No Impact Man Makes a Big Impact

In my last blog post, I wrote about how making MOGO (Most Good) choices not only makes a difference for the world, but also brings hope. Colin Beavan, author of the blog No Impact Man decided to do something in the face of escalating ecological degradation. Here’s how he describes it:

“The way I see it, waiting for the senators and the CEOs to change the way we treat the world is taking too long. Polar bears are already drowning because the polar ice is melting. In fact, research shows it’s worse: they are so hungry, they are actually starting to eat each other.

I can’t stand my so-called liberal self sitting around not doing anything about it anymore. The question is: what would it be like if I took the situation (or at least my tiny part of it) into my own hands? I’m finding out.

For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…

What would it be like to try to live a no impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or is there hope? These are the questions at the heart of this whole crazy-assed endeavor.”

Visit No Impact Man and get inspired to make a difference, too!

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of No Impact Man.

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Institute for Humane Education President Wins Children's Book Award

We at the Institute for Humane Education are pleased to announce that our President, Zoe Weil's book, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs, has won the 2008 Moonbeam Children's Book Award for juvenile fiction. The award is designed "to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading." Read the complete list of winners.


Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs is the first in a series of children's novels (ages 9 & up) promoting humane values through an exciting mystery. Claude and Medea are two very different Manhattan 7th graders who become clandestine activists seeking out opportunities to right wrongs and do good in the world. In The Hellburn Dogs, the duo and a group of friends team up to solve the mystery of a rash of dog thefts.

If you're interested in purchasing a copy, you can get 10% off the list price if you order it from IHE.
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Hope is a Verb With Its Sleeves Rolled Up

David Orr, professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College once wrote, “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” I love this quote. It reminds me of Joan Baez’ famous comment, “Action is the antidote to despair.” We don’t have the luxury or the time for despair and hopelessness.

Many will say that hope and despair are not only nouns, rather than verbs, they are also emotions, not actions. True enough. But we cultivate either hope or despair, either apathy or action, either myopia or wisdom by our behaviors. Commitment and motivation may come from internal resources that seem mysterious, but self-discipline is something we can practice, and we have the capacity to choose to roll up our sleeves and act. When we do, we discover that hope accompanies us, attached at the hip to our MOGO (Most Good) deeds.

MOGO choices feed our faith that we can succeed in creating a healthy and peaceful world, and enliven our spirits as we do the work it takes to solve our challenges.

So make some MOGO choices today. Get involved in changing systems while you take steps to maximize the good and minimize the harm your daily choices have on yourself and others.

~ Zoe

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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.


Thousands game to help humanity survive - CNet.com (10/28/08)
”The game the IFTF created, known as Superstruct, launched October 6, and is the first of what could be many so-called massively multiplayer forecasting games. The idea behind Superstruct and others that could follow it is to leverage the wisdom of the crowds to come up with solutions to complicated problems and do so in a fun, challenging, and entertaining way that encourages people's participation.”

Former slave successfully sues Niger government - Telegraph (UK) (10/27/08)
”A former slave who took the government of Niger to court for failing to enforce its own anti-slavery laws won her case on Monday in what campaigners said was an historic judgement.”

A new strategy may be the last hope for big cats - Newsweek (10/25/08)
”Now Rabinowitz, a long-time director at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York, is taking a new approach to cat conservation. Not only is he working to bring back the world's vanishing tiger populations, he is establishing passageways for those populations to mix and preserve genetic diversity.”

Gorilla advocate wins award - BBC News (10/24/08)
”The Mefou National Park, one of two sites run by CWAF, looks after 84 orphaned chimps and 17 gorillas. Rachel said chimps were ‘emotionally much stronger’ than gorillas and better able to survive being orphaned. ‘But we only have 48 hours to get to the gorillas,’ she said. ‘They are emotionally so fragile, and they tend to shut down and die from a broken heart. After trauma, they physically act like humans - they rock and pull out their hair.”"

Higher feed prices leading some ranchers to starve their cattle - NJ.com (10/24/08)
”Investigators haven't had to go out of their way to find dead cattle in Nebraska, where 6.5 million head roam. Since early this year, three cases of alleged starvation deaths involving a total of about 240 cattle have been reported in Nebraska — more than some officials can recall.”
Thanks for the heads up, Vegan.com.


