It’s time to retire the more-than-year-old “About Me” page (below) and update this blog to reflect my current activities, interests, life and love pursuits!

Bon voyage to the 2010-2011 version of myself and stay tuned for updates from 2012!

~ Althea

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As in the words of Mary Catherine Bateson I am Composing a Life.

At the moment that is as a graduate student living in Phnom Penh for the summer (2010) interning with International Bridges to Justice.

In August, 2009 I moved from Washington, DC to Somerville, Massachusetts to attend The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and I’m really happy I did. I love and adore the Fletcher school and its wonderful community.

I’m into a wide-range of activities, ideas, topics, themes, mottos and mantras so I won’t try to list them all here. They’re ever-changing.  Expect to hear about me having fun and enjoying life, music, dance, cooking and eating good food, good conversation and debates, being active in my endeavors, positivity and passionateness and a host of intersecting life-academia themes including: international law, environment and resource policy, civil resistance aka nonviolent conflict or nonviolent struggle, conflict resolution and negotiations, geopolitics, and-and-and, etc.

Thanks to my parents, I consider myself an ever-inquisitive and interested person. I started Asi es la vida because to chronicle and reflect on a summer in Buenos Aires. I also wanted to to work on my writing. I still really want to improve my writing so please jump in to provide feedback, comments or suggestions, I appreciate it all!

Now that I’m back in the States studying international affairs/law/diplomacy I’ve decided the focus of this blog will be about life as a graduate student. That is, after all, what I’m up to, and an angle from which I expect all experiences will be relevant.

So welcome and I hope you enjoy!



Photo Courtesy Of: Minnesota Historical Society

Even though Martin Luther King Day was a few days ago, I wanted to share a post I was thinking about writing throughout the day but didn’t get to with all the excitement of roommates coming home and Fletcher reunions and bday parties to attend.

I grew up in a family that values contribution to society. My parents met and married in Washington, DC during the late 1960s in the heat and excitement of the civil rights movement. Both of them were working on the hill and studying or teaching politics at the time. I was fortunate to grow-up hearing many stories about the thrill of living in DC during that period in time. I’m sure my own interests and work with International Center on Nonviolent Conflict have been heavily influenced by these values, and the experiences they afforded me throughout my upbringing. And I think it is because of their passion for these issues that each MLK day my father would dust off the record player, dig through the few crates of his remaining record collection, and pull out the one or two records he had with Martin Luther King speeches and interviews. I still remember the cover of the album and the sound of MLK’s voice scratchy from the record player, booming through our house on a cold wintry MLK day.

And so before going for a run, scanning the course catalogs to map out potential class combinations for my last semester, picking up housemates at the airport, and catching up over “family dinner’ and drinks, with the urging of my sister, I made a point to honor this great tradition, plugging my Mac into the living room speakers, pulling up some speeches on YouTube (oh, how the times have changed…) and playing several of Dr. King’s speeches and interviews to reflect on his thoughtful words, his character, his insights, and the importance of his work in the lives that we are able to live today.

I encourage you to all turn off your distractions at some point this week and do the same.

I Have a Dream

“I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” Part 1, Part 2, and Full Text

Dr. King “In His Own Words” with NBC News

I just watched this TED Talk given by Dan Phillips of the Phoenix Commotion in Huntsville, TX. Not only does Dan Phillips seem like a pretty awesome and funny dude, he makes a (common sense) call for our getting back to who we really are – in design – but also in our concepts re: transportation, how we work, and the way we choose to live our lives. I couldn’t agree more. A thoroughly enjoyable 18 minutes. Thanks, Dan!

Green industry, corporate social responsibility, environmental impact assessments, and corporate governance are terms gaining popularity and common understanding in the global marketplace. As we continue to gain awareness about the social and environmental impacts of the corporations we rely on, demands for higher standards also rise. It is no longer just environmentalists and affected communities calling for such changes, but the everyday consumer interested in reducing his or her own ecological imprint that are also requiring improved (environmental and social) corporate practices in exchange for their consumer loyalty.

One such example is an increase in awareness about socially responsible investing and the role that each of us can play in holding corporations to higher environmental and social practices, through the power of our own pockets. However, in a recent class on socially responsible investing, only one out of about 30 students who claimed to currently hold financial investments indicated that their investments had been geared towards socially responsible companies.

As we begin to ask corporations difficult questions about their willingness to make social and environmentally responsible decisions that may affect their bottom line, we must also ask ourselves, how far are we willing to go in our own lives to ensure that we contribute to a more environmental and socially responsible world?

Below is an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune with tips for how you can better align your investments with your moral or cultural values.

Lacing investing with social responsibility


As a public service to residents, the Financial Planning Association of San Diego is answering financial questions for readers of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Today’s question — on socially responsible investing — is answered by Judith Seid, CFP, at Blue Summit Wealth Management in La Mesa.

