green communities

Studies have shown that exposure to various environmental toxins—which people can be exposed to via the air, water, soil, or the use of certain products—seem very likely to contribute to the development of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders and diseases (including Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS) and can also harm neurological development (e.g., intelligence) in children and babies’ developing brains.

My father died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, after enduring the myriad physical and cognitive indignities of that disease for many years. So this issue is very personal for me. But everyone should take it very personally that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from neurological or other diseases (such as cancers) that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. My dad was definitely exposed to some of the chemicals and air pollutants that have recently been associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. That makes me angry. It should make everyone angry and motivated to push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Some alarming facts and statistics to consider:

  • At least one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. (It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.) Deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • COVID-19 is causing an increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2020, COVID contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths! (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation)
  • Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder. The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years. PD is the most common movement disorder. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Air pollution is associated with approximately 7 million premature deaths every year, worldwide. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants. (Source: World Health Organization)

While many neurological and other diseases can have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses, or by lifestyle (e.g. diet, exercise) choices, many diseases are more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also factors. Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. Prevention of these diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should focus on protecting all of us by banning the environmental toxins that anyone can be exposed to.

Neurotoxins (toxins that studies have linked to neurological disorders/damage) include, but are not limited to:

  • certain types of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides (e.g. paraquat, glyphosate/Roundup, maneb, etc.);
  • chemical solvents (e.g., trichloroethylene: TCE);
  • mercury (exposure primarily comes from coal power plant pollution, but it can also come from silver/amalgam dental fillings and from the cremation of those fillings, and from the ingestion of some types of seafood, as well as other sources) as well as lead and other heavy metals;
  • particulate air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, via power plants and via vehicles and other forms of transport (as well as particulates from wildfire smoke, which is increasing each year due to climate-driven heat and drought).

These are some recent Parkinson’s-specific articles and resources:

And these are a few articles on environmental risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and various other types of neurological disorders/brain damage:

Beyond Pesticides has compiled summaries of many recent studies and findings on the various neurological (and other health) effects associated with exposure to various chemical pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, and related toxins):


ACTIONS

Please sign this petition:
Tell the EPA: Ban Paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease

And you can sign these other petitions from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and from Beyond Pesticides.

You could also join the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study (whether you have Parkinson’s or not) to help further the research.

At the very least, please share the information provided in this post. And buy only organically grown food (and plants/seeds); avoid the use (and unsafe disposal) of toxic chemicals and hazardous products whenever possible; do what you can to reduce air pollution (e.g. minimize how much you fly or drive; and reduce material consumption/purchases); and support policies, public officials, candidates, and companies that promote non-toxic alternatives to the many chemical-intensive and polluting products and industries that are killing so many people and damaging our brains.

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For additional information on the connection between environmental toxins and public health (and organizations that are focused on these issues and trying to prevent or reduce these problems), please see our past post on:

Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

Here’s a small selection of the organizations focused on these issues:

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September 29, 2022
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These are some of the topics (among others) that I hope to publish posts on over the next year or so:

  • Organizations for Women’s Rights, Health, Liberty, and Equality
  • Making the Shift from Climate Worrier to Climate Warrior, Fueled by Love and Rage
  • (Anti) Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Info.  (a resource listing)
  • PFAS / PFOA: Forever Chemicals
  • Flood Prevention / Stormwater Management Strategies
  • Ecological and Equitable Economic Prosperity
  • If I Had Millions of $$…This is How I’d Spend (Redistribute) It
  • Toxins’ and Air Pollution’s Links to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Neurological Diseases [NOW POSTED]

Check back soon to see some of these posts!  In the meantime, please check out our current and past posts. Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight and sharing the information with others.

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August 30, 2022
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This is a listing of some legal organizations that I recommend following, learning more about, and potentially supporting. They all use the law to try to serve and support the common good in various ways: to protect humans and human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties; to protect animals and the rights of non-human species; and/or to protect nature, our shared environment, and the livability of our planet.

Many human/societal/commercial/industrial activities and practices that are considered “business as usual” are not only unjust, but are truly ecocidal, genocidal, and collectively suicidal, and really ought to be legally deemed (and prosecuted as) Crimes Against Humanity and the planet. Currently, only some of these existential wrongs can be addressed and enforced through legal avenues. While the law has typically focused on the rights of humans (and human entities, such as companies or organizations), efforts have been ramping up to also establish/enact and secure the Rights of Nature (including rivers, etc.) as well as Non-Human Rights for other species.

