Entries in Donation Recommendation (9)


Building a Ship, Building a Community

For the past year or so, I've been serving on the Board of Directors of the Educational Tall Ship Project - a special project meant inspire people to celebrate and experience the rich maritime history of the Bay Area, learn about and preserve our delicate ecosystem, and provide life-changing experiential learning opportunities for youth of all backgrounds, now and for generations to come.

The mission of the Educational Tall Ship Project is to construct a historic and sustainable wooden tall ship for the San Francisco Bay Area. The project will provide on the water and shore-based experiential education for students of all ages, both during construction and after completion. Programs will focus on marine ecology, sustainability, teamwork, leadership and the rich maritime history of the Bay Area.

Our goal is to create the most environmentally sustainable working tall ship ever built. In fact, our goal is to operate on a completely carbon neutral basis. A few of our sustainable features include:

  • Construction: All construction methods, materials, and equipment for the project will be selected with attention to their suitability for design functions, esthetics and the environmental impact of producing these materials and equipment as well as what happens at the end of the use cycle.
  • Education: Our goal is to turn the construction project into a vibrant, interactive learning experience in which youth and broader community are inspired about learning and take ownership of their own education. The educational program will combine natural and nautical curriculum elements to empower the next generation of sea stewards.
  • Operation: Day-to-day operations are designed to minimize energy and water use with a waste management system that will repurpose, recycle and reduce waste. By using LED lighting, induction cooking and low energy navigation and appliances, we will use less than 50kWh per day. Producing and storing enough energy from just four to six hours of sailing can achieve energy self-sufficiency.
  • Propulsion: The ship will produce her own energy and propulsion needs through a state-of-the-art hybrid system using wind power to produce electrical generation. By combining technologies from the 19th and 21st centuries—skipping over the petroleum era—ETS will become a unique teaching tool that can inspire appreciation for past boat building designs while utilizing innovative technology solutions to construct a truly green sailing ship.

I am thrilled to report that the board, staff, and Sausalito community have agreed upon a construction site and the project is set to begin!  Learn more about our progress from the press release below.

Educational Tall Ship Project
Sausalito, CA


December 14, 2012

Sausalito Planning Commission Approves Bay Area Non-Profit’s Plan to Construct First Wooden Tall Ship in Almost 100 Years

(Sausalito, CA) - Imagine the graceful lines of a wooden Tall Ship, an echo of San Francisco’s rich maritime heritage, tacking her way under the Golden Gate, appearing out of the fog under full sail like a 19th century ghost. On her decks and aloft are Bay Area youth of all backgrounds and abilities working and learning together, sailing her confidently, their faces bright with a sense of adventure and achievement.

Supporters of The Educational Tall Ship for San Francisco Bay (ETS), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is constructing the first ever sustainably built and operated “Living Ship” in North America, celebrated Wednesday evening after the Sausalito Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve their proposed construction site at Marina Plaza, 2330 Marinship Way. Members from the community, including site architect, Michel Rex, Director of Richardson Bay Maritime Association and Executive Director of Call of the Sea, Charles Hart, expressed their support for the project, but from the comments made by each member of the commission, it didn’t seem necessary. “What really impressed me was how very supportive each person was when they spoke about what the project will bring to our working waterfront”, said ETS Executive Director, Alan Olson. “Our goal has always been to make this a community project and we were all moved by the support expressed by the Planning Commission and the community members who came to speak”, Olson said.

The vessel will serve as an outdoor education platform for Bay Area youth serving an additional 10,000 students every year, expanding  existing on-the-water programs offered by “Call of the Sea” a Sausalito based non-profit.  The ship will incorporate old-world technology with a new sail  powered regenerative electric drive system. ETS will employ local, skilled craftsmen as well as apprentices and volunteers to implement the project. Expertise and supervision will be provided by the premier wooden tall ship designer/builders in the country, Tri-Coastal Marine of Richmond CA. The construction process will be open to the public, and volunteers from various backgrounds and age groups will partake in the building of this vessel to truly make it the Bay Area’s Tall Ship.

