serious, “Oh yeah, those chip bags really are too loud.”

Really?  “Yeah,” she explained, “you can’t go downstairs and have a snack in the middle of the night.”

Will someone please say something sensible?  “You can’t just have a snack at your cube without rousing the whole company,” she said.

Ah, okay, I guess that could be a problem.

So now, Boulder Canyon Natural Foods has introduced a renewable, fully-compostable pack for its line of All Natural Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.  These bags won’t get you busted in the kitchen, at your cube, or during a critical pause while in the recording studio.  Ta-da.

The new bags look, feel and sound the same as non-compostable bags, according to Packaging Digest.  The packaging is apparently capable of composting within six weeks.  And it goes quietly.

“Oh the things I do for the Inspired Economist,” says the reporter tasked with testing whether these chip bags actually decompose within 6 weeks.

In her back yard, she covers a few different kinds of chip bags with soil for a comparison test.   Well, someone had to do it.

At week four, our reporter finds the Boulder Canyon Natural Foods chip bag is in fact disappearing.  That’s pretty impressive.

Results, after only four weeks in an unattended, unturned compost area:

  • the Sun Chips bag still feels like the first time
  • the Doritos Bag shines on like a crazy diamond
  • the “wood fiber-based Boulder Canyon bag, however, is barely recognizable as a chip bag at all,” writes Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

Dust in the wind.

So it only goes up to 4 and it decomposes almost entirely in 4 weeks — and how do the chips taste?  No one says.  But kudos to the concept.  I hope the market gets as excited about this packaging breakthrough as it got when the bag brought da noise:  at its peak, a Facebook page titled “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG” was liked by more than 53,000 users, as of this posting.

Now my little Sarah Palin at work, some 53,000 Facebookers, and college kids everywhere can sing a different tune, you know, for chip bags they are apparently so passionate about.  Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom comes to mind.

Green Tips

Get Green News in Your Zip Code

Find green and environmental info about where you live.  Use the interactive map or enter your zip code.  It’s easier than ever to find information in your state, region, or in tribal areas.

I live in New England, so I typically use this page:

You’ll find news on green events, recycling, heating tips, latest regulation updates, and so on.   Browse it – there’s always something interesting.

For instance, curious about asthma in New England?  There’s info on that: asthma in New England.

Hope this is helpful – a lot of times I post info like this so it’s easy for me and my friends to find later.

So if you’re just visiting for the first time, feel free to join us — and use this post or any of my posts as reference material.  You can quote this blog, or copy and paste if you keep it minimal/reasonable.  I post once or twice per week, sometimes more if there’s a lot of news.

Green Reviews, Nature, Science

A Short Video That Will Change Your Life

This is one of those videos that make you love NASA all over again.  And love the Hubble Telescope, perhaps for the first time.  And make you feel really weird about getting upset about not having done the dishes….   Puts things in perspective.  Do share it!

Review: thumbs up (if space aliens have thumbs).

“What happens when you point the Hubble Space Telescope to a seemingly blank patch of sky? A view that takes you to the edge of the universe.”  View more…