Wal-mart plans tougher environmental, social standards
- New York Times (10/22/08)
”By next year, Wal-Mart will start keeping close track of the factories from which its products originate, even if they pass through many hands. By 2012, Wal-Mart will require suppliers to source 95 percent of their production from factories that receive the highest ratings in audits of environmental and social practices.”


eBay enacts ban on most ivory
PC World (10/21/08)
”The new policy goes into effect in December and will be enforced beginning in January. eBay will continue to allow antiques that contain only small amounts of ivory on the site, specifying that only items made before 1900 will qualify. Anyone violating the ban, execs promise, can expect to pay the price.”
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We Are All Indigenous

For a long time I've had an ambivalent relationship with the concept that indigenous peoples and cultures are essentially better than others enmeshed in industrialized civilization; that indigeneity is essentially good while industrialized civilizations are essentially bad. While I’m deeply impressed by many indigenous cultures and their healthier, more sustainable manner of living, and think that our modern culture has much to learn from indigenous peoples in order to restore our world and lead saner, more peaceful lives, I also know that some indigenous cultures have not acted sustainably or peaceably. (See Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail and Succeed.)

At Bioneers, I attended the lectures of several indigenous people, including Jeannette Armstrong, a member of the Okanagan Syilx Nation, who spoke about “re-indigenizing everyone,” and who described indigeneity as "understanding what the local land needs." As I absorbed this definition, I wondered whether one can be indigenous to the Earth, whether one’s sense of indigeneity can be planetary. After all, the kinds of solutions we need to solve our environmental, species, economic, social, and human rights crises are global in nature and require an appreciation for and understanding of a borderless world. While understanding what the local land needs is part and parcel of global solution-making, I believe that our sense of indigeneity must not end at our local doorstep.

Later, I listened to Oscar Miro-Quesada, a Peruvian shaman and UN Observer to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, say that we are all indigenous. I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, we are all indigenous to this Earth and our places on it, and it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for our participation in restoring what we have damaged by living with awareness, respect, compassion, and creative service. We cannot help but be indigenous, but we can make choices that revere our indigeneity or ignore it.

As always, the connection to humane education is obvious. We can and must teach the lessons that those who have embraced their indigeneity to live peacefully, humanely, and sustainably have deeply cultivated and ignite a passion among our students to take these lessons and, with enthusiasm, bring their growing knowledge and their modern lives to the great task to learning to live as grateful indigenous peoples of this Earth, solving our crises with their ingenuity as well as their indigeneity.

~ Zoe
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Spread the Word About 350.org

Bill McKibben spoke at Bioneers this past weekend introducing the 13,000+ participants to 350.org, a viral effort to influence government leaders around the world to commit to reducing carbon in the atmosphere. As they describe it on their website:

“350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.

But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.”

Please visit 350.org, sign up and spread the word!

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of 350.org.
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The Great High Fructose Corn Syrup Debate: A Great Opportunity to Analyze the "Evidence"

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been getting a bad reputation in the last few years. Among other reasons cited are that it's highly processed, it's made with non-organic corn (so it’s most likely genetically modified) and grown on land that could be used to grow healthier food, and it has been linked to diabetes in some studies. And, when the documentary King Corn was released in 2007, viewers got another eyeful about HFCS.

Apparently this fall the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) set out to change the image of its most popular of products by launching a multimillion dollar campaign to target consumers and convince them that HFCS is as healthy as regular sugar and just “fine in moderation.” They’ve developed a Sweet Surprise website with information and resources about HFCS, as well as several ads, mainly targeted at moms.

And, as you might expect, citizen advocates and some health professionals have responded in a number of ways, from parodies of the ads, to editorials criticizing the CRA for trying to mislead consumer, to bloggers trying to explore all sides of the issue.

This controversy over HFCS provides a great opportunity to spark critical thinking and creativity in order to explore and analyze media and advertising, credibility, information accuracy and other issues regarding processed foods such as HFCS.

If you’re a humane educator, you can have your students:
  • Compare the information and cited sources from CRA with those from opposing views.
  • Look at ads from CRA and at spoof and opposing ads and dissect and analyze them.
  • Do a media browse about high fructose corn syrup, and see what kinds of information and opinions they find. (For example: searching Google news for the keywords “high fructose corn syrup” by itself, and then pairing it with other keywords, such as “obesity” or “diabetes” or “corn refiners association”, etc.)
  • Analyze studies done about HFCS and other sweeteners, asking questions such as: With studies that support HFCS as “fine in moderation” how many people were involved in the studies? Was the data gathering quantitative or qualitative? Who funded the studies? (Ask the same sorts of questions for studies that report HFCS as a concern.)
  • Take a trip to the grocery store (or to their own kitchens at home) and make a list of products that include high fructose corn syrup.
  • Make a list of products with HFCS that they regularly consume and then analyze just how much sweetener is in those products -- how much are they consuming a day?
If you’re a parent or concerned citizen, you can do these same sorts of activities yourself and/or with your kids.

