Why the Climate Justice Movement Needs Diversity

Recently, a reporter asked questions about diversity and the environmental movement. I spent a long time responding because I wanted to share it (with slight adaptations) with you, too. Here we go:

1. If possible, could you explain why diversity is so important
for the environmental movement?

  • Everyone loses when people of color or of lower income see the environmental movement as something for white people or rich people. To win the battle, all sectors of society need large majorities who will support the behavior changes and own the issue.
  • Many poor communities/communities of color are hit much harder by industrial pollution (e.g., coal plants and refineries in poor neighborhoods) or—both globally and in the US—are at higher risk for climate-change-related flooding, drought, etc.
  • In the time of a government that is openly hostile to poor people, people of color, and the planet, the rise of intersectionality—seeing multiple issues as linked—has been a major factor in the resistance. We are all stronger when we are all looking past our own immediate self-interest into building a movement.
  • A key piece in fighting climate catastrophe is increasing neighborhood food self-sufficiency. Many poor communities are food deserts, with wildly inadequate service from supermarkets, low quality overpriced food in convenience stores, and often, a junk food culture. Turning urban rooftops and empty lots into high-quality organic food production can create not only better health outcomes but also address climate change (removing the long distances food is transported, oxygenating polluted air, keeping water from contact with roofing materials, etc.) AND economic disenfranchisement (creating jobs, lowering food costs). I have even visited a successful urban farm on the roof of an eight-storey building in the heart of the South Bronx.

    Multicultural contingent at a climate march. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

    Multicultural contingent at a climate march. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

2. Climate change hurts all living things, but there are issues
that specifically hurt people who aren’t white, straight,
privileged. What are these issues, and what organizations
actually work to make these issues well-known, and matter?

From New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward (flooded by Katrina) to the Maldives Islands, people of color bear more of the risk. In many cases, they have the least to do with causing climate change, so there’s a huge justice issue.
It’s harder to make the connections between climate change and LGBT organizing, but here’s one: pressure to be in procreating hetero relationships may cause some people to have children (or have more children). This pressure to “be fruitful and multiply” was probably a huge factor in religious messages against nontraditional lifestyles (such as the wretched passages in Leviticus that have caused so much misery and suffering for thousands of years)—but at the time the Old Testament was written, small bands of humans needed aggressive population growth. Not anymore. Reducing population growth is an obvious way to lower the temperature. Thus, freedom to choose whether to have children becomes a climate issue.
A stronger connection comes back to intersectionality. No one is free when any group is oppressed. Lesbians and trans people especially have been heavily involved in justice issues generally (the push to find a cure for AIDS was largely lesbian-driven, even though they themselves had lower risk than either gay male or hetero folks), including the climate change movement. By working toward healing the planet, they help liberate themselves too.
[I also connected this journalist with Majora Carter in the Bronx and Van Jones in Oakland—two of the most effective activists doing environmental/climate change organizing within communities of color.]

3. In general, could you explain why an inclusive environmental
org staff is one of the most important assets an environmental
organization, and the movement, can have?

  • People respond best to those they see as like them. If an organization only has white, economically comfortable, straight staffers, it be a lot tougher to organize in the communities that need it most.
  • As a movement, we are much stronger in diversity. Working with people of different backgrounds and cultures lets issues surface and be addressed. A white person from the suburbs may not analyze a situation the same way as a person of color from an inner city neighborhood. By recognizing the value of many different perspectives, solutions arise that are more holistic and more likely to be implemented. As a child growing up in NYC, I never thought about community food self-sufficiency until my teens. People who grew up in the farm community where I live now have been living and breathing it their whole lives. But I knew a lot about mass transit, housing density, and other things that are out of the context of my rural neighbors where I live now.
  • We need to walk our talk around inclusiveness and intersectionality—and show up for other communities when they need us. Not just so they show up for us, but because it’s the way the world should work.
It’s from intersectionality that I really developed the work I do, moving business forward on climate change and on hunger, poverty, and peace by showing them how it is in their economic self-interest. As a profitability consultant for green and social entrepreneurship businesses–and author of 10 books, most recently Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (endorsed by Seth Godin, Chicken Soup’s Jack Canfield, and many others), I show businesses how they can go beyond mere “sustainability” (keeping things the same) to “regenerativity” (making things better). I work with them to develop and market profitable products and services that turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.
And as an activist, my proudest campaigns include my (only) arrest at Seabrook in 1977 (the action that pretty much ended the drive toward nuclear power) and founding the movement that saved a local mountain here in Western Massachusetts. I was an early adopter of intersectionality and have been making connections between movements for more than 40 years, starting with connecting student liberation and the Vietnam peace movement as a high school student in NYC. I was raised in a low-income household and have worked for both social justice and environmental causes since 1969 (at age 12). Several years of my life were focused on LGB activism (T wasn’t really on the radar yet). I was on the organizing committee for our local Pride March for three years until they threw the bisexuals out, and my wife and I still march in this parade almost every year. In my 20s, I even had a VISTA job as an organizer for the Gray Panthers and immediately brought them into a Brooklyn-wide anti-racist, mixed-class coalition against nuclear power that I co-founded.
Posted in Activism, Business Ethics, Democracy, Demographics/Psychographics, Diversity, Eco-friendly, Environment Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

