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There’s nothing quite like harnessing the power of the people for good.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been proud to be part of a movement that’s re-energizing grassroots activism aimed at protecting endangered wildlife and the most important places where they live.

The Center for Biological Diversity is often rightly noted for its legal and scientific work over the past 30 years. But at the core of the organization is an activist’s heart, a belief that saving wildlife and wild places is a long journey where success will be born of people standing up and standing together — facing down the powerful so that future generations will have a planet where the wild is still alive.

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That’s been our driving mission, especially during the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on wildlife. In response we’ve dramatically ramped up our work to mobilize the public — building a network of thousands of volunteers ready to answer the call.

In the summer of 2018, we helped organize people around the country after the Trump administration ended federal protection for grizzly bears that live in and around Yellowstone National Park. Trump’s move paved the way for Wyoming and Idaho to approve trophy-hunting seasons authorizing more than 20 bears to be shot and killed, including 13 females. We couldn’t let that stand. So while the Center launched a legal challenge and we put up billboards, our organizing team tapped into a coast-to-coast network of volunteers ready to take action.

Our volunteers held more than 40 “Brews for Bears” events at bars, coffee shops and breweries to learn more and write postcards to the Trump administration. It was heartwarming, topped only by a judge’s decision in September 2018 that reinstated grizzly protection and nullified any plans for trophy hunts.

But there wasn’t much time to rest. A few months later, the Trump administration announced plans to end Endangered Species Act protection for nearly every wolf in the lower 48 states. His proposal would pull the plug on 40 years of wolf recovery work and take us back to the days when these fascinating animals were persecuted to the brink of extinction.

Once again we turned to our growing network of volunteer activists in a campaign we named “Call of the Wild.” This time we took it to another level.

We held calls, empowered volunteers, conducted trainings, set up mentorship programs, rallied in wolf masks, hosted presentations, phoned governors, worked with students, made art… the list goes on and on. It was inspiring to see so many people motivated and working so hard for the cause. Yes, we steered them in the right direction and supported them along the way, but it was truly a people-powered movement that went beyond anything we could’ve done on our own.

And the results were staggering. 

Over the course of several months, more than 1,000 volunteers fanned out across the country and collected some 53,000 pro-wolf comments at farmers markets, dog parks, street fairs and other local events. By the summer of 2019, we and our other allies in the environmental movement turned in more than 1.8 million comments calling on the Trump administration to retain wolf protections. It was the largest number of comments ever submitted in the 45-year history of the Endangered Species Act.

But the other shoe dropped less than a month later, when the Trump administration rolled out a series of disastrous new rules crippling implementation of the Endangered Species Act. This time it wasn’t just wolves or bears. These rules cast a long, dark shadow over hundreds of species protected by the Act — and even those in line for protection.

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We took a deep breath and dove in once again. Our “Act for Endangered Species” campaign was up in running within a few weeks. More than 400 people — volunteers around the country — joined our first campaign call, fired up and ready to go. The next day they were flooding Congress with phone calls and then starting to recruit more people into the movement. We notched our first key victory not long afterward with a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to roll back the Trump administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act.

This fight to save the Act — and the wolves, bears and other species it protects — will be a long one. It may last months or even years — honestly, that’s hard to say.

But what I know for certain is that we’ve tapped into everyday people’s incredible love for the wild and for wildlife. In the long run, love is stronger than fear. And when we channel our love for the wild into activism, when we mobilize together, support each other, learn as we go and never stop fighting, we achieve something that’s priceless in times of darkness: hope.

Valerie Love is deputy director of the organizing department at the Center for Biological Diversity.

By Valerie Love, NCSE

Where are they now? Some of our first beneficiaries are coming back for the fourth quarter of 2019, bigger and better than ever.

