Why was Barack Obama awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

To begin with, congratulations to Barack Obama on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Obama received the award, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”And while there are some who feel the award may be premature, my belief is that this award is probably delivered at just the perfect time.

Is the award for things that Obama has already accomplished? Is it a recognition of Obama’s power to inspire people everywhere — coupled with his renewal of diplomacy as a means of moving the global conversation on peace forward? Or is there another agenda?

The Nobel committee many times awards the Peace Prize to people it believes can leverage the prize to further the agenda of peace — to add momentum, if you will, to efforts that are in-flight and may not have yet yielded dividends.

From the wikipedia entry on The Nobel Peace Prize:

However, others have pointed to the uniqueness of the Peace Prize in that its high profile can often focus world attention on particular problems and possibly aid in the peace-efforts themselves.

I believe it may be underestimated by many what impact this prize may have on the negotiations for peace that Obama will undertake in the coming years.

If this award allows him to be more effective in using diplomacy in the cause of peace over the next 3-7 years, then it will have a real and lasting impact — and I believe the committee is betting that will be the case.

I’m betting the same thing — for the sake of all who believe in the cause of peace.

In the 21st Century, What Does Freedom of Speech Mean?

The women below are exercising their constitutional right to Freedom of Speech — or are they?


These ladies — who won an international Bridge competition last month — put together their sign in response to questions they got from other teams in the tournament. Members of teams from other countries were questioning how the American government could justify its policies — the ladies just wanted everyone to know that they disagreed too.Well, the United States Bridge Federation disagrees and is now trying to punish them severely — including cutting off their ability to make a living as Professional Bridge players.

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

It’s been a long time since the founders of America put together the US Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

At the head of the Bill of Rights, they chose to put Freedom of Speech as the very first guaranteed right of all citizens. They had lived in a time when speaking out against the King of England was literally a crime punishable by death, so it’s no wonder they felt so strongly about it.

So now, in the 21st Century, have things changed?

With America at war in Iraq and Afghanistan — should people still be allowed to speak out freely? And at what point does criticism of the Government or of the President cross the line? Is there — or should there be — any line that can be crossed to make Freedom of Speech no longer a guaranteed right?

What do you think — should the United States Bridge Federation be able to punish them financially for their actions? And if so, what exactly does Freedom of Speech mean?

Three Projects — AND Three Values

On of the challenges faced by most of us in our modern world is that of ‘Overload’. We have hundreds of cable channels, hundreds of news outlets, millions of blogs — all beckoning us to spend our time with them.

How to deal with “project overload”?

All these things are waiting to sap and drain our most valuable possession – Time.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading blogs like Zen Habits and books like The Four Hour Work Week (4HWW) and Getting Things Done (GTD). They help me better manage my time and tasks so I can make the best use of my time and minimize the stress I deal with.

Practical Ways To Deal With Project Overload

A great example of better time management I’ve picked up are The Low Information Diet from 4HWW. Tim Ferris, author of the 4HWW describes the low information diet as essentially ignoring all news unless it finds its way to you.

He recommends watching no news programs and reading no news websites. None. If something is so important that you need to know about it, you’ll hear about it somehow.

Another interesting approach is the idea of Haiku Productivity from Zen Habits. The idea behind this is that you organize your work into projects, as recommended in GTD, but only work on 3 projects at a time. If you work on more, then you can struggle getting things completed.

By limiting your projects to three at a time and focusing on project completion, you can rapidly get things accomplished — rather than spend all your time on tasks while not actually completing things.

But there’s something missing — Values

I like both these ideas, but I believe there’s something missing in them both. Something important — and that’s Values. If we all simply stuck our heads in three projects and ignored the world around us, then important changes in our world might not get off the ground.

How can we expect people to learn to conserve energy, or reduce consumption if all they think about is the three projects they have going right then?

We can do anything — if we can put our minds to it

I believe that if our society were to set its mind to it, we could tackle many of these challenges. We could develop less better transportation systems. We could reduce what we consume and focus on making more of our consumption sustainable. But in order to do that, the Values of society will have to change.