For More Information Contact:                 

Kimberly Kouri
Educational Tall Ship
60C Liberty Ship Way
Sausalito, CA 94965


Giving Tuesday

I first heard about Giving Tuesday from Rob Reich, one of my former colleagues from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and an advisor to the group that is trying to start this philanthropic movement.

The premise is simple: Giving Tuesday is meant to sit in contrast to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to emphasize the spirit of gratitude and generosity that are much more a part of the holiday season than is consumerism.

On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

I am excited to see what can come of this idea, particularly because economic gains can be directly measured from Black Friday and Cyber Monday efforts. My hope is that this day will clearly demonstrate charitable gains to the nonprofit organizations working to improve the quality of life for people and planet.

My only criticism of the effort (I know - how can you criticize giving and generousity???) is that it seems focused primarily on financial gifts. As any good philanthropist knows, generous people can give time, talent, and (or?) treasure. There doesn't seem to be a strong service component, but I imagine the counter-consumer focus is meant to be felt relative to our bank accounts, as well as our hearts.

The site is filled with ideas, ways to get involved, and resouces. Check it out - AND GIVE!


Protect Pe'Sla Lakota Sioux Sacred Site

Artist Shepard Fairey and photographer Aaron Huey created this image in reference to the U.S. government's policy of ignoring the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.Not long ago I wrote a post, Vistory at Pe'Sla, about how Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney in South Dakota, wrote an article on to raise money to purchase Pe'Sla, a sacred site in the Black Hills. At the time, it seemed like a true success story about a group of young, professional, 21st Century American Indians reclaiming our land through grassroots activism.

Sadly, the victory call was too good to be true. For now.

According to The Washington Post, the land holds sacred significance for the Lakotas: "The property is important to their creation story, and tribal members have long held ceremonies there. When the land was put up for sale, tribal members worried it would be developed because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore."

This area is partly owned by the Reynolds family. They planned to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. According to The Washington Post, "Landowners Leonard and Margaret Reynolds canceled a public auction of the property earlier this year after tribal members expressed outrage. The Reynolds then accepted the tribes’ bid to purchase the land for $9 million if they have the money by November 30, 2012."

The Great Sioux Nation must raise $9 million to purchase the land by November 30, 2012, securing it as a sacred, undeveloped site, accessible to all. They've raised $6.5million and with the help of a number of influential celebrities, are on track to get the rest. Spread this video far and wide. Donate and get more info at and

This is what the American Indian Movement looks like in the 21st Century. Digital media, social media, and traditional media are spreading the message: NOW is the time to act! Hoka hey!

PE'SLA 2012 from Village Beat on Vimeo.


Coho Mojo!

For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been learning about the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), an award-winning, science-based watershed protection organization that engages community members to take action in order to help the salmon recover and thrive. SPAWN is a project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) and the program partner for my California Naturalist Certificate program from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The mission of SPAWN is to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed and the environment on which we all depend. SPAWN uses a multi-faceted approach, including grassroots action, habitat restoration, policy development, research and monitoring, citizen training, environmental education, strategic litigation, and collaboration with other organizations, land-owners, and agencies.

SPAWN offers walks to view spawning salmon, an email action alert list-serve, homeowner consultations on creek protections, seminars, training and volunteer and internship opportunities.

As a soon-to-be-official naturalist, I have come to appreciate the focus of SPAWN’s efforts around the protection and preservation of the Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), a native species to the Lower Columbia River (threatened), Oregon Coast (threatened), Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts (threatened), and Central California Coast (endangered).

According to the SPAWN website, "Coho have declined more than 95% from historic population levels, and are a listed species under the US Endangered Species Act. Just 30 minutes from the SF Bay Area's urban centers, Lagunitas Creek Watershed is one of the most important waterways left for these wild coho salmon, supporting 10 to 20% of all wild Central California Coast Coho surviving today."

By focusing on the Coho, our instructors explain their path to and from the ocean in the course of their lifecycle, drawing upon the connections that this species has with all of the other species is meets on its journey. We also learn about how the geography and geology play an important part in connecting such a fragile web of life.

I’m amazed at how intelligent, careful, and fun the SPAWN staff are in working with the community and watershed. Many of them are expert researchers, while others are local residents that care for the life around them.

