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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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Climate change (AKA climate instability/breakdown) is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, “natural” disasters, and emergency events. Unfortunately, many disasters are made even worse by human land use and development practices. In the last few years, many disasters (especially hurricanes/typhoons, floods, wildfires, heat waves, and landslides) around the world have been catastrophic, causing unprecedented amounts of damage and numbers of deaths (and injuries and illness), and creating thousands of climate migrants and refugees. No region is immune to climate-related disruptions and disasters; while some places are at higher risk than others (and some places will even become uninhabitable), there’s no truly “safe” place to be. Beyond climate disasters, anyone can also experience manmade disasters (e.g., industrial accidents), storms, and power outages. The more prepared you and your neighbors are, the more resilient you and your family and community can be.

Here’s something that most of us should be doing right now (everyone really, but especially those of us who are in areas that are at risk of flooding, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and/or tsunamis, severe winter weather, or extended power outages): Assemble your emergency supplies, and make evacuation/safety plans (including meeting spots, out-of-area contacts, etc.). You should have emergency supply kits (AKA “go bags”/backpacks) stashed in your home (preferably near an outside door) or in a shed, garage, or another out-building, as well as in at least one of your family’s cars, and ideally also at your place of work. Businesses and schools should also have emergency supplies and evacuation plans in place.

There are many good emergency checklists out there (see www.Ready.gov and www.RedCross.org and the other resources that are listed at the end of this post). To get started, below is a basic list of some important things to grab (if you are able to) before exiting or evacuating your home/building in an emergency, followed by a list of some of the items to assemble now and keep in your emergency kits. Print out and start reviewing your checklists ASAP and keep a copy of them in a memorable place (e.g., in or next to your emergency kit/bag or on your refrigerator, and also keep a copy on your phone) so that you can easily refer to them in an emergency, when you may not be able to think very clearly. Start assembling your emergency kits even if you can’t pull everything together at once. Having something ready is better than nothing; you can keep adding to your kits over time.

 

GRAB BEFORE YOU GO checklist

The following are some things that probably can’t or won’t be saved in your emergency kits ahead of time, but that you should try to grab before leaving your house (or wherever you may be when an emergency strikes) if time allows:

  • Pets (and any other domesticated animals) — with their collars on (w/ ID tags or microchips that have current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number); plus leashes, carriers/crates, meds; water, food, bowls, towels; cat litter/box (if applicable)
  • Wallet and Keys; purse / bag (w/ checkbook)
  • Cell phone (and charger cord)
  • Eyeglasses
  • Important meds
  • Sturdy shoes; warm jacket
  • Laptop and charger  (and/or computer back-up drive)
  • Portable safe / small valuables [plus the safe’s key, if applicable]
  • Some photos / photo album(s)

+  Your emergency kits/bags  [see below]

 

Evacuation Tips:

  • If evacuating due to a coming wildfire or flood or hurricane/storm, leave early (ASAP) and try to take all or most of your vehicles with you (if roadways aren’t congested yet and you have enough time and drivers) to get them out of the danger zone, so they won’t get burned or flooded and destroyed.
  • If there’s a fire, hurricane, or tornado in the vicinity and/or you need to evacuate your home for any reason, turn off the gas line if you have time. After an earthquake, turn off the gas and water lines to your house until all aftershocks are over and the utility companies have been able to check the lines for breaks or leaks. Note: Keep the right-sized/adjustable wrench near-by the gas shut-off. Try it out before you need to use it.
  • Also see CalFire’s Pre-Evacuation Preparation Steps, as well as these additional wildfire evacuation tips.

During or immediately after an emergency event or on days with extreme high or low temperatures or power outages, check on your neighbors, family, and friends, especially those who are elderly, disabled, ill, homeless, or living alone, and those who have infants or special needs.

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EMERGENCY KIT / “GO BAG” checklist

(This is a partial list of items to be assembled in advance, before an emergency happens.)

It’s best to put your emergency supplies in backpacks or other durable, water-resistant, and easy-to-carry bags. You can purchase pre-assembled emergency supply kits/bags, but make sure to supplement those with other important items that haven’t been included:

  • Grab Before You Go list (see above), printed out as a quick reference
  • Contacts List (including emergency services numbers, doctors’ names/numbers, and your out-of-area contact, etc.: print this out ahead of time and save copies in key locations and online)
  • Important papers/documents (e.g., copies of IDs, birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, deeds, legal docs, Will, bank and credit card account info., copies of prescriptions)
    [Tip: Take photos of your IDs, debit/credit cards, and other important documents and save those and key contacts on your phone and remotely in “the cloud” so you can retrieve them from your account even if you lose your phone or computer.  For more suggestions on protecting documents and valuables, see this AARP article.]
  • Cash (including some small bills); an extra credit card

[Tip: Consider getting a waterproof and fire-rated safe for your home, or rent a safe deposit box elsewhere, to hold some of your valuables, important papers, jewelry, heirlooms, extra cash, and some family photos, etc. If it’s the type of house safe that’s bolted down, you may have to leave it behind in an emergency but you may be able to recover its contents later. If it’s portable (i.e., light enough to carry and not bolted down), you may be able to take it with you during an emergency/evacuation, but that type is more susceptible to being stolen (if your home is burglarized). If the safe has a key, be sure to keep a key in your emergency kit or on your keychain or somewhere you’re likely to find it in an emergency. If it has a combination lock, make sure you can remember the combination or write it down somewhere secure.]

  • WATER; and water purifier bottle(s) or tablets
  • Toilet paper
  • Spare meds (including prescription meds)
  • First Aid Kit  (you can buy one off-the-shelf or make your own)

  • Pet/animal kit (if applicable)
    [extra collars and leashes, meds; carriers/crates; water, food, bowls, towels; extra cat litter and portable litter box; spare ID tag with current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number; if microchipped, make sure contact info is current in database]
  • Special items for any infants, elderly, or disabled members of the household (e.g., baby food, formula/bottle, diapers, wipes, critical meds, assistive devices, etc.)