As Bad As Things Are, We Still Can Laugh—And This Made Me Laugh A LOT

If you’ve been walking around in shock and depression since the election, and you’re anywhere near Minneapolis, get thee to Brave New Workshop, 824 Hennepin Avenue, and buy tickets to “Guardians of the Fallacy: Executive Disorder.” Bring a bunch of liberal and progressive friends.

You need at least one good laugh per day right now. At this show, you’ll make your quota for many weeks.

Founded in 1958, the US’s oldest live political satire troupe may also be its funniest. This show had all four of us roaring with laughter, even if we missed some of the pop-culture references. Only one skit had me scratching my head and saying “huh?” (But a few of them had me asking “what did she just say?”; the enunciation got muddy at times.) I saw The Capitol Steps during the Clinton administration and this was much funnier. All four of us felt it was actually more consistently funny than Saturday Night Live.

This group of five writer/actors has an uncanny ability to get deep into our angst, to express all the fear and worry we face, and to be side-splittingly funny. It’s not really a musical but it has several hilarious song parodies. Remember these names: Lauren Anderson, Denzel Belin, Ryan Nelson, Tom Reed, Taj Ruler (the five writer/actors) and their gifted improvisational accompanist Jon Pumper. One day some of them may be as familiar as BNW alumnus Senator Al Franken.

Cast of "Guardians of Fallacy." Photo by Dani Werner, courtesy of Brave New Workshop. Used with permission.

Cast of “Guardians of Fallacy.” Photo by Dani Werner, courtesy of Brave New Workshop. Used with permission.

Although a large majority of the show takes on DT and his cohorts, two of the funniest skits—a woman still grieving in July over Hillary’s loss, and an interracial gay couple encountering a patronizing liberal manager at Trader Joe’s—skewer liberals, and one with no political content involves two Minnesota fishermen. But you also won’t soon forget Sean Spicer and an a enthusiastic Alabaman taking us a few decades into the future to lead a tour of the DT “Presidential Lie-berry,” whose only book is a copy of the McConnell healthcare bill…the pre-existing conditions song…a perfectly captured 20-second cameo by Jeff Sessions…and Hillary chomping down on WHAT? (no spoiler here, you’ll have to go and see it).

I don’t happen to live in Minneapolis, but was glad to visit while this show was running. Which it does through October 28. I hope they release a video or go on tour. People in my own area of Western Massachusetts would love it.

And by the way, if you’d like to get out of that despair, sign up for action alerts from groups like 3NoTrump, the organization my wife, daughter, and son-in-law started after the election. Each week, they post three easy and EFFECTIVE action alerts. 3NoTrump is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Democracy, Diversity, Politics, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , ,

Is Sexist Excuse Language Covering Up Something Much Deeper?

Just read an article about how the phrase “he’s basically a good guy” has been used to justify all sorts of appalling behavior. The writer, Karen Rinaldi, claims this is sexist because she doesn’t see a similar phrase used for women.

But many times, I’ve heard phrases like “she’s basically a good person” used similarly.