As a society we’ll have to change our Values to make these things more important to us all. Once society adopts the Values of reduced consumption and sustainable living, I believe we’ll be amazed at how quickly things change. If you look around, in fact, you can see the beginnings of this already.

Add “Three Values” to your “Three Projects”

So while I agree with the ideas behind Haiku Productivity — limiting yourself to three active projects at any one time — I’d add to that “and Three Values”. Reducing your consumption isn’t a project anyway — it’s simply changing your beliefs about what it appropriate. It’s about changing your values.

Here are some examples of values that might be appropriate to focus on:

  • It’s best for me to reduce how much I drive and how much gas I use.
  • It’s appropriate for me to purchase products that have minimal packaging — and the packaging should be recyclable.
  • I should consider altering my goals to make them less materialistic and more focussed on family, community and happiness.
  • I should make an extra effort to recycle — even if it’s inconvenient (like bringing soda cans home from work to reccle them, instead of throwing them in the trash can at work if your work doesn’t recycle).

So as your putting together your GTD Projects, and as you focus on your three Haiku Productivity priorities, also consier adding three values to your list. They don’t have specific tasks associated with them — but they may be even more important in the long run.

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On Blog Action Day — Are You Here to Help?

I write about the environment a lot. Mostly, it’s because I have a lot to say about environmental issues.

Sometimes it’s because I’m scared. Not really scared like the apocalypse is coming, although I wonder about that sometimes. It’s more like we’re all about to graduate from high school and we’re faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of our lives.

Regardless of your stance on the issue of climate change, I think that it’s pretty apparent that we can’t go on living the way we are now. There’s not enough oil in the ground, or trees or water either.

It’s just like in high school when the final bell rang and the doors closed behind us for the last time. We always knew that there were real problems and responsibilities out there. It’s just that now we were out there with them.

Like any graduate, we’ve got some decisions to make about the rest of our lives. Of course, any time you throw “decision” in with “rest of our lives” it means you’re talking about something relatively serious. I’m pretty certain that the future of the human race qualifies. When we’re talking about “environmental issues” we’re talking about nothing less. And that’s enough to scare me.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

When I talk about taking responsibility for our future, there is an illustration that I like to use. I’ve stated this in several ways on my own blog and have even found a fantastic video on YouTube that goes over the concept quite well. It works like this. In the end, we have only four options:

  1. We become stewards of our environment only to find that everything would have worked out just fine regardless. We spend a lot of money needlessly, but no one is really hurt by it.
  2. We become stewards of our environment, spend a ton of money and make sweeping changes across nearly every industry, and find that we just barely miss the tipping point of environmental collapse.
  3. We keep doing what we’re doing and hope that nothing bad happens, and we get lucky because it doesn’t. We spend nothing, change nothing, and die leaving the mess for someone else to clean up.
  4. We spend nothing, do nothing, and watch our planetary ecosystem collapse, taking our economic, political, and eventually our social systems down with it. No food, no medicine, and no government to protect us.

I like this illustration because it shows so clearly that it doesn’t matter what we think of the whole global warming thing. Instead, what matters is that we take responsibility for the environment we live in and depend on. I’d rather take some responsibility and switch out a few light bulbs for CFL’s than deal with the whole apocalypse thing from option four. (I think I mentioned that the apocalypse scares me.)

When we begin to look at our responsibility to the environment, we realize that “environment” is just a code word. It means something broader than recycling your newspaper. Do somebody’s shopping. Or fix a child’s bicycle. No one says you have to be Super Biodegradable Boy or Mega Organic Girl to fend off the apocalypse. Making the world a better place is about doing what we can. What’s important is that we do it.

There’s a television show that I like called Ghost Hunters. It’s about a team of paranormal investigators. (Yes, I’m a geek.) One thing I’m always impressed with is how they introduce themselves. When they meet a client for the first time, as they shake hands, one investigator says, “Hi, we’re TAPS.” (TAPS is the name of their organization.) This is always followed by, “We’re here to help.” This is such a perfect example of the sort of responsibility we need to take for the world around us.