AND:

Food / snacks  (non-perishable) [check expiration dates and refresh items every year]
Toothbrush & toothpaste (and other essential toiletries)
Spare/old set of eyeglasses
Spare set of clothes (esp. underwear, socks) and shoes
Hats, scarves, gloves
Flashlights; lantern; headlamp; candles
Lighter / matches
Soap and detergent
Bags (garbage/grocery, etc.)
Towels; rags, paper towels
Small radio
Batteries
Back-up/storage/solar charger
Work gloves
Utensils; can opener; camp kitchenware set
Tools: Wrench and pliers, knife, multi-function tool, etc.
Blanket / thermal emergency blankets
Tent, sleeping bags / camping supplies (grill or camp stove?)
Duct tape
N95-rated smoke/dust masks;  safety goggles
Fire extinguisher  [Also, watch an online tutorial on how to use one, or ask your fire dep’t.]
Whistle
Tarp(s)
Bucket
Gas can
Flares
Reflective vest or other visibility gear
Safety helmet
Hydrogen peroxide (for disinfection)
Propane canister
Crowbar
Solar-powered or hand-cranked gadgets (radio, flashlight, charger)
[And ideally, a solar generator, or a solar PV system with battery storage]

Also, make sure you have hoses, buckets, a shovel, and at least one fire extinguisher on your property, for putting out spot fires. And make sure all of your smoke detectors are working and have new batteries in them.  (Earthquakes, downed power lines, fireplaces, oven/stove use, batteries, and various other things can cause fires in or around your house, so these tips apply even if you are not in wildfire country.)

 

Note: I’ll be creating PDF versions of the above checklists, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back soon for the PDFs. I will also periodically add to and make improvements to this post and these lists.

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For additional and more comprehensive information, checklists, and other tips on emergency preparedness and disaster response/relief, please go to:

Ready.gov

Red Cross: How to Prepare for Emergencies

Also download the Red Cross’ various mobile apps to your phone (for Emergency, Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane, Tornado, First Aid, Pet First Aid, etc.), and follow your region’s Red Cross branch on social media.

Nixle local alerts (by text/phone)

To sign up for Nixle alerts, text your zip code to 888777.

Also check with your County or City (e.g., emergency management office) and your local electric/gas utility to see if they have local emergency alert/notification systems that you can sign up for. And consider signing up on NextDoor.com to receive neighborhood/community notices (including public safety notifications from your local Sheriff’s department).

Resilient Design strategies

ASPCA Disaster Preparedness information re. pets/animals

HALTER Project (Horse, Livestock, and other animal emergency response & prep.)

Ready for Wildfire
Fire Safe Council
Fire Adapted Communities Network

CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams)

Team Rubicon

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) disaster response teams

Other disaster response training programs (a listing)

FEMA  (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Unfortunately, FEMA is becoming less and less reliable as a source of assistance, due to underfunding and a considerable increase in catastrophic disasters. It is important for towns and states to form their own emergency/disaster response initiatives, so that communities can be more prepared and self-reliant, both during the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the longer-term recovery. If your town or county doesn’t already have an emergency preparedness and/or disaster response team or group, consider organizing one for people and/or for animals, or join one of the disaster response groups listed above. (Here’s a good website that was created by one small town’s emergency response team.) Or you can get involved by: setting up or attending a local CERT training, becoming a Red Cross volunteer, becoming a Search & Rescue volunteer for your county/region, getting certified in CPR and First Aid, or training to become a volunteer firefighter (which is especially helpful if you live in a rural area).

 

Related posts:

Later this year, I hope to publish a post on Sustainable Emergency Shelters (e.g., temporary or permanent dwelling/housing units that can be built quickly and efficiently for refugees, homeless people, and people who have lost their homes in disasters).  For the time being, we have a post on Modular, Prefab, and Compact Options for Green Homes and Structures, which may provide some helpful links for people who are looking to rebuild a home or create a temporary dwelling while they make rebuilding or relocation plans.

I’ll also be creating PDF versions of the checklists in this post, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back soon for the PDFs.

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January 22, 2019
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To make your gifts more meaningful, mindful, beneficial, and green (and avoid contributing to: mindless material consumption, exploitative corporations & sweatshops, excessive resource use, and waste), consider opting for the following types of gifts. (You could also let family members know that you prefer to receive these types of gifts if they are struggling to figure out what to get for you.)

  1. Charitable donations to non-profits, on the recipients’ behalf
  2. Experiences (e.g., events, concerts, shows, activities, memberships, parks pass, dining out)
  3. Time, assistance, services (e.g., meals, child care, rides to appointments, housecleaning, etc.)
  4. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown goods (e.g., foods, art, crafts, knitted items)
  5. Trees planted in someone’s honor or in someone’s memory (via One Tree Planted, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, etc.)
  6. Locally-made goods
  7. Goods bought from local, small, independent businesses
  8. Fair-trade goods (or else “Made in the USA” goods)
  9. Goods from socially and environmentally responsible companies (e.g. B Corporations, benefit corporations, 1% for the Planet businesses)
  10. Organic, recycled, natural, non-toxic and/or energy-saving or water-saving goods
  11. Books (ideally from small/independent bookstores) or music
  12. Subscriptions to online media (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  13. Eminently useful items (e.g., foods, emergency kits/supplies, socks, organic seeds, solar generators, money) or things you know the recipient wants and needs
  14. Durable items (not cheaply made or disposable)
  15. Re-gifted or lightly used items; family heirlooms; or antique/vintage goods
  16. Socially responsible investments (e.g., fossil-fuel-free stocks, green bonds, etc.)

Also avoid buying or using wasteful, disposable packaging or wrapping items. I often put gifts in gift bags, which can be readily re-used, or I just put a nice ribbon around some gifts (and use no wrapping). If getting gift cards, try to select electronic e-cards or paper cards rather than single-use plastic cards.

As for product gifts, a few of my favorite product companies include: Patagonia, Real Goods, Coyuchi, Earthkind, Bees Wrap, Indigenous (clothing), REI, and Lifekind(Wherever you get gifts from, please try to avoid making purchases from Amazon and Walmart.)

Lastly, if you’re planning to get a Christmas tree for the holidays, consider some alternatives to the usual chopped-down tree, such as buying or renting a living (potted and replantable) tree (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing outside in your yard. Or get creative and make a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones. Regardless of what you choose to do for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group, or plant a tree.

Useful online resources:

 

Relevant posts from the past, for additional suggestions:

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November 21, 2018
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Before the next election, you may be looking for ways to step up to help make sure that more people will vote, are able to vote, and know their voting rights and their local voting rules, and to try to ensure that everyone’s votes will be properly counted.

If you haven’t already signed up with a group or a campaign to help Get Out the Vote (GOTV) or to help with election protection efforts (e.g., serving as a poll worker or poll monitor or hotline volunteer), below are links that will make it easy for you to get plugged in. Pick one (or two) groups or activities and sign up as soon as possible so that you can get whatever training and materials you need. And if you’re willing to go to a swing state or swing district near you, get on board right away so you have enough time to make your plans. You don’t have to be an extrovert; there are all sorts of GOTV activities to choose from.

