The Antidote to Bad Media Days - Make a Microloan
By Graham Hill
The Huffington Post
Septembr 9, 2008

Following the daily news, and especially in the realm of climate and environment, can be and frequently is a big bummer. Sarah Palin's bear-draped office sofa can make you either want to laugh or weep, but her views on polar bears do only the latter. And trying to figure out McCain's about-face on his formerly more encouraging climate views is just confusing; one clean tech pundit is convinced he and Palin are the dream ticket.

Fortunately, though when politics and the media fail us, one of the few antidotes for the gray clouds amassing over our happy green dream world is thoughtful action.

Of course, the next perplexing question can be, what's the action one person supposed to take? Well, the five easiest things to do this particular September are 1) Stop drinking (plastic) bottled anything and treat yourself to a cool beverage carrying bottle; 2) Eat one less meat-based meal each week with all those lovely fall veggies; 3) Buy a bike or begin to winterize the one you've got to take your riding further into the colder months; 4) Decide what one energy-efficient home change you are going to make before the winter really arrives; and 5) Plant a fall/winter vegetable garden - in many latitudes it's not too late, or go toward indoor gardening with hydroponics or aeroponic.

Oh, yeah, well let's say you've already done all those and are still feeling digruntled with the pace of political movement to solve some of the world's top problems - hunger, war, climate. If you are just plain frustrated, don't wait to give a goat at Christmas, go make a micro-loan today.

If you are already a social investor you may have heard of some of these non-profit organizations - Kiva, Opportunity International, ACCION - which funnel your donated money to microloans for entrepreneurial small-business people the world over. What is interesting is how few of us have realized that this may be an equally good or perhaps even better use of our money than plowing it into climate offsets.

Climate offsets have their place, but the industry grew too quickly without essential oversights, and in many cases offset companies funds big clean energy projects that are great, but may have already have been in the planning. Micro-loans, on the other hand, have excellent potential for stemming poverty and simultaneously dealing with on-the-ground effects of climate change, which will tend to disproportionately effect the poor.

Worldwatch researcher Gary Gardner reported recently that microfinance is booming, and its environmental effects may seem subtle - think solar ovens, people-powered pumps - but are as real as the benefits to the microlenders who improve quality of life for their families and communities. Microloan institutions are starting to understand they need to think more thoroughly about the connections between microlending and promoting sustainable, climate friendly development.

Microfinance as an industry will also have its growing pains, but it seems like if more of the NGOs offering microloans also zero in on accomplishing clean energy and climate change mitigation it is a way for all of us to act, and not just react, to the changing world around us.