Our world won’t function like it has in the past for very much longer. We can’t afford the consequences of not acting. Perhaps it’s time we start prefacing the decisions we make with, “We’re here to help.”

On Blog Action Day, it’s time to ask yourself as well: “Am I here to help?”

Let’s hope we are.

Mathew Murphy brings us Tech Tuesday each week. Matt blogs on technology, the environment and tea on his website at http://mattscuppa.wordpress.com.

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A simple step you can take — Join Freecycle

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About ‘freecycling’ and The Freecycle Network

Freeycling is a worldwide grassroots movement of people banding together to recycle items by giving them away for free.

While there are a number of different freecycling groups around the world, the largest and oldest is The Freecycle Network, sometimes called TFN. TFN has groups all across America and around the world, including active groups in France, Australia and Canada.

The idea is simple. If you have something you want to get rid of, it’s better to give it to someone else that it is to dump it in a landfill. And if you need to buy something, freecycling gives you an opportunity to get it for free — which not only saves you money, it reduces your environmental impact since you consume less.

How to Join In

Joining freecycle is easy and will save you money. Here’s how:

1. First, go to freecycle.org and enter the local area where you live.

2. You’ll be presented with a list of towns near you that have Freecycle groups. If you don’t see one close, you can create one yourself.

You should check out a few different groups — the one closest to you may have only a few members while one a bit further away may be much busier. For example, one near me had only 5 recent offers while another had over 100. I joined both.

The Freecycle Network runs on Yahoo Groups currently, so you’ll need a Yahoo id to join.

3. You should review each group’s page and read the rules for that group, then join.

After you select a group to view, you’ll be presented with the Yahoo page for that group. The page will tell you how many members the group has as well as how many new posts there have been in the last 7 days. Here’s an example:

One of the other things on this page you should read are the rules for the group. The Freecycle Network group has a US-based headquarters group that establishes a set of rules each group must follow — or risk losing being kicked out of The Freecycle Network. These rules are generally common sense anyway and, in most cases, can be modified by local groups to fit what the local members want.

For example, in the group we picked above, here are the rules (taken from the page shown above):

Join the Freecycle(TM) movement! The Lawrence Freecycle Network www.lifeinlawrence.com is a group of Larryville residents who want to “recycle” that special something rather than throw it away. Use this email list to post a message about usable items that you’d like to give away. Everything posted must be FREE and legal. No politics, religion, advertising or spam. No trading or bartering. No pets.

Lawrence Freecycle serves the Lawrence, Kansas area and people living in neighboring towns who are willing to travel to pick up items.

This group is part of The Freecycle Network, a nonprofit organization and a movement of people interested in keeping good stuff out of landfills. Check out freecycle.org for other cities and info on the movement.

As you can see, the rules aren’t onerous and there are good reasons for them. They’re basically meant to keep out people trying to sell items or who want to send spam to the group’s members.

Some local groups allow pets to be offered to the group, and some don’t. (I saw one group with a post offering a full-blooded Golden Retriever because its owners both had jobs and couldn’t take care of it.) Other groups don’t allow pets due to concerns that people may take the pets and sell them for medical research, use them for gaming/fighting, or abuse them in other ways.

To join, you simply click on the ‘Join this Group’ button on the page. This will send your request to the moderators of the local group who will then respond and approve your request. In my case, I joined 2 groups — the first responded in about 10 minutes and the second took about an hour.

Once you’ve joined the group it’s like interacting with any other Yahoo group. You will receive e-mails (either individual e-mails or a once a day summary) whenever one of the group members posts an item and you can go to the group’s page and review old items posted.

So that’s it! You’re now a member of a fast-growing, world wide recycling movement! Great work!

Other Options

In addition to The Freecycle Network, there are other similar groups. Among them are FreeSharing.org, Sharing is Giving, and FreeCycleAmerica.

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The Outsized Power of Young People to Change The World

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It surprises me how many people believe that their individual actions make no difference to the world.