Further down this post, we’ve also listed where you can go to find voting guides or other information about who and what will be on your ballot, so that you can do your research and be as well-informed as possible about what you’ll be voting on before you go vote.

 

Poll workers

Become a poll worker in your city or county (WorkElections.com)

Also see this compendium of state-by-state requirements:
Be a Guardian of Democracy, Be a Poll Worker!

 

Poll monitors / watchers / observers

Common Cause: Volunteer to be an Election Protection poll monitor

Election Protection’s Protect the Vote: Volunteer, non-partisan poll monitors

Election Protection / We the Action: Field Program (for lawyers, paralegals, legal professionals, and law students)

Parties and campaigns also assign partisan poll monitors to the polls.

 

Hotline volunteers

Election Protection / We the Action: Call Center (for lawyers, paralegals, legal professionals, and law students)

 

Get Out the Vote (GOTV) groups

(reaching out to registered voters via texts, calls, door-to-door canvassing, postcards, or events, etc., to increase voter turn-out)

Note: Some states allow same-day voter registration on Election Day. As of 2018, they include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. (And North Dakota doesn’t require registration.) A few states (including CA and MT) also allow in-person, late registration in the days/weeks leading up to Election Day. Other states may be adding same-day/Election-Day voter registration soon. Contact your county’s elections office for details on voter registration deadlines and Early Voting options.

For a list of additional GOTV and voting advocacy groups (and more tips), see our earlier post.

 

Voting Guides, Voter Education: What and Who Is On Your Ballot?

These sites can help you learn about the candidates and the issues that you’ll be voting on:

To be really well informed, also be sure to read the information provided in your state’s and county’s official voting/ballot guides (they should be mailed to you, or be available on your state and county elections websites). I’d also recommend reading multiple editorials and endorsements from trusted newspapers in your state and from trusted organizations (e.g., your local Sierra Club chapter, your state’s League of Conservation Voters, your state’s or city’s League of Women Voters, NRDC Action Fund, Let America Vote, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, or VoteVets.org). Be wary of claims made in TV and radio ads and mailers. Many ads (though not all) are funded by special interests, rather than groups that represent the public interest (the common good). Also, mailers could fraudulently claim to be from your local party or other entity, or could contain other false information (about voting dates, poll locations or hours, your registration status, voter ID requirements, etc.). Beware, and do not allow yourself to be intimidated or suppressed from going to to vote. If in doubt about your local voting rules or poll location, check with your county’s elections board/office or your Secretary of State’s elections office.

 

Election Security and Voting Rights

At the very least: Make sure you bring the correct ID or proof of residency/address (if your state requires that; see VoteRiders or contact your state’s elections office to find out exactly what’s required). Vote early if your area offers Early Voting options (then you’ll have more time to help others get out to vote on Election Day). If you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic touchscreen voting machines, ask if you can use a hand-marked paper ballot instead. And you should make sure you get your ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified and you’ve verified with your county or state that your vote was counted.

If you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them immediately to the Election Protection hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) [or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA for Spanish); or text “Our Vote” to 97779. (Put those numbers in your phone now.) Also report problems to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; and if the problems are not resolved, you could also report them to your state’s party, the DNC, local campaign headquarters, and/or to local media or on social media.  If a poll worker tells you that your voter registration isn’t active or is incorrect in some way, please contact the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline before you accept a provisional ballot or before you give up and leave.

Some states that have done massive/overzealous “purges” of voters from their voting rolls in recent years (per the Brennan Center) and/or who have a recent history of using voter suppression tactics, include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. So these are states that need extra GOTV and election protection (e.g., poll watching, and well-informed poll workers) assistance and vigilance. [Note: Of those 18 states, the only ones that currently allow same-day/Election-Day registration are: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and Wisconsin. So if voters in those states have been wrongfully purged, they can re-register on Election Day and vote.]

Check out (and distribute) the tips sheet below for some additional recommendations, and you can find more information on election protection/security and voting rights here:

Tips (many not obvious) to Protect Your Voter Registration and Vote Against Hacking and Glitches,”  by Jenny Cohn, attorney and election integrity advocate

Also see our earlier post:
Voting and Election Tips and Resources, 2018

Please read and share/post this tips sheet. Thank you!!

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October 26, 2018
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Please check out some of the sites and organizations listed below. Follow, share, and support a few of them (and share this post with others). Check/verify your voter registration status before each election (and re-register if it needs to be corrected or updated), and encourage others to do so, too. And find a way to get involved (e.g., by registering new voters, volunteering for a campaign or a voting advocacy organization, or working at or monitoring the polls on election day; see the second half of the post, after the links listing, for more detailed suggestions). But even if you do nothing else, please VOTE. 

I’m not too proud to beg and plead. It’s not an overstatement to say that our future and the collective future of humanity, our democracy, and our planet will be substantially determined by the outcome of this mid-term election. (Far too few voters showed up to vote during the last mid-term election and the last presidential election, with some disastrous results.)

vote411%20election%20needs%20-_0Vote in your state’s primary, as well as in November’s General Election. There are always important state and local issues on every ballot. Voting in the primary is also a great opportunity to do a “dry run” before the General election in November. It will give you a chance to verify that you are still properly registered, figure out where your polling place is, and make sure you have the required ID (if any), etc.

Voting / Election Information
(check your current voter registration status, register or re-register to vote; get ballot/election information, ID requirements, poll location, etc.)

You can contact your County’s elections office or your State’s Secretary of State office re. your registration or for voting rules and requirements. Or see:

Fact-checking resources (for info. on candidates’ claims and statements):

Voting-Related Advocacy Groups

* The asterisked groups make endorsements of specific candidates.

Environmental:

General:

 

Consider volunteering for or donating to your favorite candidates (for state, local, or federal offices) or to some of the election/voting groups listed above, or to political/campaign groups* such as:

 

“Voting isn’t a valentine. It’s a chess move.” – Rebecca Solnit

[As I interpret this quote, it basically means that your vote should be strategic and rational. You don’t have to love or be thrilled about the preferred, viable candidate or think s/he’s perfect or will agree with you on every single thing; almost no person will. And even if you feel that you’re choosing the “lesser of two evils” in a given race, that is always the more responsible thing to do than to allow the worst of two evils to win… Better is good. Better is always better than worse.]