 

To celebrate our 10-year anniversary, we are going back to where it all began: this quarter we have selected four beneficiaries who we funded (with your donations) in our very first grant cycle!  The beneficiary organizations have grown since those first grants in FBB’s early days, but their commitment to evidence-based, sustainable interventions has not changed. We are thrilled to see the progress and accomplishments they’ve made and are proud to be able to support them again now.

 

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Nearly one third of LGBTQ students drop out of high school due to violence, harassment, and isolation, which is seven times the national average. Our Human Rights beneficiary, Point Foundation, works to counteract this trend. Their mission is to empower promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential—despite the obstacles often put before them—to make a significant impact on society. Point provides grants for higher education as well as leadership training and internship opportunities. They also match each scholar in their program to a mentor with whom they work to design and implement an annual community service project that supports the LGBTQ community.

 

Since its founding in 2001, Point has awarded approximately 400 scholarships including 85 for the current academic year. Point alumni include elected officials, doctors, scientists, filmmakers, authors, lawyers, academics, business professionals, and entrepreneurs. FBB is honored to support Point Foundation and the work they do to empower marginalized LGBTQ youth. This grant will specifically support a trans student of color.

 

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Water For People, our Poverty & Health beneficiary, envisions a world where all people have access to safe and reliable water and sanitation services. Water For People does more than build wells and install toilets in the nine countries in which they are active. Water For People works from foundations of community conversations for sustainable, long-term change. They work to transform entire systems so that there will be safe and clean systems for generations—without relying on ongoing aid.

 

Everyone Forever, Water For People’s impact model, is designed to reach everyone in the district in which they are working no matter how remote and no matter how marginalized. And they design systems that will be aid-independent. A key aspects of this model is its foundation on co-investing, capacity building, monitoring/reporting, and replication. Water For People does not fully fund infrastructure, in order to ensure the communities are invested in the outcome. In the end, the communities own the systems they build and can maintain them without Water For People. While building the systems, Water For People trains local people to collect and analyze data to keep the systems operating at a high level. With every successful system, it is easier to get buy-in from new communities.

 

FBB is proud to support Water For People and their commitment to sustainable, community-centered, and data-driven systems for safe and reliable water and sanitation around the world for Everyone Forever.

 

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The work that the Center for Biological Diversity, our Natural Word beneficiary, does is based on the belief that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to the existence of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants on this planet. The effects of human activity on Earth result in species going extinct at up to 1,000 times the natural rate. With the tools of science, law, and creative media, the Center works to save any species—large or small—on the brink of extinction.

 

The Center’s work spans the entire planet, from the oceans to Antarctica, to fighting air pollution, to supporting 100% renewable energy. The Center’s environmental health work curbs toxic contaminants that harm humans and animals alike. Their solutions for a sustainable future include the empowerment of women and girls, universal access to reproductive healthcare and education, a healthy and secure food system, and clean energy.

 

FBB shares The Center’s commitment to a sustainably healthy planet for all living things and is happy to support their data-driven, grassroots programs that seek solutions for the survival of humans and our environment.

 

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Our Education beneficiary, National Center for Science Education, promotes and defends accurate and effective science education, because everyone deserves to engage with the evidence. Well-established areas of science that are culturally controversial, such as climate change and evolution, can be challenging to teach. In addition to numerous resources on their site, NCSE trains teachers and others in approaches for these subjects that have been proven to reduce conflict and help learners overcome misconceptions. NCSE also works to help local communities block legislation that would result in miseducation for students.

I wanted to expand my knowledge of teaching a tough topic. It’s harder when you’re out there “on your own” without a system or support network. Living outside of DC, it’s become an incredibly political topic. I wanted to strengthen my ability to cut through the talking points and teach the science. ~Melinda Landry, NCSE Teacher Ambassador

 

Please take some time to explore the beneficiaries that we are featuring this quarter.

By FBB

Two years ago, Myanmar’s military launched a violent crackdown against the Muslim Rohingya population.

Last week, local regulators compounded the Rohingya's sense of isolation by ordering a halt to all cellphone service in the area of their camps.

