DONATION: The Women’s Center

I’ve been working on new ways to provide and encourage support for local community groups. As part of this effort, I’ve decided to start donating money. Given my low income and growing debt, I don’t have much to give. But I’ve decided that as long as I have income, however little, the nonprofit organizations that do so much for this community will have income too.

My first donation is going to the Women’s Center:

http://www.thewomensctr.org/

The Women’s Center provides many helpful services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline (618-529-2324); emergency shelter; food, supplies, and transportation; individual and group support and counseling; information, referrals, and education; legal, medical, and personal advocacy. Basically, if you are a survivor of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault, they will find a way to help you with what you need.

How are they able to do all of these great things? First of all, the staff and volunteers are the ones who make it all possible. Second, their budget comes from a mix of city funding, state funding, and donations made by people like you.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, I’d like you to consider making a donation to the Women’s Center. They do some of their own fundraisers like the Taste of Chocolate, and those exciting events help to keep the center going too. But they accept donations year-round from people like you who care about the work that they do. You can even make a donation in someone else’s name and the Women’s Center will send them a nice card for their birthday or other special occasion.

Here’s the link to their donation page:

http://www.thewomensctr.org/p/donations.php

If you don’t have any money, you may be able to help them with some of the supplies on their Needs List. You can also volunteer your time in a variety of ways:

http://www.thewomensctr.org/p/volunteers.php

If nothing else, you can help by letting people know about their services and participating in events like Take Back The Night.

This issue is important to me because I know far too many women and men who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The people at the Women’s Center work hard every day to help these survivors and do whatever they can to raise awareness and reduce the rates of violence and assault. Personally, I think that they deserve ten times the funding that they get for the work that they do. Until that happens, each of us can do our part to support them, whether that means making a donation, or volunteering, or simply being aware of the work they do and spreading awareness about it in your own way.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support that you can send their way!

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Real Life Superheroes

Have you ever watched a movie about superheroes, or read a comic book about superheroes, and wished that you could be one too? As someone who has spent a lifetime admiring fictional superheroes, I’ve finally decided that it’s time to start living the dream. Therefore, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve become a Real Life Superhero!

What’s a Real Life Superhero? There’s a growing community of us, but we haven’t come up with an official definition of the term. Generally speaking, a Real Life Superhero (RLSH) is someone who creates and adopts a special new identity in order to perform a public service. The new identity of a Real Life Superhero is usually inspired by the archetypal superheroes of popular fiction. This identity is a unique creation and usually includes a new name, a new uniform or costume, and a set of goals and methods intended to serve the public good. Forms of service include neighborhood watch patrols, charity work, grassroots activism, and beyond.

For some people who don’t know me very well, this may seem like a silly idea that came out of nowhere. People who know me well, though, probably won’t see this as much of a surprise. When I was in preschool, our teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Other people wanted to be astronauts, firefighters, and so on. I, on the other hand, wanted to be Superman. On some level, I’ve been trying to live that dream ever since.

My first step in this direction happened about ten years ago. After working with the Student Environmental Center for a year or two, I realized that I was experiencing a deep transformation in my basic understanding of who I was, my place in the world, and the nature of the world itself. In honor of this spiritual transformation, I adopted the name Treesong.

For a few years, my entire life centered around ecological and social justice work. Then, I spent a few years focusing primarily on survival and self-healing. Now, as I turn my attention back to community involvement, I’ve decided that becoming a Real Life Superhero is the best way to apply my personal energy and creativity to the causes that are near and dear to my heart.

What does it mean to be a Real Life Superhero? For me, it means that I do what I can to support worthy causes and community service organizations, especially those located right here in Southern Illinois. One of the ways that I already do this is by co-hosting Your Community Spirit with Aur ‘da energy mon’ Beck. We spread the word about community happenings and eco-social news every Friday from 10 am to 10:30 am on WDBX 91.1 FM.

This, however, is only the beginning.