It’s important to recognize that voter suppression laws (including many restrictive ID laws and fewer voter protections, enabled by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act), voter intimidation efforts, voter roll purges in some states, voter database hacking (Russia is known to have “scanned” all states’ voter rolls in 2016, and database breaches were detected in many states!), and other such forces will continue to have a negative impact on our elections, so we need to do everything possible to counteract and outweigh all of these attempts to curtail people’s right to vote.  I feel an extra responsibility to vote, since so many people who should be able to vote will not be able to (some only because they’re seniors or students who haven’t been able to go get the required form of ID in time, or formerly incarcerated people who have done their time but are still disenfranchised).

 

Here are very specific ways you can help—10 steps you can take between now and election day—to try to ensure a high turnout and the best possible election outcomes:

1. Verify that you are still registered to vote (at your correct, current address): Go to 866OurVote.org or Vote411.org or RockTheVote.com and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office (or Secretary of State’s office) directly. Tens of thousands of voters may have been (wrongly) purged from the voter rolls in several states. (States that have done extremely aggressive purges include: Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, and New York.) Make sure you aren’t one of the voters whose name has been purged, ideally at least a month before you arrive at the polls on Election Day, before your state’s voter registration deadline has passed. Also send / post these links for your friends, and ask them to check and re-check their registration status before the election (especially if they didn’t vote in the last one). If you’ve moved since you last registered or you are not yet registered to vote, register or re-register right away, before your state’s deadline (only some states currently allow election-day registration or are instituting automatic voter registration).  You can pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or other government building) located in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com or 866OurVote.org, or better yet, go directly to your county’s elections office to register in person.

The upcoming general election is on Tuesday, November 6 (2018).  If there’s any chance that you won’t be able to get to your polling place before it closes on election day, fill out the absentee/mail-in ballot request form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. When you receive your ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required.

2. Sign up to help with voter registration drives, if the voter registration deadline hasn’t already passed in your state (see the link above or look it up at your Secretary of State elections website), or help with a campaign’s Get Out the Vote efforts. You can help register voters or GOTV through your local Democratic Party office and local candidates’ offices, among other groups (see the links listing above). If you’re able to go to a “battleground” county or state near yours, that’s great. NextGen Rising has a great web tool that makes it easy to text progressive millennials. Also, encourage students and young voters that you know (who will be 18+ by election day) to register to vote and to show up to vote. (Assist them in filling out their registration form completely; send them links to voting/ballot information, and make sure they see the state and county voting guides that explain what’s on their ballot.)

You can also help people figure out how to get the ID that they (might) need in order to vote in your state (see item #9 below), or drive them to the DMV to apply for their ID. In addition, though it may be too late at this point (to qualify for this election), encourage and help anyone you know who has been wanting/trying to become a citizen to complete the naturalization process; you could even offer to help contribute to their steep citizenship exam fee.

3. Sign up to be a poll worker at a polling place, through your County’s elections office (find information at WorkElections.com), or volunteer as an election observer or poll watcher/monitor, through groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, your local or state Democratic Party, or various civil rights groups. Here is a helpful summary of what you need to do to be a poll worker or a poll watcher in each state. Alternatively, you could volunteer to help staff the Election Protection hotline to answer voting-related questions and to record and respond to reports of voting problems. (Lawyers and law students are especially wanted, but anyone can help.)

4. Find out whether your state and county’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable (i.e., have a paper trail that can be audited for accountability); most state and counties do use auditable systems with a paper trial, but some still don’t. For example, Georgia’s touchscreen voting systems do not currently employ best practices. Go to VerifiedVoting.org, which works for election integrity/preparedness, to learn more. While voter fraud (e.g., voter impersonation) is extremely rare and is not easy to get away with (so it not a cause for real concern), incidents of vote hacking (and voter registration hacking) could potentially occur in some states, counties, or precincts. See this detailed list of Tips to Protect Your Vote and Voter Registration from Glitches and Hacking. Also see the tips sheet at the bottom of this post for a partial list, which can be easily printed for or distributed to others.

Contact your Secretary of State’s office and your County’s elections office to request that they take all precautions to prevent ballot hacking and tampering, and to provide secure and verifiable voting systems with an auditable paper trail.  Specifically, if you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic voting machines, ask if you can use a paper ballot instead. And every voter should make sure they get their ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified and they’ve verified their vote was counted.

5. Research all of the issues, propositions, and national, state, and local candidates that will be on your ballot, so that you are as informed as possible. Don’t base your decisions on campaigns’ (often deceptive) TV and radio ads or the (often special-interest-funded) propaganda flyers you receive in the mail. Read the information that’s provided in your state and county’s official voter guides (which you should receive in the mail), as well as newspaper editorials and articles written by trustworthy, non-dogmatic analysts or journalists, and information provided by trusted organizations such as your state’s League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, etc. Given the prevalence of lying and mis-information (especially online and on social media), it’s important to check the veracity of any wild claims or personal attacks/smears: search the fact-checks on Politifact, FactCheck.org, and Snopes. To get additional information on what is on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org, as well as Vote.org and VoteSmart.org. In California, Illinois, and New York, Voter’s Edge provides a helpful, non-partisan voting guide to help you make sense of what’s on your ballot.

Educate yourself as much as possible. But if you still do not really know about or understand what a particular ballot proposition is about when it comes time to vote, it’s best not to vote on that issue.

6. Donate to or volunteer for candidates and issue campaigns that you support, at local, state, and national levels, and/or to your local (county or state) Democratic Party, the DSCC, DCCC, DLCC, and Democratic Governors Association.  Also consider donating to or volunteering for an election integrity or voting-related group, such as Election Protection, ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn, 350Action, or others (see the links in the first half of this post).

7. Make your voting preferences known to your friends and family, via conversations or posts on social media, without resorting to inflammatory insults (no one will listen to you if you’re suggesting that they’re an idiot or worse). You probably have more influence than you think, especially among your peers and others who respect you. I know it takes some courage; when you stick your neck out on political matters, a few people might want to chop it off and might lash out in a rude or offensive manner. But if you set a civil and positive tone (and only post truthful, substantiated information) and mostly focus on reaching out to people who you know personally, you’ll get fewer reactionary or vitriolic responses. Avoid telling people who they “must” or “have to” vote for (no one likes to be be told what to do). Simply state what you will do and why, and why you think it’s important. Post links to helpful and trustworthy election information, such as links for finding polling location, hours, etc. (e.g., 866OurVote.org, or your Secretary of State or County elections website).  Consider sharing this blog post (and our other election posts) with your friends. And on or before voting day, remind your friends to vote

8. Volunteer to drive people to the polls (including seniors, young people, and others who might n0t have cars), through direct offers or via your local Democratic Party, local campaign offices, or other groups.