Here are a few recent sources to give you a place to start:

Grist recently did an analysis and commentary about high fructose corn syrup, at one point mentioning the following:
According to the industry, the body metabolizes HFCS and refined sugar just the same. On its website, the Corn Refiners Association points to six academic studies [PDF] showing no difference in metabolism. But as CBS News recently reported, "Three were sponsored by groups that stand to profit from research that promotes HFCS. Two were never published so their funding sources are unclear. And one was sponsored by a Dutch foundation that represents the interests of the sugar industry."

(You can also see the two HFCS TV ads and a couple of the parodies/responses on Grist's site.)


Shaping Youth does an extensive two-part analysis and exploration of HFCS (here and here), offering media analysis, comments from a variety of source -- including Shaping Youth's resident nutritionist, links to other bloggers and experts, and more.

In 2006 the New York Times ran a story noting that many scientists can’t conclusively say that HFCS is any worse than other sweeteners, saying:
“High fructose corn syrup's possible link to obesity is the only specific health problem that the ingredient's critics have cited to date — and experts say they believe that this link is tenuous, at best.”
A recent article in Time takes a look at the issue, and last spring the Washington Post published a story looking at the environmental impact of HFCS.

An even more basic issue is to explore refined sweeteners in general, analyzing data such as the quantity of refined sweeteners people in the U.S. consume, how much is healthy (and according to whom), and which are the least "objectionable"?

~ Marsha
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Solvability vs. Despair

I'm back from Bioneers full of new ideas and information, and in the coming days and weeks I'll be sharing some of my thoughts from this amazing annual conference. Today’s post was inspired by a comment made by David Orr, environmental studies professor at Oberlin College and leader in environmental education, who spoke at the conference. He said that he worried more about despair keeping us from solving our environmental problems than about their inherent solvability. I find this a profound and critical observation. Given the massive ecological crises we face that will require the collaboration of nations, the commitment of governments, the action of individuals, the full alignment of educational systems, the attention of global media, and the ingenuity and genius of inventors, builders, farmers, healers, economists, and systems thinkers, it is interesting to consider the greatest threat to success to be despair. I would add to that apathy and myopia.

Like David Orr, I have confidence that we are absolutely capable of solving our escalating ecological problems, but we will fail if we succumb to despair and apathy, and if we remain stuck in short-sighted thinking. Confronting these – our greater challenges to success – is not easy. We must work to retain hope, vigilance, and commitment, and to cultivate long-term, wise thinking. These don’t always come easily to us.

Not surprisingly, this is why I’m so committed to humane education as the underlying answer to all our challenges. Humane education cultivates the very qualities we must embody (both individually and societally) to retain our hope, motivation, and creativity and get to work in a host of fields – from engineering to politics to economics to farming to architecture – that actually solve the problems we face.

As we teach about the crises of our time, we must do so engendering the hope and inspiring the commitment to create meaningful and utterly doable change.

~ Zoe
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Program involves youth in city planning - Edutopia (October 2008)
"...Y-PLAN is held every spring for twelve weeks, usually in conjunction with ninth-, tenth-, or eleventh-grade social studies or history classes in hard-pressed East Bay communities. Graduate and undergraduate students in urban planning at UC Berkeley lead a rigorous project-learning curriculum; through initial brainstorming sessions to design sessions to formal presentations for city officials, high school students become stakeholders in the city planning process."

Online games as a tool for social change - Christian Science Monitor (10/19/08)
”As part of a broader campaign against gender violence, the United Nations wants to reach children, particularly boys, before stereotypes sink in. Seeing the global popularity of gaming, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) decided to partner with two media centers in Vermont. They hope to make a game available by the end of next year that can be adapted for various cultures.”

More schools building green - USA Today (10/19/08)
"’[Building the green school] started as an energy-efficient project but turned into a curriculum project,’ he says. Teachers use it in their lesson plans. Students take care of the plants in the water retention area and check the rainwater gauge. Mooij says the school has better attendance and fewer visits to the school nurse. ‘Because of the natural light, there's a positive feeling,’ says Deborah Waters, principal at Kersey Creek Elementary School in Mechanicsville, Va., which received a LEED rating in August 2007. ‘The children have really bought into it,’ she says. They recycle newspapers, plastic bottles, cans, cell phones and printer cartridges.”

