Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reports on Journalists Killed in 2011

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published its annual Killed in 2011 Report documenting the number of reporters who have been killed as a result of circumstances directly related to their work as journalists. While journalist deaths were highest in countries in the Middle East, the report also reveals that safety for journalists remains a big challenge in Latin America. In the most dangerous Latin American country for journalists, Mexico, three Mexican journalists were killed and CPJ continues to investigate four journalist deaths that may have been related to their professional endeavors. In 2011, further Latin American journalist deaths are reported in Brazil, Peru and the Dominican Republic. The website and the report also highlight a new increase in the targeting of journalists who use social media to promote democracy, freedom of information and human rights. In one particularly gruesome case, a Mexican blogger was found murdered for her work to uncover the activities of criminal groups. These deaths as well as the related “disappearances” and threats that menace Latin American journalists confirm the need of work of our grantees to defend members of the press and their right to free speech in Latin America.

In addition to the formal report, the CPJ website shares a series of maps and charts with data about the professions of the journalists killed, the types of stories they had been covering and the type of groups or circumstances that have been in their death. Based on these descriptions, many of the killed Latin American journalists had been involved in reporting on criminal organizations or government corruption. This accessible and thorough statistical analysis should bolster the ability of the Committee to Protect Journalists to effectively use this report in their advocacy work to prevent impunity for those harming or imprisoning journalists.

The Overbrook Foundation has maintained a strong dedication to defending human rights defenders, including supporting organizations promoting press freedom in Latin America. This advocacy tool should help CPJ and others to continue to support these rights in 2012. Freedom of speech and freedom of press must be defended if a broader population is to fight injustice; challenge local, national and international power structures; and defend their own safety and human rights. The data compiled in this report reminds us of how much work there is to be done to ensure the safety of journalists around the world, particularly in Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Friday, December 23, 2011

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's report - "State of the Utility Bill"

While we have not had the opportunity to write about it until now, Overbrook Staff would like to highlight the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) November report on “The State of the Utility Bill”. This report provides an academic look at the history and evolution of the utility bill, statistics on the type of information that consumers can generally find on their bills, and an analysis of this data with an emphasis on possible improvements to increase sustainable electric, heat and water consumption. It positions the utility bill as a communication device rather than yet another monthly bill to be paid. While many utility bills include previous month and previous year comparisons of energy use, this report explores a need for increased context of the consumer’s energy use. Report authors found that almost 90% of the bills were missing "pro-efficiency messaging, energy efficiency-specific tips and contacts, and peer comparisons - that may motivate consumers to take energy-saving actions”. They have discovered differences in energy savings between consumers based on the frequency of publication, the content and the precision of the information found in the bills. Not only does this report shows consumers what numbers they should look at when attempting to decrease their own utility consumption and costs, but it also offers concrete arguments and steps for the revision of utility bills by the utility companies.

The Overbrook Foundation is proud to have supported the research and writing of this important report as part of our Environment Program's focus on domestic sustainable consumption and production. This valuable tool can now be used by activists, consumers and members of the utility industry to improve utility bills in the future. ACEEE hopes that small changes in bills reaching millions could have a significant impact on American consumption habits. Foundation Staff has learned that the report had already been downloaded 405 times in the first few weeks after its publication, so we hope the success of its transmission and impact continues and expands. Despite difficulties to change behaviors, we are excited to be a part of the process to identify critical spaces that can have real impact on American consumption.

Click here for a link to the ACEEE blog where Ben Foster, one of the report's authors, has summarized the findings and implications of the fuller report. While, you can also download the complete version of "The State of the Utility Bill" by clicking here and following the instructions on the web page.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Overbrook Grantees Working to Stop Tar Sands

Overbrook environment grantee ForestEthics is in the news today, hailed in Mother Jones (also an Overbrook Foundation grantee through the Human Rights Program) for its campaign work against tar sands. Canadian tar sands have been a contentious and ubiquitous subject of late, since they would have been the source of fuel funneled through the proposed Canada-to-Gulf of Mexico Keystone XL pipeline. Due in large part to fierce campaigning and activism by 350.0rg, another Overbrook environment grantee, plans for building that pipeline have been indefinitely postponed.

Tar sands can bring a carbon footprint up to 70 percent greater than other sources of crude oil, and increased development in Canada would lead to the clear-cutting of hundreds of thousands of acres of boreal forest. Click here to see Mother Jones' map of the 50 refineries in the U.S. that use tar sands oil, data compiled by ForestEthics. And thanks to ForestEthics for its anti-tar sands campaign, which so far has gotten 13 commitments from U.S. companies to stop using oil from refineries sourcing from tar sands!

Click here for a bleak but visually stunning view of tar sands from above in a National Geographic photo essay.