Language is very important, and framing even more so. I agree that these phrases (for either gender) have been used to excuse all sorts of horrible behavior that should never be accepted. But change happens when we meet people where they are and find ways to move them further. This is typically a slow, gradual, incremental process. And the only way it ever works is if you approach your opponent with the idea that he/she is basically good. We as activists must be especially careful to keep that understanding top-of-mind. Far too often, we demonize our opponents and drive even more wedges, when change might happen if opened sincere opportunities to be heard, to listen, and to grapple with our differences instead of building walls of name-calling and accusation. It’s a marketing activity. And we market our ideas to those who disagree by finding pieces of their ideas we can agree with and build from, or at least that we can respect.

Sometimes, we even need to validate that they feel they haven’t been given a fair shake, and then show how the way to get that fair shake is not by pushing others down who are climbing up behind them, but by building ladders to help everyone rise. This is slow, difficult work, but also immensely rewarding. I’m no expert in this area, but I’ve seen it work miracles.

Effigy of "the Donald," photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

Effigy of “the Donald,” photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

Sometimes, it’s quite challenging. I heard DT speak in 2004 and was repulsed even then. His behavior in the last few years is beyond despicable. When I think about how I would behave if I had the chance to confront him, I can’t find much good—but I do see him as reachable through his misery. I see him as a deeply unhappy person, traumatized by a tyrannical father, someone who hasn’t found contentment even while accumulating a vast fortune, celebrity status, and the most powerful job in the world.

So I would go into the room searching for what it would take to make DT a happy person and give him a purpose in making the world better, knowing that the answer would eventually end the abuse, lies, misogyny, racism, and all the other crap he brings to the table.
Posted in Activism, Ethics: General, Innovation, language, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, People Helping People, Psychology, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , ,

The Wrong Personalization Assumptions Can Sabotage a Sale

Yes, personalization in marketing is a good thing. But it has to be done right. You’ll find some important lessons in this Epic Fail attempt I received.

A contact on LinkedIn sent me this note:

Hi Shel, I am starting a new business and am looking for business owners, who would allow me to test our solutions to grow their customer base. If you would be so kind to review this 30-second video and let me know what you think. It is for the real estate industry, but the concept is universal. Thanks! <URL>

It was a link to a personalized video that wanted access to my Facebook account but didn’t require it. I clicked on “proceed without Facebook” and watched her 38-second video. Then I wrote back thusly (she has not answered my two questions so I’m taking that as a no):


Well, I’m going to give you a detailed response and make a blog out of it. (May I use the sample video in my blog? And do you want to be named?) I think there’s a good future in personalized video marketing. But this example had major problems both in the underlying assumptions and in the implementation of the technology.


The video assumes that:

  • Everyone wants a big house in the suburbs, with a big yard and a big garage
  • Everyone is white and Christian and heterosexual
  • Anyone would call a Portland, Oregon phone number to buy a house in Massachusetts

As a result, it comes off as generic and not really personalized. Right now, I live on a farm. I grew up in New York City and lived for 17 years in a small college town. If I were a real estate prospect from any of those three communities, or a person of color, or (as I am) a non-Christian, I would dismiss this video as irrelevant, and actually be offended that a “personalized” video was so out of touch with my particular reality. Using the name and community is not any more personalized than a mail-merge on a mass mailing.

Real personalization would draw from a video clips library of people who looked and acted like the families of the actual prospect, and show a home search that reflected the character of the prospect’s own community—and, if the prospect were actually doing a home search, the types of houses s/he was looking at.

And the whole advantage of using a real estate agent is in things like familiarity with the market and a personal touch. This is why even the big national RE franchises have local offices in each community they serve. Giving a number from 3000 miles away is a huge disconnect and makes me uncomfortable.

You also assume that you can call it a 30-second video. It was 38 seconds plus probably another 15 while the video was assembling itself. You could accurately say “less than one minute.” 30 seconds is misleading.


  • Load experience
  • Geotargeting

Where a personalized video really shines is in creating the idea that the video was created just for the individual who gets to watch. I admire the honesty, but staring at a long pause with a note that it is creating the personalized video removes that illusion. We are all aware that computers are doing the work. Some other kind of splash screen saying that the video is loading and perhaps telling three points to pay attention to in the video might be a better user experience.

And the geotargeting was not only off, it didn’t match the video contents. For some reason, it thought I’d be looking at houses in East Longmeadow, a working-class/lower-middle-class suburb of Springfield a good 30 miles from here. But the homes shown in the video were more likely to be found one town over in Longmeadow, a much wealthier town.

A fancy house that you'd find in a wealthy suburb—mistargeted to me

A fancy house that you’d find in a wealthy suburb—mistargeted to me. Photo by Margan Zajdowicz, FreeImages.com

I personally am very happy where I live and have no interest in buying a home in either of those towns—but I understand that I am not the prospect for homebuying, but for using personalized promotional videos. I actually like the idea, though I think the library of personalized clips for my business would be far too complicated and expensive to assemble, as it would get into things like climate change solutions for manufacturers, retailers, restaurant owners, etc.

Posted in Advertising, Demographics/Psychographics, localism/locavore, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Technology Tagged with: , , , , ,

Good to See Southwest Spirit Featuring a Bunch of Social Entrepreneurs

If you read this blog regularly or have read any of my recent books (especially Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World), you know I’m all about business as a tool to crate social change and profit at the same time.

This is social entrepreneurship, and it has a long and honorable history. 19th century chocolatiers the Cadbury brothers in the UK and Milton Hershey in the US founded their companies to model humane labor practices, for instance.

Still, I encounter lots of skepticism that business can create positive outcomes across the triple bottom line of People, Profit, and Planet. It’s the same kind of skepticism I used to hear a decade ago when I was making the case that business ethics could be a profitable business success strategy. Over and over again, I would hear, “Business Ethics—that’s an oxymoron!”

No, it’s not. And interestingly enough, I don’t hear that any more. The world is finally convinced that it is possible to be an ethical, profitable business. It’s convinced that you can run a profitable green business. I like to think my years of speaking and writing on this, and the ethics pledge campaign I ran from 2004-2014, had something to do with these shifts in thinking.

Now we have to take it further, beyond just being “sustainable” to creating a regenerative world. One way to do that is to develop and market profitable products and services that turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.

So on a recent flight, when I pulled the July Southwest Spirit out of the seat pocket and saw a big feature on combining social entrepreneurship with food, I was thrilled. You couldn’t really guess the social entrepreneurship piece from the title, “Good Food: To serve their communities, today’s top culinary minds are reaching far beyond the kitchen.”

Can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve admired Southwest’s commitments to ethics, service, leadership that continually honors its employees, eco-friendly features AND profitability for many years. And I was over the moon when the company purchased 1000 copies of my first book on business ethics as a success strategy, back in 2003.

While Southwest’s magazine reaches a far larger readership than my humble blog, I do think it’s important to spotlight a company that cares enough about other companies doing good to devote 13 pages to it, even semi-disguising it as a food feature.

Here are the businesses they spotlight, and what they’re doing. The article, of course, has a lot more details. Note: I’ve been a vegetarian for ethical reasons since 1973, but I recognize that is not everyone’s choice. I am including the meat businesses featured in the article.

  • Cala, a high-end San Francisco Mexican restaurant that seeks out ex-felons to hire
  • Portland Fruit Tree Project, matching urban homeowners who have surplus fruit with volunteers who come to pick the fruit, keep half, and give the other half to food pantries, food banks, and health clinics
  • The director of Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat, who set up a training program serving soldiers stationed far away—to make sure they could learn safe, sanitary procedures as well as discover ways to use the entire animal, with nothing wasted
  • Southwest's illustration for the Community Ovens profile (screenshot)

    Southwest’s illustration for the Community Ovens profile (screenshot)

  • A community oven project founded by the White Bear Lake, MN United Methodist Church, building community while providing a place to bake bread
  • Rooster Soup Co, a tony Philadelphia establishment that adds fresh turmeric to make soup from chicken parts that would have been thrown out; all profits fund Broad Street Ministry, a social service organization

Kent, Washington’s Ubunto, hiring and training refugees and new immigrants from many cultures, all learning each other’s food traditions

Posted in Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Entrepreneurship, People Helping People, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , ,

Both Left and Right Must Join to Counter DT’s Attacks on the Press

Just as Left and Right joined forces a few years ago to protect Net Neutrality (the right to an open Internet without tollbooths and bandwidth restrictions for those who are not part of big cable or news empires), so we must come together to protect our precious freedom of the press.
Someone commented on a post from one of my right-wing acquaintances that they thought DT was being humorous when he threatened CNN journalists. Here’s my response:
Making thinly veiled threats to beat up journalists is NOT humor. If you don’t see the need to protect press freedom and other First Amendment rights, you are wearing blinders. And your liberties will be trampled just as much as ours on the “other side.” Laughing off threatening behavior as “humor” is creating a culture where the behavior is permissible and excused. Put your glasses back on! We should be able to join across sides to protect First Amendment freedoms.
Another right-wing acquaintance posted on his own page,
If he can destroy the out of control reckless American MSM and force them to recalibrate their models and become honest, unbiased journalistic organizations instead of hacks (and that goes for FOX News), then he will go down as the greatest President of all time.
I responded:
If you want unbiased MSM, start by reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine. Eliminating that began a long slide away from honesty and toward bias. And despite flawed reporting, I still am thankful every day that we have a free press—sand very worried when DT attempts to create a culture where beating up journalists is OK. That’s right out of the Hitler playbook. Without primary sources in the MSM, bloggers with minimal research skills would have no platform.
No sooner had I posted these comments when I scrolled down in my feed and found a chronology of Nazi suppression of press freedom, starting with Hitler’s threats to press freedom in Mein Kampf. The parallels are disturbingly chilling. Please go read the link. I will wait.
Statue of Thomas Jefferson. Photo by Thad Zajdowicz, FreeImages.com

Statue of Thomas Jefferson. Photo by Thad Zajdowicz, FreeImages.com

Thomas Jefferson, whose politics today would be described as Libertarian-Conservative, came back to the theme of the importance of free press over and over again. Here’s a whole page of Jefferson’s quotes on press freedom. His most famous is right at the top:

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

Another quote on that page speaks directly to the issue of fake news, and how much of that originates in government:
The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.
Why am I not seeing an outcry on the right as the country takes a sharp turn toward thuggish fascism? Their news channels will be restricted and attacked just as much as ours. Look what he said and continues to say about his one-time cheerleaders at Morning Joe.
This is important, folks. Do not let this petty tyrant erode our freedoms. It CAN happen here. Don’t let it.
Posted in Activism, Democracy, Ethics in Government, language, media-general, Politics, propaganda, Psychology, Socially Responsible Investing Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

What I Told Seth About Seeing the Journey’s End

Seth Godin’s post this morning listed “17 Ideas for the Modern World.” It’s a great list, and I recommend you click through to get the longer explanations of each one. And if you aren’t subscribed to his daily bulletin, you really should be. He’s always challenging us to find the deeper meaning, and I find that not only excites my brain but often creates action.

I engaged in dialogue with him on one of the items, and I wanted to share that with you:

Seth Godin. Photo by Jill Greenberg. Courtesy of Seth Godin.

Seth Godin. Photo by Jill Greenberg. Courtesy of Seth Godin.


On Sat, Jun 24, 2017 at 5:18 AM, Seth Godin wrote:

See the end before you begin the journey

I’ll add a Part 2: –but recognize that what looks like the end when you start may turn out to be a way station

That has been key for me, as projects and goals evolve the more I learn and take me to places I could not have imagined.
The work I’m doing now about connecting business with profit opportunities addressing hunger, poverty, war, climate change, etc. (and thank you once again for endorsing my book on this, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World) started as an insight in 2001 or 2002 that the frugal marketing strategies I’d been championing for years also created a path for business to succeed by being ethical. By 2003, I had a book out on that. If I had thought it this far out, I would have never gotten started. It would have felt much too big and unachievable.
Back then, when I described my work, I used to often hear “business ethics? That’s an oxymoron!” I rarely hear that now (maybe once or twice in the past five years) and I like to think I had something to do with that change.

These days, I find people start with “oh, you can’t fix hunger, poverty, war, or climate change, we’ve been struggling with them for thousands of years.” And then they listen for a bit. And then as I lay out a few examples of businesses profiting by changing the world, they see that it can actually work, changing one business at a time. Their skepticism turns into enthusiasm. I’d love to figure out a way to scale that up.

PS: I only count 16. Did you drop one at the last minute? I’d love to know what it was.


Shel Horowitz – “The Transformpreneur”(sm)
Watch (and please share) my TEDx Talk,
“Impossible is a Dare: Business for a Better World”
Contact me to bake in profitability while addressing hunger,
poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change
Twitter: @shelhorowitz
* First business ever to be Green America Gold Certified
* Inducted into the National Environmental Hall of Fame
mailto:shel at greenandprofitable.com * 413-586-2388
Award-winning, best-selling author of 10 books. Latest:
Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson)
Posted in Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Green Business, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Psychology, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , ,

Environmental Consciousness in Portugal

After a wonderful week visiting four cities in Portugal, I noticed a lot about the state of green consciousness there. Obviously, visiting only four of hundreds of communities is only a sampler, but certainly enough to share with you.

