Monday, May 31, 2010

A Little Bit of Gloom Between Two Slices of Hope: Diet for a Hot Planet Author, Anna Lappe

Reading books about changing the world can be inspiring, but they can also be overwhelming and depressing.

Not Anna Lappé's books.

After reading each of her books: Hope's Edge (that she co-authored with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé), Grub (that she co-authored with Bryant Terry), and now her new book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, I've felt hopeful and energized.

I talked with Anna about her new book via Skype for the Big Vision Podcast earlier in the month. You can listen to our conversation on the player below, or on iTunes, as well as read an edited transcript of the interview.

Britt Bravo: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Anna. I really loved your book because I read a lot of "social-changey" type books, and I often feel really discouraged when I finish them, but I didn't when I read yours. I felt completely inspired and happy, and have been telling everybody about it.

Anna Lappé: Thank you so much. I certainly didn't want my book to add to the gloom and doom literature that makes us feel so demoralized. In fact, one of my closest friends read the book and had the same reaction that you had. She's taken to calling it a "gloom sandwich." You've got the gloom on the inside with two pieces of hope as the bread on either side.

She said, "Just as I was reading it, and just when I had come to the point where I started feeling, 'Oh my God, how are we ever going to make our way out of this?' You would douse me with another dose of hope."

That's what I love about all of your books. You create a great balance: keeping folks informed, and bringing up things that are important and provocative, but also keeping us hopeful, which is so important, because otherwise, how do you have any energy to make change?

Going along with the sandwich metaphor, I liked how you divided the book into the sections: Crisis, the Spin that's put on the crisis, Hope, and Action.
I'd love to talk about it in those sections.

We'll start with the gloomy part, with the crisis. Can you talk a little bit about what the crisis is, and what the connection is between today's food system and climate change?

I think that more and more of us are aware that the climate crisis is real. It's serious. It's probably the biggest crisis to afflict, certainly our species. We've come to a degree of understanding about the root causes of the crisis: man-made greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, among them being the greatest. Yet, I think we're still in the dark about a lot of the drivers behind these greenhouse gas emissions, and certainly, we're in the dark when it comes to food.

What I write about in the book is the role of the food sector, which includes farming, but also includes all the processing that goes into making our food, the chemicals that go into growing our chemically-raised crops, as well as the waste end of the food cycle (what happens to our food after we throw it away, and how that contributes to landfills and methane emissions from landfills). If you add up the whole food system, the whole food sector, what you find is that it contributes to one-third of all of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions. One-third. In fact, that percentage is greater than all of the emissions associated with the transport sector. We've heard a lot about the role of cars and planes. We've heard a lot about the transport sector. I think we've heard a lot less about food.

What I argue in the book is that it's time for us to have a broader conversation about the crisis, and to really bring in a more sophisticated understanding of all of the sectors that are contributing to climate change, so that we have our eyes on what we need to do to get ourselves out of the crisis.

Moving onto the spin idea, why don't more people know about this? Why are we focusing on cars, and why isn't a lot of press, or news about the food and climate change connection?

I think there are a lot of reasons. In the book, I pinpoint five of the main ones, but I think part of it is an understandable reason, I would argue, which is that we've really prioritized, in the public conversation, a focus on the most emitting industry. So, dirty coal fire power plants, the oil industry: the sectors that are really contributing the most carbon dioxide emissions. What I try to stress is that, as we know the crisis is so serious, we really have to address all of the factors contributing to it. When you start expanding beyond carbon dioxide, and start looking at some of the other key greenhouse gases, like methane and nitrous oxide, what you realize instantly is that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors of those greenhouse gases. Part of it, I think, is that we've been so focused on carbon dioxide -- we've been sort of carbon-centric -- and we haven't seen the large role of food and agriculture, but I think some of the other reasons are a bit more complex than that.

I think another key reason is that, frankly, up until recently, we haven't really had a robust public understanding that food is part of a system, and it's a polluting system. We go into our grocery store, and our curiosity about food stops maybe at the ingredients label, if we're lucky. It's only been recently that people have started asking the question, "What's the story of our food? Where did it come from? What were the processes involved with getting it to us?" When you start having that curiosity, and start asking those questions, what reveals itself are all these ways in which food is, and has become, this highly industrial process that involves a lot of fossil fuels and a lot of deforestation. Those are the key forces behind the climate change.

