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Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres Murdered

Photo credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist and member of the Lenca indigenous people of Honduras, was assassinated in the home of a friend at the end of February. She had been staying there due to recent threats against her life. She was 44 and a mother of four. Two of her children had already left Honduras for their own safety.

Cáceres was a long time activist, and most recently was working to oppose the Agura Zarca Dam project, one of the largest hydroelectric plants in Central America, and one which threatens the Gualcarque River and the Lenca people. That dam was being built in without having followed rules Honduras had agreed to follow in order to protect indigenous peoples and their land. As Cáceres and others mobilized support against the dam, the builders responded by militarizing the region, and in February she and others were confronted by the Honduran army, dam workers, and local law enforcement and detained.

Honduras has a poor record for environmental and indigenous rights issues, and has recently been judged responsible for numerous violations by the United Nations Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It was following this judgment that the country revised rules for land development which should have prevented the Agura Zarca Dam project in the first place.

Berta Cáceres is not alone in having been assassinated for her activism. A close friend, Thomás Garcia was killed in 2013, and in fact hundreds of activists are murdered each year across the globe because of their work. Human rights groups which track such information report that 116 people were killed in 2014 alone, 40% of whom belonged to indigenous groups. Human rights experts believe that these number are probably low, as many such killings take place out of the way and in hard to reach locales, meaning that there are likely more, unreported, slayings.

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Organizations

Branch Out with the Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch
IMG: via Global Forest Watch

Earth Day was celebrated earlier this month, giving folks around the world a chance to think about their carbon footprint, and how they relate to the natural world around them. One organization that does this, not only on Earth Day but every day of the year, is the Global Forest Watch, an initiative to monitor the world’s population of trees.

Since 1997, Global Forest Watch has been on a mission to maintain and broaden a global forest-monitoring network. It began as an effort introduced by the World Resources Institute (WRI), as part of its Forest Frontiers Initiative. Today, the organization has continued to improve how it monitors forests by merging cutting edge technology with on-the-ground partners from around the world. In 2011, the Global Forest Watch entered a new era with an expanded group of partners, more monitoring capabilities than ever before, and more support from environmental activists from across the globe.

Global Forest Watch’s mission is to help policy-makers achieve sustainable management of forest resources through strengthened land-use planning and monitoring. Its new satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing capabilities allow for people around the world to become empowered, informed environmental activists who have the power to contribute to better forest management. Global Forest Watch was recently featured on Philanthropy News Digest, which praised the organization for its outstanding web features that make for an incredibly compelling interactive experience.

Aside from collecting and demonstrating data that reveals the state of forests around the world, Global Forest Watch is an initiative that brings together likeminded people. Users of its website can share and read stories from people on the ground and learn about which forests need the most support. Global Forest Watch seeks to keep its users informed about forests both in their area and abroad, and connects those who are passionate about environmental preservation and eliminating forest depletion.

With partners and collaborators like NASA, Greenpeace, Global Witness, Conservation International, Google, and many others, the Global Forest Watch serves as a massive coalition of individuals and organizations who apply humanitarian values to environmental issues. As passionate as it is innovative, Global Forest Watch has become one of the most powerful resources available to those who are concerned with environmental issues, putting such issues into a contemporary context and working towards finding solutions.

Learn more by visiting www.globalforestwatch.org

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Profiles

Philanthropic People: Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett
Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com

Academy award-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett is one of the biggest cultural icons of our time, and one of the most humanitarian-minded. Her career has consisted of playing compelling, remarkable characters that have reached countless audiences worldwide. In addition to being a cultural leader on the silver screen, the acclaimed actress has spent many years as a humanitarian leader behind the scenes, supporting causes that benefit youth, women, human rights, the arts, and more.

In 2007, Blanchett helped launch the “Who On Earth Cares Campaign” in cooperation with the Australian Conservation Foundation, an initiative to improve the environmental quality of life for people in Australia. In 2011, she partnered with the Clear For Life initiative to bring clean drinking water and more sustainable practices to underserved parts of Asia. She has supported charities such as 10×10, Kids Help Line, and SolarAid, and has always been a vocal advocate for women’s and human rights.

Blanchett was one of the narrators in the film Girl Rising, a documentary and coinciding initiative to provide girls worldwide with access to education. She has long been an advocate for gender equality in the arts. Earlier this month, as the world watched her accept the Academy Award for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” for her performance in Blue Jasmine, Blanchett took the opportunity to address the gender gap in media and film as she gave her acceptance speech.