New NYC center focuses on educating public about global hunger issues - Newsday.com (10/19/08)
”The center suggests a host of actions that visitors can take to combat hunger, depending on the amount of time they want to give — from one minute to one day to a lifetime. Actions range from writing a letter to a congressman to sponsoring a tree in Niger to becoming an Americorps VISTA volunteer. Four 'training towers' focus on issues related to hunger, such as land use or governance, and show how various countries deal with those issues.”

Study shows 19th century immigrants “slow to learn English” - UPI.com (10/18/08)
"’These folks were committed Americans,’ Salmons said Thursday in a release. ‘They participated in politics, in the economy, and were leaders in their churches and their schools. They just happened not to conduct much of their life in English.’"

Library project lends out people to increase awareness, toleranceAssociated Press (10/18/08)
”Fourteen ‘living books’ will be on hand in this trendy, liberal city, representing an encyclopedia of knowledge on such subjects as nudism, Buddhism and foodism. That's because one of them is a real, live nudist, two are Buddhists and another is a vegan. Library visitors will be allowed to check out any of the 14 people for up to 30 minutes. The hope is that library patrons will learn something about the culture and beliefs of other people, erasing stereotypes in the process.”


7th grader uses t-shirts to try to increase tolerance, decrease bullying, for kids who are gay
- Washington Blade (10/17/08)
“’I just know there aren’t really a lot of people who have the moxie to stand up at this age, so I thought why not do it?’ he said. ‘I think that LGBT tolerance should start now in the 7th grade.’”

School makes social justice core of its curriculum - Voices of San Diego.org (10/16/08)
”Such questions are part of a pioneering program at the reopened Lincoln High School that dissects prejudice, oppression and the history of activism. It teaches teens, many from neighborhoods troubled by poverty and gang violence, to understand and battle the institutional barriers to their own success. It is an unusual and sometimes controversial effort that steeps teens in ideas such as globalization and heterosexism that abound on college campuses but are less apparent at high schools.”
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MOGO Means You Don't Have to Choose Just One (Issue)

The other day I came across a blog post from a young woman who was struggling with a great deal of frustration, confusion, and feelings of being overwhelmed and saddened. She was passionate about social justice and was debating about the best way to spend her time: with all the problems in the world, where should she focus? Which issue or cause most deserved her attention? Where could she make the most significant difference?

There are so many crises and challenges in the world, and it can be incredibly depressing and overwhelming to contemplate where -- or even if -- to start. But, it IS possible to make a significant positive difference on a broader scale than just a single issue or campaign — first, with the choices that we make every day. How we spend our time, our money, our energy and our attention can help nurture and support justice, compassion, sustainability, harmony, kindness, and creativity, or it can support and condone violence, injustice, cruelty, hatred, helplessness, and inaction.

One of the great things about living a MOGO (Most Good) life, is that I don’t have to choose. I can support human rights AND animal protection AND environmental preservation AND a healthy, supportive, democratic culture. I can greedily dip my fingers into all those pies and savor the sweetness of knowing I’m doing my best to do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. Not just one species. Not just one social justice issue. Not just one tree.

As a graduate (and now a proud employee) of the Institute for Humane Education, I’ve learned so much about the power of my choices to help create a compassionate, sustainable, just world. I buy my clothes and most items used and/or from thrift stores, so that I’m not supporting sweatshops. I buy local and from small businesses as much as possible, so that I’m not supporting the damaging practices of multinational corporations. I choose vegan, organic and local/regional as much as possible. I think before I buy. I think before I act, and I try to think before I speak. And so on and so on.

And, for those areas where I can’t have a direct impact through my daily choices (AIDS in Tanzania, poverty in India, etc.), I can use the power of my voice, my veto and my vote (a strategy Zoe Weil outlines in her upcoming book, Most Good, Least Harm). I can voice my views to companies, media, friends and family, etc., about the importance, joy and empowerment in making positive choices. I can use my veto to not support destructive companies and practices (and use my voice to encourage them to change to positive practices), and I can use my vote to support positive actions, policies, organizations, etc.

And, I can do other things, like financially support organizations that are having a major positive impact around the world; I can get involved in my community and volunteer for organizations that need my help; I can organize friends, family and co-workers to make choices that do the most good and least harm.

Certainly, we can’t do it all. We have to maintain balance and joy and meaning and sanity in our lives. But, we don’t have to choose just one issue — everything is interconnected. Our daily choices and our power to speak out and act compassionately, sustainably and justly can make an enormous difference. That's what's so powerful and transformative about humane education and humane living.

~ Marsha

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2008 Brower Youth Awards

If you're not feeling inspired by the power of youth to make a positive difference, you're not paying attention! On October 21, six young people will be honored with the 2008 Brower Youth Award, which recognize “people (age 13 to 22) living in North America who have shown outstanding leadership on a project with positive environmental and social impact."