In recent years, some countries have amended their constitutions, enacted laws, or issued court decisions recognizing the legal rights of nature. Those countries include: Ecuador, New Zealand, Bolivia, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Bangladesh. And recently, the UN formally declared that access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. However, this is a non-binding resolution; the hope is that it will help spur countries to improve their environmental laws and the implementation and enforcement of those laws.

Environmental law/rights

Animal rights

Also see: our Twitter list on Animal rights and protection; and our related post: Animal Protection, Rescue, and Advocacy Organizations

Human/civil/constitutional rights
(including voting rights, bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, etc.)

For additional organizations and legal experts, see our Twitter lists on:

 

Related posts: Posts related to Democracy, Elections, Voting, and Social Change

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August 2, 2022
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photo by M. LandmanFor the love of all that is good; for the sake of a habitable planet with a survivable climate, for the sake of democracy and voting rights, for the sake of our personhood, bodily autonomy, self-determination, and fundamental rights, for the sake of reducing the threat of gun violence, for the sake of children and the future of humanity; to protect LGBTQ people and immigrants and every marginalized and dehumanized group; to protect Social Security and Medicare for elders and people with disabilities; and for so SO many other reasons I shouldn’t have to list here: PLEASE (yes, I’m begging), please vote, and also do something to help Get Out the Vote and get everyone you know to vote (Blue) in the upcoming midterm elections (this November) and in all elections—especially young people or others who may not have voted before (or who have moved and need to re-register) and people who live in swing/”purple” and “red” states or districts. Help them get registered; they might just need a nudge or a link or a form. Then take them with you to vote or drop off their mail-in ballot.

Too often, many Democrats and young people sit out the midterm elections as if they don’t matter just because a President isn’t on the ballot, and as a result, progress gets significantly rolled back or obstructed (which has very real effects on people’s everyday lives and their future), locally and nationally. If we don’t expand the Dem’s razor-thin Senate majority, preserve the House majority, add more Dems to many state legislatures, and get Dem Secretaries of State, Attorneys General, and Governors elected or re-elected in swing states (where Republicans are actively working to elect SOS’s and AG’s who will refuse to certify any voting result that doesn’t go their way), it is not an exaggeration to say that we are very likely to lose our democracy and so many things we hold dear (or take for granted), including many basic rights and liberties.

Here are some groups I recommend joining or supporting (and amplifying); click on a few, and pick one or two!

 

Focused on state and local campaigns/races:
Environmental/climate voter groups:

On Twitter, please follow these lists:

Voting / Elections

State and Local Dem Groups

and our lists that are specific to:

We’ll be adding other state lists later this year, and we also add more accounts (“members”) to our existing lists as we discover them.

 

Related blog posts with more information:

 

Please share a few of the links above with your friends and/or on social media, now and before October/November. Thank you!

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July 8, 2022
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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.” Over the 33 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 200 recipients of the prize.