This past weekend, I volunteered on a habitat restoration as part of the capstone project for two of my classmates. We removed the awful Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) that has taken over many areas near the SPAWN office in the Lagunitas Creek watershed.

Checkout this huge invasive weed pile that we pulled, on its way to become compost:

I hate weeds! - I HATE 'EM!


Victory at Pe'Sla

Artist Shepard Fairey and photographer Aaron Huey created this image in reference to the U.S. government's policy of ignoring the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Although I live in California, far from the the Black Hills and my family in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, I am still very encouraged to learn about the grassroots efforts of people in my generation making positive contributions to the Lakota people by protecting our sacred lands.

On August 1, Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney in South Dakota, wrote an article on to raise money to purchase Pe'Sla, a sacred site in the Black Hills. He explains:

"Pe' Sla is an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota (just west of Rapid City) that is considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of our creation story. It is a sacred place. We perform certain ceremonies at Pe' Sla which sustain the Lakota way of life and keep the universe in harmony.

This area is partly owned by the Reynolds family. They plan to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. It is likely that the state of South Dakota will put a road directly through Pe' Sla and open up this sacred place for development.

The seven bands of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate (people) aka Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) have a collective effort to buy as much of Pe'Sla as we can at this auction (although we also believe that the land cannot be owned and that our sacred places were illegally taken by the United States). Yet we are trying to work within the current U.S. laws to regain custody of our sacred sites and prevent future road and industrial development. Our sacred ways must be protected and passed on to our future generations so that our children may live.

This area of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) is also home to many plants and animals who should also be protected. In fact, many consider that the area should possibly be a historical site, which would also assist in protecting it from future development as well.

As Lakota people, our ancestors prayed here, at Pe' Sla, at certain times of year, when the stars aligned. We cannot go elsewhere to pray. We were meant to pray here. This is what they do not understand. Please help the Lakota people. "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." - Chief Sitting Bull, 1877.

We have a group of young professional Native people that are dedicated to the promotion of education, health, leadership, and sovereignity among our indigenous Nations. Our goal is to assist in any way possible the purchase of Pe' Sla and other sites by a collective effort of the seven bands of the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) - the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. All proceeds from this campaign will go towards that effort. This area would be open to tribal nations for ceremonial purposes. The plants, animals, water, and air in the area would be respected and honored."

Over the course of the month, the website raised more than $300,000 that was combined with $1.3 million from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Together, they are credited for purchasing and saving the sacred site:

"We are greatly encouraged by the enormous outpouring of support to protect Pe'Sla and for the reigniting of our collective consciousness related to sacred sites and the Black Hills - Wamaka Ognaka y Cante (the Heart of Everything that is)" reads a press release on

Family and friends in Rapid City, a rally will be held Wednesday, September 5 at 5 p.m. to celebrate the purchase of Pe’ Sla at the Memorial Park Band Shell.

Watch this video from their press conference on Saturday, September 1, 2012 - Chase Iron Eyes tells the story of this important victory for the Lakota:

Mid-month, I was at a BBQ event in San Francisco and a friend told me about how his family, on vacation, watched a documentary by Aaron Huey, Honor the Treaties. It was in viewing these videos that I came to learn about Chase Iron Eyes' efforts to mobilize people to protect our lands. The documentary, with many hard truths, sends our message of self-determination.  Watch the video:

Honor the Treaties | The Film from eric becker on Vimeo.


What if?

At this year's Big Bang Gala, my talented colleagues produced a video featuring our education programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The video features our mission to explaine science and the natural world through our education programs

You can click here to make a donation to help support our mission.


Don't Be a Hater, Be a Donater!

Joe Montana and Ashkon remind San Francisco, "Don't Hate, Donate!" 


Celebrate World Oceans Day

Sailing on the Pacific Ocean-side of the San Francisco Bay with the California Academy of Sciences on May 22,2011 © Gerald and Buff Corsi / Focus on Nature, Inc.