9. Make sure you know what the current ID requirements are for voting in your state, and bring the necessary identification document(s) with you. Many states have instituted more restrictive (discriminatory) ID requirements since the last election or since 2010: including AK, AL, AZ, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, OH, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WV. Go to 866OurVote.org or VoteRiders.org, call 866-OUR-VOTE, or contact your State or County’s elections offices to find out about your state’s current voter ID requirements. SpreadTheVote.org can help people get the ID they need; let others know, if they might not have a current photo ID.

 

10. And of course, on Election Day (or ideally on an Early Voting day, if those are available where you are, or by mail-in ballot): PLEASE VOTE. Also remind your friends to vote, and bring at least one friend or family member with you.

electionprotectIf you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them to the Election Protection hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA) and to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; you could also report the problems to the DNC, your state’s party, campaign headquarters, and/or to local media.  If a poll worker tells you that your voter registration isn’t active or is incorrect in some way, please contact the 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) hotline before you give up and leave. Some states are wrongly purging some voters from the voter rolls, or your registration could have been hacked. (Notify Verified Voting if you have reason to believe your registration was hacked/altered.)

Also, make sure you get and keep your ballot receipt, and keep it for at least a couple weeks after the election, until the election is settled and certified. Once all ballots have been counted, you should be able to confirm that your ballot was counted, by calling your County elections office or, in some places, you can check this online.

Again, if you’ve opted to get a mail-in/absentee ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out very carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required. Keep your ballot receipt.

 

Vote not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, vulnerable populations, humanity, other species, and the environment, atmosphere, and climate that we all share and depend on for life. Vote as if everyone’s future depends on it; it does.

 

Related posts:

 

 

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June 29, 2018
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photo by Erica Gies

photo by Erica Gies

Trees are life enablers and life protectors. They are air cleaners and oxygen makers, making it possible for us to breathe (i.e., live). They mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide; one tree can sequester up to 50 pounds of CO2 per year, and an acre of forest can absorb twice the CO2 produced by the average car’s annual mileage. Trees also filter some pollutants out of the water and soil, and they can prevent soil erosion and control flooding by absorbing stormwater and buffering storm surges. They provide habitat to many species. They provide shade (natural cooling, which reduces energy use for AC cooling). Some trees provide food (fruit and nuts) for us to eat. Being near trees boosts our mental health and clarity. Their presence increases property values for homes and neighborhoods, and they contribute much-needed beauty to our world. So many benefits. Trees are life; trees enable life; trees save lives.

Despite all of the ways that trees contribute to (and are necessary for) our health and wellbeing, a recent study found that during the past 12,000 years of human civilization, humans have wiped out almost half of the trees on earth. Around 15 billion trees are cut down each year (to make wood products, pulp, and paper; to clear land for development, as well as cattle grazing, palm oil plantations, other agricultural uses; and to use as a heating fuel). (Click here for other Forest Facts.) We are destroying our own life support system. We are also losing millions of trees to drought and disease in some areas, and also to the growing number of severe storms (wind/ice) and wildfires, which are worsened by climate change and simultaneously contributing to climate change through additional carbon emissions, in a vicious cycle (AKA a feedback loop).23208221_10155936458843007_9218184974786625536_n

We need to prevent deforestation, and also to reforest and regreen our world. We can start with our own yards, gardens, fields, open spaces, or towns. Plant a tree, or two or three! Try to select trees that are native or climate-adapted to your region; fast-growing and fire-resistant trees are great, too (yes, there are trees that are less flammable and even fire-resistant, such as redwoods). You can also choose fruit or nut trees, flowering trees, and other trees that help feed pollinators.

You can also have a tree (or multiple trees in a forest) planted in someone’s name (e.g., “adopt” or “sponsor” a tree in their honor) as a gift for any occasion—through groups like One Tree Planted, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, Arbor Day Foundation, Trees for a Change, etc.

[NOTE: If you celebrate Christmas and you traditionally mark the occasion with a cut-down (i.e., killed) xmas tree, how about starting a new tradition: you could buy or rent a living (potted and replantable) tree instead (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing in your yard. Or get creative and make a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones. Don’t you? Regardless of what you choose to do (or not do) for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group (or plant a tree or three in the spring or fall). You will find a partial list of tree-related organizations below.]

imagesfscOne good way to reduce extreme deforestation (the clear-cutting of forests) is to look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and paper products (and/or 100% recycled paper products), as well as Rainforest Alliance-certified products (see logos to the right)—and of course reduce, reuse, and recycle all forest/paper products. Also avoid packaged foods and other products that contain palm oil, whenever possible, as palm oil plantations are responsible for much of the deforestation in the world, particularly in Indonesia (where orangutans’ habitat is being decimated).

Earlier this year, 1.5 million volunteers planted a record 66 million trees in 12 hours in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Reforestation “flash mobs” have been conducted in other areas, as well. Costa Rica has served as a model of strong reforestation efforts in recent years. In some parts of the world, groups are starting to use drones to plant seeds or saplings, to reforest areas much more quickly and efficiently than can be done by hand (there have been articles on this in Fast Company and Wired magazine, among other publications). Note: Climate- and site-appropriate (native or adapted) trees should be selected when planting trees, and multiple species should be planted for biodiversity, to recreate natural forests as much as we can (monoculture/monocrop tree plantations are not the answer). Also, forests should not be planted over native, wild grasslands, which also sequester carbon.