Winners of this annual, national award receive "a $3,000 cash prize, a trip to California for the award ceremony and wilderness camping trip, and ongoing access to resources and opportunities to further their work at Earth Island Institute."

The 2008 winners are:

Marisol Becerra, 18, who works to educate her community about toxins from a nearby coal power plant and to inspire them to take positive action.

Jessie-Ruth Corkins, 17, who created an organization to help her home state of Vermont become energy self-sufficient through sustainable energy usage.

Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, 21, who spearheaded the creation of a mechanism for funding sustainable projects at his college, and created a cooperative company focused on creative climate solutions.

Kari Fulton, 22, who, in addition to helping her local community and campus work together on environmental justice issues, has trained hundreds of youth to take positive action in the youth climate movement.

Phoebe Meyers, 18, who founded the organization Change the World Kids has focused on helping save migratory birds by restoring habitat in Costa Rica.

Ivan Stiefel, 22, who spearheaded the creation of an alternative spring break designed to “stand in solidarity with communities affected by coal industry abuses in Appalachia” and to work toward environmental and climate justice, as well as “a just transition away from coal.”
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There's Just Something About the (Bottled) Water

Water is something everyone and everything on the planet needs to survive. We want it to be clean and healthy. We want it to taste “good.” We want it to be accessible. Because marketers have convinced many of us that the only way we can meet those criteria is through bottled water, bottled water has now become a multi-billion dollar business. In 2007 in the U.S. (the largest bottled water market in the world), almost 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold. Worldwide, more than 47 billion gallons of bottled water were sold. (Source)

This week the Environmental Working Group released a report about 10 major brands of bottled water they tested. They discovered that all the brands of bottled water they tested contained contaminants, some of them significantly above legal levels. In addition their tests revealed that several big name brands are nothing more than bottled tap water. They said:
“Several Sam's Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry.”
According to EWG, they tested 10 brands from nine states and D.C. and found 38 chemical pollutants, with an average of 8 contaminants per brand. Some of the contaminants found included trihalomethanes and bromodichloromethane (both tied to cancer), pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and fertilizer residue. Wal-mart and Giant brands “bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment — a cocktail of chlorine disinfection byproducts, and for Giant water, even fluoride. In other words, this bottled water was chemically indistinguishable from tap water. The only striking difference: the price tag.”

In addition to the fact that between 25-40% of bottled water comes from the same sources as the water in your tap, and the contaminants that can be found in bottled water, there are other reasons to “break up with the bottle,” including:

Money - According to the Environmental Working Group, the cost for bottled water averages $3.79 per gallon; the EPA estimates that tap water costs an average of $0.002 per gallon.

Waste - All those empty plastic water bottles have to go somewhere, and they usually go to the landfill to slowly biodegrade over hundreds and hundreds of years. Is that the legacy we want to leave to our descendants? (Check out the "21st Century Waterfall" short video to get an idea of the impact of that amount of waste.)

Oil and Water don’t mix - Not only does it take a bunch of oil to make water (it’s the equivalent of filling up a quarter of each bottle with oil), but it takes a lot of water to make water. For every liter of bottled water produced, it takes three liters of water to produce it. (Source: Pacific Institute)

And then there are issues such as how much energy is used for transporting water, the amount of pollution created, the fact that many communities are disrupted (and sometimes endangered) by companies pumping their water sources away to be sold elsewhere, and the impact on animals in these areas of reduced water availability.

As more information about the significant negative impact of bottled water and its production are discovered, more people are making a switch away from bottled water to reusable bottles and the water from their own faucets (with or without filters). IHE graduate and teacher Christopher Greenslate’s social justice class created a video to promote reusable bottles at their high school (their efforts won second place in a video competition sponsored by Quantum Shift TV). See the original “break up” video. See the follow-up video about their progress.

Several cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have decided to ban the use of city funds to purchase bottled water, and many organizations concerned about health, human rights and environmental issues have initiated campaigns to try to encourage the public to forgo bottled water.

New American Dream is running a new campaign to encourage people to Break the Bottled Water Habit. Participants can take a pledge to use reusable water containers instead of buying bottled water, and to support strong public water systems; encourage others to take the pledge (and potentially win prizes); learn about the impact of bottled water; and find ideas for taking further action.

~ Marsha
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Blog Action Day: Poverty is Child's Play: Games as Tools for Learning

Unless you’ve actually “been there, done that,” it’s difficult to know what it’s like to be someone living daily in poverty. While reading and talking about it can be really useful, sometimes it’s more powerful to “experience” it through tools like games. Games can be an especially effective and meaningful strategy with youth. Here are a few games (most online) that try to help players get a better sense of what it’s like to walk a mile in another’s place.



Ayiti: The Cost of Life
Ayiti explores the question: “What is it like to live in poverty, struggling every day to stay healthy, keep out of debt, and get educated?” In this complex role-playing game, players are in charge of determining what happens to a family of 5 in Ayiti. They must try to keep everyone healthy, while helping them get as much education as possible and make enough money to survive and thrive. The player has 4 years (divided into 16 seasons) to try to succeed, and has to choose a “strategy” at the beginning: health, education, happiness or money. Who will work, rest, go to school, volunteer, get health care? How will it be paid for? Each choice has a consequence (some positive, some negative). The game is somewhat complicated, with a variety of choices and actions necessary for each season. There are a couple of lesson plans that accompany the game, to help participants process their experience and/or think critically about the issues.


Darfur is Dying
What’s it like to try to survive in a refugee camp? In Darfur is Dying players take on the role of a Darfurian who tries to complete a variety of tasks in order to help his/her community survive, including foraging for water, obtaining food, building shelter and staying healthy. If a player can do all this and survive -- surviving attack, escaping capture, etc. – then s/he's “won.” Mousing over question marks scattered throughout the camp provides data about what life is like in a refugee camp. The game offers additional information about the plight of Darfurians in Sudan and suggests ways to help.


A Seat at the Table
This game is from Oxfam. Participants choose a character, are given a basic scenario, and then are asked to make choices, based on the life and options available for that character. For example, one character is a widow with three children, living in Mozambique, and trying to grow crops on a small plot of land. She has to make choices such as whether to take her sick child to the doctor, whether to allow an investor to lease her land (the only thing of value she owns), whether to move to the city, etc. Each choice comes with a (positive or negative) consequence. There are also little factoids about the culture and circumstances of the characters.


Third World Farmer
For this game, players manage a farm in Africa and must make decisions that will determine whether their family prospers…or starves. Players decide what kinds of crops to plant and how many, whether to buy tools and other improvements and how to deal with education, illness, poor harvests and other challenges.


World Class “Grab Bag” Game
If you don’t have access to a computer, or would rather your students have a more realistic experience, consider Net Aid’s role-playing game, which focuses on the struggles many children face in trying to get an education. All the playing pieces and instructions are in downloadable (PDF) format. In this game, students become a child from Tamil Nadu in India, each of whom has a dream for their career. The game follows the challenges children face (parents out of work, illness or disability, loss of teacher (or no teacher at all), etc., in trying to earn enough years of education to realize their dream jobs.

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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.


Kids have mission to make peace possible - News-Record.com (10/14/08)
”They all have ideas. They want to make Christmas garlands, open a lemonade stand and collect enough pennies to build schools and buy pencils for their peers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For them, it's all about creating that intangible called peace….”

Young people choosing a new way to work for a better world - Washington Post (10/14/08)
”Rather than working their way up at a government agency or large nonprofit, Chafetz and others in their 20s or early 30s are leveraging business partnerships, grants and donations for their own initiatives to do good in the world.”

Food security must become national policy - New York Times (10/12/08)
”But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security.”

Survey reveals most GLBTQ students experience harassment - Star-Telegram (10/11/08)
”If your child is a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender student in middle or high school, chances are almost 9 in 10 that he or she has been harassed over the past year, according to a recently released national survey. Nearly 45 percent of 6,200 students surveyed across the country reported being physically harassed; more than 22 percent said they had been physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation.”

Panel chooses “Top 10 Heroes of 2008” for CNNCNN.com (10/9/08)
“CNN launched its second annual global search for ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary deeds in February. The network has aired weekly CNN Hero profiles of those people, chosen from more than 3,700 nominations submitted by viewers in 75 countries.”

Kids teaching parents, adults about living eco-friendly - New York Times (10/9/08)
“’One of the fascinating things about children is that they don’t separate what you are doing from what you should be doing,’ Ms. Bovey said. ‘Here’s this information about how we can help the environment, and kids are not able to rationalize it away the way that adults do.’”

Adult nature camp helps kids, too - Seattle Times (10/9/08)
”In the last two years, the nonprofit has added more adult seminars, weekend retreats and family getaways to subsidize its youth programs.”

