Entries in Human (13)


La chanson du bénévole | Song of the volunteer

La chanson du bénévole, Song of the volunteer, is the 2014 single from Restaurants du Cœur (known as the Restos du Cœur; "Restaurants of the Heart"), a French charitable organization that distributes food packages and hot meals to the needy.

The song features a variety of French celebrities singing as a group known as Les Enfoirés (French for "The Tossers" or "The Bastards"), and they perform annually in a charity concert. The single was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman and composed by Frédéric Château.

The organization was founded by the comedian Coluche in 1985. These annual songs by "Les Enfoirés" represent a strong tradition of French philanthropy and civil society.



Attention au Départ

The Restaurants du Cœur (known as the Restos du Cœur; "Restaurants of the Heart") is a French charitable organization that distributes food packages and hot meals to the needy.

It was founded by the comedian Coluche in 1985. These annual songs by "Les Enfoirés" represent a strong tradition of French philanthropy and civil society.


Forward on Climate Rally

Today, I participated in the largest environmental march in San Francisco history, as thousands gathered outside the State Department headquarters as part of the "Forward on Climate Change" campaign.

The march, which culimated in a rally in the plaza across from the Ferry Building Terminal, was organized by the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, along with, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and several other groups.

In solidarity with protests across the nation, most notably in Washington, D.C., which was the largest climate change rally in U.S. history (and others around the world), the campaign's message is to urge President Obama to reject the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, an extension of a tar-sand oil pipeline that connects Alberta, Canada and multiple Midwest cities.

I've been following the #IdleNoMore campaign as well on this issue, since the Keystone Pipleling project has numerous connections to my tribe and the overall indigenous resistance to this threat to our ways of life and self-determination.

I attended as a member of the steering committee of Bay Localize, an organization that inspires and supports Bay Area residents in building equitable, resilient communities. We confront the challenges of climate instability, rising energy costs, and recession by boosting our region's capacity to provide for everyone's needs, sustainably and equitably. We achieve this by equipping local leaders with flexible tools, models, and policies that strengthen their communities.

See pictures from the march and rally below:

Idle No More had a strong showing at the rally.

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos speaks at the rally.

Organizers estimated 4,000 people in attendance in San Francisco and 40,000 in Washington, D.C.



Published on Dec 21, 2012, this animation created by Steve Cutts was created in Flash and After Effects. It looks at man's relationship with the natural world.

Check it out!


What it Means to be Native

One of my classmates in the California Naturalist program, Francis Mendoza, wrote an article for his capstone project, “What it Means to be Native” in Tidal Tales, the newsletter of the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. In my own capstone project, I’ve been thinking about what it means (mostly for plants) to be indigenous/native, introduced/non-native, naturalized, invasive, and/or ornamental - to name a few of the terms used to describe the ecological characteristics of the species living in a given habitat. Defining these concepts reminds me of parallels to the various human definitions of place of origin, adaptation, inhabitation, colonization, and immigration.

From my understanding, the naturalist and scientific communities usually mean something very specific when they refer to native and invasive species. Usually, invasives are the worst because they adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically.

Checkout the article – it’s a good reminder that our cultural heritage and natural heritage are fundamentally linked.

What it Means to be Native
By Francis Mendoza
California Naturalist Certificate Candidate

We’ve all heard the term “native” used to describe plants, animals, and even people. But what does it really mean to be native? You’ve also probably heard of native plant societies, native animal habitats, and native plant restorations, but why place so much importance on where things are from? Aren’t non-native animals and plants just as important as native animals and plants?

Many people are forced to answer this question when they try to alert park rangers of an injured animal they see on the trail. Some park agencies have the policy of only rescuing and treating native animals.

So if you’re a gray fox or snowy egret and you get stuck in the mud or injure your leg, chances are you’ll find yourself rescued or even in the cozy confines of an animal hospital, such as Sulphur Creek Nature Center. However, if you’re a red fox or European starling, you’ll probably have to fend for yourself.

It may seem cruel to do so, but this distinction has helped to focus limited park resources on native animals and plants, such as gray foxes and California sea lavender. Despite such park policies, many animal volunteer from Sulphur Creek are still willing and able to rescue non-native animals. Still, the question begs to be answered, who determines whether or not the life of native gray fox is more important than that of nonnative red fox?

