Overbrook Grantees take on Science Museums

Two of Overbrook’s grantees have teamed up and are making waves in the world of science and natural history education. The Natural History Museum (a new grantee of the Foundation in 2015) and 350.org launched a joint “Keep It in the Museum” campaign last week which singles out five influential science and natural history museums for their connections to fossil fuels industry through investments, endowments, or board members and donors from the fossil fuel industry. The campaign comes on the heels of an open letter written in March by the Natural History Museum and signed by nearly 150 of the world’s top scientists, which decried the link between museums and the fossil fuel industry. The letter made major news headlines around the world and helped spark a campaign to remove David Koch, one of the nation’s most avid climate change deniers, from the board of two of the country’s biggest national history museums.

The joint effort between The Natural History Museum and 350.org has already made an impact. One of its five target institutions, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, has since announced a new plan to phase out all of its funding tied to the fossil fuel industry. Executive Director Jonathan Foley wrote in a statement released last Friday, “It seems difficult to reconcile the mission of a public science museum focused on ecology, evolution, and sustainability and the practice of investing in fossil fuels.” As of this summer, the Academy has cut all direct investments in fossil fuel companies and has begun to phase out any oil, gas, and mineral leases on lands with historic mineral rights given by donors. Additionally, the Academy has adopted a new institutional gift policy that ensures contributions are consistent with this pledge, and will begin working to untie its endowment completely from fossil fuels.

We can't wait to see what comes next from this exciting collaborative efforts. Congratulations to The Natural History Museum and 350.org on the victory!


Peru Protects Indigenous Amazon Land

The Foundation would like to congratulate Overbrook grantee Nature and Culture International and the Maijuna and Kichwa people on their recent historic victory. Last week, President Humala of Peru officially recognized the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area in the Amazon rainforest of northern Peru as a federally protected land. Nature and Culture International has been working tirelessly along with the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa people and the regional Loreto government to protect the area since 2006.

In addition to being the ancestral homeland of the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa, the conservation area is also home to nearly one million acres of incredibly biodiverse rainforest. The decree calls for the protection of the area’s natural resources as well as its indigenous inhabitants, under the supervision of the National Service of Protected National Areas by the State and with the assistance of government-trained regional personnel.

To learn more, please see Nature and Culture International’s press release on the decree.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP

Catalog Choice Acquired by Story of Stuff

We’re excited to announce that Catalog Choice, an organization developed and co-founded by Senior Environment Program Director Daniel Katz, is returning to its nonprofit roots. Catalog Choice’s free online service has helped millions of users reduce paper waste by helping them connect to direct-mail companies and opt out of receiving unwanted mail. After two years of operating under Equifax, Catalog Choice has been acquired by Overbrook grantee Story of Stuff, a nonprofit working to change the way we make, use, and throw away “stuff.” We are thrilled about this transition, and we know that at its new home under Story of Stuff, Catalog Choice will continue to grow and serve consumers looking for effective zero-waste solutions.

Overbrook grantee featured in Fast Company

This month’s online edition of business magazine Fast Company featured Erin Barnes, co-founder and Executive Director of Overbrook grantee ioby. ioby is a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen-led neighborhood projects aimed at making positive, grassroots-led change in communities from the bottom up. Founded in 2008 by Erin and fellow Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies graduates Brandon Whitney and Cassie Flynn, ioby has since expanded from a small pilot in New York to over 400 neighborhood projects in 6 different cities. In 2012, Erin and her co-founders were awarded the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for New Technology and Innovation.

In the interview, Erin talks world-changing strategy and emphasizes the importance of working with opponents to find and achieve common goals. “To get anything worthwhile done requires involving a diversity of constituents, and that means stepping out of your comfort zone to talk with people you don’t agree with,” she says. You can check out Erin’s interview over at Fast Company.

Remembering Jaime Levy

The Foundation is deeply saddened by the recent sudden passing of Jaime Levy, world renowned conservationist and indigenous rights advocate. Jaime was director and co-founder of Altropico, a long-time partner of the Overbrook Foundation. Since the 1980's, Jaime worked directly with highly isolated indigenous groups in Ecuador to gain legal recognition of their territories, advocate for their human rights, and provide tools and training for the sustainable use of their native rainforests. More recently, Jaime served on the International Board of Directors of the Forest Stewardship Council and the IUCN Specialist Group on Mountain Connectivity, Protected Areas, and Mountainous Transboundary Landscapes.

Jaime was an honorary member of the Indigenous Community Conservation Area consortium and was essential to the establishment of the Permanent Indigenous Peoples' Committee. He was an irreplaceable advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Foundation offers its deepest condolences to Jaime's family and friends.

Overbrook grantee GESG wins prestigious award!

On World Environment Day, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) – an organization founded by community members to combat their region’s environmental degradation – was one of five recipients of the prestigious Energy Globe award (an annual award founded in 1999 by Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann). Each year, the Award identifies five organizations that represent the best in national sustainable practices the fields of earth, fire, water, air, and youth. The award also carries with it a €10,000 cash prize, in recognition of the fact that many of the organizations have accomplished a lot with a very little, and could accomplish a great deal more with even a little more.

GESG won the award for its groundbreaking work in restoring watersheds and supporting communities’ sustainable food efforts. As part of the project, more than 289 communities in the Sierra Gorda region will receive support to preserve and strengthen their water supplies through improved agricultural techniques, including soil regeneration and carbon capture. In addition, communities will receive training on how to reduce the impact of current agricultural practices on the community ecosystems, without compromising the food production and income levels.

Congratulations, GESG!

UPDATE: and thanks to GESG's work, a new species of magnolia has been discovered! Read more about it here.