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

  • Nalleli Cobo—Los Angeles, CA, USA: “Nalleli Cobo led a coalition to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her community in March 2020, at the age of 19—an oil site that caused serious health issues for her and others. Her continued organizing against urban oil extraction has now yielded major policy movement within both the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously to ban new oil exploration and to phase out existing sites.” (Support/follow: STAND – L.A.)
  • Alexandra Narvaez and Alex Lucitante—Ecuador: “Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez spearheaded an Indigenous movement to protect their people’s ancestral territory from gold mining. Their leadership resulted in a historic legal victory in October 2018, when Ecuador’s courts canceled 52 gold mining concessions, which were illegally granted without the consent of their Cofán community. The community’s legal success protects 79,000 acres of pristine, biodiverse rainforest in the headwaters of Ecuador’s Aguarico River, which is sacred to the Cofán.” (Support/follow: Alianza Ceibo and Amazon Frontlines)
  • Chima Williams—Nigeria: “In the aftermath of disastrous oil spills in Nigeria, environmental lawyer Chima Williams worked with two communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the resultant widespread environmental damage. On January 29, 2021, the Court of Appeal of the Hague ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills. This is the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.” (Support/follow: Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria)
  • Marjan Minnesma—The Netherlands: “In a groundbreaking victory, Marjan Minnesma leveraged public input and a unique legal strategy to secure a successful ruling against the Dutch government, requiring it to enact specific preventive measures against climate change. In December 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the government had a legal obligation to protect its citizens from climate change and ordered it, by the end of 2020, to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels. The Netherlands’ Supreme Court decision marks the first time that citizens succeeded in holding their government accountable for its failure to protect them from climate change.” (Support/follow: Dutch Urgenda Foundation)
  • Niwat Roykaew—Thailand: “In February 2020, Niwat Roykaew and the Mekong community’s advocacy resulted in the termination of the China-led Upper Mekong River rapids blasting project, which would have destroyed 248 miles of the Mekong to deepen navigation channels for Chinese cargo ships traveling downstream. Flowing 3,000 miles from the mountains of Tibet before draining to the South China Sea, the biodiversity-rich Mekong River’s fisheries, tributaries, wetlands, and floodplains are a vital lifeline for more than 65 million people. This is the first time the Thai government has canceled a transboundary project because of the environmental destruction it would cause.” (Support/follow: Mekong School)
  • Julien Vincent—Australia: “Julien Vincent led a successful grassroots campaign to defund coal in Australia, a major coal exporter, culminating in commitments from the nation’s four largest banks to end funding for coal projects by 2030. Because of Julien’s activism, Australia’s major insurance companies have also agreed to cease underwriting new coal projects. His organizing has produced a challenging financial landscape for the Australian coal industry, a significant step toward reducing fossil fuels that hasten climate change.” (Support/follow: Market Forces)

Click on each recipient’s name to read a longer profile—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements, and to find links to their social media pages.

Here’s the video about Nalleli Cobo:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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May 25, 2022
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Ever-worsening climate change (which is causing more extreme and prolonged heat, droughts, and thus vast areas of extremely dry vegetation: e.g., trees, shrubs, and grass) is adversely affecting the world’s fire ecology. There have been increasingly widespread fires in most western (and many southern) states in the U.S.  and across almost every region of the world, including the Arctic (e.g., Siberia and Alaska), Canada, Australia, the Amazon/Brazil (where fires are often intentionally started to illegally clear rainforest land for cattle grazing), and in Africa and Europe. Wildfires have always happened to some degree, but the size and intensity, the times of year, and the locations of many of today’s wildfires are unprecedented. Nations, states, municipalities, communities, policymakers, neighborhood groups, builders and designers, land owners, building owners and home owners, and individuals all have a part to play in helping reduce wildfire risks, preventing wildfires from spreading into built environments, and creating more fire-adapted and resilient communities and structures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a resident of the western United States, I have been negatively affected by the worsening wildfires (more frequent and much bigger, hotter fires) and the ever-longer fire seasons that we’ve been experiencing these past 5+ years. The regular and explosive fires that can now happen almost any month of the year, mass evacuations, red flag warnings, hazardous and acrid-smelling smoke in the air (tiny particulates that get deep into your lungs and can make it feel like you’re sucking on a filthy truck exhaust pipe any time you’re outside) sometimes lingering for weeks at a time, apocalyptic burnt-orange/brown skies that block out the sun, sooty ash (including tiny pieces of people’s books/homes/lives) covering every outdoor surface (requiring the use of windshield wipers to clear car windshields), extended power outages, and major disruptions to work and life in general have taken a toll on millions of us. And many of us know people who have lost their homes and their sense of security—and who became climate refugees, facing displacement and years of insurance headaches and PTSD and nightmares—because of these fires. I have some good friends who went through this trauma in 2017; they had to flee a giant wildfire at night and barely got out alive. I helped sift through the rubble and toxic ashes of their destroyed home and work studio; it looked like a large bomb had been dropped on their property, which had formerly been an oak woodland paradise and a sort of refuge. That was an intense and emotionally jarring experience, and it left a mark on me. Last year, after many years of living in a beautiful and beloved but increasingly fiery region (with dwindling water resources), my husband and I moved to a wetter, more affordable area that has less fire risk (less risk for now, though I know conditions will continue to change and no place is safe from climate-related calamities).