Imagine that your own government has burned your villages into the ground, attempted to kill you, and forced 750,000 of your people to flee for their lives. Imagine the country you fled to trying to send you back. Imagine the tension and dread you would feel with your phone service cut off, with no way to contact those important to you. This is the experience of the Rohingya refugee population currently languishing in Bangladesh.

Our contact in Bangladesh has reported that the blackout is stoking worry as relatives are not able contact one another between camps, in Myanmar, or abroad.

"The Rohingya are now a people of nowhere," the Washington Post recently wrote. "They shouldn’t be abandoned."

As human beings, we're predisposed to care most about people closer to home, who look most like us and whose plight we can most easily imagine.

Unfortunately, this means that while we've seen an exciting response to our fundraisers for disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the US immigration crisis, our fundraising goals for Rohingya aid have been much more difficult to reach. We now face the unpleasant reality that Rohingya needs have taken a back seat to U.S.-based appeals.

We will not give up on the Rohingya. Despite the challenges, we will continue to support the refugees through this appeal. However, our ability to do so depends on the response of humanists in the next few weeks.

2019-sept-rohingya-busOur beneficiary for this crisis is ActionAid USA, chosen for their ability to respond to monsoon-related floods in the Bangladesh camps. The monsoons may be over, but the refugees there still face immense challenges from the disaster, including a devastated water and sewer infrastructure. ActionAid's work also includes workshops intended to curb abuse and exploitation of Rohingya women, to make them less vulnerable during the next emergency.

We hope you will not abandon the Rohingya either. If you are able, please help us keep this fundraiser open, and give the Rohingya the resources they need to rebuild.

Count me in.
Thank you for helping build a more compassionate, equitable, and inclusive world.


*The Humanist Disaster Recovery program is sustained through a partnership between Foundation Beyond Belief and the American Humanist Association (AHA). We thank AHA for their generous support of our efforts.

Photos courtesty of Ro Yassin Abdumonab

By FBB

August BBN roundup

17 Sep 2019

At the end of summer, our teams are still bringing the heat! Let’s see what they’ve been up to!

First, we have a new team this month, Houston Freethought Oasis! Welcome to BBN!

houston-oasis-logoCentral Ohio United Non-Theists (COUNT) participated in several events with the Adaptive Sports Connection, which helps Central Ohio veterans, children, and adults who need adaptive equipment or instruction to participate in various sports. This month’s events included kayaking and cycling! COUNT members also volunteered as housewarmers with Ronald McDonald House Columbus. Housewarmers work with guests to provide a home-like environment— greeting, assisting with family needs, answering phones, giving tours, assisting with check-in and check-out, preparing guest rooms, cleaning, helping with laundry, restocking supplies and staffing the front desk. 

COUNT and Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO) paired up again, volunteering as servers at the Community Shelter Board (CSB) facility on Van Buren Drive in Columbus, Ohio. Some volunteers served dinners while others washed dishes, mopped floors, and cleaned tables. After volunteering, both teams joined the Omnipresent Atheists meetup in progress for dinner, drinks and conversation. HCCO has also adopted a local highway in Columbus, and seven team members spent an afternoon picking up trash at the 270 East/Cleveland Avenue exit ramp. The Ohio Department of Transportation has a sign in the area notifying drivers of HCCO’s adoption of this stretch of highway.

The Central Florida Freethought Community in Oviedo, Florida cleaned up local parks this month, the West Chapin Trail and Kewannee Park. They had a great turnout and picked up a lot of trash from the parks and accompanying areas! 2019-aug_bbn_central-florida-freethought-community-cffc-park-cleanup-kewannee-aug-4th-001 Our new team from last month, the Atheist Community of Polk County, in Polk County, Florida held two cleanup events for their adopted two-mile stretch of highway in cooperation with Keep Polk County Beautiful. One resident has complained that the county allowed an atheist organization to adopt the highway and put up a sign advertising this fact, but most folks walking by stopped to thank them, and passing drivers honk and wave in thanks as well. It sounds like a success! Keep it up! 

