The Overbrook Foundation first started blogging in 2008 and hasn’t turned back since. We feel our blog is an effective means of spreading news that impacts our grantees and program areas, as well as the larger field of philanthropy. Blogging has also increased the visibility of our grantees’ fantastic campaigns and victories, from legal battles to grassroots demonstrations. We encourage you to read the following posts and to add your own comments to ours. Please enjoy (and follow us on Twitter)!

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Earth Day also = Oceans Day

The nice thing about planting trees on Earth Day is that it’s something everyone can do, and has a result that everyone can appreciate. It’s a bit more difficult to, say, try and plant a coral reef, or mount a campaign to save these stud muffins. But on Earth Day, it’s critical to remind ourselves that our Earth is, in fact, 70% ocean, and the ocean represents critical sources of carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and food. Just because we can’t see the damage we’re doing as easily as deforestation or air pollution doesn’t mean we’re not doing it:

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Spring Environmental Update!

Even if it feels like Lady Spring is dragging her feet/gotten lost on the road to get-warmer-already-ville, the calendar tells us it is indeed spring (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least). And so, in lieu of flowers, sunshine, and birdsong, we present: Overbrook’s Spring Environmental Update!

Things are certainly coming up roses for LAANE (the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy). This week, under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council voted to replace the city’s current waste and recycling system with the Zero Waste LA Franchise Ordinance, one of the most ambitious programs in the nation. Under the old regime, hundreds of small haulers competed to recycle the City’s commercial waste, resulting in inefficiencies, unnecessary pollution, and a sector with poor oversight and enforcement. The new plan will implement a commercial franchise system with eleven districts, dramatically reducing truck traffic, emissions, and allowing for more effective oversight of recycling facilities. Passage of the new model would not have been possible without the dedicated and determined advocacy by LAANE and the Don’t Waste LA Coalition, and is proof that coalitions of grassroots groups can prevail over larger corporate interests. Congratulations, LAANE!

Across the Pacific Ocean things are also getting greener, as International Paper  - the largest producer of pulp and paper in Asia and a chronic violator of sustainable forestry practices appears to be on the road to enacting meaningful reform. And again, a determined and innovative coalition of nonprofit groups was the decisive factor. This coalition included Overbrook grantees Greenpeace, ForestEthics, Rainforest Alliance, and Environmental Paper Network (EPN). Now the pressure is on to keep the pressure on IP and make sure that it sticks to its commitments. Nonetheless, IP’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing is being cautiously lauded as one of the most dramatic turnarounds in corporate sustainability. You can read more about next steps and monitoring efforts here.

Finally, Game of Thrones is premiering this Sunday on HBO. So you can watch it and be glad that, at this world at least, winter isn’t coming.

Building Equity & Alignment Initiative – UPDATE

For our readers, as a quick refresher:

Building Equity and Alignment for Impact (the BEA initiative) is a grassroots-led entity launched in July 2013, converging around a shared future vision for a more inclusive, connective, winning environmental movement. As developed by a majority-grassroots group along with allies from “big, national green” and philanthropic sectors, the goals of the BEA are clear and simple:

  • To expand the pool of resources available to the environment and overlapping progressive issues;
  • To shift that growing pool of available resources to more equitably service the grassroots organizing sector;
  • To break down historic barriers between big green, grassroots and funding sectors, building authentic relationships toward greater alignment and solidarity;
  • To shift the prevailing culture within philanthropy away from a top-down, funder-driven approach, and toward a base-building, bottom-up, collaborative approach.

After its initial convening at Wingspread last July, the initiative formed four workgroups: (1) a Communications team; (2) a Mapping team; (3) an Outreach team; and (4) a Weaver team, tasked with keeping the other three on track toward shared goals of the initiative.

Now to the good stuff!

In February, representatives from all of the workgroups presented two sessions for funders highlighting grassroots base-building work – both at the Environmental Grantmakers Association State of the States briefing and at an EDGE Funders Alliance event hosted by the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. Both events were packed and furthered the conversation among funders and grassroots groups about how sectors within the movement can partner more effectively and equitably. These meetings also highlighted the next stages of the Initiative, from the short-term through the end of 2014.

And more good news: in one of his last acts as Executive Director of Greenpeace, Phil Radford has agreed to host a reception and meeting between big greens and members of the BEA team in DC in early April, and will talk about his own involvement in the BEA as part of his Greenpeace legacy. This is a critical meeting as it solidifies the incredible support role Greenpeace has played in the BEA’s development, and sets the stage for connecting more big, national group allies to the grassroots organizing sector.

Overbrook is extremely proud to be able to offer support as the BEA continues to expand, bringing in new voices and lifting existing ones, and we look forward to reporting on future progress!

 For more details on specific BEA workgroups, contact Samantha Harvey at Overbrook:

Can Idealism become Reality?

On March 11, thousands of people across the world tuned in, turned on, and pledged to not drop out (you can do the same here).

Ami Dar, the founder and executive director of Idealist (beloved job search engine of 20-somethings everywhere) launched a new, ambitious network on Tuesday – one that aims to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally, online and in person. Just as the creation of Idealist was driven by the desire to help organizations and individuals better connect with each other, this network was borne from a frustration all too common to many of us: you want to do something to help, but you don’t know how. That something could be creating a community garden, instituting recycling in your building, organizing a global rally against hunger, or honing in on an idea you haven’t quite figured out yet.

Will the idea take off? That’s up to the people who use it. But at a minimum, the coordinators of the network have pledged to help develop standardized plans and guides for popular projects. For instance, if you’re interested in growing a community garden, you can access (free of charge) a guide on how to do so, what typical problems are ,and important things to think about.

It’s easy to join – you can do so here, and more importantly, it’s exciting to join. Because the flip side of feeling frustrated at not knowing how to move forward is the excitement, relief, and yes, sometimes even joy, at finding others who feel the same way, who are ready to join.

The Sole of Environmentalism

The oceans are perhaps the ultimate tragedy of the commons, and the fishing industry has defied effective regulation the world over. In part, that’s because you can’t stop the fish from, well, swimming, and even if you limit catches in one area, there’s no guarantee for effective regulation in another. When a country grants licenses, foreign fishing companies often swoop in. Catch limitations can be difficult to enforce, especially in rural areas. Communities dependent on fishing are caught in a worsening cycle of being forced to go out further and fish for ever diminishing returns. So is there anything to do but abstain from eating fish altogether, or, perhaps, chow down on tuna with a side of fatalism?

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