Q: My mother, who smoked for some time, recently lost a long battle with lung cancer. A few months after, my husband pointed out to me that one of our largest mutual-fund investments own tobacco stocks. Given our family experiences, and the messages that we want to send to our children, how can we better align my investments with my values?

A: You are not alone in wanting to align your investment goals with your own moral and ethical values — a good percentage of the American population is seeking ways to do just that. In fact recent studies show that one out of every $8 are invested in some sort of socially responsible investing, or SRI strategy. There are a number of ways that you can research and invest in companies, industries or investment products that hold themselves to their own set of socially responsible standards.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Take stock of your current portfolio: Many people have no idea what securities they actually own inside their mutual funds, 401k’s, IRA accounts, etc. So the first thing you can do is find out what stocks and bonds are held inside your portfolio There are a few ways you can do this on your own:

• Go online using the ticker symbols for each fund you own and look at the list of underlying holdings.

• Contact the fund company and ask for a list of holdings in the portfolio.

• Read the annual report which will list all holdings at the time of the report, and/or to see if it includes your fund in it’s “Know What You Own” interactive tool, which runs the funds’ stocks holding through an SRI screening criteria.

Research the companies in your portfolio:

• Visit its website. Most companies now have a corporate sustainability officer, a shareholder relations department and/or a portion of their website devoted to what the company is doing regarding environmental and social responsibility and corporate governance.

• Read the annual shareholder report. Oftentimes, you can find out information on CEO compensation, community relations, environmental stewardship and company philosophy regarding a variety of financial and nonfinancial issues.

• Subscribe to new services, such, that report on corporate social responsibility, or CSR issues.

• Read publications. Keep you eyes and ears open in the newspapers and magazines for articles pertaining to the companies you own. This way you can be engaged with what your money is supporting.

Find out the criteria your fund uses: Find out if your mutual funds or money managers use any socially responsible investing criteria to screen companies on issues such as environmental impact, human rights, diversity, tobacco, weapons, etc. This will be detailed in the mutual fund prospectus. You can also call and ask.

Determine what issues are important to you: Consider what types of companies you would prefer to be invested in and what types of companies you want to make sure you are not invested in. Are there any issues in addition to tobacco that are important to you? Then you can start to tailor your portfolio to fit your individual concerns.

Consult an SRI professional: Nationwide, there are a host of advisers and investment professionals who seek out socially responsible funds and other investment vehicles for their clients. If you already work with a financial adviser, ask him/her about your current holdings and how they align with your values. If you are seeking an adviser in the SRI space, you can find one at the Social Investment Forum website,, which lists advisers and planners by state, or the “Green Pages” for the nonprofit national advocacy group Green America, at

Google Creative Commons By: djipibi

The Canadian government recently opened an office of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in order to help their mining and extractive industries achieve their CSR responsibilities. Canadian mining companies have come under considerable scrutiny lately. One report, which received much attention in the global media, labeled Canadian firms among the worst in the world for their negative environmental impact and poor community relations.

As European governments continue to divest in Canadian mining firms, some argue the Canadian government ought to have stricter regulations in place to prevent negative social and environmental impacts. Historical evidence supports claims of mismanagement and shows a pattern of neglecting environmental and social impact. Activists and leaders from some of the communities where Canadian mining firms are conducting business have complained about the effects of mining on their health and contamination of the surrounding natural resources and environment, including local water supplies. Those representing the industry argue that NGO reports on firm activities are biased and exaggerate the negative impacts of their activities.

We do not have sufficient information to determine whether NGO reports on the Canadian mining industry are indeed exaggerated. However, a combination of the Canadian mining industry’s zeal to mine areas in developing countries of potential great wealth, the desire by developing nations to foster foreign direct investment in their countries, and current international and domestic laws and regulations are not sufficient to mitigate the vast negative environmental and social impacts that pervade the extractive industries.

One of my favorite blogs and an excellent one to consider subscribing to if you are interested in the field of International Law, IntLawGrrls, covered the passing of former Fletcher School professor, Ellen Lutz, today.

I have never met Ellen Lutz but I found her life’s work and the sense of her character that came through in this article to be very inspiring. As a Fletcher student interested in human rights law, a follower of Cultural Survival‘s work and campaigns, and as someone who hopes to find a life of balance while working in this field I feel so passionate about, her story is one I will hold close as a role model.

Ellen Lutz, photo credit: Intlawgrrls

In passing: Ellen L. Lutz

Ellen L. Lutz, an international human rights lawyer, teacher, and activist, died this past Thursday, November 4, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cause was metastatic breast cancer. She was 55.