In a recent poll on this site, 45% felt that their personal actions “make no difference” with respect to Global Warming. (Of course, many of those responses were from Digg readers, who don’t represent the average reader on this site.)

I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I believe exactly the opposite to be true: Individuals can change the world, and for us to change the course that society is on it will be individuals that will have to lead the changes.

Corporations and Governments are going to change the world — that’s something that us individuals are going to have to do. Governments follow the lead of the people who fund elections, and corporations are focussed on making sure they continue to have short term profits. It’s only individual people who have the ability to change the world when it comes to environmental issues.

I also believe that young people have a dramatically outsized ability to change the world. Here are some examples:

1. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was only 24 years old when he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Two years later when the black woman Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, King became spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During the boycott he was arrested and his house was bombed, but he refused to quit — even though he had a young wife and child who, along with him, received constant death threats.

King was the youngest man to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize when he received it in 1964. His “I have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., is widely recognized as one of greatest American speeches of the 20th Century.

2. Bill Gates

Bill Gates was only 19 years old when he read in Popular Electronics about a new ‘personal’ computer that had been designed. He decided, along with his friend Paul Allen, to write software for it. They contacted the maker of the new machine and, within a year, he had taken a leave of absence from Harvard Colege and ‘Micro-soft’ had been founded.

The company they founded changed personal computing and the way people used computers forever. Today, Microsoft products are used worldwide and Bill Gates has become one of the richest people in the history of the world.

3. Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was 26 years old in 1905 when, while working in the patent office as an ‘Assistant Examiner’ when he wrote and got published 4 papers on Physics. Among these papers were groundbreaking ideas on “The Photoelectric Effect”, a important discovery in Physics at that time.

In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work — with special mention of his early work on the photoelectric effect. In 1999 Einstein was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Century“. A poll of prominent physicists named him the greatest physicist of all time.

Einstein also made important contributions in other areas. His early warnings to US President Franklin Roosevelt regarding the potential for Germany to develop a Nuclear Bomb helped to spur the Manhattan Project. He was an ardent supporter of peace and spoke out for it throughout his life — he once was quoted as saying, “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

4. Rebecca Hoskings

Rebecca Hoskings was 31 years old when she traveled to Hawaii to film a documentary on its people and wildlife. But when she witnessed thousands of albatross chicks dying as a direct result of discarded plastics, she was both hurt and mad — and made a decision to make a difference.

Plastic grocery bags were a major culprit — the adult albatrosses saw plastic bags in the water and thought they were squid, so they scooped them up and fed them to the chicks. The chicks stomachs would then be filled with undigestible plastic which would eventually kill them.

So she organized a drive to ban plastic grocery bags in her home town of Modbury in the UK. Her efforts were successful and as of May 1, 2007 non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags are officially banned in her town. Moreover, publicity from this effort has made its way around the world and now many other cities are considering similar bans.

5. Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi was just 24 years old when he moved to South Africa for a 1 year job in South Africa. While there, he witnessed first-hand the discrimination and violence against Indians that was occurring in South Africa at that time. At the end of his 1 year job, he decided to stay on and help organize the fight against a law that was being passed to deprive Indians the right to vote.

A year later he founded the Natal Indian Congress to help organize Indians in South Africa as a political force. He continued to work for the rights of Indians in South Africa for 10 more years, during which time he developed his approach for non-violent demonstration. Eventually, Gandhi’s movement was successful and forced authorities to recognize the rights of Indians in that country.

The organizing skills and approaches developed by Gandhi during this time in his life helped him later when he used the same approaches to work for Independence in India itself. Today he is known as Father of the Nation in India and is recognized around the world as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.

6. Marie Curie

Marie Curie was in her late 20s when she and her husband Pierre began their groundbreaking research into radioactivity. When she was 30, they published a paper announcing the existence of Polonium, a new element. Later that year, they announced their discovery of Radium, another new element. In 1903, at the age of 35 she received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the work she had done in her late 20′s and early 30′s on radioactivity.