When I hear that, I think, "Wow! That's such a huge problem. How could you possibly solve that?" Which, luckily, brings us out of the gloom and into the hope section. You have some examples of climate-friendly farming practices. Can you talk a little bit about some examples, and anecdotes about what is working, and some possible solutions for this problem?

Here's the part where the gloom sandwich is surrounded by the hope slices of bread. What I talk about in the book is that, in turning our sights to food and climate, part of the reason why I'm so excited about engaging people in this conversation, is that the very solutions that are going to move us toward a food system that is more resilient to the climate crisis (a food system where farmers and farms are better able to withstand what we know is going to occur with greater climate change, which means more droughts, more floods, more extreme weather patterns, shifting weather patterns) is also the kind of farming that actually helps us combat climate change.

We need to move toward more bio-diverse farms. We need to move toward farms that are really building healthy soil, soil that can act more like a sponge, and hold onto water during the drought periods, or absorb water during floods. We know we need to move in that direction, and what you find is that those kinds of farms (bio-diverse, sustainable, organic farms) that build up healthy soil, and grow a real diversity of crops, are going to help us feed the planet in a climate unstable future.

By building healthy soil, what you're essentially doing, what it's synonymous with, is you're increasing the carbon content in the soil; increasing carbon-rich soils. As a result, we are finding that sustainable farms, organic farms, are actually helping to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in the soils. You may have heard about carbon sequestration; it's sometimes called "carbon sinks" that you often hear about in the form of forests. The reason why we have to really turn toward protecting the forests is because they provide that carbon sink, and that carbon sequestration. Well, soils can do that too.

On the inverse side, they can be part of contributing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if soils are deteriorated. What I talk about in the book is that turning our eye to sustainable food and farming is so hopeful because it means that we are turning our eye to a way of orienting ourselves toward food; which is going to help us feed ourselves in a climate unstable future and help us mitigate, or reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

That leads us into the Action section. Since so many people are not farmers, what can just everyday folks do to help?

Many of us, especially in this country, are not farmers. Although, I'd like to stress to people, especially readers in the United States, that nearly the majority of the world's people are still farmers; mainly small-scale farmers who, ironically, in many ways, are the most hungry people around the globe, and are the poorest.

So again, where the hope piece comes in for me is realizing that as we start having a more sophisticated conversation about the role of sustainable farming in helping us address, and mitigate the climate crisis, we start to realize that these small scale farmers, who are still on the land, who are trying to grow food for their families, that they can be engaged in a process that actually could help them become some of our planet's biggest climate heroes.

In other words, we can think about investing in agricultural development, agricultural knowledge, and agricultural education where we are working with community based groups in developing countries to help support those groups' teaching farmers how to adopt some of the most sophisticated organic methods, and agri-ecological methods.

One thing we can do -- again, I'm talking about what can happen, and should be happening, and is happening, in some ways, outside of our borders -- one thing we certainly can do, as Americans, is to support the kinds of policies that are about investing in that kind of agri-ecological farming knowledge and development.

The other thing that we can do is to remember that, even though most of us, as you said, aren't farmers, we are eaters. We are really -- as the Slow Food International founder likes to call it -- essentially co-producers. What he means by that, what Carlo Petrini means when he talks about eaters as co-producers, or consumers as co-producers, is that you and I, in our choices that we make about what food we support with our food dollars, what we support with our tax dollars, that we are essentially making production choices. We are co-producers, then, in the food system.

In other words, every time I buy organic food, I'm essentially putting money toward a kind of food system that is moving us away from an addiction to toxic pesticides, fossil fuel based pesticides, and synthetic fertilizer. Every time I put my food dollars toward, say, organic dairy, I'm saying, "Look, I don't want to pay for, and put money into a system that's relying on antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, sewage sludge, and toxic chemicals. I want to put my money in a different direction."

We often talk about people in this country who eat food as, "consumers." I think that word really hides a lot of the impact that we have, and the inter-connectivity that we have with farmers, and with food producers here in the US and globally.

