March 22, 2010

Drink Pepsi, or Lemurs Will Cease to Exist.

Yesterday, I drank a Pepsi…on purpose.

I know most of you are thinking, “What the hell Erin – Pepsi is evil corporate greed-head scum that rots your teeth and makes you fat!”

True, prolonged use of this delightfully carbonated swill might end up packing on ten extra pounds and cost you a few grand in porcelain veneers – but I will argue there is no tastier beverage to accompany a plate of cheese enchiladas at Efrain’s, or that can directly contribute to saving a worldwide population of lemurs.

Wait, a second – why is she talking about lemurs? What is a lemur anyway, and what is this post really about? ARRRRRGHHHH!

"Lemur Femur" by Erin King

Okay, first a quick biology lesson. Lemurs are primates that evolved before apes and monkeys, and the live only on the island of Madagascar. Unfortunately, like almost any other charismatic mammal on the planet, every species of lemur is critically threatened.

I know this because when I incorporate lemurs into my artwork, the kind folks at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) in Durham, North Carolina always help me out with lemur statistics, facts, and imagery. This information is vital in helping me create new and interesting compositions, so now I think it’s my turn to help them win a $50,000 grant that’s up for grabs from Pepsi.

Now, before all of you dismiss the idea that corporate money is no good to organizations like the DLC, let’s look at what Pepsi is doing to improve their junk food empire.

In January 2010, Business Week published an article about how Pepsi is “Bringing in the Health Police” by “hiring a team of idealistic scientists to find alternatives to Doritos and Mountain Dew.” This of course does nothing to immediately fix the myriad of other social issues that inevitably plagues a corporation of this magnitude, but I think they’re aware consumer demands are changing, and even Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity says, “They’re (Pepsi) the most progressive player in the industry.

Another thing I’m digging about Pepsi right now is their Refresh Project. You may recall a post written by Anna Brones for Elephant in February detailing Pepsi’s new grant program, and consequently it’s how the Duke Lemur Center could score $50K at the end of the month.

The Refresh Project allows anyone to submit an idea in one of six categories:

Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods, and Education.

Members of the community (i.e. you and me), then vote on any project we see worthy of receiving funds. The cycle renews every month with fifty projects receiving grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 – that’s $1.3 million dollars Pepsi is giving away monthly.

So I think it’s worthwhile to support Pepsi’s new philanthropy model by checking out some of these stellar projects. Voting for this cycle ends on March 31st, but you can vote everyday until then for 10 different ideas. Here are my favorites from the six categories, but please vote for what speaks to your heart – as long as it also includes the lemurs!

The Planet

Save LEMURS by growing public awareness through a new tour path. – $50,000


Develop a photography program for children at transplant centers – $25,000

Arts & Culture

Create a skate & multi-media art event series for youth in Oakland, CA – $25,000

Food & Shelter

Create the first ever statewide domestic violence shelter – $250,000


Help low income pet owners–“The Paws-itive Solution” for Spay/Neuter – $25,000


Refresh classroom libraries in public schools across America – $250,000

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