During her final two years battling the disease, Ellen directed the Cambridge-based human rights organization Cultural Survival, co-edited two pioneering books (Prosecuting Heads of State, (Cambridge U. Press) and Human Rights and Conflict Management in Context (Syracuse U. Press), submitted formal reviews on state behavior to the UN Human Rights Council, led international litigation on behalf of Panama’s threatened Nobe Indians, and sang alto with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. She did each with equal enthusiasm and skill.

Her concern for human rights began when, as a 15-year-old exchange student to Uruguay, she witnessed the onset of Uruguay’s state sponsored “Dirty War,” and supported the international human rights movements such actions spawned across Latin American during the 1970s. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple University (1976) and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr (1978), Ellen took a Law Degree in International Law and Human Rights from Boalt Hall Law School (University of California at Berkeley) in 1985.

Ellen’s persistent interest in Latin America continued as professional work with Amnesty International (1979-81), in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.

She later headed the California office of Human Rights Watch (1989-94), where she conducted research and published on little-known but extensive human rights abuses in Mexico, and she was co-counsel in two groundbreaking human rights cases in U.S. courts, against the infamous Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Argentine General Suarez-Mason.

Moving with her family to Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1994, she helped to set up and then served as Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, taught international law. human rights, and mediation at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, and wrote widely. One of her students, now a professor at Occidental College, recalled how
warm and desirous she was of connecting to students amid the formal Fletcher iciness, a marvelous force of nature.

Ellen was asked to become Executive Director of Cultural Survival in 2004, where she increased the participation of indigenous people on the Board of Directors and Program Council, while steering the organization away from local development projects to broad human rights initiatives. Ellen said:

Development work like building schools, digging wells, and providing services is what governments should be doing. Our work is to make sure governments live up to their obligations.

One of her colleagues wrote,

It would be difficult to quantify Ellen’s ferocious passion for justice. Her zeal and natural warm-heartedness combined with a legal rigor that made her a truly formidable advocate.
There was much of such personal and professional praise. But, perhaps the most encompassing and, for Ellen, meaningful compliment came from Stella Tamang, a Nepalese tribal leader and friend:

To Ellen, my Kalyana Mitra,
In Buddhism Kalyana means Wellbeing and Mitra means friend. Kalyana Mitra therefore means friends who always think about their wellbeing. You have been such wonderful friend, a constant support during the problems I was facing about the political problem back in Nepal. We also talked about family, our children, and life. I am blessed to have a friend like you. We believe that if a person has done good Karma, he or she gets to meet with wonderful people, and you are the one for me…

And Ellen was not a Buddhist. Ellen is survived by her husband, Theodore Macdonald, an anthropologist previously with Cultural Survival and now with Harvard University, and her two children from a previous marriage, David and Julia Randall, now studying at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, respectively. Her cat, Misty, and dog, Churi, are well taken care of. Her friends, among them many women human rights lawyers, are grateful to her for her wise counsel and unflagging dignity. All are thankful to their Kalyana Mitra.

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza of Intlawgrrls

Fab Annie

I wanted to dedicate this day to my dear friend Annie. Today she is getting her new birthday as her stem cell transplant, aka Jerome, is transfered into her exuberant body through the miracles of modern science.

I’m thinking of her especially, today, put on my purple Girls Rock DC shirt in her honor, but each day I read her Care Pages Blog or status updates, I am moved by her amazing courage and spirit. She is just one of those phenomenal women you may be so lucky to find and friend in your life.

Annie and met in undergrad at GWU and soon thereafter fell for each other, most notably through our Biological Anthropology class (awesome) and our crews became one, stoopin it up in front of the student center and generating all kinds of (somewhat tame) raucous adventures across the GWU campus. Post-school days we worked to form a Women’s Group to bring together awesome women from different corners and pockets of DC for fun, learning, discussion, adventures, and more fun. Annie is one of those connectors and we managed to bring together some pretty phenomenal women who I continue to appreciate and cross paths with even since I’ve left DC. We also had some stellar non-stop chatter lunch dates at Java Green when we both worked in non-profits in downtown DC.

In addition to being a kick-ass chick, working her tiny buttocks off to improve the world (e.g. helping to found Grrls Rock DC), bringing her raging dance floor skills and incredible energy and spirit wherever she goes, Annie is one of the best friends one could hope for. She is one solid stone in many peoples lives and it shows when you get together with her and/or meet any of her other friends. Let’s just say the love pours!

So, a toast and cheers to Annie! I know she’s gonna rock this day just like she does every other day, but today I also hope she can feel the kind of love and support from friends (and family) that she has given so much to over the years.

Rage it like a Grannie Annie!


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick flowers in other people’s gardens

And learn to spit.


You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.


But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.


But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


By: Jenny Joseph