During the speech she said, “[Thank you] for so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money,” of the history of sexism that has prevented women from earning the same kind of acclaim as their male counterparts in Hollywood. She also remarked, “The world is round, people,” to which her peers and female artists worldwide cheered.

A major supporter of the arts and cultural philanthropy, of human rights and the environment, Cate Blanchett is not only an award-winning actress, but a model humanitarian.

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Profiles

Dumpster Project: College Professor to Live and Teacher Classes From a Dumpster for a Year

The Dumpster Project
IMG: via The Dumpster Project

You might feel like you’re willing to do a lot for a cause or for the good of the planet.  Would you live in a dumpster for 12 months or teach classes in one?  Probably not.  That’s what sets Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, a.k.a. “Professor Dumpster,” apart from the rest of us.

Mr. Wilson is an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.  Wilson has plans to spend the next year doing as much as humanly possible in what amounts to a shipping crate.  The crazy news is that his employer is totally in on the plan.

The university has agreed to allow Wilson to teach classes, from within his 33 foot crate, on how to convert spaces such as his into “livable,” eco-friendly dwellings.  He plans to first camp out in a sleeping bag on the metal floor of the empty structure which is about one percent the size of a modern American home.

However, here’s where the plan gets interesting.  Wilson and his students will start making adjustments over time.  They will add in energy efficient light bulbs, nano-insulation, and an energy-producing toilet. Taking what they’ve learned, the students are expected to go make energy-efficient switches in their dorm rooms.

According to Wilson, “What we are talking about right now is to start a green movement within historically black colleges and universities (of which Huston-Tillotson is one), and become the flagship school of that, under an initiative called ‘Green is the New Black.’”

If all goes according to plan, Wilson would like to take his show on the road and teach local elementary schools about how to be more sustainable.  He feels like the next generation could be the one to change things.

Is there anyone not completely jazzed by Wilson’s rather unusual choice of residence?  Wilson’s ex-wife has already said their six-year-old daughter will not sleep in a dumpster, period.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say I agree with the ex, as far as children are concerned.

Anyone else willing to give it a try?  If so, it’s a great way to save money on energy, heating, and pretty much every other cost.  Perhaps you could even do it to raise money for a great charity.

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Organizations Resources

Leonardo DiCaprio Art Auction Raises $38 Million

leonardo dicaprio
IMG: Joe Seer via Shutterstock

Last night, Christie’s in New York and actor Leonardo DiCaprio made history by auctioning off more than $38 million in art—with all proceeds going to charity. The money will all be donated to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which works to fund various conservation projects around the world.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation supports projects that vary from creating and maintaining sanctuaries to protecting natural habitats of endangered species. The money raised at the recent auction will go a long way in helping many more projects like that succeed.

Thirty-three works of art were sold at the auction, which was entitled “The 11th Hour Auction.” Most works sold for much more than expected, making the auction even more valuable than anticipated.

Currently, less than 2% of philanthropic dollars support global conservation projects. Each year, 140,000 animal and plant species become extinct. If we don’t do something now, we will soon find ourselves facing extinction.

“We are facing a tipping point of environmental crisis unprecedented in human history and our very survival is dependent on protecting nature,” said DiCaprio in his opening speech. “There are less than 3,200 tigers left in the wild, we’ve lost 90% of the world’s sharks, and it looks like we might lose the African elephant entirely in the next 10 years if we don’t take action.”

Leonardo DiCaprio is well established as a committed environmentalist, and it was he ho convinced many of the artists and collectors to contribute or bid on works. He donated some of his personal collection as well. He purchased a piece called “Monokome” for $700,000, which was specially commissioned for the auction.

 

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Profiles

Dean B. Nelson- providing guidance

Sometimes the best type of philanthropy is that which provides guidance. Dean B. Nelson of KKR has provided a multitude of portfolio companies with just that, since he’s the one who founded KKR’s Capstone program in 2000.

Nelson’s KKR Capstone offers companies guidance, which helps them get back on their feet and become a profitable company again. By keeping companies from going under, KKR Capstone has saved thousands of jobs.

Dean B. Nelson is also an advocate for causes like CareNet.  To read all about him and what KKR Capstone does to help the environment, read his full profile here.