Youth becoming social entrepreneurs - Entrepreneur.com (10/8/08)
"’The concept has gotten traction because of the popularity and knowledge about entrepreneurship in general, coupled with a growing interest among young people and others to make a real difference in the world,’ says Elizabeth Gatewood, Ph.D., director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. ‘People are more globally focused, have a growing concern about the environment and sustainability, and realize that there is more to life and finding satisfaction than just making money.’"

Law requires RI schools to teach about dating violence - MSNBC.com (10/5/08)
”Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who shepherded the proposal through the legislature last year, said domestic violence is a disturbingly common crime, yet education about it is scarce and haphazard. ‘You teach sex ed, you teach 'don't do drugs,' you teach 'don't drink,' you should also be teaching 'don't be a victim of domestic violence,' said Lynch, whose office receives about 5,000 cases a year.”

Drug chain files lawsuit over SF ban on cigarettes in pharmaciesPR Watch (10/2/08) commentary
”On October 1, 2008, the city of San Francisco put a law into effect that prohibits the sale of cigarettes in pharmacies. Walgreens drug store chain and Altria/Philip Morris have filed lawsuits against the city over the measure. In a September 30, 2008 statement about the new law, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom related the city's simple rationale: ‘Pharmacies should be places where people go to get better, not where people go to get cancer.’”
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Michael Pollan's Letter to the President-Elect on Food Security

The cover story of Sunday's New York Times Magazine, “Farm-in-Chief” by Michael Pollan, is a letter on food to whomever is our next president. What impresses me most about this nine-page “letter” is that Michael Pollan draws so many connections between food and other crucial issues of our time, such as health and healthcare, global warming, fossil fuel costs and future availability, environmental preservation, financial stability, and animal cruelty. While Pollan advocates an omnivorous food system in which animal agriculture plays a significant and pervasive role (which may not be MOGO), and while he presses for regional agriculture as a final goal (as opposed to an interim solution to a clean energy challenge), his letter is exactly what we need to be talking about and what our future president needs to place as a centerpiece of policy change.

Food? A centerpiece of policy change? When our economy is tanking and we’re hemorrhaging money in Iraq and al-Qaeda gains strength and people don’t have health insurance and our world is warming and species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate, why should our next president turn his attention toward transforming food policy? Because doing so would help solve many of our problems, including (to greater and lesser degrees) some of these that are most on our minds.

Michael Pollan gives the president-elect a great place to start.

~ Zoe
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The Rest of the Story: Resources for Reexamining Columbus

Today, October 13, is Columbus Day in the U.S., and this year, as in generations before, elementary schools all across the country will teach another group of children that, "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and discovered America. It is a fact that Columbus sailed to North America in 1492 and encountered native peoples, but there’s a whole lot that seems to get left out about what happened after that. Like mass murder and the transatlantic slave trade.


While many adults no longer think much about Columbus Day as anything other than another federal holiday, and while children are taught about explorers who “discovered” lands and people around the world, for a growing number of people, Columbus Day has become known as “Genocide Day” or “Indigenous People’s Day,” a time to acknowledge the role that Columbus played in the enslavement, destruction and genocide of cultures flourishing in “America” for thousands of years. In an essay calling for the abolition of Columbus Day as a recognized holiday, one young woman equated it with celebrating “Hitler Day.”

Just as with all issues, there is no simple answer or easy either/or dichotomy. But what is evident is that most people are taught a single view of events from the perspective of Columbus as intrepid explorer, tradesman and “discover of the New World,” without exploring what life was like for natives before the three ships landed, or what happened in the aftermath.

While resources for alternative and more complex viewpoints are fairly scarce, there are several excellent ones available. Whether you’re an educator, parent, or concerned citizen, these resources can help you share a broader perspective with others.

Children and Young Adults:

Probably the most useful resource to date is Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, a book created by Rethinking Schools that offers ”resources for teaching about the impact of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas” and includes ideas for kindergarten through college.

There are few books for young people available that explore the story of the fateful encounter from a native perspective. The American Indians in Children’s Literature blog recommends A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King, which explores what happens to humans when Trickster Coyote meets Columbus.

Although it has several flaws, according to the AICL blog, Encounter by Jane Yolen, also offers an alternative perspective of native peoples and Columbus.

For older kids, Morning Girl by Michael Dorris tells the story of a Taino culture, just before they meet Columbus.

In her book Black Ants & Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades, Mary Cowhey offers a description of how she has explored with her second graders the issue of Columbus’s encounters with native peoples. You can read excerpts from her book on Google's book search application.

For older teens, the famous poem “Columbus Day” by Jimmy Durham provides a springboard for discussion.


Adults:


Two books that can help adults expand their perspectives include Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen (2008 ed.) and A People’s History of the United States: From 1492 to Present by Howard Zinn (2005 ed.).