Marie also had to overcome discrimination against her for being a woman. Despite graduating first in her high school class, she was initially denied entrance to college because she was female. Despite this, she eventually found her way into the University of Paris where she again graduated first in her class (and later became the first female professor at that university). In 1902 she became the first woman in France to earn a Doctorate degree.

Marie Curie later earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making her the only person to have ever won a Nobel Prize in more than one scientific discipline.

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Is Organic Too Expensive? How Much is Organic worth?

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Let’s Face it. Organic is Expensive.

When I marketed Organic food to few consumers, they nodded in agreement about the goodness and health benefits. But the one question that I squirmed at was, “I heard its expensive, what’s the difference?”. At the end of the day it all boils down to the economics.

Before I entered the business, people said, that the difference would be 20%. Its only when I got about selling Organic produce that I understood the true value. It shot up to be 50% to almost 100% more expensive than the regular produce.

I could not sell. The mere thought of a consumer, “I get food for half the price in the super store with air conditioner and parking facility”, cannot compete with my humble room that held wooden shelves and bamboo baskets of organic produce. The inquisitive ones never returned and the regulars picked up a packet or two to satisfy their guilt. For weeks I went under loss and could not bear the sight of rotting vegetables and bug infested grains. I closed.

What is the benefit of making something that’s good but will not sell locally? Export is not an option I wish not to take to promote being local.

When I started to look for reasons for the exorbitant prices here are a few causes:

Organic Food is not subsidized food

After World War II countries who took to Green Revolution satisfied hunger and famine with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Governmental policies till date stand in favour of them. So you might pay lesser for a regular veggie in the market but you still pay for the fertilizers through your taxes. There is no such subsidy for organic manure or bio-inputs.

It is labour intensive

Farmers do not use herbicides, so they control weeds by pulling them out. Many organic methods use lesser or no machinery and require great human care during seeding and plucking.

Low yields initially

Those who convert to Organic Farming lose 3 years as conversion period and yields reduce drastically. The soil is dead with chemicals that have killed essential micro-organisms. It takes that long to revive the earth and diminish the residual effect.

Misconception of niche audiences

A middle class man asked me to leave his grocery store and said “Take your organically grown rice and feed the elite, upper class who will agree with your ideologies”. People look at Organic Food as something that is delicate, precious and to be admired at a distance, but impractical for living.

Retailers are out to get your money – wrong!

Most retailers do not keep high margins on their products just because it is “Organic”. Infact those who sell Organic products know that they can never hope to make great profits and do it for the passion and dedication. When they buy it from the farmer, they procure it at the cost that you find on the store shelves of non-organic produce.

Hype on Organic

Right to the farmer level, the hype of Organic Food has also contributed to price increase, but these are proving to settled down with more competition and expansion of the market.

The need for change

Its easy to convert the soil to Organic but not the Human mind. We are conditioned to such sub-standards and mis-conceptions of science for years in the argument of feeding the masses. Organic Fields have proven this wrong with better yields. Governments are no longer dependable as they yield to the giants of agro-chemicals, bio-technology and eat up more cultivable lands for industries.

Consumerist behaviors have to change and its time we bow down to and support the producer who provides us good health.

I invite people to give suggestions to make this change happen.


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What Every Citizen Needs to Know NOW About Collaborating with Others On-Line.

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One of the primary ways that people are banding together to solve common problems is by using the Internet to collaborate with others. Whether the common problems they faces are around the world or down the block, there are great tools to use to help people get organized and work together to solve problems.

This guide will help you understand what the options are and how to move ahead and get organized!

Here are the 6 main categories of tools used and specific examples each and how to get started sing them.

1. E-Mail ‘mailing lists’, On-Line Groups and Forums

Early Internet users focussed primarily on e-mail listservers and newsgroups to share information and collaborate. Today, these two services are generally provided as combined services — meaning users can share information either by receiving e-mails every time someone posts an idea, or they can read posts left for the group through an on-line web interface similar to old-fashioned news groups.

Currently, the two most popular of these services are Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. They provide all the capabilities you need to:

  • Create groups and manage membership.
  • Send and receive e-mails to/from the group.
  • Browse and search or post new messages through a web-interface (similar to using a news group).