There are many anti-deforestation efforts as well as local tree-planting and global reforestation organizations around the world, including:

Also check out these online tools:

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December 6, 2017
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Regardless of what any polls might say, please don’t get complacent and assume this election will turn out the way you want or expect. (See: the Brexit vote.) Progressives can’t count on any state being a “safe state” where one can abstain from voting or can risk opting for a third-party vote that could end up helping the worst candidate get extra electoral votes and actually tip the outcome of the election, as it did in 2000 (when Nader votes that could have gone to Gore helped prevent Gore from winning Florida, New Hampshire, and almost Oregon, and Bush ended up winning the election by a very small margin). (The folly of voting for third-party candidates who can’t win in U.S. elections is a touchy subject that really deserves its own post, and I might write one later.) The survival of our very democracy—what remains of it—is at stake. I hope most people will remember and learn from history, rather than be doomed to repeat it.

statueoflibertyIn this election, many more states could serve as “swing” states than ever before, for a variety of reasons. This is not a normal election. It’s important to recognize that new voter suppression laws (including many restrictive ID laws and fewer voter protections, enabled by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act after the last election), voter intimidation efforts, voter database purges in some states, voter database hacking (database breaches were detected this year in Arizona and Illinois, and were attempted in at least 20 states), and other such forces are sure to have a very negative impact on this year’s elections, so we need to do everything possible to counteract all of these attempts to curtail people’s right to vote.  I feel an extra responsibility to vote, since so many people who should be able to vote will not be able to (some only because they’re seniors or students who haven’t been able to get the “correct” form of ID in time).

Here are very specific ways you can help—10 steps you can take right now, leading up to, and/or on election day—to try to ensure a high turnout and the best possible (i.e., least egregious) election outcomes:

1. Verify that you are still registered to vote (at your correct, current address): Go to 866OurVote.org or CanIVote.org and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office. Thousands of voters may have been (wrongly) purged from the voter rolls in several states. Make sure you aren’t one of them, well before you arrive at the polls on Election Day. Also send / post these links for your friends, and ask them to check and re-check their registration status before the election.  If you’ve moved since you last registered or you are not yet registered to vote, register or re-register right away, if you still can (many states’ deadlines have already passed in October).  You can pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or other government building) located in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com or 866OurVote.org, or better yet, go directly to your county’s election office to register.

The upcoming election is on Tuesday, November 8.  If there’s any chance that you won’t be able to get to your polling place before it closes on election day, fill out the absentee/mail-in ballot request form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. When you receive your ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required.

2. Sign up to help with voter registration drives, if the voter registration deadline hasn’t already passed in your state (check your Secretary of State’s website, or 866OURVOTE.org for the deadline), or help with a campaign’s Get Out the Vote efforts. You can help register voters or GOTV through your local Democratic Party office, among other groups. If you’re able to go to a “battleground” county or state, that’s great. NextGen Climate has a great web tool that makes it easy to text climate-voter millennials in swing states. Also, encourage students and young voters that you know (18+) to register to vote and to show up to vote. (Assist them in filling out their registration form completely, if they need help, and show them the state and county voting guides that explain what’s on their ballot.)

You can also help people figure out how to get the ID that they (might) need in order to vote in your state (see item #9 below), or drive them to the DMV to apply for their ID. In addition, though it is probably too late at this point (to qualify for this election), encourage and help anyone you know who has been wanting/trying to become a citizen to complete the naturalization process; you could even offer to help contribute to the steep citizenship exam fee.

3. Sign up to be an election worker at a polling place, through your County’s elections office or Secretary of State’s office, or volunteer as an official election observer or monitor, through groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, your local or state Democratic Party, or various civil rights groups. Alternatively, you could volunteer to help staff the Election Protection hotline to answer voting-related questions and to record and respond to reports of voting problems. (Lawyers and law students are especially wanted, but anyone can help.)

4. Find out whether your state and county’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable (i.e., have a paper trail that can be audited for accountability); most state and counties do use auditable systems with a paper trial, but some still don’t. For example, Georgia’s touchscreen voting systems do not currently employ best practices. Go to VerifiedVoting.org, which works for election integrity/preparedness, to learn more. While voter fraud (e.g., voter impersonation) is extremely rare and is not easy to get away with (so it not a cause for real concern), incidents of vote hacking (and voter registration hacking) could potentially occur in some states, counties, or precincts.

Contact your Secretary of State’s office and your County’s elections office to request that they take all precautions to prevent ballot hacking and tampering, and to provide secure and verifiable voting systems with an auditable paper trail.  Specifically, if you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic voting machines, ask if you can use a paper ballot instead. And every voter should make sure they get their ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified.

5. Research all of the issues, propositions, and national, state, and local candidates that will be on your ballot, so that you are as informed as possible. Don’t base your decisions on campaigns’ (often deceptive) TV and radio ads or the (often corporate-funded) propaganda flyers you receive in the mail. Read the information that’s provided in your state and county’s official voter guides (which you should receive in the mail), as well as newspaper editorials and articles written by trustworthy, non-dogmatic analysts or journalists, and information provided by trusted organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, etc. Given the prevalence of lying and mis-information (especially online and on social media), it’s important to check the veracity of any wild claims or personal attacks/smears: search the fact-checks on Politifact, FactCheck.org, and Snopes. To get additional information on what is on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org.

In California, Illinois, and New York, Voter’s Edge provides a helpful, non-partisan voting guide to help you make sense of what’s on your ballot. In California, there is also the California Progressive Voter Guide, a chart that shows what a variety of organizations think about each Proposition on the ballot. Educate yourself as much as possible. But if you still do not really know about or fully understand what a particular ballot proposition is about when it comes time to vote, it’s best not to vote on that issue.

6. Donate to candidates and issue campaigns that you support, at local, state, and national levels, and/or to your local (county or state) Democratic Party, the DSCC, DCCC, and Democratic Governors Association.  Also consider donating to or volunteering for an election integrity or voting-related group, such as Election Protection, ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn, 350Action, or others (we provided an extensive list of organizations in one of our previous posts).

7. Make your voting preferences known to your good friends and family, via conversations or posts on social media, without resorting to inflammatory insults (no one will listen to you if you’re suggesting that they’re an idiot or worse). You probably have more influence than you think, especially among your peers and others who respect you. I know it takes some courage; when you stick your neck out on political matters, a few people might want to chop it off and might lash out in a rude or offensive manner. But if you set a civil and positive tone (and only post truthful, substantiated information) and mostly focus on reaching out to people who you know personally, you’ll get fewer reactionary or vitriolic responses. Avoid telling people who they “must” or “have to” vote for (no one likes to be be told what to do). Simply state what you will do and why, and why you think it’s important. Post links to helpful and trustworthy election information, such as links for finding polling location, hours, etc. (e.g., 866OurVote.org, or your Secretary of State or County elections site).  Consider sharing this blog post (and our other election posts) with your friends. And on or before voting day, remind your friends to vote.