Austin Humanists at Work (ATXHAW) in Austin, Texas held their largest kit-making event to date! Four board members, two regular volunteers, and 60 first-time volunteers made 1,500 menstrual kits, 1,600 wet wipe packets, 1,076 first aid kits, 500 cotton swab packets, and 2,000 floss pick packets. This will keep their monthly giveaways well stocked for years! 2019-aug_bbn_austin-humanists-at-work-kit-making-volunteer-event-aug-14th-008 The team also held the regular monthly meeting of their knitting/crocheting guild. This month a volunteer from the big kit-making event showed up to learn how to crochet! He was so proud of himself!  2019-aug_bbn_atxhaw-gettin-knotty-august-2019-001This month, the ATXHAW Monthly Giveaway had 37 volunteers serving 232 clients. They had a very exciting donation of 40 pop-up tents! Their clients were very excited and thankful for the tents, which went fast! This month went really well, as the team has been working hard to create some new processes and procedures to make giveaways run more efficiently from setup to tear-down. 2019-aug_bbn_austin-humanists-at-work-monthly-giveaway-aug-18th-001BE Orlando in Orlando, Florida joined other volunteer teams at Second Harvest Food Bank to sort 9,744 pounds of produce and an additional 2,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. Volunteers sorted through fruits and vegetables and removed items that were unable to be re-purposed, packaging the usable produce for delivery to pantry sites around Central Florida. 2019-aug_bbn_be-orlando-food-donation-sorting-aug-23rd Volunteers from Humanists Doing Good in Grand Junction, Colorado, harvested plenty of cucumbers and watermelons in collaboration with the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief and the Western Colorado Research Center at Orchard Mesa. The produce was later donated to help people in need in the Grand Valley of Colorado. A writer from Colorado State University also interviewed many of the volunteers for an upcoming piece in one of the university's publications. 2019-aug_bbn_humanists-doing-good-harvesting-watermelons-and-cucumbers-aug-18th-004 Later in the month, the team helped serve dinner at Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley. The two hours they spent serving meals flew by quickly. Everyone was extremely friendly and and plenty of smiles were served up in all directions. 2019-aug_bbn_humanists-doing-good-serving-dinner-at-homeward-bound-of-the-grand-valley-aug-26th-002 Pikes Peak Atheists & Pikes Peak Atheist Families in Colorado Springs, Colorado held a trash cleanup event for their adopted section of creek this month. It was a hot day but they still managed to get some of the trash picked up, and will get more done in October when they have a big cleanup for Creek Week. The team also had a sponsor’s table at the Colorado Secular Conference, where they collected donations for TESSA, a local charity supporting domestic violence victims.

Congratulations on a great wrap-up to the summer months for our teams!

By FBB

A belated congratulations to Tri-State Freethinkers in Kentucky, which recently became the first Beyond Belief Network (BBN) team to hit "confetti" status by organizing over 10 service events in a year!

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Apparently, 10 events in a year is a drop in the bucket for this very active group. Here's a little bit of information about the group from its organizers:

Tri-State Freethinkers was founded in Dec 2012 by Jim and Chrissy Helton, with the mission of serving our communities and fighting for equality and the seperation of church and state. We advocate for the LGBTQ, women's care and women's rights. We fight for proper sex education in our school systems. Our community service is amazing— we do over 50 community service projects each year. When equality is under attack The Tri-State Freethinkers show up! We love and are very proud to be an associate for the BBN Network!

We're very proud as well. Way to go and thank you so much for your service to the community this year!

Check out a brief gallery of these compassionate freethinkers hard at work:

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Visit Tri-State Freethinkers on their website at www.tristatefreethinkers.com, on Facebook here.

They also have recorded many fascinating lectures, protests, and educational presentations on their Youtube account here!

By FBB

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