To help answer this question, we have to look at the natural and cultural history of both species and where they originate from. Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) range from as far north as southern Canada and as far south as the northern part of South American, with origins are in the Western Hemisphere. Despite this extensive range, their numbers are dwindling because they are being outcompeted by the larger, more aggressive red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

Red foxes originated in Europe and Asia and found their way to the Western Hemisphere through one of two ways: through the Bering Strait land bridge connecting modern-day Russia and Alaska tens of thousands of years ago, or purposely introduced into the “New World” for the lucrative fur trade and game hunting. Red foxes are now found virtually all over the world, and have been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

Not only do red foxes out compete gray foxes for food, resources, and shelter, they are also a major reason why the native California clapper rail is on the endangered species list. As a top predator in the salt marsh, the red fox preys heavily upon the clapper rail, the species of bird we proudly display on our building logo. Coupled with habitat destruction and the seemingly ubiquitous presence of a non-native plant called Atlantic cordgrass, the California clapper rail is an unfortunate example of a native animals being threatened by both non-native animals AND plants.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that Atlantic cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) was introduced to the west coast of the United States from the east coast for restoration purposes. In the 1970’s, well-meaning restoration biologists used the plant to restore wetlands all along the Pacific Coast, but it has served to do the opposite: growing thick patches of dense vegetation that outcompete native plants and inhibit native plant habitat - habitat ideal for the California clapper rail.

Despite their good intentions, the introduction of Atlantic cordgrass by restoration “experts” forty years ago has been quite detrimental to the ecology of the marsh. Unfortunately, it’s been a long part of our human history to introduce plants for our benefit, regardless of the damage it might do to the local ecology. The Spanish missionaries planted European black mustard to satiate their appetite and to mark trails between missions. Gold Rush prospectors purposely planted sharp, invasive thistle to prevent other prospectors from encroaching onto their territory. As a result, the shoreline is littered with mustard and thistle plants. The damage is seemingly done, but is there anything we can do?

Join us for our monthly Weekend Weed Warrior program to help rid the shoreline of invasive plants such as mustard, thistle, and ice plant. Over the past few months, the non-native Algerian Sea Lavender (Limoneum ramosissimum) has been detected along the shoreline, and volunteers at the Bay Area Early Detection Network and East Bay Regional Park District rangers have been hard at work trying to get rid of the Algerian sea lavender out-competing the native California sea lavender for space, water, and sunlight.

Native plants are not only beneficial to salt marsh ecology, but can also help save plants, and attract a host of native animals such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects. So join a native plant society, accompany us on one of our native plant restorations, or learn how to identify a native plant from a non-native one. It’s time we all went native; our wetlands can’t afford us not to.


Traditional Ecological Knowledge

I recently watched this video (below) from Bioneers about traditional ecological knowledge. The mission of Bioneers is to inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

The Bioneers Indigeneity Program works to promote indigenous leaders and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a critical path to support all people in learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes and reconnect to place-based ways.  Native peoples are keepers of the earth's "old growth" cultures, living in harmony with their Native environments for thousands of years.  This indigenous science offers a different way of knowing that provides a crucial complement to the tools of western science.

Over the last decade, Bioneers commitment to indigenous peoples' social and ecological issues has brought together some of the greatest indigenous leaders of our time in one place. 

I originally wanted to post a presentation by Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), a cultural ecologist, scholar-activist, writer and media-maker, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and the President of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native American nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands. She is the editor of the Bioneers anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future and producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Salt Song Trail. She is the co-founder/co-producer of the Indigenous Forum at Bioneers and co-founder of the new Bioneers Indigeneity Program as well as serving on Bioneers’ board.

However, they password protected the video (why do they not want to share this?!?!), so I removed the link.  Hopefully, Bioneers will be more share-friendly in the future.


My New Favorite Gift Shop

As a nonprofit professional at a major tourist attraction, I always like to see what kinds of products are available in the gift shops of other public destinations. This past weekend, I went to Muir Woods National Monument with some visitors from France and found the art instillation in the gift shop to be one of the most fascinating wood carvings that I've ever seen! 

Carved into a single redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), is a timeline of humanity that flows, from left to right, in order:

Inhabitation -> Colonization -> Exploitation -> Conservation -> Recreation

I took these shots on my iPhone, so please forgive the poor quality.

Cool, huh?


Cooperation Makes It Happen!

Yesterday's post made me think of a song that I remember loving from my childhood: "Cooperation" by Sesame Street. It's also a good reminder that Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit organization with a mission "to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential."

Their projects bring critical lessons in literacy and numeracy, emotional wellbeing, health and wellness, and respect and understanding to children in 150+ countries.

Co-operation... makes it happen!