8. Volunteer to drive people to the polls, through direct offers or via your local Democratic Party.

9. Make sure you know what the current ID requirements are for voting in your state, and bring the necessary identification document(s) with you. Many states have instituted more restrictive (discriminatory) ID requirements since the last election or since 2010: including AL, AZ, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MS, NC, NE, NH, OH, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WV. Go to 866OurVote.org, VoteRiders.org, or RockTheVote.com, call 866-OUR-VOTE, or contact your State or County’s elections offices to find out about your voter ID requirements.

 

10. And of course, on Election Day (or on an Early Voting day, if those are available where you are, or by mail-in ballot): PLEASE VOTE. Remind your friends to vote, and bring a friend with you.

If you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them to the Election Protection hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA) and to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; you could also report the problems to the DNC and to local media.

Also, make sure you get and keep your ballot receipt, and keep it for at least a couple weeks after the election, until the election is settled. Once all ballots have been counted, you should be able to confirm that your ballot was counted, by calling your County elections office or, in some places, you can check online.

Again, if you’ve opted to get a mail-in/absentee ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required. Keep your ballot receipt.

 

Vote not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, vulnerable populations, other species, and the environment, atmosphere, and climate that we all share and depend on for life. Vote as if everyone’s future depends on it; it does.

 

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October 24, 2016
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With the recent spread of the Zika virus and its link to microcephaly, proper mosquito control is something that people want and need to understand more than ever. The Aedes mosquito can carry Zika; this CDC map shows the areas that have reported active transmission of Zika so far. Some types of mosquitoes can also transmit malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other serious diseases in various regions of the world. (Other types of mosquitoes are also responsible for infecting dogs with heartworm.)

Climate change is almost certainly contributing to the increase in some tropical diseases such as Zika, due to higher temperatures and more precipitation in many areas, in the tropics and beyond.  [Source: The Guardian]

mosquitoUnfortunately, conventional tactics for killing mosquitoes are not always effective, and they tend to be toxic. Zika can harm the development of fetuses and can harm some adults; meanwhile, exposure to toxic insecticides can harm everyone (including fetuses). It doesn’t make sense for society to accept that we should have to suffer from the long-term effects of slow poisoning (e.g., chronic and fatal illnesses) from insecticides and pesticides when less-toxic, effective alternatives exist. We cannot just “fog” the world in a cloud of insecticides to try to avoid Zika. Furthermore, the use of insecticides often backfires and has unintended consequences, such as killing other insects and animals that eat mosquitoes.

header-logoHere are some key excerpts from a very helpful article from Beyond Pesticides, which references information from an article in The Guardian:

“Aerial and ground applications of pesticides have long been used for mosquito control, but many believe that these methods fail to sufficiently control mosquito populations, [and that they] promote resistance and kill other species that would have acted as a natural predator to mosquitoes.

Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist, in an interview with The Guardian said that while pesticides can reduce the population of flying adult mosquitoes that transmit the virus, they will fail to deal with the epidemic that threatens to become a global pandemic, and warns that spraying landscapes is extremely dangerous.  ‘It is a quick fix but you pay for it. You kill other species that would have predated on the mosquitoes. You also create a mosaic of sprayed and unsprayed low densities of chemicals that fosters the rapid evolution of resistance.’

Already there is emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes. Additionally it is impossible to fumigate every corner of habitat where mosquitoes might breed.

According to Dr. Martins, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

The efficacy of adulticidal pesticide applications (aerial or ground spraying) has been called into question over the years. Further, the drifting spray impacts other non-target organisms like pollinators, birds, fish and amphibians. Commonly used mosquito pesticides like permethrin, resmethrin, naled and malathion are all associated with some measure of human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

…Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt). Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

  • Clean-Up–Eliminate pooled or stagnant waters from debris, containers, drains, and anywhere that pools water. Watch out for [and fix] leaky faucets. Mosquitoes can breed in puddles the size of dimes, so keep a keen eye out for stagnant water!
  • Natural Predators– Use indigenous fish populations, like bluegills or minnows, to eat mosquito larvae in shallow waters and ornamental pools. Copepod crustaceans can also be used to eat mosquito larvae in ditches, pools and other areas of stagnant water. Don’t forget about bats either! One bat can consume 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and many bats are in trouble from a disease wiping out their population. Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house!
  • Behavior Modification–Wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, and use least-toxic mosquito repellent when outdoors. Try to avoid being outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Attentive Monitoring– Check sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae often.
  • Least-toxic Pesticide Options– Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), a biological larvicide (“mosquito dunk”) that prevents mosquitoes from developing into breeding, biting adults in standing waters that cannot be drained.
  • Take Action–Let your local council members, mayor, or state delegates know that safer, more sustainable options exist. [Click here and scroll to the bottom of the article to] download our sample letter to send to public health officials in your area.

Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.”

In addition to the behavior suggestions mentioned above, these are some other useful suggestions for keeping mosquitoes (and other bugs) away:

  • Make sure any windows that get opened have window screens, and repair/tape any tears in the screens.
  • Turn on a fan. Mosquitoes avoid strong wind.
  • Remove all standing and stagnant water from your yard. Don’t let excess water sit in plant pot dishes. Clear out debris from gutters. Remove water from birdbaths, any discarded tires, unused water troughs, etc. If you use rain barrels, make sure they have screens and that the screens are on tightly. If you have a compost pile, make sure it has drainage, is not soggy, is covered with a thick layer of leaves or grass clippings, and is not located right next to your living quarters. Running/moving water is generally OK, as mosquitoes larvae cannot grow there.
  • Cover up with loose, light-colored clothing. Wear shoes and socks instead of sandals. Change and wash your socks and clothing regularly, as mosquitoes are attracted to stinky feet and sweat.
  • Use mosquito netting over baby carriers, strollers, beds, etc.
  • Avoid drinking beer or eating/drinking dairy products when in a mosquito-prone environment. They seem to be attracted to beer and possibly also to lactic acid.
  • Methods and products that don’t work or don’t work well include: 1.) Ultrasonic devices. 2) Vitamin B patches. 2.) Repellent candles (e.g., citronella candles): They don’t work nearly as well as clothing or skin treatments, and 3) Bug zappers: They may actually attract more mosquitoes and other bugs to the area, and they can kill beneficial bugs.

