It’s the season when many of us sit down and discuss the year’s allocations for helping the world… call it giving, tithing, donating, or just joining others in making a better world for our grandchildren, or, as Jonas Salk described our basic duty — “to be good ancestors.”
For those who look ahead, it is self-interest, in its purest form.
Once again, let me tout an approach that might let you be systematic about this, picking among the various topics that raise your passion and using this annual exercise to do a very efficient thing: empowering others (activists) to go save the world for you!
Pass the word about this approach: The Power of Proxy Activism. It could be your most effective (and comfortably simple) way to make a difference. To be part of the solution, not the problem.
One forward-looking project you might consider: help crowd-fund the new Museum of Science Fiction — to be established in Washington D.C. Interactive exhibits will present the bold vision of Science Fiction, invoking its ‘sense of wonder’ about the universe — exploring the intersection of science and the imagination. Right now… they are raising money through Indiegogo for a Preview Location as a first step toward the museum. See this interview with Executive Director Greg Viggiano.
As an added incentive, you can receive a private tour of the museum, a lecture and signed hardcover from Greg Bear. You can also receive a signed hard copy of my latest novel, Existence, or a signed set of five of my hardcovers.
Or…Be immortalized and have a character in my next novel named after you! Die gruesomely on paper and/or onscreen (if you so choose)! Or it makes the perfect holiday gift.
==From the Philippines to the Classroom==
There is urgent and immediate need around the globe: Help rescue and recovery efforts in the Philippines…still reeling from the terrible impact of Super-typhoon Haiyan. Thousands have died from the storm and its aftermath, and survivors are in desperate need of food and fresh water, as well as medical supplies and sanitation. Groups such as Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), the Red Cross and Oxfam International are sending teams of emergency responders to help with this tragic situation.
Every person’s list of memberships can be uniquely different. For example, I send money every year, selecting among organizations including:
The Sierra Club, which has a proven track record of rationally negotiating long-term sustainable environmental solutions — to maintain clean air and water and open spaces for our descendants. Radical environmentalists call then “sell-outs” but they are the ones who have to do the hard dickering in a flawed but real world.
The Ocean Foundation works to protect the health of the world’s oceans and coastlines, as well as to conserve our disappearing coral reefs and marine mammals.
Greenpeace, I do not always agree with them. Proxy power involves a weighing of factors. But I am glad they are out there acting as the “bad cops” and thus getting corporations etc. to eagerly negotiate with the Sierra Club! Think about it.
Project Heifer International educates and empowers impoverished farmers overseas to practice sustainable agriculture, setting up community cooperatives — and working to end cycles of hunger and poverty. Your gift keeps on giving, for families pass on the training they receive — and they give the first female offspring of their livestock gift to another neighboring family in need.
Habitat for Humanity International is involved in building and repairing simple decent and affordable homes for homeless or displaced people all over the world, using volunteer labor and donations. Families in need can purchase the houses through no-interest loans or other innovative financing solutions.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation fights to resist censorship and advocates for open accountability — to defend your rights in a an ever-changing digital world. Another case where we disagree on some things… but I am glad they are out there spending my dues on good fights.
Witness: See It, Film It, Change It. Witness is involved in getting video equipment directly into the hands of pro-freedom elements overseas — to record and document human rights abuses — transforming individual stories into powerful calls for justice and change.
The Skeptic Society: Fighting for the Enlightenment, the Skeptics Society promotes science, examining and illuminating all manner of extraordinary claims….and working to debunk a growing tsunami of pseudoscience.
The Planetary Society supports education, advocates for pro-science policy and directly funds innovative research on space exploration — reminding us to keep looking toward the frontier in space. Now ably led by Bill Nye the Science Guy!
==And a few newer sites==
Crowd-it-Forward enables you to donate to contribute to “Random acts of crowd funding.”
Donors Choose enables you to give directly to the classroom. Public school teachers may seek funding for special art, science or literacy projects to benefit their students, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods. Help purchase microscopes, books, or painting supplies.
Finally, Books for Soldiers allows you to help fulfill specific requests from soldiers — for books, DVDs or games. Of particular value to those stationed away from family during the holiday season. I have some titles I’d suggest!
==Philanthropy on the larger scale==
And if you know someone a bit better-heeled? Someone with the resources to make a much bigger difference? Here is my paper on innovative philanthropy that circulated for a while in foundation circles. It proposes a nifty way to engage billionaires in the New Aristocracy… or for a mere millionaire to create a way to influence billionaires! Oh, and also to craft one of the best possible reality TV shows, ever!
Consider a modest institution called the Eye of the Needle Foundation or “EON.” Its symbol, a camel sailing easily through a needle’s eye, makes biblical reference to helping rich folks “reach heaven” by means of well-targeted altruism. The aim is to offer dramatic, extravagant, altruistic… and possibly historic ways for billionaires to spend their money.
Something for the man or woman who has everything. (Oh, and did I mention… it would make a spectacular TV series?)
Go thou and be good ancestors.