These are some recently published books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to someone as a gift:

The Overstory, by Richard Powers  
(This is a novel, and it won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.)

Erosion: Essays of Undoing, by Terry Tempest Williams

Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, by Bill McKibben

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by Peter Kalmus

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

Renewal: How Nature Awakens Our Creativity, Compassion, and Joy, by Andres Edwards

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, by Gregory Jaczko

Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), by Rebecca Solnit

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, by George Monbiot

Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis, by George Monbiot

Our Wild Calling: How connecting with animals can transform our lives—and save theirs, by Richard Louv

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina

I’d also recommend taking a look at other books written by the authors listed above, as well as books by Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Kolbert, John McPhee, Annie Dillard, Bernie Krause, Joanna Macy, and Barbara Kingsolver.

And check out the books published by Chelsea Green Publishing and New Society Publishers and Island Press, for a wide selection of titles on green/sustainability topics.

Another book I would recommend is the following [disclosure: it was written by a family member]. Though it is not directly related to environmental issues, it does impart important lessons on non-violent dissent (and the folly of violence) that all activists and social movements (including environmental activists and movements) can benefit from:

Looking for Revolution, Finding Murder: The Crimes and Transformation of Katherine Ann Power, by Janet Landman (2019)

 

Note: Please try to buy books from independent bookstores (or Barnes & Noble), rather than from Amazon. There are probably over a dozen compelling reasons not to buy anything (but especially books) from Amazon. Also avoid choosing one- or two-day shipping unless it’s really necessary; overnight/airplane-based shipping has an enormous environmental footprint as well as a serious cost to worker safety.

Do you have favorite books or authors to recommend? Please mention them in the Comments.

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November 25, 2019
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More than 3,075 businesses around the world—from more than 70 countries and 150 industries—have now become certified as B Corporations, as of October 2019.  “B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” The B Impact Assessment gives companies (which can be product or service companies) a score based on how they perform on metrics for impact on their communities, the environment, workers, customers, and internal governance.

B Corporations provide undeniable proof that companies do not need to be greedy, exploitative, polluting, or resource-intensive (as far too many corporations are these days) in order to be profitable and successful. By showing how business can be used as “a force for good” in society, B Corps provide an antidote to the model of predatory capitalism that has become more or less accepted as the status quo in many countries, including the United States.

A few of the largest or most well-known B Corporations are: Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Ben & Jerry’s, Earthbound Farm, Danone, Eileen Fisher, Athleta, and Natura. And a few other B Corps that I like to highlight include: Alter Eco, Dr. Bronner’s, W.S. Badger Co., Beneficial State Bank, New Resource Bank, and RSF Capital Management.

The annual Best for the World ratings highlight the hundreds of businesses that have scored in the top 10 percent of all Certified B Corporations on the assessment. Companies that have scored in the top percentiles across a majority of the assessment’s categories are honored as Best for the World Overall; and companies that have scored in the top percentiles in a given category are honored as: Best for the Environment, Best for Community, Best for Workers, Best for Customers, and/or Best in Governance.

Click here for more information and to see some stories and profiles of the 2019 Best for the World honorees.

And click here to find other B Corps, including ones based in your region. (You can search by location, name, industry, or keyword.)

Any company can take the B Impact Assessment, a free and confidential tool that allows you to start to “measure what matters” and to compare your company’s practices with others.

 

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October 14, 2019
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The only thing that is truly certain in this life is that all of us will die. We don’t know when or how, but we do know that ultimately we cannot avoid death. Impermanence and death are inevitable and universal parts of life.

Rather than live in denial or in fear of that fact (as so many people do), we should strive to face it and prepare for it to the extent that we can. That way, we can have a role in trying to ensure that our end of life experience and our post-death legacy are in keeping with our values and that our loved ones know what we want and won’t have to muddle through all of our death care decisions and post-death details and arrangements without any of our guidance when they are in the process of grieving.

Each of us has an impact on our environment not just during our life, but after our death. Conventional modern burials and cremation both have significant negative impacts on the environment. Death is natural, but the ways our modern society usually processes dead bodies is far from natural (or benign). Embalming fluid is a toxic mix of formaldehyde, benzene (both of which are carcinogens), and methanol. (Some shocking stats: Embalmers have a 13% higher death rate, 8 times higher risk of leukemia, and 3 times higher risk of ALS than the general population. Sources: See link at the end of this paragraph.) Caskets and vaults use vast quantities of natural resources, such as wood (including tropical hardwoods), steel, copper, bronze, and/or concrete, and can leach iron, lead, zinc, and cobalt into the soil. Meanwhile, cremation involves using a lot of energy (burning fossil fuels) to reach a temperature of 1900 degrees F for more than 2 hours, which produces considerable CO2 emissions. Cremation also releases mercury—a dangerous neurotoxin—into the air (due to the incineration of people’s silver dental fillings), as well as other by-product air pollutants (e.g., dioxins, nitrogen oxide, and particulates). For additional impacts and statistics, click here.