Co-operation ... working together!

Dig it!


Encore un autre hiver: Again another winter

The Restaurants du Cœur (far more commonly and familiarly known as the Restos du Cœur; "Restaurants of the Heart") is a French charitable organization that distributes food packages and hot meals to the needy.

It was founded by the comedian Coluche in 1985. These annual songs by "Les Enfoirés" represent a strong tradition of French philanthropy and civil society.


Cultivating New Community Leaders

Full Circle Fund logo


New Full Circle Fund Members, July 2011

After three consecutive weeks of attending Full Circle Fund events on any given night – and another event on my calendar for next week – it’s clear to me that this is an organization that I need to tell others about.

There are a few reasons I’m involved with Full Circle Fund that map directly to my core values: community, contribution, and camaraderie. Or, to use another alliteration, I value impact, investment, and inspiration. So please indulge me to align the alliterations and say more about each.

Community and Impact

First, an introduction from the website: “Full Circle Fund is an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of community leaders and driving lasting social change in the Bay Area. Full Circle Fund members leverage their time, money, skills and connections to the service of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in partnerships that result in significant impact on the community.”

Although I’ve come across many civic and social organizations that seem to be a platform for elitism and exclusivity, Full Circle Fund is the kind of philanthropic group that directly engages in the community – and by that I mean, the place where its members live and work across a wide region in the Bay Area. I’ve always been struck by the phrase “think globally, act locally,” and it makes sense to me that we can all do much to improve the immediate needs that surround us.

But in addition to occupying or pursuing an occupation in any given area, Full Circle Fund members participate in an organization that values substantive change.  Even with an acknowledgement that we cannot do everything for everyone, our members come together because we believe that we can make a contribution that is meaningful and measurable.

"Impact” a buzz word that I hear often in the nonprofit sector, but usually it means something that is pre-defined. Sometimes it leads to square pegs in round holes. At Full Circle Fund, “impact” can mean many things, including innovations unknown. We are willing to look at our community and make a difference – or take a chance – that matters. If we leave our grantees better than when we’ve found them, we’ve done our best to contribute to positive change. Risk does have results, intentionally for the better.

Contribution and Investment

Second, Full Circle Fund members each have a stake in the outcomes. Instead of only writing a check to a grantee, we engage with nonprofits through strategic partnerships. I’ve often been told that philanthropy includes contributions of “time, talent, and treasure” and it's clear to me that Full Circle Fund members give it all. The combination personal, social and financial resources is powerful. Each member contributes a bit of each.

And let me be clear, as much as I admire the time and talent of members, there is a financial contribution that gives each member of the group a fiscal stake. Full Circle Fund is not a charity; it’s a venture philanthropy partnership.

Camaraderie and Inspiration

Finally, the members are the best part. As a nonprofit professional, my work-related circles are somewhat limited. At Full Circle Fund, I learn from people that don’t do the same things as me professionally or personally. Many of us are leaders in our respective areas, but a big part of the investments we pursue are based on a collaborative spirit. Full Circle Fund is a place where bankers talk to lawyers, that talk to techies and social entrepreneurs, that talk to nonprofit leaders and public servants. We have much to learn from one another.

And, I admire the sense of leadership that each member exemplifies. “Cultivating new community leaders” is the true essence of our membership. Quarterly Inspiring Leaders Series Events feature speakers who are experts in a social change field. The series provides an opportunity to learn from compelling visionaries, develop leadership and teamwork skills, share best practices, report on grant project milestones, and celebrate team successes.

In conversation with Bill Draper at the "Inspiring Leaders Series" eventA while back, I attended a series event with Bill Draper, co-founder of Draper Richards LP, a venture capital fund that invests in early-stage technology companies in the U.S. and founder Draper Investment Company. He also is co-founder of the Draper Richards Foundation, which invests in entrepreneurs starting new non-profit organizations. Run much like a venture capital fund, in addition to financial support, the foundation also provides expert guidance and coaching to its fellows and fosters their growth from a start-up non-profit to a successful venture.

At the event, he told us about his experiences in venture capital and venture philanthropy. He shared insights about success in each area, but also how the two are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. Investment skills can transfer across sectors – and better yet – they require a wise investor. And a talented investor in any area is skillful with their resources. At this event, I learned that innovation is not just thinking outside the box; it’s thinking across boxes and beyond.


Community and impact; contribution and investment; camaraderie and inspiration: Full Circle Fund has it all.

Partners in Philanthropy

Watch a video about Full Circle Fund: