Ahh, the Holidays. As usual, not enough time to get everything done, but - also as usual - kind of fun anyway, what with it being all festive and stuff. And I hope you are all having a Merry Christmas, by the way.
To no one's surprise, we are having a white Christmas up here. It has, however, been quite warm (34 to 38 degrees); if not for the fact of a heavy snowfall last week we might NOT be having a white Christmas up here. However: the year has turned. The days are getting longer (by about 26 seconds a day right now, but hey - you take what you can get). I'd say the majority of Alaskans are observant of the solstices (and to a lesser degree the equinoxes) because the seasonal changes up here are so extreme. Hence for many of us, the winter holiday cluster starts on December 21st - my father's birthday, incidentally, and happy birthday to him - and ends on January second. I personally like to extend that to my own birthday, in late January, but while you're all welcome to join me in that, I don't insist that others collude with me in my celebratory delusions. Mostly.
This year for Christmas, two of my sisters got me a gift certificate to Global Giving, an organization which oversees about 800 charities. I get a little email notification and I think: Hmm, what's this? So I open it up and there is a little pile of money that I can give to any of the charities they oversee. All of a sudden I'm aaaall perky. Ooooh. It's winter solstice, a perfect time to start feeling festive and holiday-ish. I'm SO not waiting til Christmas. And moreover, I am shamelessly stealing this idea for my Christmas present to the Wildwood quartet.
Naturally - and here, put on your surprised faces - when spending my gift certificate I went to the section on charities involving animals. I know - who can believe that? Me, interested in animal things! Go figure. Still, odd as it is - or not - for me to be interested in things related to animals, I had SO much fun shopping for pet projects there (so to speak). I can't even tell you. In the end I divided my gift certificate up, trying to focus mainly on things that would provide a sustainable improvement. For instance, I gave money to a livestock guardian dog project in Africa, which provides dogs, puppy vaccines and training for the native farmers so that they can use dogs to protect their livestock (mainly from cheetahs, I understand). This benefits the livestock, obviously, since they're protected from predation. It also obviously benefits the farmers. But in addition it benefits the cheetahs, since the farmers will shoot any cheetah they see on their land, out of fear of predation on their livestock. If the cheetahs stay away, they stay alive.... and there aren't so many of them that we can afford to waste them.
There were lots of other projects that tempted me: ones where you can purchase or help purchase a goat for a family who can then breed the goat and sell or rear the offspring for future income, and dairy off the goat for food; ones where you can help bring sheep flocks up to dairy standard for income and food for the community; ones where you can invest in habitat recovery and education for local people so that they can encourage wildlife recovery and the economic benefit of the eco-tourism that comes with it. Lots of choices. And of course there are tons and tons of other, non-animal-related projects as well. But I'm happy with my little animal projects, because they dovetail nicely with my personal philosophy. My theory is that animals will save the world.
Chief Seattle said that if all the beasts were gone, man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit. This is, in my opinion, unquestionably true. But there's more to it: If all the humans on the earth suddenly died, the world would go on. But if only we remained and all the animals died, the entire world would die. We are not so necessary to the ecology of the world. But without animals to pollinate, to sew seeds, to graze and fertilize the grasslands, entire ecosystems would die. We can't do these things for ourselves. We need them way more than they need us. And for all our intelligence and ability to manipulate the world around us, in the end I think it will be the simplicity of animals that is our salvation.
So it is somehow very satisfying to me to add my little financial nudges to projects that dovetail with my personal philosophy. I love the idea that somewhere out there a family is given a goat who will, by virtue of nothing more than being a goat, will give them a sustainable income. I love it that people are training guardian dogs who will - typically without direct contact - run predators away from livestock, preventing harm to both. I love that wild animals provide income to poor areas by their presence, rather than their absence. I love that these animals, just out there doing no more than being what they are.... one little piece at a time, they're out there, changing things. Saving the world.