Are there any other books, websites, films, and other resources that you would recommend for people who want to learn more about this?

Well, thankfully, there has been an incredible flourishing in the past decade of resources and books, websites, films, you name it, that are really helping. There's a lot that I would recommend, and my website, has some resources. I would also give a shout-out specifically to a couple films that are really powerful. I would recommend a "gloom sandwich double feature," so to speak, where I would highly recommend watching the film, Food Inc, if you haven't seen it yet. It's an Academy Award nominated documentary. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are in it as some of the key thinkers and voices. Food Inc. really explains how our food system is so broken, and why.

I find that a lot of the audiences I talk to who have seen Food Inc. leave the film feeling really angry, but without a clear sense of where to take that anger, and they feel very demoralized, frankly. I would like to suggest that people watch Food Inc. alongside another documentary that just came out, also about food, called Fresh.

is also a fabulous documentary, but the filmmaker was really trying to showcase the people who are bringing to life a more positive story of food; a more positive way of relating to food. You hear from farmers and food activists who are really a part of bringing to life solutions. Marrying these two films together allows you to have that deep analysis I think we need to have about what's wrong, but also have inspiration about the solutions that are out there right now, and happening.

I'm so glad you offered that second solution, because I saw Food Inc., and I felt, like you said, like, "Wow! I feel paralyzed to do anything." Informed, eyes open, but not sure what to do. I haven't actually seen Fresh, so I'm excited to see it.

I highly recommend it.

As you know, I have a blog called Have Fun, Do Good. I'm always interested in asking the folks who I interview, "How are you having fun and doing good?"

Well, that's a really easy question to answer right now, because I am having fun by hanging out with my 10-month old daughter. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I have an incredible mother, and I had incredible grandmothers, who I learned so much from about how to mother. I guess, I don't know why, I really underestimated just how much fun it is to be a mother. Pretty much from the minute she was born, it's just been a total joy; totally fun.

I like to think that by being a good mother, and by showering my daughter with unconditional love, making her feel welcome in the world, making her feel confident, and making her feel like she can be adventurous without being afraid, that I am doing good at the same time.

Absolutely. That's one of the best answers I've heard so far.

Is there anything else that you'd like to mention about your book, or your next project? Do you know what you're going to do next, or is there anything else about this issue that you didn't get to talk about?

I think you've really touched on a lot of the key points in the book. I would just also say I'm really interested in hearing from readers. I love getting feedback and hearing from readers about what they want to learn more about, what they didn't understand, what they love, what they were inspired by, and what they're doing around the country. I encourage people to get in touch with me at

One of the biggest joys of my work over the past 10 years has been meeting people all across the country who are part of what I've described as happening, and of what is documented in that film Fresh, part of this movement that is emerging. I love to hear from people, and the best way to get in touch with me is through my website.


Related blogs listed in the back of Diet for a Hot Planet:
For folks who listened to the podcast interview, the intro and outro music is excerpted from Kenya Masala's, "Mango Delight," and the song at the end is "Do Something Good" from Buckingham Solo (Live) by Tift Merritt.

Cross-posted from

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vegetarian Home Cookin' Photo Album

If you are my Facebook pal, you know that I love cooking, and get a kick out of posting photos of the vegetarian and vegan dishes I make on my Facebook profile. I recently created a Home Cookin' photo album on Flickr for people who aren't on Facebook, but wanted to see the photos too.

A number of people have asked me lately for tips on how to cook more vegetarian and vegan meals, so I thought I'd post the Flickr slideshow up here. If you click on a particular photo, it will have the name of the recipe and the cookbook it came from. Some photos have links to recipes online.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to make things (:

Created with flickr slideshow.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is A Vegetarian/Vegan Middle Way "Good" Enough?

Last fall, after watching Food Inc., and reading The Kind Diet and Eating Animals, I began reducing the amount of animal products I eat substantially. By January, or February I was practically vegan, until I started craving cheese, eggs, and fish. Now I eat them here and there, especially when I go to someone's house, or out to a restaurant, and I don't feel like making a big fuss by asking for something special, or if I'm really hungry and the vegetarian/vegan option is lame (e.g. a plate of vegetables).