The Freecycle Network is an example of a group that’s been wildly successful in getting people to work together world-wide, yet they’re based primarily on local groups who are each using Yahoo Groups.

One problem with these on-line groups is that all group communications are public and stored in the archives at Yahoo and Google.

If your group does not want all their discussions to be publicly archived, a good option may be to use traditional e-mail list server software such as GNU Mailman or Majordomo. These options allow you to host the communications privately and have better control over the discussion archives, although they require reasonable technical skills to manage and maintain.

Many Internet hosting providers give you tools to create and manage e-mail discussion lists — and these can simplify things a lot if you want to host your own. For example, our hosting provider (Site5) gives you the ability to create and manage e-mail lists using GNU Mailman in their user control panel.

On-Line Forums are many times more random in scope than email lists or groups. But still, there are a powerful tool for collaborating with others. This is especially true for websites that want to help their readers share ideas and engage in general discussion.

Most Internet hosting providers provide free forum software as part of their basic hosting packages. Again, as an example our hosting provider (Site5) provides a couple options including phpBB2 and SMF.

2. Wikis

Wikis are great places to collaborate with other people and share important information. Wikipedia, of course, is the best know wiki on the Internet with literally millions of users world-wide.

Here are some other examples of great wikis:

  • DKosopedia
    A collaborative project focused on political and social change organized by the dailykos community.
  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A wiki put together by local bloggers in Southern New Hampshire, USA for people to share knowledge on local food options in their local area.
  • The FlatPlanetProject
    A wiki used by high school students to demonstrate the capabilities of working with others to organize and share information.

One of the really valuable things about wikis is that they stay around for a while. If you start a wiki then move on to other projects, someone else can come along a year later and build on your work. By getting the wiki started, you’ve organized at least part of the available knowledge and given the others a head start.

As with mail lists and groups, you can host your own wiki or find free ones on the Internet. Two of the examples here are built using the free wiki site Wkispaces. If you want to host your own wiki, we recommend starting here with this comparison of wiki software on Wikipedia.

It’s also important to consider the licensing terms you use for your wiki. To maximize the ability for you to cut/paste/copy other work into your wiki (as well as allow others to re-use your work in their projects) we recommend the GNU Free Documentation License. This license allows you, for example, to freely copy and reuse articles from Wikipedia, dailykos or any number of other sites that use the same license.

3. Blogs

One of the best ways to collaborate with others is to launch a blog with a team of dedicated individuals all posting on a specific topic. Some of the best examples of this are political blogs such as DailyKos, Think Progress and Little Green Footballs. These sites have literally hundreds of thousands (or millions) of readers who come there to share ideas, contribute thoughts and help to organize around ideas.

But many of the most effective blogs when it comes to organizing are much smaller and more focussed in nature. Here are just a couple great examples of groups of individuals blogging together for a common purpose:

Here are some other examples of great local blogs:

  • Seacoast Eat Local
    A group of individuals working to promote local food options in their area.
  • Blue Oregon
    A political blog focussed on local political issues in the state of Oregon
  • SM Baykeeper Blog
    A blog focussed on local environmental issues in Santa Monica, CA, USA. One recent post, for example, helped to Coastal Cleanup Day in and around Santa Monica.

While setting up your own hosted weblog isn’t that complicated if you’ve got the skills, many beginners Choose to just use the simple (and free!) services offered by Blogger.com or WordPress.com — either of these choices make it simple to setup and run your own blog quickly.

4. Skype Chat

Skype is a great communications tool for a number of reasons. First it’s free and allows for free calls around the world — but also because of it’s lesser-know chat capabilities.

Skype allows chats to be bookmarked and returned to at any later time. And the chats, once created, don’t die unless someone specifically kills them.

This allows for the creation of on-line chats where members can stop in any time and review messages they’ve missed. They can also drop in to say a few things, then leave — knowing the other chat members will pick their posts up when they get on-line.