When doing this research on wildfire risk reduction resources, I was heartened to discover that there are many experts (e.g., fire ecologists, pyrogeographers, and all types of fire science aficionados and fire safety officials) doing good work, and some smart and positive efforts are underway to lessen the wildfire risks going forward. For example, there is a growing understanding among land managers, fire agencies, policymakers, and state and county staff of the need for some prescribed fires (AKA controlled/managed burns or “good fire”): a once-traditional, indigenous practice to reduce dry and dead vegetation (fuels) and to safely mimic and manage what would occur naturally if most wildfires hadn’t been suppressed over the last century. I’ve been glad to observe that, in some areas at least, prescribed fires have been happening more frequently, despite the permitting hurdles. I’ve also read about prescribed burns (as well as greenbelt buffers) that did, in fact, help protect some neighborhoods from recent fires.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the increasing number of catastrophic wildfires fueled by dangerous climate conditions. But we are not helpless. There are numerous actions we can take as a society, as communities, and as individuals/households to prevent or minimize further destruction.

Community-scale wildfire mitigation efforts include policies and practices regarding: state, regional, local, and neighborhood-level land use/management (of public and privately owned lands), e.g., forest management, prescribed fires/controlled burns, greenbelt buffers / Urban Growth Boundaries (for the wildland-urban interface), zoning that restricts building (or re-building) in fire-prone (or flood-prone or other disaster-prone) areas, and the development of fire-resilient infrastructure.

Property/Building-scale policies and practices (for land owners, building/home owners, and residents) focus on sites and structures: e.g., defensible space around residential and commercial structures, landscaping / vegetation management; home/building hardening and protection (design, building, remodeling, retrofitting); and Indoor Air Quality / air ventilation and filtering, for smoke protection and remediation.

The following websites and organizations can help you identify and implement a number of concrete actions that could protect your community or your own family and residence from wildfires:

I. General / Community-Scale Resources

Click here to see brief descriptions of these resources, or to see some more California-specific resources (in an annotated listing I developed for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire Chapter last year).

Also visit our Wildfire and Fire Ecology list on Twitter, which includes many of the above resources and others.

Articles:


 

 

 

 

II. Property & Building-Scale (Site & Structures) Resources

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Click here to see brief descriptions of these resources, or to see some more California-specific resources (in an annotated listing I developed for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire Chapter last year). Also visit our Wildfire and Fire Ecology list on Twitter, which includes many of the above resources and others.

Doing everything we can to prevent or manage the spread of wildfires and to protect people, animals, and structures from wildfires and from wildfire smoke pollution (for the long term) also requires that we do everything we can NOW to help mitigate and slow climate change, as our fast-changing climate is the primary driver (the accelerant) of these increasingly catastrophic wildfires. See the links below for some other relevant recommendations.

Related posts:

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April 27, 2022
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The past 5+ years, it’s felt like new, large-scale crises emerge almost every day. It’s hard to focus on or prioritize any one issue, as so many issues are of dire importance.

I wish we could live in a world without any traumatic crises or catastrophes. But given that that isn’t a realistic option: I wish we could focus almost all of our attention and efforts on climate action and environmental protection right now, since climate breakdown (and biodiversity loss) is an urgent and worsening crisis (with new climate-related disasters occurring around the world every week) and it requires a bold and immediate response. But this crisis keeps getting overshadowed and crowded out by other real crises and existential threats: from the ongoing and ever-morphing COVID-19 pandemic, to war and violence—and all of its attendant issues, including senseless death, destruction, brutality, trauma, and suffering; war crimes, humanitarian crises, mass migration of refugees, nuclear security/safety risks (from threats of nuclear strikes to potentially catastrophic damage to active and inactive nuclear reactors/radioactive waste), environmental contamination (crimes against humanity and nature) and animal suffering, oil and gas supply/dependence, food supply risks, and the resulting economic effects—to the ongoing struggle between democracy/human rights vs. authoritarianism, extremism, and political violence (abroad and at home), to increasing attacks on women’s rights, civil rights, and voting rights in the United States. And this, of course, is only a partial list of significant current issues, the vast majority of which are human-caused.

None of us gets to choose which era we’re born into or what types of historical events and cataclysms we have to live through. But we should all try to rise to the moment we’re in and push for shifts in a more positive direction.