Fortunately, alternatives to conventional burial and cremation are now available in many areas, as the interest in natural burial is growing. Increasingly, people are opting to be buried without being embalmed (or else being embalmed using non-toxic, biodegradable fluids, or temporarily preserved using dry ice); wrapped in a shroud or kept in a biodegradable casket or container; and buried in a natural setting (rather than in the typical mowed and manicured lawn cemetery that uses toxic herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides), where their body and its nutrients can decompose into the earth (dust to dust), allowing them to contribute to new life. An added bonus is that natural burial options are often considerably less expensive than conventional casket (or vault) burials.

The Green Burial Council certifies funeral products, services (funeral homes), and cemeteries and burial grounds that meet their criteria. While definitions of “green” can vary, these are their general criteria: “The Green Burial Council believes cemeteries, preserves, and burial grounds can broadly be considered green if they meet the following criteria: caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns. Hybrid, natural, and conservation cemeteries choosing to follow these basic guidelines fall under the general category of green cemeteries, as opposed to conventional lawn cemeteries that require concrete, plastic or other vaults or liners, and allow embalmed bodies and exotic wood or metal caskets.”

For specific details on their certification criteria for burial products, services, and venues, check out the Green Burial Council’s Standards.

You can find a list of certified providers and products on the Green Burial Council’s website. You can also find providers listed at AGreenerFuneral.org.

Other innovative natural burial options are emerging, including human composting (accelerated decomposition/recomposition: to convert human remains into soil, e.g., Recompose; see the Smithsonian article link below), using mushroom mycelium to help digest and neutralize toxins in our bodies during decomposition, to prevent them from leaching toxins into the ground (e.g., the Infinity Burial Suit), and an egg-shaped biodegradable burial pod (Capsula Mundi).

 

Green burial resources:

And these are other useful resources on related issues of death, death care, and end of life:

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August 20, 2019
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This is a selected listing of some of our posts on topics that are directly related to social and political action or activism:

 

Also see the daily news posts on our Facebook page.

 

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July 15, 2019
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Each day, we post 1 or 2 morsels of illuminating information or inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and Share the page with some friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. We hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

 

Here’s a sampling of some topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so, including both good news and bad:

  • The cost of renewables has plummeted, making renewable energy the cheapest to produce
  • Tips for keeping your house/building cool and saving energy (and money) on hot days
  • State of New York passes bill with most ambitious climate targets in the country
  • Heat waves and droughts are killing people and other animals (and causing widespread misery) in India and other parts of the world
  • China, the U.S., and Russia spend the most on fossil fuel industry subsidies (the U.S. spends more on these subsidies than on the Pentagon budget, and 10 times more than it spends on education)
  • Three former Republican EPA chiefs say the current Administration and Agency are undermining science, an approach that will have “catastrophic” results
  • People are ingesting 50,000-70,000 microplastics each year (a credit card’s worth of plastic each week), as our plastic garbage has broken down into tiny pieces and entered the food chain
  • Large cruise lines’ major pollution and illegal dumping of waste into the ocean (e.g., Carnival’s cruise ships pollute more than all of Europe’s cars combined)
  • Air pollution can cause dementia and neurological problems and can damage every organ in the body
  • Videos, photos, quotations, etc.

 

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June 26, 2019
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These are “things” that I care deeply about and that I believe truly matter and are worth standing up for, protecting, and supporting (in addition to one’s own circles of friends, family, and community):

– A life-sustaining climate
– Clean (unpolluted) air, water, soil/land, and food
– Democracy
– Equality
– Liberty, freedom, self-determination, bodily autonomy, choice
– Truth, facts
– Justice, fairness, accountability
– Human rights, civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, indigenous rights/sovereignty
– Animal rights
– Wild lands, healthy ecosystems, natural habitat, biodiversity, wildlife, endangered species, rights of nature
– Disabled, ill, vulnerable, afflicted, homeless, or impoverished people
– Empathy, compassion, kindness, mercy (without borders)
– Reducing unnecessary suffering
– Non-violence; non-violent protest and dissent; de-escalation of conflict
– Basic decency and respect: the Golden Rule (“Do unto others…”)
– Integrity, ethics, courage
– Dignity, self-restraint, magnanimity, humility
– Affordable, universal healthcare (including mental healthcare)
– A free/independent press; investigative journalism; an informed citizenry
– Science; and science-based, evidence-based policy and decision-making
– Education, critical thinking, reason, wisdom
– The Common Good

I recommend giving some real thought to your own values and priorities (and desired legacy), and sharing your own mini-manifesto or values/mission statement with others.

