Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Supporting causes

Updated April 2008: Added ACLU and Save the Redwoods League, which I had forgotten.

Velma and I used to support nonprofits with our blood, sweat, and tears. We first met in a large building full of nonprofits, where we both worked. When you work for an NGO, especially a relatively small, local one, you don't make a lot of money. Sometimes you make very little money (I was making below-poverty-level wages there for a while).

But you don't do it for the money. You do it for the "second paycheck." That's what they sometimes call the feeling you get — maybe it's pride, maybe it's joy — when you get to do work every day that's all about trying to make the world a better place. It's truly a wonderful and fulfilling way of life, if you can hack it.

These days, Velma probably gets that feeling a lot more often than I do (she works for Save the Redwoods League). I mean, I like my work, and I chose CNET Networks partly because I didn't want to work at an advertising agency or someplace where I'd only be selling more useless crap to more people. But while I believe my work's worthwhile, it's definitely not saving the planet.

Getting paid decent wages, however, does have its up-sides. Velma and I are finally in a position these days to save money for our future, and we're even able to give donations to a bunch of organizations we like. Even if we don't get out to Arastradero Preserve to plant native grasses anymore (our own garden gets most of that weekend love), we were happy to be able to support the work of several groups this year with monetary donations.

If any of these organizations sound worthy to you, please consider a gift.

The ACLU fights to protect the American freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights, a document that's in more peril seemingly every year (or is it just every administration?).

I did some work for Amnesty International a long time ago, and I also donated to them a long time ago, but a new donation was long overdue. Most people know a little about Amnesty, but did you know how broad their focus really is, and how many worthwhile campaigns they have?

Mario Savio, on the steps of Sproul Hall, said, "There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all." When the law won't fix the problem, Earth First!ers put their bodies on the line to stop the destruction. Some of the Earth First!ers I've met were the bravest, most noble people I've ever known. In the old days I used to donate stamps to North Coast Earth First! but this year I finally decided to subscribe to the Earth First! Journal.

Earthjustice began as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and has provided legal assistance on environmental issues for almost 40 years, representing citizens groups, nonprofits, scientists, and others. "Environmental litigation has been key to preserving threatened natural resources and protecting people's environmental rights. Lawsuits have protected millions of acres of wilderness and hundreds of endangered species. They have helped improve air and water quality and have forced polluting companies to clean up their discharges." Plus I love their slogan: "Because the earth needs a good lawyer."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is sort of the equivalent of Earthjustice but for the Internet. EFF uses advocacy and lawsuits to preserve free speech rights in the context of today's digital age. Among its many activities, EFF has participated in lawsuits in support of the college students who published information about the major security flaws in Diebold Election Systems, and against corporate and government infringement of the First Amendment rights of individuals, artists, journalists, bloggers, and others.

The Environmental Protection Information Center has fought for the North Coast in the courts for years. Headwaters Grove probably wouldn't be standing today if it hadn't been for organizations like EPIC.

I've been watching KQED TV since I was a tot and listening since I was in my teens and 20s, and for the past decade or so it's been on almost constantly when I'm at home. I've learned so much from KQED radio that I can confidently say it's made me a better person.

“On the Media” is one of the best shows on radio, if you ask me. The media critics at this show keep a careful eye on world media, and fill in the listeners each week with healthy doses of wit and wisdom. I listen every week, even if I miss the air-time and have to download their podcast later. This year I was happy to contribute directly to WNYC where the show is produced.

Pachamama Alliance works with the Achuar, an indigenous group living in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, to develop a sustainability and economic plan that will protect and manage the two million acres of their tropical rainforest territory.

Planned Parenthood is a vital resource in a country that's incredibly backward about sexuality and where most people are hopelessly un- and misinformed about health and reproductive issues. They provide health and sexuality info to teens, women, and men, contraception, HIV/STD tests, pregnancy tests, and much more. We are proud to support the work of Planned Parenthood.

Velma may work there, but that doesn't stop us from giving them money. Save the Redwoods League was founded 90 years ago to acquire and protect what's left of the redwoods. You probably think there are a lot of redwoods left. If it hadn't been for SRL's work over the last 90 years, there wouldn't be any. Most of the redwoods in state and federal parks were originally bought by SRL and transferred to public ownership.

“This American Life” is the other show I can never miss. A few years ago I learned that Chris Ware had done an animation for a live performance of “This American Life,” and I'd seen a snippet of it online. It was awesome. This year I learned that it's actually available as a DVD/book as a premium for donating to the Chicago station that produces “This American Life” (see the “Lost Buildings DVD” description).

Velma's been interested in this little local org for a while, and she's considering volunteering with them. Urban Sprouts works with San Francisco school gardens "to help youth actively engage in school, eat better and exercise more, and connect with the environment and each other."

Wikipedia is truly one of the world's greatest resources, and truly one of the world's greatest ideas. I use it almost every day, and even though the slogan is "free knowledge for everyone," this year I decided we should pay for the privilege with a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation.

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