Jun 7, 2010

Yes, I want to save the world with crafts

In case you haven't noticed, late last week I put a new item in the Star and Crossbones Etsy shop: the Waves of Compassion shawl pin, which generates donations for restoration and cleanup of the gulf shores, beaches, and waters (and their denizens), to help fix whatever damage this Deepwater Horizon insanity ends up doing.

There are those who say the oil spill issue is being blown out of proportion by the media, or that we're all too emotional about this to be realistic. There are others who say we aren't doing enough, that we as Americans are more willing to donate to help other countries than we are willing to donate to save ourselves. There are still others who say we shouldn't donate to clean up, or volunteer our time, because it's BP's responsibility to clean up their own mess.

Disasters that hit close to home really point up the hugely different ways people look at the world, and as far as I can see, the most honest thing to say is: We humans, in general, are terrible at predicting the future or the consequences of our actions. We are judgemental, but our judgements are often inaccurate. We continue to judge despite this. We point fingers. We do many things that keep us from taking action.

So instead, I choose to take positive action.

I was going to write a knitting pattern to help generate donations, but I realized that would take more time than I wanted to spend — I wanted to put something out there as soon as I could, so I can offer something to those of you who want to support indie craft, small business, and protecting and preserving my home and our oceans. The Waves of Compassion shawl pin is my first step in a positive direction, and I do believe in putting out positive energy to counter all the negativity. Even if it only makes a few people feel a little better about the world and about our ability to make change and contribute, that's enough to make it worth my while.

I do, absolutely, believe that BP should pay for its own mess. I believe the oil industry needs to improve how it does business, and that if it doesn't, there should be consequences. But I don't believe I should let someone else's mistake trash my home while I wait for them to get their act together. Why should my comfort, safety and happiness wait on action from a body that, if it were competent, would have prevented the disaster in the first place?

Madeira Beach, January 26, 2010
Madeira Beach, in Tampa Bay, on the Gulf of Mexico, is five minutes from my birthplace.

The Gulf coast is my home; this is where I was born and where I intend on making my home for a good many years to come. Say some inconsiderate arseface came into my house and trashed it for no reason — or say I hired a contractor to do some repairs and instead, they tore everything up and started an electrical fire that raged out of control. Would anyone expect me to sit by, pointing my finger at the person at fault as my house burned down in front of me, refusing to do anything to help fight the fire because they started it and they should have to stop it? Would anyone respect me as a person if I continued to live in a burned-out half-house — and if I complained bitterly about it — because I firmly believed the only way to get the person at fault to compensate me was to let myself, my family, my neighbors and my friends suffer until we got the money? Would my actions make any more sense if I caused all this suffering to myself and my loved ones and I said I still didn't believe it would make a difference to the evil people at fault?

I know I wouldn't respect me if I did that, and I would consider seeking psychiatric help if I thought that sort of behavior made sense. To me, this oil spill offers the same non-question: Will I act to save my home if it's threatened by someone else's irresponsibiity? Absolutely, yes. If recompense and justice are to be had later, I will happily support those things, too. Immediate action and eventual justice are compatible.

And I'm reasonably sure that there are small charities with the same attitude — the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, for instance, is not going to wait on a donation from BP if they find an oiled bird that needs care. They'll function as they always do — they'll use the funds they already have to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. I doubt the seabird sanctuary will count on being reimbursed by BP for their efforts, although it would be nice if that happened.

As for what charitable cause will receive any donation money I raise, I'm still researching. I want to donate to a group that will use the money specifically to preserve or restore the area and animals affected by the oil spill — even if said group isn't specifically taking donations using the oil spill as a buzz word. I'll be putting a lot of thought into who receives any money raised (which I hope doesn't become a moot point ;)).

Lastly, why I'm doing this rather than making a direct donation: I know there are people who are willing to donate directly to a charity rather than indirectly through me, which is great — much power to you! There are still others who like to support multiple causes at once with their money, or who like to receive a physical thing to enjoy in return for their donation. I'm hoping to encourage those people to give, if they weren't thinking of it before; or perhaps to give a little more than they would have otherwise. And also? I'm not rich. ;) I'd like to make a sizable donation, but I can only do that by making money through my job — which is my crafts business. I would be donating out of my "craft money" regardless of whether I make a point of it. I'm hoping I can give a larger donation, and help build a sense of community, by doing it like this.

I'd be honored and full of gratitude if other people joined me. I might still offer other donation-raisers for people who don't wear shawl pins, too — Yarn? Spinning fiber? The original idea, a knitting pattern? Handwovens? What, dear readers, do you think?
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