I feel badly for falling off the vegetarian/vegan wagon, especially after watching videos like the one below of Emily Deschanel talking about factory farming, and the work of Farm Sanctuary (via Ecorazzi ):

But then I remember what Dr. Jane Goodall said on a Daily Show episode that aired around the time I started eating less meat and dairy that makes me feel like being somewhere in the middle is OK:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jane Goodall
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

"There's an awful lot of extremists and fundamentalists, and you would agree, that's really what's gone wrong with the planet right now. It's the fundamentalists, whether they're right, left, center, whatever they are, if they're fundamentalists, they're dangerous."
At the moment, I'm wrestling with what is the best way for me to eat ethically and nutritionally. On the one hand, I feel like there is a lot wrong ethically, environmentally, and nutritionally about how we raise, kill, and process animals for food in the United States. On the other hand, anything that is too extreme one way, or the other sends up little warning flags for me. Plus, sometimes I just want some cheese, or a piece of bacon, or a California roll!

I was relieved to find that I wasn't the only one who is struggling with the best way to eat when I watched the video below of a TED Talk by TreeHugger founder, Graham Hill, about being a "weekday vegetarian," (also via Ecorazzi):

How do you decide what to eat?

Do you think it is it better to live from the middle, or is real progress only made through extreme action?

Cross-posted from

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Free, Fun Making Time for Happiness Worksheet

Happy Monday, Have Fun Do Gooders!

As you regular readers know, for the past few new moons I've been posting Big Vision Goal worksheets for you to download, and fill out each month. I also share them with my various big vision goal setting partners, and groups.

When I went to fill out my own worksheet last month, I found myself feeling very unexcited about my goals, and goal-setting in general. This constant aspiring towards a time in the future when things would be "better" was getting old. Interestingly, my other big vision partners were feeling the same way as well.

I started thinking about some of the things that I already know make me happy right now, but I just need to make a little more time to do them like:
  • being in nature
  • taking a dance class
  • spending quality time with the hubs
  • connecting with friends
  • going to social/community events
  • cooking and baking
  • making stuff (sew, embroider, collage, etc.)
So, that's what I did between the April and May new moons. I made time for happiness by committing to:
  • Dancing 2-3 x per week
  • Being in nature 1 x per week
  • Seeing friends/going to a social event each week
  • Spending quality time with the hubs 2 x per week
  • Cooking/baking 3-4 x week
  • Making 1-2 things (sewing/embroidery/collage, etc.) over the month
I wasn't always successful for making time for everything, but I definitely did better than if I hadn't tried at all sooooo, this month the hubs designed a bee-you-tee-full Making Time for Happiness worksheet that you can download by clicking here.

You can write in the big flower's petals (and the little flowers' petals too, if you want), ways that you want to make time for happiness over this lunar month (the next new moon is June 13).

Feel free to share how you are going to make time for happiness in the comments below. Enjoy!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Right Brain Business Plan e-Course Starts May 17th

Hello Have Fun Do Gooders!

Just a quick shout out for my pal Jennifer Lee's Right Brain Business Plan e-course that is starting Monday, May 17th.

I took Jen's class last fall, and really enjoyed it. I know you all have Have Fun Do Good dreams you want to develop, and Jen's class is a fun, creative way to explore them.

You can see some images from part of my Right Brain Business Plan to the left. Ironically, one of the things I took away for myself after completing the course was that I need to plan less, and play more. I also realized that having work that allows me to have a balanced personal life is just as important to me as the work I do.

You can learn more about Jenn's work by checking out her blog, Life Unfolds, and her website, Artizen Coaching. Also, keep an eye out for her book about the Right Brain Business Plan that will be published by New World Library in early 2011.

