Benetton and Micro-credit
I’m excited about the cover story I wrote for the latest issue of Outside’s Go.
It’s a profile of Alessandro Benetton, heir to the Benetton empire and a Harvard Business School-educated economic savant, but what’s so inspiring about Benetton is his true commitment to socially responsible business. He studied with Michael Porter at HBS in the late 80s early 90s and told me that it was right about this time that Porter began to first introduce the idea of an “ethical” business. Sure, there are places to point fingers at Benetton (the company got bad press a few years back over a native lands’ conflict in Patagonia) but when a $3 billion dollar company pushes for a commitment to social responsibility alongside financial success, it creates ripples that make a difference on the ground. The first big salvo, which I cover in the Go story, is Benetton’s commitment to Yousou N’Dour’s Birima micro-credit program. This is where Alessandro Benetton is changing the company, actually putting big cash into a philanthropic system instead of simply using socially jarring images in stylized ads. The collaboration is called Africa Works, and Benetton has put the full force of its marketing machine behind the project with an ad campaign that includes engaging images of Sengalese workers. Micro-credit, first made popular by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, provides small, low-to no-interest loans to poor aspiring entrepreneurs (fishermen, weavers, farmers, musicians… ), just enough to get them on their feet so they can start creating their own income from their businesses. Not only does it stimulate local economies, micro-loans have an astounding 99-percent repayment rate. And most importantly they are not handouts. They offer a chance at dignity, for people to work to prove themselves, which is why they work. As N’Dour says, “Africa doesn’t want charity. It wants repayable, subsidized loans.”
Read the story here.
Media Bistro also published a nice piece about the cover and the editorial philosophy of Go. Read it here.
More Fun in Fruita
Here’s a little video from my favorite ride at Frutia—a figure eight loop up More Fun, down Lyons, up over Mack Ridge and back down the road to the parking lot. It’s challenging in spots but never too difficult, the climbs were built for bikes, and it’s hard to beat the view…
Honing the Blade
I don’t write for the Mountain Gazette for the money, but rather, because they let me write about chainsaws… LINK
Gear Testing in Spring Powder
We closed out the season up at Eldora testing gear for the Outside Buyer’s Guide and enjoying some April powder. For this little excursion out the gates and into the backcountry we tested brand new Karhu Storms, Movement Goliaths, and Atomic RT86s. We also donned Marmot and Arc’teryx hard shells and a Nau soft shell. All performed admirably—but it’s tough to complain about anything with conditions like this…
Isaac Stokes filmed the action (and his own line) with a Flip video camera…
Karl gave Arc’teryx’s Theta SV a thorough test here….
National Poetry Month
It’s National Poetry Month and Radha and I are taking on Robert Lee Brewer’s challenge to write one poem a day (he even suggests two for Tuesdays for true freaks) for the month of April. The challenge, as well as fantastic content on how to write and publish poetry, is posted on Brewer’s site Poetic Asides.
If you’re not up for it, here’s a short list of the poetry we’ve been reading recently.
Robert Hass, Time and Materials; Richard Kenney, The One-Strand River; Julia Hartwig, In Praise of the Unfinished; Thomas Transtromer, The Great Enigma; Adam Zagajewski, Eternal Enemies; W.S. Merwin translator, Purgatorio; Zbigniew Herbert, The Collected Poems: 1956-1998
Plus, we have been listening to Kris Delmhorst’s Strange Conversation, songs that are either famous poems verbatim or responses to them. It’s a fantastic selection of poems/songs—with “Light of the Light” and “Everything Is Music” capturing the ecstatic mysticism of Whitman and Rumi; “Pretty How Town” turning e.e. cummings into a folk romp; and “Galuppi Baldassare” uptempo-ing Browning’s insight on art and ashes.
Backpacker Hot Springs Extravaganza
I was happy to write the hot-springs service package in this month’s Backpacker. My only gripe? Backbone Media’s Nate Simmons is lounging in a thermal pool in Iceland on the cover instead of me…
I have been to my fair share of hot springs, however, and some of my favorites got cut from the piece for space. So here’s some extra-credit pots you won’t find in the magazine: Cougar Hot Springs, OR; Sweet 16, ID; Sykes, CA; If you are looking for a hot spring in the Northern Rockies, check out the web page for the Idaho Hot Springs Guy—an amazing resource and incredible dedication to the art of soaking.
Mud Slinging in Bike
I wrote a “Crucible” feature in the latest issue of BIKE (the 15th anniversary issue, on stands now). The story revolves around a trip to the Abajo Mountains south of Moab that was almost sabotaged by our guide. If you have any interest in seeing my mud-splattered legs, pick it up.
I’d also recommend you read editor-in-chief Lou Mazzante’s story “30 Years to Whistler,” which delves into the past three decades of the sport and managing editor Kip Mikler’s feature on the birth of downhill at Big Bear. Mountain bike writing is much tougher to pull off than most people would think. And putting together a magazine that speaks to all the varied niches of the sport (from single speed and 29er freaks, to downhill kids hopped up on Red Bull, to x-c transcendentalists) is no easy game. But Bike has a fantastic editorial staff in place and their hard work is truly paying off and appealing, I think, to anyone who likes to get stupid on two wheels.
Congressman King Goes Cavafy
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) has declared that if Barack Obama wins the presidency, the terrorists will be “dancing in the streets.” King has posted a confirmation on his Web site that the terrorists will “rejoice.” I offer a response from Greek poet Constatine Cavafy, written in 1904. Read it as you will.
Waiting for the Barbarians
What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are to arrive today.
Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.
Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor.
Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
and such things dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.
Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?
Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.
Bike There, Google
Take a moment to sign this online petition asking Google to add a “Bike There” option alongside the “Drive There” and “Take Public Transportation” features on Google Maps.