In a perfect world, perhaps we’d all have already made our own homemade gifts for everyone, but most of us aren’t that perfect. Many of us need to acquire some gifts, and the challenge is how to spend our money well, in things that are valuable, lasting and worth having. Over the course of the month, I have some suggestions for what sources you might go to for good gifts. I try, generally speaking, to put my own money where my mouth is, so all of these are places that my family has donated to, or will be donating to this year. There are a lot of good causes, and I’ll have more than one post about this – but here are my first priorities.
Some of the best, of course, are the charitable gifts. Every year, my children’s biggest gift is the chance to give – on the fifth night of Chanukah, everyone in our family gets a budget to give to The Heifer Fund. My children spend several weeks ahead of time debating whether to make smaller individual gifts or combine their resources to make one or two large ones. The youngest ones name the animal(s) that we donate (one year we gave a Llama unfortunately named “Sticky” – fortunately, the recipients would have had no way of knowing this.) We talk about where they are going and what their lives may be like. My kids look forward to this all year – indeed, Isaiah likes to save up money to make additional donations regularly.
Heifer is my first choice for a place to donate – livestock is simply out of reach of many agrarian people who could benefit from it, and Heifer’s work is deeply important. I’m not sure what the kids will decide on this year (at last discussion they were leaning towards water buffalo) but we’ll be making our biggest single donation of the year there.
The next place I’m going to be putting my money is ASPO-USA. I joined the board of ASPO because I think getting the message out that our way of life can’t go on is essential – every person who learns about peak oil and begins to adapt their way of life is one more level of security for all of us – there are no perfect solutions here, but the best possible outcomes depend on more people getting the message. ASPO is committed to raising awareness in both bottom-up and top-down ways – trying to run a national media campaign at the same time that it addresses our future at a policy level. Both are needed – there’s so much that can be done to protect ordinary people from the coming storm both by collective action and by simply not making the dumbest possible political choices. Maybe it won’t all work – but I can’t think of many things more important than trying, and I’m pouring a lot of my time and energy – and my dollars – into making sure it happens. Counteracting the techno-utopian message isn’t easy – or cheap.
I’m also making a donation to Bicycles for Humanity, which brings bikes to people with no access to transportation – bikes are life changing no matter where you are.
I’m also making a donation to the Tufts University sponsored New Entry Sustainable Farming Program, which brings refugees and immigrant farmers and low income people in for training in sustainable agriculture and small scale farming and help finding land. They accept both monetary donations and in-kind donations of land, time, equipment and other support.
So instead of giving Grandma a scarf or Dad a necktie (ok, I doubt that my readers actually give neckties ;-)), how about giving a bike, agricultural training, a flock of ducks and a shot that your neighbor will have heard about peak oil? How cool is that?