P.S. I'm a Right Brain Business plan "affiliate" so if you click on this link to register for the class, I get a percentage of the registration fee (:

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Women's Earth Alliance: Co-Directors Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond

"To us, it's really about collaboration. It simply doesn't work to stay in your silo, and to grab hold of your mission statement and work alone. There is something really exciting about looking at every juncture for how we can work together, and pool our knowledge and our ability to open doors. We are in the business of door opening, and it's really exciting." - Melinda Kramer

"One of the things that's most important to us is doing development in a new way, is doing this work in a way that's not typical. So many of the communities where we work, and the women who we work with have had horrible experiences with organizations who have come into their communities promising them solutions and support, and then have disappeared, or somehow the technologies didn't work, or they weren't able to be maintained."
- Amira Diamond

Women's Earth Alliance (WEA), unites women on the front lines of environmental justice causes by coordinating training, technology, and financial support for thriving communities and the Earth. When I sat down to talk with the co-Directors, Melinda Kramer and Amira Diamond, in early March, they had literally just returned from the West African Woman and Water Training in Ghana. They shared stories from their experience there, and talked about how they are trying to do development and social change work differently.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation for the Big Vision Podcast which you can listen to online, or download from iTunes.

What is Women's Earth Alliance, and what problem you're trying to solve?

Melinda Kramer: Women's Earth Alliance is a global organization and we work around the world uniting women who are on the front lines of environmental causes. We do that by coordinating training, technology, and advocacy support. The problem that we are addressing is a great one. If you look around the world at some of the most pressing environmental challenges, you see women on the front lines of those challenges. 1.2 billion people are without clean water. More than half of those people are women and girls. Women are walking hours each day to access clean water; therefore, they're not getting access to education, and an opportunity to create a livelihood for themselves.

If you look around the world at who's producing food, women produce more than half of the world's food, and 7 out of 10 of the world's hungry are women and girls. Over 90 percent of U.S. refineries are on Native American Land. Women are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins. Women hold these toxins in their body, and this is what they have to pass on to their children.

When we look at environmental challenges, we can't avoid the question of women's role within designing the solutions. There is not a shortage of resources. The greatest challenge we face is the challenge of access. There are solutions. There are resources, information, training, and funding available in plenty.

There are women environmental leaders who are standing up for their communities, around the world, who do not have access to those key resources and information. If they did, they would be guiding their community into a clean, healthy, sustainable, and thriving future. So that's the challenge that we face, and that we address, at Women's Earth Alliance.

You have three programs that work in three different areas. How do they help to address some of the challenges and problems that you just spoke about?

Amira Diamond: Women's Earth Alliance's programs emerged from an explicit call from our women colleagues on the ground. What we heard was that our colleagues in Africa really needed support around water. Women's Earth Alliance launched a Women and Water Initiative. Currently, that work is through a partnership called the Global Women's Water Initiative, which is Women's Earth Alliance, an organization called Crabgrass, and another organization called A Single Drop. In Africa, we're running capacity-building trainings, and supporting women in launching sustainable businesses, and viable projects, to bring clean water to their communities.

The next area, where Women's Earth Alliance works, is in India, where we learned from our colleagues on the ground that support around creating sustainable agriculture would be the best thing we could do to help. And so, there, Women's Earth Alliance is looking at how to support women in launching sustainable projects that will allow them to bring clean and healthy food to their communities.

Finally, Women's Earth Alliance works in North America with indigenous communities, where our colleague, Caitlin Sislin, an attorney who is on the Women's Earth Alliance team, launched something called the Sacred Earth Advocacy Network which provides pro bono legal and policy support to women and indigenous leaders who are working on environmental challenges throughout North America.

You both just came back from the 2010 West African Women and Water Training in Ghana. What was that? What kind of training did the women who participated receive? What were some of the highlights?

MK: So, we just returned from Ghana in West Africa where we convened the 2010 West African Women and Water Training. This was a collaboration among several organizations, A Single Drop, Crabgrass, ProNet Accra, and Women's Earth Alliance. We had 15 teams from throughout West Africa coming to learn appropriate water technologies from West African women trainers, who are experts in these types of skills. They also learned business development skills.

It's one thing to have access to a technology that can bring clean water to your community, but it's another to create a sustainable, viable project that can live on and support your success as a woman. Our teams also learned leadership development skills and action planning so that they could be really clear on their own power, and ability to create change, and their action plan for success.