Drivers of Change: Oceans

In preparation for World Oceans Day, I recently attended an event hosted by ARUP, Mission Blue, and BlueMind to celebrate the launch of Drivers of Change: Oceans. The panelists included:

According to the Drivers of Change, “The oceans cover over 70% of the planet and are critical to life on Earth. The oceans drive almost every natural system on the planet, including carbon absorption, oxygen exchange, nutrient cycling, temperature regulation, hydrological cycles and other crucial systems. Traditional thought has assumed that the oceans are vast, endless, and capable of absorbing waste and change at any scale. While the oceans are expansive, we now know that this perception is incorrect. Humans are changing the oceans, and the rate of change is increasing. The subsequent impact on humanity and the oceans is staggering.”

Drivers of Change: Oceans is the result of almost a year of research, interviews, workshops, and outreach to the oceans community. The results of this endeavor were distilled into 25 discrete topics, including:

Economies, Societies and Sustainable Seafood

I've been passionate about the oceans since my days as a graduate research assistant at the Center for Ocean Solutions, which is affilliated with the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. While I was there, I worked with a small team to conduct research about the economic and social impact(s) of climate change in coastal communities, populations, and nations.

At the time, we found that there was little substantive research and scarce statistics easily found in the field.  We found extensive research about the natural impacts of climate change, but at the time there wasn't as much about the economic and social impacts.  Over time, I've seen more and more that people are thinking about the sensitivity of ocean ecology for human and non-human stakeholders. I've had more conversations about rising sea levels. I've certainly learned much more about sustainable seafood.

Festival and Film

The impact of climate change was also a significant issue at the recent San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, which I donate to and volunteer with on a regular basis. The festival is dedicated to using film to increase public understanding of the environmental, social and cultural importance of marine ecosystems and foster a spirit of ocean stewardship. It is now the premier venue in North America for ocean films.

I'm also passionate about ocean acidification as a specific issue, since my involvement with the documentary film, A Sea Change, produced by Sven Husby and Barbara Ettinger of Niijii Films and recipient of the NOAA 2010 Environmental Hero Award.

After reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Darkening Sea” (a must-read!), Sven became obsessed with the rising acidity of the oceans and what this “sea change” bodes for mankind. The film documents his quest to uncover a worldwide crisis that most people are unaware of. Speaking with oceanographers, marine biologists, climatologists, and artists, Sven discovers that global warming is only half the story of the environmental catastrophe that awaits us. Excess carbon dioxide is dissolving in our oceans, changing sea water chemistry. The more acidic water makes it difficult for tiny creatures at the bottom of the food web to form their shells. The effects could work their way up to the fish 1 billion people depend upon for their source of protein.

Please do your part to promote conservation, preservation, and the prosperity of our oceans.  What will you do to celebrate World Oceans Day? 


Donation Recommendation: The Seasons Fund for Social Transformation

Seasons Fund for Social Transformation


The Seasons Fund For Social Transformation catalyzes vibrant and effective social change movements by coupling the power of personal transformation with the public work of creating a just and sustainable world.


The Seasons Fund makes grants to help agents of social change view themselves, their work, and the world around them in a new light. Specifically, the Fund supports opportunities for reflection and training aimed at fostering personal transformation, building leadership skills, promoting organizational development, forging effective coalitions, and cultivating new ways of envisioning society. The Fund also supports efforts to evaluate the impact of contemplative practices on social change initiatives.

My Motivation:

I support the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation because they support people working for social, economic, and environmental justice to embrace a range of contemplative practices that can deepen their capacity to lead.

The Seasons Fund believes that cultivating a rich inner life is both a worthy end in itself and an overlooked pathway to heightening the impact, effectiveness, and sustainability of social change initiatives. In addition, their website offers case studies that are practical and informative. The case studies illuminate their work in building awareness, getting results, and making connections.

I encourage you to donate to the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation because peaceful giving begins with the personal transformation of our leaders, building effective coalitions, and new ways of envisioning society. 


“Donation Recommendation” will be a regular feature on this blog with a simple concept:  whenever I decide to donate to or volunteer with an organization, I’m going to write about why I have chosen to give my support. Doing so documents my philanthropic investments, volunteering, and donation motivation, as well as spreads the word about organizations that I support. In particular, I am on a mission to fund (whenever possible) organizations that actively engage both social and environmental projects together.