As of this moment, in my capacity as a Real Life Superhero, I’m starting several new efforts to serve our community and the eco-social causes that I support. My hope is that these efforts will provide tangible benefits to community groups and good causes in our area, and that my actions will also inspire other people to become more involved too.

First of all, I’ve decided to create and maintain a listing of local, regional, national, and global causes that I support. This list will start small, but will grow with time based on your input and my research. This list serves several functions, including promoting community groups and projects, gathering all of their contact information in a single location, encouraging networking among local community groups, and offering a To Do List for any fellow community members who are looking for more ways to get involved.

Second, I’ve decided to select three local community groups each quarter of the year for special attention. These “Featured Causes” will be highlighted at the top of the list of Causes on my website. Throughout the quarter, I will make an extra effort to support these causes by volunteering my time, doing online promotion, and donating what little money I have to their capital campaigns. I encourage you to do the same.

Third, effective immediately, I pledge to donate approximately 10% of my income to the Causes listed on my website.

As someone who is deep in debt and has an income level far below the poverty line, this was a very difficult decision. I’m sure that some of my friends will try to dissuade me from this course of action. I’m sure that in the short term, this choice will affect what few remaining luxuries I have in my life. However, my decision is final, and no one will change my mind on this.

I’m so convinced of the importance of community service organizations that I’m willing to give my last penny to ensure their continued existence. I’m also convinced that this tithe will motivate me to find new ways to earn money. The more I earn, the more I can give back to the community. Perhaps most of all, I’m convinced that this will provide me with a good opportunity to encourage others to support these causes. Whenever I make a donation, I will publicize the donation and call on other people to join me in providing this essential financial support to organizations in need.

Finally, in addition to the above efforts, I’m issuing a call to action for anyone else who likes the idea of becoming a Real Life Superhero.

I know that most people who do community service work do so without much fanfare, and some of them do very hard work on a daily basis that far exceeds anything I’ll do as a Real Life Superhero. But I also believe that there’s a place in the community for people who want to run around in homemade costumes and do good deeds in as many creative and exciting and dynamic ways as possible.

If anyone else is up to the challenge, we can form a team of local Real Life Superheroes. We can work together on fundraisers, volunteer efforts, events, and more unconventional tactics like guerrilla theatre and public performance. We can organize media events where we present oversized checks to local community groups or oversized citations to corrupt corporations or institutions. Really, when you’re a Real Life Superhero, the possibilities are endless.

So, there you have it. Real Life Superheroes exist, and I’m one of them. If you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me.

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Reprint of Roots That Crack The Concrete

I am pleased to announce that my first poetry book, “Roots That Crack The Concrete,” is back in print! The new second edition is available at my online storefront:

lulu.com/treesong

This new edition of “Roots That Crack The Concrete” contains all of the poetry from the original limited edition chapbook. However, I’ve also added a preface, updated the edition and contact information, and made other minor style adjustments.

The new edition is available in either print or digital format, so if you’d like to lighten your carbon footprint by reading it on your computer or a book reader, buy the PDF version. My royalties from the print and digital versions are essentially the same.

Pick up your copy today! Also, stay tuned for updates to treesong.org and a brand new poetry book that’s due out around Thanksgiving.

Thanks for your support! If you have any questions or comments about “Roots That Crack The Concrete,” or any of my other projects, you know where to find me.

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Age of Stupid

I just got back from the global premiere of a climate change movie called Age of Stupid. The experience was amazing, to say the least. First, I’d like to review the movie. Then, I’d like to review the state of the world in relation to climate change.

The movie itself was brilliant. The premise is simple: in the year 2055, the world has been devastated by the consequences of human generated climate change. Society has collapsed entirely, and the systems of life as we know them have largely unraveled. One man remains as caretaker of a collection of humanity’s relics and an archive of their knowledge. The film follows his narration as he reviews clips of the recent past (our present day) and wonders why people in the “Age of Stupid” didn’t do more to prevent the apocalypse.