This training was tremendous. We didn't just dig holes, and build eco-sand composting toilets, and rainwater harvesting systems in schools, and BioSand water filters. We sang, we danced, and we celebrated what it means to have access to a resource that is so much more than just a resource.

For these women, who are on the front lines of the water crisis, having access to clean water is about health. It is about human rights. It is about joy. It is about a future that is possible for their children, and for future generations. The level of joy and celebration was unforgettable because of what we were making happen, and the history we were making each day that we were there.

Was there any individual vignette, or story, or person, or something that happened, that really touched you?

AD: You know, for a lot of the women that came to the training, this was the first time they'd met women who lived in neighboring communities. While many of the women had traveled the world, many of them had also devoted their lives to local solutions. To watch these women come together, and get to meet their sisters, and colleagues, was so dynamic. Literally, relationships were formed that will last a lifetime.

One of the women that stands out is actually someone who participated in our 2008 training, which took place in Kenya. Her name is Solame. Solame was just an absolute, silent and powerful woman leader who, as it turned out, had been involved in fighting for freedom in her home country, Uganda, and was one of two women that was present for the rewriting of the Ugandan constitution.

Well, she came to the Women and Water Training, and when she returned to her community, she absolutely lit the place up. She went back to work with the grandmothers, who lived in a village outside the city where she is from, and these grandmothers are living, many of them, with anywhere from seven to 13 children in their homes because their children have actually died from HIV and AIDS. Solome is an example of someone who was able to take this training and really transform entire communities.

MK: One of the highlights for me was the Global Peers program. We had eight women from different parts of the world who also participated in this training to augment the training, skills, and tools that were offered with their outside knowledge and expertise. We had women who had expertise in community organizing, micro-finance, facilitation and leadership development. Each of these women partnered with two of the teams, and they worked with those teams throughout the week. These women are going to be partnering with the teams who are going back into their communities with seed grants to launch their projects. They're going to work with these teams over the course of the year. The relationships that were built were on a foundation of such mutual respect because, as these women looked at each other from such different lives, they saw the offerings they had for each other and their leadership as women.

This component was really important for us because we really believe that this work is about dynamic exchange, reciprocity, that this is not a transfer of information. It is a dynamic exchange where everyone has something to learn from each other. By coming together and pooling our knowledge, as women who are standing on behalf of the Earth, so much more can happen in our communities when we return.

The Global Peers will be reporting out on the successes of the women in communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Those women will have access to the networks, information, and the resources that these women have access to. So, that was something that was really exciting for us to see happen.

What are some of the challenges that you face? You're doing amazing work. You're going all over the globe. You're not a gigantic staff, and you're not a super-old organization. What are your growing pains, and how are you working to deal with those challenges?

AD: One of the things that's most important to us is doing development in a new way, is doing this work in a way that's not typical. So many of the communities where we work, and the women who we work with have had horrible experiences with organizations who have come into their communities promising them solutions and support, and then have disappeared, or somehow the technologies didn't work, or they weren't able to be maintained. Additionally, there's just been this longstanding sentiment that development is about an us-them thing: "We're going over there to help them, and we're here. We have so much. They don't have anything."

These kinds of concepts are so not real, and so not what Women's Earth Alliance is about. We are looking to model the solutions at every level of the work. For us, that means everything from the events that we do at home, where we have completely green events, to how we live our own lives, the things that we buy, the way that we run our office -- all of these things, to us, are important as we move forward and truly model what it means to create a world that we want to live in.

For us, that also means that much of the work that we do is in partnership. While that takes a lot of effort and a lot of time for us to negotiate the different alliances that we're working with, we really believe that creating micro-networks and creating alliances and relationships across borders is the most important thing we can do to build the fabric of an Alliance that's truly interconnected. The work can be slow at times, but it's something that's important to us.

As we move more into receiving funding from some incredible foundations and from some amazing donors, we're constantly up against the challenge of wanting to keep the integrity of the work that we do, and also be continuing to serve the needs and the values that we see that are traditionally funded. We've been successful at that, but it's definitely taken a lot of rigor and thinking.

What's the path that brought each of you to this work? Melinda, I interviewed you a couple years ago, when Women's Earth Alliance was in a different kind of form. You've done amazing stuff, Amira, in your social justice past. What's the path that brought you guys here, and together? You seem to work really well together.