This is especially good because it’s free and available world-wide. I personally work with groups of users on Skype chats that involve people from all over the world. We drop in and out and work together on ideas. It’s a great medium worth checking out.

5. On-line document development and sharing.

There are a number of ways to author and share documents on-line. The one I use most and like best is Google Documents. It’s easy to use, is always available, and makes it easy to share documents with other people.

I use this personally to work with other writers on posts to this weblog — even though those writers live in different states or around the world anywhere.

Another on-line document sharing service I’ve used that I liked a great deal is Backpack, from 37 Signals. Backpack provides another simple way to organize and share information as well as other features such as document storage, to do lists, and ways to organize information.

6. Basecamp

While my exposure to Basecamp (another 37 Signals product) has been minimal, I’ve seen enough to know it’s powerful and easy to use — although it’s not a free option. It’s good for larger groups that need to organize material to be delivered on a schedule.

Here are a couple quotes from individuals I know who are in love with the Basecamp:

Shea Gunther (StumbleGod and co-author of Ecotality Life):

“I’ve been using Basecamp for the past two years plus and frankly wouldn’t want to imagine my internet life without it. It’s an awesome tool for organizing teams of bloggers. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it just works.”

Chris Baskind (Author of LighterFootstep.com):

“We use Basecamp to handle all of our project planning for Vida Verde Media. One of the coolest uses we’ve come up with is coordinating our writer’s cooperative. We can set deadlines, track contributions, and share files — it really holds us together. It’s a great tool for decentralized workgroups.”

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The Ultimate Resource Guide for Commuting by Bicycle

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With the rise of oil prices and the growing ‘green’ movement, people everywhere are evaluating commuting to work by bicycle. And based on the response to our recent post “Choices: Bike or Drive?”, many of our readers are interested in commuting by bicycle.

As a result, we’ve put together this resource guide for anyone interested in learning about bicycling as a main method of transportation.

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

– H.G. Wells

1. Kogswell Cycles

Kogswell makes great bikes patterned after the bikes used by newspaper delivery boys in Paris in the 1950′s. They’re sturdy, well-crafted and give a smoth ride over right terrain. (Note — the pictures in this post are from their gallery of pictures.)

2. Commute by Bike’s list of Commuter Bikes

Commute By Bike is a great site and provides this excellent list of bikes that are appropriate for commuting. A good resource.

3. The Wikipedia entry for Bicycle Commuting

As always, if you’re interested in a solid, fair resource for any topic, Wikipedia is one of the first places to look. If you don’t like it — edit it and make it better!

4. John G. Faughnan’s personal page of commuting by bicycle

This is a personal website page that’s been maintained for almost 10 years now. It has a good list of what to look for in a commuting bike as well as an extensive rundown of bike manufacturers to read through. Another excellent resource.

5. Ken Kifer’s Bike Pages

Another personal site, this one has some good information on estimating the number of people in America that rely on bikes as their primary transportation (looks like at least half a million based on 2000 census data).

6. How To Choose A Bicycle For Commuting

The eHow guide to choosing a commuting cycle. As with many eHow articles, the reader comments are the best part of the page. Also, the links to related articles may be worthwhile. Hopefully, it will improve over time.

7. Jennifer’s Bicycle Commuting Suggestions

Another personal page, but has a pretty good list of useful suggestions and things to think about when commuting by bike. A quick and useful read.

8. Harris Cyclery Articles about Bicycle Commuting and Lighting

Obviously if you’re going to commute you need good lighting. This page reviews a variety of lighting options.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.
– Ernest Hemingway

9. Commuter Bicycle

Another personal resource page for commuting by bike. This one has a good set of links and information on different manufacturers as well as good information on other useful equipment.

10. Paul Dorn’s Bike Commuting Tips

An established site with a lot of good information on biking on general as well as specifically on commuting by bike.

11. The Sacramento Transportation Management Association’s page on Bicycle Commuting

California boasts the largest population of bicycle commuters in America, and this local government agency’s page reflects that. It’s a surprisingly rich page with a lot of good information.

