Choosing a Good Charity to Support (a recommendation) by Shirley Lutzky

CBecause we live in an era where we are daily hearing about the suffering of people everywhere (as well as animals), and  are also, most of us,  receiving mail and email requests from charities asking for our help to reduce that suffering, knowing where  to best contribute can become quite an ongoing  challenge. When I look at all the donation requests I receive each week, I feel reminded of an incident that happened many years ago when my son was five or six. A relative had given Aaron twenty-five dollars for him to buy his own birthday present, a toy or toys of his choice. His father and I thought - mistakenly - that it would be a good learning experience for him to be taken to Toys R Us, where there were such an abundance of choices, and discover how to best spend his money. We misunderstood the enormity of this decision for his young mind. After perusing all the aisles once, and a few of them twice, instead of returning to look at his preferences as we had expected him to,  Aaron burst into tears and cried out “I want to go home!” He was so thoroughly miserable that we left without a single toy. It was a very unhappy experience for all of us, a learning experience for us parents, but not for our son.  In a similar sort of way as my little boy, I used to inwardly burst into frustrated tears at too many choices, not of toys, but of charity requests. I’d read their letters, pondering and pondering, and I’d end  up feeling  miserable about choosing some over others, thinking about the ones I hadn’t chosen, the miseries I hadn’t addressed, and the impossibility of choosing everything.

But having considered many, many charities for many, many years, I am finally no longer so frustrated. I’ve done some research on which charities offer the most alleviation of pain. Perhaps it will surprise some, but I’ve concluded that the Nature Conservancy is at the top of this list.  The reason is that the work this organization does impacts so many forms of suffering by getting to the root of much of the cause. And that cause is the way we treat our planet.  Why do I believe that is the cause for a myriad of suffering? Here are some reasons: It is fact that manmade climate change -from too much greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - effects our weather, creating more and stronger natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding,  draughts and fires. The result: destruction of homes, towns, cities, islands, states and nations. This in turn causes loss of life, mass injuries, eventual poverty, disease, starvation, displacement of populations, mass immigration, and ultimately war and all the pain that war brings. Haiti, Bangladesh, and many areas of Africa are places of great suffering, suffering that we try to perpetually alleviate through many different charity organizations, such as Oxfam, Seva, Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, and on and on.  But if the developed countries had never lived for decades with lifestyles that created climate changes, those countries would not have experienced the great degree of the above listed disasters.  Even the huge migration out of Syria resulted from war which resulted from unhappy groups who had endured years of draught, which was an early result of climate change.  If we thought such outcomes were the future, we stand corrected. That future is Now. As far as animal species having troubles and going extinct, we do, I believe, all know the story, because that has been documented for quite some time.

The Nature Conservancy is not just my own top choice for treating and preventing these problems, it is one of the most, if not the most well-endowed charities there is. But that does not mean it has enough funding, not at all - not until there is no problem with our climate will it have enough. The Conservancy is most famous for buying up natural acres and saving and restoring the health of those acres - restoring all of nature that exists in the conserved areas. This is an extremely effective thing to do because, as yet, it means that those areas are totally safe from anything any government, business, or individual might do to abuse those lands or waters. Trees can grow for one thing, taking carbon from the atmosphere, and water, air and soil can be free of pollution in protected places. The Conservancy not only makes sure that trees grow, it plants more. And it does what it takes to make disappearing species thrive. But that is not all that this organization does. They have, throughout their 65 years, sought solutions to all the greatest challenges to our natural world; to quote their President and CEO: “Toward that end, we have built a network of volunteer leadership in our state, country and global programs that is inclusive of all political points of view. That diversity of perspective allows us to consider all options, develop inovative strategies and step up to lead - especially when leadership is not forthcoming from other institutions.”  I can’t list all the ways that this is fulfilled by the Nature Conservancy in this short article, but one example is that they were an active player in the process of shaping and ratifying the Paris Climate accord and when the U.S rescinded its support, they immediately moved on and continued nonpartisan climate action in all 50 states, red and blue.  There is so much more to say about what they do, that perhaps I’ll write a second article. But meanwhile, I hope you, too, might look into this incredibly effective organization and consider choosing them as a favorite charity, if you haven’t done so already, that is.