Social media is a major part of the Haiti relief effort - Help Haiti Now

The catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake to hit Haiti on Tuesday, the worst earthquake in Haiti in over 200 years, has resulted in unimaginable destruction, with death tolls estimated in the tens of thousands. Thousands of buildings have been destroyed, including the National Palace, akin to the White House in the US, Parliament, schools, and hospitals. 

However, if there is any relative upside to this disaster, it has been the universal and immediate bond of altruism across the world as a global flood of support and donations as soon as the news of the earthquake hit the social media networks. Within one day, the viral fundraising campaign via Twitter and Facebook raised over $5 million for the Red Cross's relief efforts. @RedCross tweeted: "text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti" on Twitter, and within minutes, this message spread throughout the world via social networks, facebook status messages, and twitter updates and retweets. The one day total of $5 million that's been raised so far by the Red Cross far exceeds the 2009 mobile text donation total of nearly $4 million, said a spokeswoman for the organization which undeniably proves the power and necessity of social media and viral information dissemination to mobilize action. 

In 2005, Haitian-born rapper Wyclef Jean founded a nonprofit organization, Yele Haiti, to provide global awareness for his homeland, the poorest in the Western hemisphere. Yele has become another major fundraising organization for disaster relief efforts in Haiti, either via the website or via text: "Text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to YELE HAITI. Your money will help with relief efforts. They need our help..please help if you can" (as @wyclef initially tweeted). Within 1 hour the system was overloaded and within a day Yele had received $1 million in donations.

Excellent additional organizations to donate to include Oxfam, who promise that "we are providing clean water, shelter and sanitation and helping people recover – your donation will go immediately to the most critical needs in Haiti, and we will ensure that every penny is used wisely" and Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres), who state on their website, that "we have already treated more than 1,000 people on the ground in Haiti following Tuesday's earthquake, but the needs are huge. An inflatable hospital with operating theatres is expected to arrive in the next 24 hours."

I am overwhelmed with profound sadness for the people of Haiti, but am somewhat buoyed by the glimmer of light that manifests in the power of global empathy and outpouring of generosity in the face of such tragedy. My only wish is that a similar mobilization of attention and resources would manifest in a proactive way to protect and nurture our planet and halt further harm (massive deforestation, unthinkable wastestream contributions, mountaintop mining explosions, overfishing the oceans, global pollution, etc.) resulting from human hands. Ignored amidst the immediacy of this disaster is the simple fact that earthquakes and volcanoes are triggered by climate change, and as the natural balance of earth's climate becomes more disrupted, and global warming careens out of control, geological disasters will occur with increasing frequency and severity.

Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti

Will 2010 be the year of the electric car?

The trends from automakers at the Detroit Auto show, happening this week, seem to suggest so. Due to the current economic climate, the worsening recession, and increasing concerns around climate change and global oil reserve depletion, car manufacturers are eager to highlight new versions of smaller, less expensive cars, many of which get up to 40 miles per gallon on highways. Hybrids and electric cars are also taking center stage, with many auto manufacturers debuting electric models. Electric cars still seem to be firmly rooted in the future realm in the majority of the United States, with lack of ubiquitous charging stations and the current high cost of electric cars, but hopefully this is changing. A $100 million federal grant to the Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation is a great start, as are the 2500 electric car charging stations in 5 chosen cities (one of which is Seattle - yay! For more on Seattle's Electric Vehicle initiative, see the following November 1, 2009 story in the Seattle PI).

The Dirty Secrets of 6 Scandalous Foods - and Healthy Alternatives

Today, one of my favorite online resources for interesting and topical environmental, health, and green living news, The Daily Green, posted an interesting and enlightening story about six "scandalous" foods that are in some way bad for the environment, the world, our health, or some combination of all three. In addition to elucidating the careless and even exploitative business practices of these foods, not all hope is lost: better alternatives are given. This short list is easy to remember and certainly will factor into my decisions the next time I'm at the grocery store or at a restaurant.

While some of the "scandalous" foods and the reasons they're on this list may not surprise you (the ubiquitous presence of corn and corn products in the form of high fructose corn syrup has been widely exposed as the main culprit behind the US's obesity "epidemic," type 2 diabetes, blood pressure problems, not to mention liver and kidney problems, and even osteoarthritis), many others are eye-opening, to say the least. For example, I learned that the dominance of corn in our food products is not only dangerously threatening to our own individual health, but has resulted in massive deforestation across the world. In addition, the widespread use of chemical fertilizer on corn fields in the U.S. has created a massive "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico – a 7,900 square-mile area patch of water that is so oxygen-depleted that sea life cannot survive.

So what are the other top offenders? Click below to find out:

What do you need? Think about it. Then give it to yourself.

The other day at the end of my yoga class, the teacher suggested we take a minute and ask ourselves: "What is it that I need right now?" In context, she meant simply: do whatever pose you want, if you want, before you collapse into corpse pose. She continued: "Your body is your true teacher. What is it calling out for right now: a twist, a forward bend, an energizing back bend? Something else entirely? Only you know what you need today, in this moment."

As a result, I got to thinking -- how often do we, in the course of our often hectic daily lives, pause to really listen to ourselves; our bodies, our heart, our inner selves, and give it what it's calling out for? We hear, loud and clear, the obvious cues of hunger, exhaustion, pain, and general malaise, all signs that our bodies are screaming in protest to whatever it is that we are currently doing, or have neglected to do. And yet we often blithely persist in doing what we're doing, or not doing. We unconsciously, or consciously, ignore these cues, often choosing to deaden them with alternative substances (caffeine? sugar? alcohol? painkillers?), rather than listen, stop, and address the real root of the problem. It's a known fact that by the time we feel thirsty our body is already dehydrated. People also often mistake thirst for hunger and eat something, usually salty or sweet, instead, which only heightens the true problem. How often do we simply grab whatever is quickest and easiest to eat by the time we notice we're ravenous? How many other times do we find ourselves mindlessly snacking away for other non-hunger related reasons... out of boredom, anxiety, stress, exhaustion, habit, fatigue, socializing, or peer pressure?

What other needs in our lives do we suppress in lieu of other pressures, expectations, and routine? How many times do we say "yes" to things we have neither the desire nor time for?How did this "no problem" habit become so pervasive, such that hearing (and giving) an affirmative answer is expected, regardless of the consequences? Saying yes to opportunities and upholding responsibilities is one thing, but at what cost: to one's relationships, one's quality of life, one's health?

In mulling over the many contexts this simple question, What Do I Need?, can be applied to, I think it's something we should be asking ourselves on a moment-by-moment, daily basis from the most minute level (am I really craving fries? Or do I need to drink more water?) to much deeper and meaningful contexts pertaining to relationships, life, love, career and aspirational goals. Only by learning to listen to our one true guide - our inner selves - can we find a starting point from which to truly address, rather than palliate, our needs.

I initially started this blog with the idea of exploring the relationship between mind/body and our environment through the constant choices we make. Many life choices we are careful and deliberate about, but most simple daily decisions we make are subconscious, spontaneous, or all too often, habitual. Life is complicated enough; the very least we can do for ourselves is to pay attention to our true needs, and satisfy them. I suspect life would become simpler, and more satisfying, as a result.