Renewable Energy

For such a sunny country, Portugal has remarkably empty rooftops. We saw a few dozen photovoltaic arrays, mostly just a two to five panels and maybe two or three larger installations. And hardly any roofs had solar hot water heaters, even though other sunny countries, like Israel, have them on practically every house and they’re far less expensive than PV, with very quick payback.

Large building with rare photovoltaic solar array, Aveiro, Portugal. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

Large building with rare photovoltaic solar array, Aveiro, Portugal. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

We passed one wind farm, and a few installations with a turbine or two. I didn’t see any hydro or geothermal facilities, but we weren’t in the mountains where they’d be more likely to be built.

Overall, Portugal appears to be trailing in this area. But appearances can be deceiving. In 2016, an astounding 58 percent of Portugal’s electricity generation and 27.2 percent of overall energy was renewable—and those ranges are typical of the past several years. For four days in a row in May 2016, the country generated all of its electricity renewably. The country has also invested heavily in wind and solar farms and even opened (and then quickly closed) the first commercial ocean-wave energy capture facility in Europe.


Trash sorting stations for metal/plastic, paper/cardboard, glass, and undifferentiated (the world looks a lot like “indifferent”) were very common in Sintra (where they were enormous and hard to miss), and somewhat more sporadically—and in smaller bins—in Lisbon, Porto, and Aveiro.

In places, litter is a problem, especially around the edges of some of the plazas and parks.

Green Food Movement

It was easy to get vegetarian options in every city we visited. All of them also have a small natural foods community with places to get organic, vegan, gluten-free, and other options. In two cities, we stayed with families, and both served us farm-fresh eggs (one from their own chickens). For every vegan cafe, there are hundreds of traditional cafes and restaurants serving almost entirely meat or fish or seafood, but there would usually be one or two vegetarian options such as an omelette or a baguette with cheese. Artisanal cheeses are commonplace (and scrumptious). Choices are much more limited for vegans.

Some of the more artisanal vineyards and port wine cellars use organic grapes—and in fact we’ve enjoyed organic Portuguese wine in the US for several years, particularly the vinho verde, young, “green” wine. In-country, we sampled a number of wines and were especially impressed by some of the reds.

Fruits were often amazingly delicious, and fresh-squeezed orange juice (sumo laranja) is available almost anywhere. Many natural food cafes and smoothie bars will also juice carrots, mangos, and other fruits and vegetables, to order.


In Lisbon and Porto, it was possible to get most places via metro, bus, antique tram, modern tram, or funicular, and both cities have at least three intercity train stations (including the one across the river from Porto in Vila Nova del Gaia). Transit was inexpensive. Taxis were also inexpensive, and tuk-tuks were available as well. Car-sharing networks exist but don’t seem heavily used.

The small communities of Aveiro and Sintra were much less well served. Most of central Aveiro is built along canals, and there are plenty of boats, but more for sightseeing than actually getting someplace. There’s a nice bike path going from town to both halves of the university. Sintra has frequent commuter rail service to Lisbon, Queluz, and several other towns along its one rail line. Sintra had local buses serving the downtown area, hop-on/hop-off service to the palaces and parks from at least three companies, and rather poor service to the outlying areas.

Open Space

Every community we visited had lots of parkland, public plazas, and nearby farms. Sintra is particularly phenomenal, with vast and magnificent nature reserves in and surrounding the town. Three of the four (Lisbon, Aveiro, and Porto) had active waterfronts with good public access, and Aveiro had public salt marshes. High marks on this one.

Overall Environmental/Climate Change Consciousness

Several times, when someone realized we were from the US, the other person would bring up the presidential decision a few days before our visit to exit the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 193 countries including the US. This decision is seen as a disaster in Portugal. We did not meet a single person who supported it—and our president is seen as either a madman or a laughingstock. This survey was based only on those who started conversations with us, but it was consistent. Not one person who started these conversations had anything good to say about the new US regime.