MK: I had an experience with organizations similar to what Amira was talking about. I had worked for a large development organization in East Africa that really influenced my path. I saw a program that was well-intentioned, certainly well-funded, that was going to fail, in a community that was facing just tremendous poverty and challenge, environmental challenges, health issues. It deeply affected me to see a project of this sort, that I knew was happening all over the world in other types of development schemes, that wasn't working. I saw the potential, at the grassroots level, of the local leaders, many of whom were women who were running various campaigns and health programs and educational programs that didn't have a chance to have their voices heard, and to design their future.

From that point, my path shifted. The work I did from that point on was really about looking at the grassroots, and how can we, around the world, support local leadership and grassroots-led movements for change.

My work brought me around the world. I worked from the Russian Far East to China to the Bering Sea region to here in the United States, meeting everyday citizens who were standing up for their communities, who had a vision and, with the proper access to resources, support, and visibility, were redesigning the future as we know it.

I saw women at the forefront. I knew that there needed to be something, a forum that would exist to support this type of leadership, and to connect leaders to each other so that they knew that they were not alone. I can't tell you how many times I heard people tell me that they were alone doing this work, when I knew it wasn't the case.

For me, that's really what this work was about was really just deeply listening to what was off, and what was working, and to follow the path and support and open up opportunities for the world's greatest leaders to lead, to guide us towards the kind of world we want to live in.

How about you, Amira?

AD: I definitely have had very similar experiences to Melinda in terms of my professional history. I think what I want to say now is, really, that this work, albeit very sophisticated and strategic, there's just something about humanity and the world that we live in that I have always, since I was a little kid. . . . I remember being seven years old and learning about the Vietnam War and writing a letter to the President of the United States. Just from such an early age, I was really aware of the fact that there was something called justice, and that it wasn't everywhere that I looked.

My whole life has just been about moving towards how can what I do uplift the lives of the people around me, and nature itself. I've been really blessed to have incredible influences in my own family, from my aunt, who lives in Washington and gave me so many opportunities, and my uncle, who's a performance artist, and my mother, who's a musician. All these influences, really, have just nurtured me and pushed me towards devoting my life to making the world a place that I'm proud to live.

When I found Melinda and Women's Earth Alliance, I saw that there was something unique about this in that we really are looking to do business in a whole new way, and that inspired me. It's just been an incredible joy to work alongside Melinda, and our team over the last three years, I think it's been now. I'm looking forward to so much ahead.

You both know I have a blog called Have Fun Do Good. You're sitting here, beaming and smiling, like the happiest people doing international development work I've ever seen.

What's the secret? It looks like you're both having fun and doing good. How are you doing that and keeping your hopes up, in what sometimes could seem sort of like a hopeless situation?

AD: I really think that this work is like the best-kept secret. It's just, once you're engaged in this totally dynamic, communal effort, I just have been uplifted by the joy of the women that we work with. Specifically, the amount of singing that we get to do lights me up. Every time we've met with our partners, every other minute there's a new song. One that they sang this time that was just so great goes [sings]:

Come and join us on the morning train.
Come and join us on the morning train.

For the evening train may be too late.
Come and join us on the morning train.

And I'm just on it.

How about you, Melinda? How are you having fun and doing good?

MK: I learn a lot from the elders who are a part of the Women's Earth Alliance. There's a whole generation of women leaders who we work with who have been around the block. These are seasoned activists, designers, changemakers. The thing that I notice when I look at these women is that there is a layer of stress that has just gone. The problems haven't lessened, but there is a lightness. There is a levity to them that I think just comes with time and knowing that you can work every day, and you can either be stressed and concerned, or you can remember to laugh and be grateful for what you have. I learn that so much from the elders who we get to work with, who remind us to wake up each day and do this work joyfully, and do it with everything we have, and remember to sing and dance as much as possible.

So, for folks who are listening, how can they get involved with WEA's work?