12. Commute Bikes page on Nordic Group’s website

This looks like a personal page built by an employee (or an owner) on a business website. I included it in this list because it’s a great site. This person obviously did a huge amount of research into commuting by bike and has commuted by bike for a while. It’s definitely worth a read.

13. The Squidoo Page for Bicycle Commuting

A mid-level average Squidoo page. May have some useful information for some people.

14. Bike Forums

A busy forum for bikers. Information on commuting by bikes and all sorts of other biking topics.

15. Bicycle Commuting Guide from The Bicycling Federation of Wisconsin

A decent site, especially useful if you live in Wisconsin. May be a good model for others wanting to build similar sites in their area.

16. Bicycle Commuting Now

A near dead blog that was posted to extensively for a couple years from 2004-2006. Even though it’s no longer maintained, a lot of the older posts may be interesting to bicycle commuters.

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.
–John F. Kennedy

17. WikiHow’s page on How to Commute By Bicycle

A pretty solid WikiHow page. Worth taking a look at — has some good information.

18. Canada’s Commuter Challenge!

From their site: “Commuter Challenge is a national program that aims to increase the awareness of the benefits of sustainable commuting and to encourage Canadians to take action by walking, cycling, taking transit, carpooling or tele-working instead of driving alone to get work.”

In English and French.

19. The London Cycling Campaign

A site dedicated to promoting cycling in London as a means of commuting.

20. The Flickr Photo Group Commute By Bicycle

A Flickr photo group dedicated to those who commute by bike.

Next Actions:

How to Talk to Kids about Global Warming and Environmental Issues

Me and my kids!

How Should I Talk with my Kids about Global Warming and the Environment?

This weekend we’ve been doing a lot of family activities. We watched a movie together Friday night, worked on homework today, have a barbecue planned for tomorrow, and I made sure to spend some individual time talking with each of the kids over the weekend.

And it got me thinking about something I’ve put a lot of thought to lately — how should I talk be talking with my kids about global warming and the environment?

There are so many sides to the issue. So many different things to discuss. Some of the issues can be pretty scary, too.

They’ll have to face serious issues later. Should they be exposed to them now?

My kids are going to likely live for a long time. They could live to the year 2100 maybe — far past peak oil, potentially. Far past other resources running out. Who knows what other issues they’ll have to do deal with. Whatever the issues are, I’m sure they’re more complicated than I can imagine today sitting on the back porch with a beer after a big spaghetti dinner.

Some of the issues are embarrassing to me. Like species extinction — what if polar bears go extinct in my lifetime? How can I explain that? Should I say I stood by and just watched? But on the other hand, what really can I do? Sometimes there are so many things to deal with that I just feel overwhelmed.

Focus on Values Now.

So here’s what I’ve decided. I’ll focus on values – values and the behaviors that align with them.

Like today, I was talking to my son about some juice packs we got. We purchased Rip & Sip packs instead of normal juice boxes. They use innovative sip-top packaging instead of the regular juice boxes — they’re recyclable and they’re made using less materials. Normal juice boxes can’t be recycled, but these can.

So I described it to my son in simple terms:

“Is it better to drink from a juice box that uses more materials — or one that uses less materials?”, I asked. Of course, he said “less”. Then I asked, “Is it better to have juice boxes that can be recycled? Or not recycled?” — and again he got the right answer. After he finished the juice pack, I made sure he knew to put the waste in our recycle bin.

In this way, I was communicating our family’s values to him. Values are fundamental beliefs about what’s right and wrong — we believe that recycling and consuming fewer materials is important. And now, so does he.

There are other values that are important as well. We covered these in more detail in the essay, The New Values of the 21st Century Citizen, one of the early posts on this website. I hope you’ll take some time to read that post if you’re a relatively new reader here.

Complex theories about global temperatures rising are too complicated for kids. And probably too scary — those issues are for us grown ups. They’re our battles to fight – for now. Our kids will take up that battle when they’re ready.

For now, we just need to teach them the difference between right and wrong from an environmental perspective. Armed with those values, they’ll learn to change the world when they’re old enough.

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