Interest in eating organic and natural foods seems to be rising rapidly.

Small cars are still extremely dominant, as was true in most of Europe until about 20 years ago. There are surprisingly few motorscooters and motorcycles, and even fewer bicycles—but you see almost no large cars. I saw two Jeeps (one small, one larger) and one Hummer. Most everything else was no bigger (and often a lot smaller) than a Toyota Corolla. This may be based in economics as much as environmental awareness, or even just a reaction to the narrow streets in all the historic sections—or it may have to do with carbon consciousness. Almost all the cars have manual shifts, which is no longer true in other European cities we’ve visited in the past decade. Of the cars I happened to look into, only one (the big Jeep Wagoneer) had an automatic.

Urban architecture is primarily row houses, which are energy-efficient because they have fewer outside walls. In the few houses we entered, the appliances seemed pretty large. Portugal clearly values historic preservation, though many of the buildings are only 100-130 years old, but look centuries older.

Water-saving dual-mode toilets were very common, though there were still plenty of single-mode ones.

In short, Portugal is moving nicely along with the rest of its European Union neighbors on the full range of green issues, even though it’s one of the poorer countries in the federation.

Posted in Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Green Living/Green Lifestyles, Politics Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I Don’t Hate “The Donald” (and What I Feel Instead)

I would not consider DT a success. Yes, he’s got a bajillion dollars and has the most powerful job in the world. But he strikes me as a deeply unhappy person. I would even use the word “wounded.” His Id is out of control, his Ego (in the Freudian sense—in the more common use, of course, it’s utterly dominant) is weak and unstable, his Superego doesn’t seem to exist, and neither does any sense of compassion other than misguided self-pity. Both his ethics and his style of personal interaction are appalling. The only part of being President he actually seems to enjoy is power-over-others. The only thing he’s actually good at is marketing to a very narrow base. I’ve seen exactly two pictures ever where he was smiling. Much as I hate 98% of what he says and does, I don’t hate HIM. I feel sorry for him!

Prior to the current few months, I called W the worst president in our history. DT has already taken over that dubious distinction. When W was president, I was able to find a few things to like: his endorsement of hydrogen cars at a State of the Union address, the amazing green initiatives at his Crawford ranch (a far greener home than Al Gore’s mansion, ironically), his ability to laugh at his own foolishness, and the quiet lifting of restrictions on importing really good cheese. (I never saw a single news story about this, but I noticed it in my area supermarkets).

Effigy of "the Donald," photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

Effigy of “the Donald,” photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

I can so far only find two good things to say about DT: he is opposed to the terrible TPP (though for the wrong reasons—he opposes international trade agreements in general, when the real issue is the way TPP removes so many national and local consumer protections)…and his words in his victory speech (too bad they were yet another DT lie) about unifying and being a president for all Americans. That’s a pretty damn thin list.

Posted in Ethics in Government, Politics, Psychology Tagged with: , ,

Fight On, Beautiful Planet!

How often do you see companies like Monsanto and ExxonMobil joining forces with environmental leaders like Patagonia, Goolge, Tesla, and Walmart—not to mention practically every scientist, head of state, and subject expert, as well as a large percentage of business analysts from IBM to Goldman Sachs? They were all part of the coalition that joined with DT’s own Secretary of State and his daughter to convince him to keep the Paris Climate Accord.

Yesterday, he-who-thinks-he-knows-better-than-any-expert-on-any-subject rejected their good counsel and announced that he would withdraw the US from the accord. Fortunately, this will take four years and there’s a good chance someone who is sane and thoughtful will be in charge by then.

I will not repeat the numerous arguments about how the US would benefit economically by continuing its leadership through this agreement. I will not repeat the huge blow this is to the poorest of the poor around the world. I will not repeat the idiocy of his arguments, based on what the New York Times called “dubious data.” I will not repeat the condemnation of this really dumb move from almost all quarters, or the happy fact that numerous municipalities and states are rejecting his stance and pledging to meet the targets.

Earth Lightning, by Stephanie Hofschlaeger

Photo by Stephanie Hofschlaeger

I will only say this: We, the people of the United States, and the people of the World, will continue to do what we can to protect our beautiful planet. And its people, including those without sufficient resources to tackle this on their own. Justice demands it.

Posted in Activism, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Politics, poverty, Protests and Crackdowns, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , ,

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