We all have so many personal responsibilities and daily struggles and stressors of our own that it can be very hard to take in what’s going on in other people’s lives and in other parts of the world. Many people turn away because they are already overwhelmed and are in survival mode, and simply can’t cope with or absorb any more sad or scary news or more problems that seem intractable; we all go through certain periods of our lives, or parts of our days, when our own problems (or our families’) are all (or more than) we can handle. Taking on the weight of the world can be crushing. Almost none of us are unscathed or truly OK these days, as most of us are facing numerous challenges at societal and individual levels. It’s important to “put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others with theirs” because you can’t help others unless you are alive, relatively sane and healthy, and able to function. But whenever we do have the capacity, we should strive to be compassionate, stay aware of what is going on outside of our immediate lives and circumstances, and try to make a difference whenever and wherever we can, however small our efforts may seem, on whatever specific issue(s) we feel we can make an impact on. Helping others (and humanity at large) also gives our own lives a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale

To get updates, information, and expert insights on some of the important issues of our time, you may want to visit (and follow) a couple of my curated lists of Twitter accounts. Note: I created a few of these lists recently, and I regularly add new accounts to each list:

And these are some of The Green Spotlight’s blog posts that are related to current issues:

Posts Related to Democracy and Social Change 

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions, Tips, and Resources

COVID Response and Relief

Tips for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response

Wildfire Prevention and Risk Reduction

Resilience: Disaster-Resistant and Adaptive Design and Planning

Animal Protection, Rescue, and Advocacy

Wisdom from Hope in the Dark

Great Quotations on Action, Activism, and Change

There are countless organizations doing important and noble work to address many of the issues mentioned above. It’s not easy for me to narrow down a list of only a few to highlight. But I will try. The following are just a few groups that address big, cross-cutting issues; I will be adding more to this list soon. Because so many of humanity’s issues and crises intersect and spring from the same or similar causes or contributors, it’s helpful to use systems thinking to see the big picture, connect the dots, and synthesize messages and actions; doing so can enable us to address multiple problems at once. (While the following are national and international organizations that have a broad scope, more local/regional, decentralized, grassroots groups and efforts are also extremely important and necessary, and big groups should partner up with small and local groups. There are just way too many grassroots groups in every area of the world to attempt to list them here.)

As for Russia’s war on Ukraine (and the many terrible consequences of it), here are a few things you can do to help or to show solidarity with Ukraine (as well as greater Europe, other countries facing conflicts, and our entire, interconnected world):

  1. Support Global Giving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, other humanitarian aid and disaster response groups, refugee assistance groups, the Clean Futures Fund, or other organizations in the region.
  2. Reduce your use of oil and gas, e.g. by flying less (or not at all), driving less, getting an electric or non-gas-guzzling car (or electric bicycle), supporting renewable energy (via your utility, city, and state), using solar power, switching from gas to electric furnaces and stoves, getting a heat pump, not heating or cooling your home as much, etc.
  3. Lobby/educate against the use (and development) of nuclear power and nuclear weapons, locally, nationally, and globally. Support: the immediate decommissioning of existing nuclear plants and neutralization of nuclear materials, no-first-use nuke policies, nuclear disarmament and arms reduction policies, uranium mining bans, etc.
  4. Reduce your consumption of wheat/grain-based products, and never waste food (Ukraine is an agricultural “bread basket” of the world, and its ability to grow grains and other foods will be severely impacted by the war, affecting the food supply and food prices everywhere ). If you have a little space and a little time, grow some food plants on your land/yard/windowsills—ideally enough that you can share some with others. Support local organic farmers and small farms, as well food banks/pantries and food security and hunger organizations, locally and globally.
  5. Support and amplify pro-democracy, anti-authoritarian groups and efforts, as well as pro-peace, anti-war groups and efforts.
  6. Plant some sunflowers this spring or summer.
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March 31, 2022
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While almost all of our posts can be used to inform or educate yourself or others, here are some of our posts that provide some direct resources for learning (for adults or children/youth). Many of the resources in these listings are also very entertaining:

Films and TV Programs

Books

TED Talks (videos)

Other Resources

What are some of your favorite, recommended educational resources on environmental topics? Let us know in the Comments.

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February 23, 2022
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Each day, we post one or two 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 also Share the page or some of its posts with some friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. 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.

We also have a Twitter page, and these topic-specific Twitter lists, which you can follow. Thanks for being a part of our online communities!

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January 27, 2022
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