AD: At Women's Earth Alliance, we're really committed to having this work go full-circle, which for us is called Weaving the Worlds. We host an event series each season at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. We will be hosting our second-annual fundraising gala, called Weaving the Worlds, in the Presidio of San Francisco on May 26th. We also have some upcoming advocacy delegations, which are a part of our Sacred Earth Advocacy Network. They will be happening in May, July, and September, and will be about defending sacred places in the Southwest, protecting water and traditional culture in California, and promoting energy justice on the Navajo Nation.

Finally, we just have an amazing website and a blog, and we have a Facebook group, and a Cause, and we're on Twitter. We really encourage folks to check out to find out more about everything that I've just mentioned.

Is there anything else that you guys didn't get to talk about that you want to add?

AD: The final thing I want to say is just to really acknowledge everyone who is alongside us in this work. Women's Earth Alliance is doing this work, but we have so many allies, and so many colleagues who are doing this work with the very same spirit. In fact, we stand on the shoulders of those who've gone before us, who have fought for us to be where we are right now. This really is a rich network of people. This is a tradition. This is a lineage. This is a history in the making. It's really an honor to have the opportunity to learn from everyone that's around us, and all the voices that have informed what we're doing here today.

MK: We really feel that this is a moment where the nonprofit, the NGO movement is changing very rapidly, and we like to think that we are a part of a new generation of how we do social-change work. To us, it's really about collaboration. It simply doesn't work to stay in your silo, and to grab hold of your mission statement and work alone. There is something really exciting about looking at every juncture for how we can work together, and pool our knowledge and our ability to open doors. We are in the business of door opening, and it's really exciting.

Related blogs and blog posts:

Full disclosure: I have worked as a social media consultant for Women's Earth Alliance.

Photos of Melinda Kramer & Amira Diamond, Solome Mukisa, and the West African Woman and Water Training participants' celebrating the construction of a rainwater harvesting tank are used with permission from Women's Earth Alliance.

Cross-posted from

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Seven Simple Questions for Your Social Media Plan

I have a confession to make. Although I help other people with their blog and social media plans, I've never written one up for myself. I always have a plan in my mind, but I've never put it on paper.

Soooo, I thought I'd share my answers to my seven simple social media plan questions in case you'd like to put yours on paper too (:

Lemme know if you have any questions.

1. Why are you using social media? What's your goal?

  • Inspire people with stories and examples of people having fun and doing good.
  • Reach potential clients for have fun-do good career coaching, big vision project planning, and newbie, creative blogging trainings and coaching.
  • Self-expression.

2. Who do you want to connect with? Who is your audience?

  • Creative people who have big visions for a better world.
  • People who want to have fun and do good.

3. What kinds of content do you want to share? What kinds of content would be valuable to your audience?

  • Stories, resources, and examples of having fun and doing good.
  • Interviews with people who have big visions for a better world.
  • Blogging tips and advice.
  • Have fun-do good career tips and advice.

4. What social media tools would be appropriate for sharing your content, and connecting with your audience?

  • Blog
  • Podcast
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

5. How much time do you want to spend on social media? How much time will you spend a. creating media, and b. being social?

  • Blog: 1-2 posts per week. Read blogs 1-2 times per week. Comment on 1-2 posts per week.
  • Podcast: 1 show per month. Comment on one podcast per month.
  • Twitter: 1-2 tweets per day. 1-2 RTs per day.
  • Facebook: 1-2 updates per day. 1-2 comments, or thumbs up per day.
  • Review and respond to Google Alerts and Twitter Search results for mentions of my name, and the names and URLs of my blog, podcast and website each day.

6. How will you know if social media is helping you reach your goal(s)? How will you measure your impact?

I'll know I've reached my goals if I:

  • Receive one comment, or email per month from someone saying they were inspired by the content I shared.
  • Connect with one or two new clients per month who say they found me through social media.
  • Am having fun!
I'll measure my impact by recording:

  • Blog: Subscribers, site visits, comments, and the posts with the most engagement (using PostRank).
  • Podcast: Subscribers, comments/emails from listeners.
  • Twitter: Followers and retweets.
  • Facebook: Friends, comments, and thumbs up.
7. When will you revisit and update your plan?

In four months. Beginning of September.

Photo of me on forest path by the hubs. It's supposed to represent setting off into the social media wilderness!

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