Life’s a Beach (Grass)

A Day with the Greenbelt Native Plant Center

For years I’d been curious about the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC). I don’t remember where I’d first heard about it, but it was there on the New York City Parks Department website, tantalizingly close yet never open to the public. Its inaccessibility only piqued my curiosity.

And then one day last year, as Spring was approaching and I browsed the Parks’ website for nature walks, there it was: a volunteer event at the GNPC! “Processing beach grass” is what the description said. Processing? Of course I pounced on it, even if I wasn’t quite sure what the task was. It wasn’t the first time I traded a bit of elbow grease (as my Grandfather called it) for access, and I doubt it will be the last.

Processing beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata, one of several species known as “beach grass”) turned out to mean stripping the dry, brown leaves from clumps of grass to leave the fresh green stems and roots ready for planting at various beaches in the City. It was fairly easy work; we could even sit down. Best of all, after we’d stripped grass for a couple of hours one of the GNPC staff offered to take us for a tour of the facility.

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My American Red Cross Anniversary

This past Saturday, October 5, was my 12-year anniversary with the American Red Cross. How did this happen?  Where did the time go?

When I tried to write about it, words failed. Or, rather, words poured out of my pen in an endless, meandering stream: lots of words, not much sense.

So I got ambitious and turned the past twelve years into a simple infographic. (Click on the graphic to get a better view.) There are the long-term projects that lasted weeks, months or years, and the one-off emergency responses that lasted only a few days–often just one day.

ARC Infographic 2

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Making Social Media Do Good

Last month I attended Social Media Week New York. As most of my career has been spent in non-profits, I registered for panels on non-profits, international development, and using social media for social good. There was a good deal of discussion about events happening in the Middle East, and opinions were divided on how much (or how little) social media like Facebook and Twitter were influencing the democracy movements.

Friday around noon I returned from an early lunch break for a panel discussion. Every venue (that I know of) had wi-fi, so after finding a good seat I cracked open my laptop to check e-mail and Twitter. Twitter was alive! Reports that Hosni Mubarak had resigned were lighting up my timeline, so I switched briefly to my News list, which was also crazy. But this is a new medium, and the contradictory reports of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in January had shown me that misinformation can propagate just as easily as reliable information. So I quickly looked at the websites of the New York Times, the BBC, and Al Jazeera English. All of them reported Mubarak’s resignation, so I accepted it as true.

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Give, but Give Wisely

Many bloggers have been posting information on donating to the relief efforts in Japan following the earthquakes and tsunami on March 11. It’s good information and I’ll share a few links, but first I want to warn you: not all charitable organizations are equal, and not all are equally good at everything. In the aftermath of a major disaster, well-meaning people may try to organize a relief effort that is simply beyond their ability. Worse, there are scammers who will take advantage of your good intentions. I’m all for doing whatever we can to help people affected by a disaster, but donate your money or your volunteer efforts wisely.

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