I’ve been trying, for a very long time, to be more environmentally aware, to be more compassionate, and to try and make a difference. Many of us have. I give money to charities, I volunteer (a little), I’m vegetarian, and I have two rescued dogs. And of course, I write this column, haranguing my fellow New Yorkers to do better by the environment, and each other. But lately I’ve had the sense that I need to do more, that I need to really pay attention to where my money, time, and attention go.
Earlier this week I had a long talk with a woman named Laurie Bleier — she runs a fantastic organization, Brooklyn Animal Foster Network (I’ve written about them before, in case you’re having a déjà vu moment), which takes the least desirable animals (pit bulls, the very sick, elderly) out of Brooklyn’s kill shelters, places them in foster homes, gives them medical care and behavioral help as needed, and then finds them permanent homes. In the year and a half that Laurie’s been at it, BAFN has saved nearly 800 dogs and cats. BAFN fell on hard times when medical bills for a few very ill animals piled up, and they had to stop pulling dogs out of the shelter last fall. As of a few weeks ago they’re back at it, at reduced capacity, but still struggling desperately for funding.
But let me tell you about our conversation. Laurie pointedly asked me how many animals I thought the ASPCA rescued every year. I started thinking, imagining 10,000, or maybe 20,000. Her answer: 2,000. In a city that kills some 40,000 dogs and cats every year, that’s not really much, is it? Don’t get me wrong, I love the humane education and enforcement efforts of the ASPCA, and I respect their no-kill policy. I would hate for anything to happen to them. But if one woman with a small group of volunteers and virtually no funding can save 600 animals a year, a multi-million-dollar organization should be doing better than 2,000 adoptions, no? Or maybe we need to be rethinking where we put (some of) our support?
A few weeks ago I was at the 4th Street Food Co-op, and the same issue came up. 4th Street is actively seeking members, and the person checking me out asked me, almost begged me, to join. It had never occurred to me that they would need members — in the middle of Manhattan, in the heart of a great neighborhood, I would have imagined they were doing fine. But no — they’re under-enlisted. And the nice woman behind the counter rolled her eyes in frustration: “The Park Slope Co-op has 12,000 members, and we can barely fill our schedule.” I thought guiltily of the times I had considered joining the Slope Co-op, drawn by its seemingly limitless bounty, and how meager the offerings at 4th Street were compared with what I had heard about at Park Slope. And then I realized I could join 4th Street, and try to make it better, or be just a speck in the pond in Park Slope.
We’re bombarded by choices every day, and even when you’re trying your damndest to make the right choice, or the best choice, it’s not a question of the lesser of two evils, but often, the better of two goods. Organic produce is good, but when it comes from giant food-machines like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s it’s only marginally better than non-organic. A co-op is a much better choice, especially one that really needs new members. And I’m going to give my time, and my money, to BAFN and other groups that are struggling, rather than adding my pennies to the millions that the big charities control.
Care to join?
P.S. BrooklynAnimalFosterNetwork.org still desperately needs money. ANY amount will help.