Tonight’s screening was a huge worldwide event with a short pre-show and a longer post-show consisting of interviews and commentary on the subject of climate change. Unfortunately, I missed most of the pre-show and the first 15 minutes or so of the main event due to technical difficulties at our local theatre. I did see enough of the film, though, to be thoroughly impressed.

On the one hand, the film is intensely and transparently didactic. It’s an unabashed call to action on the issue of climate change. Active disbelievers in human-caused climate change will find it abhorrent, and some snobby film critics who dislike any overt politics in a film will say it’s too preachy.

On the other hand, it’s also very entertaining and compelling. It mostly consists of clips about the present day contributions to climate change, both good and bad, but the framework about a future apocalypse works well and emphasizes the seriousness of the information being presented.
The blend of individual people’s stories and global implications make the film’s narrative compelling, creative, and highly relevant.

After the film, there was a series of brief live interviews on the subject of climate change. There was a lot of chaos throughout the post-show due to a mix of technical difficulties and seeming disagreements as to who was supposed to speak when. The material itself, though, was pretty amazing.

Speakers included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the President of the Republic of Maldives (the first climate neutral nation), someone from MoveOn, a British politician whose name I forget, and others.

First of all, I found it very impressive that important political officials like Kofi Annan and the President of the Maldives were actually there in person at the event. I also was impressed at how strong and well-stated all of their arguments were in favor of taking action on climate change in order to avoid the dire consequences on the horizon for both humanity and the planet. Finally, I was amazed and excited and taken aback by the confrontational attitude that one of the film’s creators took toward the British politician who had been invited to speak. He’s supposed to be leading their government’s action on climate change, but apparently he’s not going far enough, so the filmmaker kept challenging him and asking him why he wasn’t doing more to improve the agreement being formulated for the next climate meeting in Copenhagen this December.

All in all, the film premiere was an amazing experience, marred only by the 15-20 minutes of local technical difficulties at the very beginning. Unfortunately, almost all of the people who came locally gave up on the film due to these technical difficulties. And I can’t say that I blame them — I was about to leave myself when the video resumed! But luckily, I stayed long enough to see most of the film and be part of the global phenomenon.

And that brings me to my review of climate change itself.

I won’t speak much about the details of climate change because the film says more than I can or should in a single blog entry. Seeing this film, though, drove home to important points that I feel cannot be overemphasized.

The first is that our current situation is dire. Human-caused climate change has already started, and in order to keep it from spiraling out of control, we need to ensure that the global temperature doesn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-Industrial Revolution temperature. And in order to do THAT, we need to ensure that our global carbon emissions peak in 2015 and rapidly decline from then onward.

This is serious business. In order to achieve that goal, we’ll have to work together internationally to change the entire direction of our economies and societies within a matter of several years. If we don’t achieve this unprecedented shift, then we will likely reach the tipping point soon. The destabilization of both climate and society will accelerate, and the systems of life as we know it will rapidly collapse within my lifetime.

This may sound very gloomy — and in fact, it IS very gloomy. This is the greatest threat to life on this planet that our species have ever witnessed.

The good news, though, is that there is still time for action. We are the source of this problem, and we must take action to resolve this problem, if only for the sake of our own survival.

The film itself is a striking example of the power of grassroots campaigns to create something inspired and transformative. Age of Stupid started as a small independent project and evolved into the largest simultaneous showing of a film in human history. It was funded by grassroots organizing, promoted by social networking, and made possible by communications technology which didn’t even exist 10 years ago. We have an increasing ability to network and communicate with each other on such globally vital issues, and an increasing power to take meaningful action both as individuals and as active citizens in our respective cities and nations.

There are many ways to take action. The makers of the film are encouraging people to take action through the Not Stupid site:

http://notstupid.org/

I’ll also have more news and more ideas for action soon. In the meantime, check out Age of Stupid when you get the chance, and do whatever it takes to change the present and the future for the better.

Each of us may at times seem small in the presence of local, regional, national, and international systems of power. But each of us in our own way can make a difference. And with our powers combined, we can change the world.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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