Friday, December 9, 2011

NRDC's Extreme Weather and Health-related Costs Maps

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an Overbrook grantee, has released an interactive "Extreme Weather Map" of the United States detailing thousands of events including floods, record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented snowfalls and more since the start of 2011. The map can be frozen at a specific time in the year, or it can play through the ebb and flow of extreme weather from January through October 2011. As the saying goes, a picture's worth a thousand words, so with luck this fast-forward meteorological view of the United States will impress upon Americans that climate change has come home, and mitigation and adaptation are not to be postponed.

Take a look and press PLAY to see the year's activity in motion: NRDC's Extreme Weather Map

NRDC also released a map tracking the health issues related to extreme weather events, resulting in some extreme costs for the United States. Click here to view the health map.

Environment Grants Awarded in December!

At its December Board of Directors Meeting, The Overbrook Foundation voted to award a total of $698,000 in grants to 13 organizations working to conserve Latin American Biodiversity, foster sustainable consumption and production practices in the United States or publish on environmental or conservation issues across various media platforms. Further investigation of these organizations and their Overbrook supported projects reveals the unique work that each group contributes on a diverse array of environmental issues.

For its biodiversity conservation program, Overbook will award six grants for a total of $293,000. The Foundation will support Amazon Watch with $40,000 grant for its Ecuador Rainforest Protection Program, IMAFLORA with a $43,000 grant for Biodiversity Conservation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest through Improvements to Cocoa Production and ISEAL Alliance with a $25,000 grant. In Mexico, People and Plants International will use a $60,000 grant to promoting community-based forestry and conservation in Central Mexico and Pronatura Noroeste A.C. will use a $50,000 grant to protect the Cabo Pulmo National Park Region, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Wildlife Conservation Society will receive a $75,000 grant to continue its work conserving Natural Resources and Improving Rural Livelihoods through Community-led Production Systems in the Pantanal and Cerrado of Brazil and Yasuni National Park, Ecuador.

For the Foundation's environmental media program, the University of Washington Foundation is awarded $45,000 grant for Conservation Magazine's 2012 Workplan.

The Overbrook Foundation's commitment to sustainable consumption is furthered with a $75,000 grant to Catalog Choice, a $25,000 grant to the DC Project, a $40,000 grant for ForestEthics, and a $45,000 grant for GreenBlue Institute. Other awarded grants include $125,000 for Global Development Incubator for its project on a strategic analysis of structures and mechanisms to enhance cohesion in conservation community and $50,000 for In Our Backyards ( to improve its marketing strategy.

As in previous blog posts announcing these grant awards, you may click on any of the names of the organizations in this post to be transferred to their websites for more information on them and their work. The Overbrook Foundation Staff congratulates these organizations on their new grants and looks forward to the execution of these exciting projects in a time when environmental issues continue to be extremely pressing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Human Rights Grants Awarded at The Overbrook Foundation's December Board Meeting

At its final Board Meeting of 2011, The Overbrook Foundation’s Board of Directors approved 14 grants totaling $550,000 for the Human Rights Program. The Foundation applauds these organizations for their existing achievements and it looks forward to their progress in promoting human rights and social justice in the upcoming year with this added support from The Overbrook Foundation.

The Foundation’s work to build a Domestic Human Rights Movement will be furthered through the approval of a $50,000 grant to the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative.

A grant of $25,000 will be awarded to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders for its project to challenge the constitutionality of the Defense Against Marriage Act as a part of the Foundation's efforts to promote marriage equality in the United States.

To honor our commitment to Reproductive Justice in the United States, Overbrook will award grants to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women for $25,000 and to the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum for $30,000. Additionally, Overbrook approved a $40,000 grant to the Third Wave Foundation for its work on Reproductive Health, a $50,000 grant to the Tides Center/Groundswell Fund’s Catalyst Fund and a $30,000 grant to the Western States Center for its Gender Justice Initiative.

To promote nonprofit media in the United States, Overbrook will award grants to Breakthrough USA for its work on human rights-based videos and interactive games, to the Center for Public Integrity for investigative reporting on the money in American political campaigns, and to the New Press for its publication and promotion of books related to Human Rights in the United States. The Foundation will support these organizations with grants of $45,000, $45,000 and $35,000 respectively.

Four of the approved grants fit into the Foundation's International Human Rights program offering support to advocates of Gender Rights and Human Rights Defenders in Latin America. Disability Rights International will receive a $50,000 grant to build capacity of activists to prevent and end violence against women and girls with disabilities in Mexico and Guatemala, and Ipas will receive a $40,000 grant for advocacy and action on abortion policy in Latin America. To support their work with Latin American Human Rights Defenders, Overbrook will also award Front Line with a $50,000 grant for the protection of Latin American Human Rights Defenders and Reporters Without Borders with a $35,000 grant to defend freedom of information in Latin America.

Again, we are proud to support these organizations that are tirelessly working to advocate for and protect a large variety of critical human rights for people in the United States and Latin America! More information about 2011 grantees will soon be posted on The Overbrook Foundation Website.