As Elie Wiesel so wisely said:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering…  We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

It’s important for people to show and tell other people what they stand for and will stand up for (and not only the things we stand against).

That said, the opposite of many of the things listed above are things that I stand against, e.g.,:

pollution; the production, use, and dumping of toxins and toxic waste (including nuclear); fossil fuel extraction and burning; authoritarianism, fascism, white supremacy/nationalism, theocracy; hatred, dehumanization, discrimination, racism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia; extreme income inequality, exploitation, unequal pay; scapegoating (e.g., of immigrants, people of color, and poor people); violence (including child abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, violence against protestors), war-mongering; police brutality, excessive force, abuse of power, mass incarceration, discriminatory judicial decisions and sentencing, victim blaming; corruption, greed, oligarchy, predatory and exploitative capitalism, money hoarding, wealth redistribution from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, materialism and over-consumption, industry (private profit-driven) influence/control over policies, regulations, and laws; selfish individualism and personal entitlement at the expense of the health or well-being of others (e.g., neighbors, humanity, future generations, other species, etc.); gerrymandering, voter suppression and disenfranchisement, election hacking and fraud, ballot tampering; propaganda, lying, disinformation, misinformation, “information warfare,” smears, anti-science sentiment and policy, disproven conspiracy theories, paranoia, fear-mongering, denial of facts, willful/proud ignorance, hypocrisy, trolls, tabloids, sensationalist media; portraying/covering politics and elections as a game, sport, horse race, or entertainment; harassment, bullying, humiliation, ridicule, personal attacks; animal cruelty, exploitation and commodification, poaching, poisoning, habitat destruction, over-hunting; human supremacy; the depletion and contamination of natural resources.

-ML

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May 20, 2019
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and truly inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives a financial award. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.” 2019 is the prize’s 30th year.

This year’s prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions of the world) are:

  • Linda Garcia—Washington, USALinda Garcia organized Fruit Valley residents to stop the construction of the Tesoro Savage oil export terminal in Vancouver, Washington, in February 2018. Her activism safeguarded residents from harmful air pollution and protected the environment of the Columbia River Gorge. By preventing North America’s largest oil terminal from being built, Garcia halted the flow of 11 million gallons of crude oil per day from North Dakota to Washington. (Relevant organizations: Washington Environmental Council, and Stand Up to Oil)
  • Alfred Brownell—Liberia: Under threat of violence, environmental lawyer and activist Alfred Brownell stopped the clear-cutting of Liberia’s tropical forests by palm oil plantation developers. His campaign protected 513,500 acres of primary forest that constitute one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, enabling indigenous communities to continue their stewardship of the forest. For his safety, he is living in temporary exile in the United States. (Relevant organizations: Green Advocates, and Rainforest Action Network)
  • Jacqueline Evans—Cook Islands (South Pacific): Conservationist Jacqueline Evans led a five-year grassroots campaign to protect the Cook Islands’ stunning marine biodiversity. Because of her tireless and persistent organizing, in July 2017, the Cook Islands enacted new legislation—Marae Moana—to sustainably manage and conserve all 763,000 square miles of the country’s ocean territory, including the designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) 50 nautical miles around the islands, protecting 125,000 square miles of ocean from large-scale commercial fishing and seabed mining. (Relevant organizations: Marae Moana Marine Park, and Te Ipukarea Society)
  • Alberto Curamil—Chile: Alberto Curamil, an indigenous Mapuche, organized the people of Araucanía to stop the construction of two hydroelectric projects on the sacred Cautín River in central Chile. The destructive projects, canceled in late 2016, would have diverted hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the river each day, harming a critical ecosystem and exacerbating drought conditions in the region. In August 2018, Curamil was arrested and remains in jail today. Colleagues believe that he was arrested because of his environmental activism. (Relevant organization: Alianza Territorial Mapuche) #FreeAlbertoCuramil
  • Ana Colovic Lesoska—North Macedonia: Ana Colovic Lesoska led a seven-year campaign to cut off international funding for two large hydropower plants planned for inside Mavrovo National Park—North Macedonia’s oldest and largest national park—thereby protecting the habitat of the nearly-extinct Balkan lynx. In 2015, the World Bank withdrew its financing for one hydropower project, and, in 2017, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development canceled its loan to the North Macedonian government for the other. (Relevant organizations: Eco-Svest, and Bankwatch Network)
  • Bayarjargal Agvaantseren—MongoliaBayarjargal Agvaantseren helped create the 1.8 million-acre Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve in the South Gobi Desert—a critical habitat for the vulnerable snow leopard—in April 2016, then succeeded in persuading the Mongolian government to cancel all 37 mining licenses within the reserve. An unprecedented victory for the snow leopard, as of June 2018 there are no active mines within the reserve—and all mining operations are illegal. (Relevant organizations: Snow Leopard Trust, and Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation)