Repellents

There’s no need to coat your skin or clothes with highly toxic chemicals to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Studies are finding that mosquito repellents that use oil of lemon-eucalyptus (with some PMD) are just about as effective as DEET, and they last longer. Picaridin (or icaridin, or KBR 3020) is a less-toxic synthetic repellent than DEET and it works almost as well. The EcoSmart organic insect repellent (which uses a variety of botanical ingredients) was also found to work well, but it needs to be reapplied frequently (every 2-3 hours).  [Sources: NPR and EWG]

Consumer Reports gave these three DEET-free repellents their top ratings: Sawyer—Fishermen’s Formula Picaridin;  Repel—Lemon Eucalyptus; and Natrapel 8-hour. [For more information on those three products, see this article.] A friend of mine, who runs a summer farm camp and has tried many repellents, swears by All Terrain’s Herbal Armor repellent (which is also DEET-free).

Avoid using permethrin-based repellents, even those used to treat clothing and not applied to skin. Also avoid products with more than 30% DEET. And don’t use “foggers.” Those are all very toxic. Also, don’t use any aerosol sprays (use lotions or pumps instead). Don’t use repellents on babies under 6 months, and don’t use lemon-eucaluptus/PMD on children under 3 years old.  [Source: EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika: Top Choices, and Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Bug Bites]

Other than lemon-eucalyptus oil, most botanical/plant-based repellents have not been found to be as effective as DEET or Picaridin-based repellents (especially for repelling the types of mosquitoes that can carry Zika). However, you could still experiment with rubbing a few of these bug-repelling plants on your skin or clothes (try a small area first, to make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction). Better yet, planting some of these herbs and plants in your yard could help reduce the mosquitoes (and also fleas and ticks) in the area around your house. (Always be sure to buy organic—or non-treated—plants or seeds, so that they don’t kill off pollinators and other beneficial bugs and creatures.)  Turning your yard into a thriving garden will also help create more much-needed habitat for beneficial bugs, birds, and other species that help keep the mosquito population under control.

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Bayberry (shrub)
  • Calendula
  • Catnip and catmint
  • Chives
  • Cloves
  • Feverfew
  • Garlic
  • Geranium (especially citronella geranium)
  • Hyssop
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon eucalyptus
  • Marigold
  • Mint, peppermint
  • Mugwort
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Southernwood
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Tansy
  • Thyme (especially lemon thyme)
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow

[Sources: Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016; and “Repel Mosquitos with These Plants,” by Julie Fryer, Mother Earth News]

 

A company is currently working on developing Kite Patch and Kite Shield, technologies intended to prevent mosquitoes from detecting the CO2 that we emit, to make us virtually invisible to mosquitoes. Time will tell whether these technologies are effective. If they are, they are likely to become quite popular.

 

Unfortunately, many women who know that they got Zika during their pregnancy, or who live in areas where there are many Zika-carrying moquitoes, also happen to live in countries where contraception is not readily available or affordable, and/or where abortion is illegal and therefore unsafe.  Many such women are contacting organizations like Women on Waves for help.

 

Resources and references:

EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika (including tip sheets that you can print out), from Environmental Working Group

How to Repel Mosquitoes Safely, Beyond Pesticides

Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases, Beyond Pesticides

With Zika Virus, Widespread Pesticide Spraying Not the Long-Term Solution, says Entomologist,” Beyond Pesticides

Zika Virus: Pesticides are not a long-term solution says leading entomologist,” The Guardian

What’s the Best Way to Keep Mosquitoes from Biting?,” NPR

Three top-rated insect repellents that don’t contain DEET,” TreeHugger.com

Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016

Repel Mosquitoes with These Plants,” Mother Earth News

Mosquito Deterrents: The Good, The Bad, and the Potentially Effective,” Smithsonian Magazine

 

Related post:

Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pets

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June 29, 2016
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“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”Anne Lappe

Here are a few ideas and suggestions for less materialistic, more beneficial and values-driven gift-giving—for the holidays or any other occasion:

  1. Think about some non-commercial or non-material things you would like, and think about or ask your family and friends what types of non-material things they would like. On sokind_logothe SoKind Registry, you and others can create your own wish lists, which can include anything (not just new stuff), such as experiences/activities (e.g., parks passes/memberships, event tickets), time/assistance or services, handmade/homemade or homegrown goods, donations to charities (see #2 below), etc.
  1. Donate to charitable organizations in honor of the people on your gift list. You could pick a cause that you know they support. Some of our previous posts list various environmentally and socially beneficial organizations, including: broad-based sustainability orgs, and other lesser-known environmental and non-environmental orgs.  And here are some other types of organizations you might consider: a refugee rescue organization (such as the IRC or UNHCR), wildlife conservation/protection group, animal shelter or animal rescue group, food bank, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, foster child or other children’s organization, Habitat for Humanity, seniors support organization, Meals on Wheels, a tree-planting organization, a local rural/volunteer fire department, or a public radio/TV station or investigative media outlet. You could also give the TisBest Charity Gift Card, which allows the recipient to spend the funds on a charity of their choice (among 300+ options).
  1. When buying products, buy from small, locally owned businesses, green businesses, and/or businesses that are certified B Corporations or benefit corporations. A few B Corps that sell consumer products include: Patagonia, The Honest Company, Indigenous Designs, W.S. Badger, Alter Eco, Atayne, Better World Books, Saul Good Gift Co., Seventh Generation, Method, and Ben and Jerry’s. (Whatever you do, please try to avoid shopping on Amazon or at Walmart!)
  1. 9780300206319Give the gift of information and inspiration: books! There are so many great books (and e-books) on sustainability topics. Go to your local independent bookstore (or if you don’t have one, you could shop online at Better World Books, Indiebound.org, Barnes & Noble, or Powells Books); be sure to avoid shopping for books on Amazon. Here are a few recently published books you could check out:

Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes, by Bernie Krause (who also recently wrote The Great Animal Orchestra)

The Heart of Sustainability: Restoring Ecological Balance from the Inside Out, by Andres Edwards

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert9780865717626_p0_v2_s192x300

Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis

The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience, by Toby Hemenway

You can find a wide selection of other books on green topics from Chelsea Green Publishing and New Society Publishers and Island Press, among other publishers.

 

Whatever you give as gifts, do your best to avoid buying cheaply-made, sweatshop-manufactured (labor-exploiting), toxic, disposable, or wasteful products and packaging. Instead, consider alternatives to buying new Things, and when you do buy products, look for Fair Trade or locally made, well-made and durable (or edible/consumable), efficient, non-toxic, and needed or at least useful goods made by ethical companies, using organic, recycled, or natural materials and minimal packaging, whenever possible.

To get off of mailing lists for unwanted catalogs and junk mail, check out CatalogChoice.

For some additional green-gift suggestions, see these posts:

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November 27, 2015
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