Click on each recipient’s name to read a longer profile—and watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Linda Garcia of Washington State (USA):

And here’s the video about Alberto Curamil of Chile:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 29, 2019
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The protection of our democracy and the livability of our planet and its climate are dependent on having a more well-informed populace. It is increasingly important for people to be able to identify and combat disinformation, propaganda, smears, lies, dogma, unfounded conspiracy theories, and “fake news” from unreliable sources, in an era when online bots and “trolls” are being weaponized from outside and inside our country to spread misinformation by infiltrating social media groups and political campaigns, to wage personal attacks on candidates and sow discord, division, doubt, paranoia, hatred, chaos, and even violence. Many well-intentioned people have been unwittingly spreading lies because they were duped by cleverly concealed information warfare campaigns (often started by their adversaries or hostile regimes).

“Falsehood will fly from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling her boots on.”
– C.H. Spurgeon

To be well informed, you need to feed yourself a healthy, balanced diet of nutritious, fact-based, high-quality information. Avoid ingesting (or sharing) junk. Avoid all tabloids and sensationalist, entertainment-focused media; also avoid watching most cable news (especially FOX “News,” which has essentially become a fact-free outrage machine and propaganda arm of the GOP), panels of shouting pundits, and all Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned news stations. Avoid sharing articles that may not be accurate, or information that comes from highly biased or hyper-partisan publications/sources or from unknown or potentially illegitimate sources. If you’re in doubt about the accuracy of a claim, look it up on the key fact-checking sites (e.g., Factcheck.org, Politifact.com) and do a Google search to see what several reliable sources say about it.

Most importantly, seek out (and share) news from the most truth-seeking, investigative, and reputable media outlets. Of course, some journalists and reports are better than others, and even strong publications will have flawed pieces or flawed fact-checking sometimes. Readers still need to be able to engage in critical thinking, and to be able to distinguish between factual news reporting and opinion pieces (or PR pieces) from commentators, columnists, or pundits. Educators should help teach students these essential skills.

Here are a few media outlets that have regularly produced sound, informative reporting and are widely considered to be reliable, fair, trusted sources of news (though of course no publication, journalist, or human can or will ever be 100% bias-free or mistake-free):

Some additional publications that are also well-regarded and often feature informative articles (but that have sometimes been prone to more criticism or may require a more skeptical eye on certain pieces) include:

The New Yorker, The AtlanticThe New York TimesThe Economist, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Bloomberg, Slate, The New Republic, Politico, The Nation, and Salon.

Note: This is, of course, not an exhaustive or even comprehensive list of media worth paying attention to. If there are other trusted publications that you regularly read, feel free to mention them in the Comments.

Also be sure to check out the following:

Environment, Climate, Energy, and Science Media

Also see: End Climate Silence  (Twitter page)

Fact-checking Sites

Media Integrity/Watchdog Groups

Press Freedom Advocates

It’s important that those of us who can pay something for real journalism actually do so, so that real news outlets (including local/regional newspapers and local public radio stations) can survive and not be entirely driven out by profit- and ratings-driven, sensationalist media (and lie-spreading, non-journalistic websites). Choose at least one reputable news source to subscribe to as a paid subscriber—ideally at least one local and one national or international publication—to show your support and to help keep them afloat. We can’t expect competent, professional journalists and writers to work for free, and we don’t want news media to be reliant solely on their major advertisers, who might expect them to alter (or censor) their content to serve the advertisers’ special interests.

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March 28, 2019
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Here are graphics of a few pieces of wisdom from Jane Goodall, Edward Everett Hale, Maya Angelou, Barbara Kingsolver, Paul Farmer, John Pavlovitz, Simone Weil, and Pema Chodron. (I did not create these graphics; I found them online.) Scroll to the bottom for links to additional quotations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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February 28, 2019
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