~ Marsha


Image courtesy of dbking.
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The 7th Key to MOGO: Strive for Balance with Your Relationships

When we choose to learn about the effects of our choices (on ourselves, other people, animals, and the environment), and when, as a result of our commitment to learning, we adopt the MOGO principle to do the most good and the least harm in relation to everyone, we inevitably make changes in our lives. We might change our shopping habits, our diet, our recreation and entertainment choices, our work, our parenting, our activism, and more. And our new choices – positive though they may be – may be imposed (to greater and lesser degrees) on our family members, associates, and friends. Or, if not imposed, our choices may certainly impact our loved ones.

It’s one thing to choose to change; it’s another to have unasked for change suddenly thrust upon you. And so, an individual in the process of using the 3 Is (Inquiry, Introspection, and Integrity) to make MOGO choices faces a quandary: How can we live with integrity and respect the different path our loved ones may be on?

In my upcoming book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and a Meaningful Life, I describe 7 Keys to MOGO. The last key, and perhaps the one that knits the others together, is “Strive for Balance.” We will face both internal and external challenges in choosing a MOGO life -- one of which is respecting the different perspectives of our friends and family. By compromising, accepting limitations, and striving to find a balance that preserves and strengthens our relationships while making new choices in our lives, we allow ourselves to embody MOGO more fully.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of Brent and MariLynn.
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E-Waste Not, E-Want Not: Greening Your E-Habit

When Apple’s iPhone debuted, people lined up for days to be one of the first to snatch one. Computers become obsolete almost as soon as they make it to your desk. And, if you believe marketers, no person is truly complete (or competent), unless s/he has all the latest electronic gadgets. Use of electronics –- computers, TVs, mp3 players, cell phones, personal devices, etc. –- has become an integral part of many people’s lives. But all those gadgets create a lot of waste –- not to mention all the toxic and uneco-friendly components involved in their creation and disposal, and the severe consequences to the adults and children in developing countries who end up deconstructing these toxin-laden components. Since our penchant for all things "e" isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon, it’s important to be informed about the effects of the electronics we’re buying and what we can do to reduce their negative impact. Here are a few sources to get you started:

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has a whole slew of useful resources and information. From electronics purchasing and recycling guides, to information about e-toxics and your health, to an exploration of the "global e-waste crisis," to resports on a variety of e-issues, SVTC is a great starting place for your e-education. SVTC has also embarked on a project to explore the impact of e-waste in workers and communities in India.


Greenpeace recently updated their Guide to Greener Electronics, which rates “the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.” (Toward the top? Nokia and Samsung. At the bottom? Nintendo and Microsoft.)

Greenpeace also has a nice overview about e-waste, the production and disposal of electronics, and the major negative impacts on people and the planet of our e-habit.

The Daily Green offers tips about electronics recycling, as does Earth 911, which lists companies and manufacturers that offer e-waste recycling.

The Electronics Take Back Coalition, the EPA and Consumer Reports Greener Choices also have useful and helpful information about electronics and their recycling.

My Green Electronics, a site sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, allows you to type in your zip code and see if there are any electronics recyclers near you. It also lists corporate electronics recycling programs.

Until we citizens speak up and insist that electronics manufacturers, distributors and retailers offer us truly green, sustainable, healthy options, they’ll continue to make and sell the toxic soup we're offered now.

It’s also important that we take responsibility for what happens to our e-gadgets once we’re done with them. Donating them is one option, as is using them until they no longer function (do we really need to upgrade every few months or so?). And, we can also ensure that they are properly recycled in a way that doesn’t cause harm to other people, animals or the planet.

Electronic tools connect us to the world. We can help ensure that it's not a destructive connection.

~ Marsha


Image courtesy of CP.

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Model Your Message AND Work for Change

There are people who strive vigorously to make MOGO (Most Good) choices in their daily lives. They choose foods, products, transportation, clothing, housing and furniture, family size, and recreation all with the MOGO ethic in mind. They live simply (that others may simply live). They model their message of sustainability and compassionate living, and this is their primary effort at creating a better world. They may assiduously avoid activism and politics, content to be doing their individual part in living a humane life.

There are others who strive to create systemic change as activists, thought-leaders, writers, policy-makers, and legislators. They may point out that simple living – though admirable – won’t change dangerous and destructive systems, and that taking action against unjust systems and transforming policies is the primary way that we create abiding positive change. They may pooh-pooh a focus on daily choices as largely irrelevant to real change and argue that whether they themselves drive an SUV or have more than two children or eat at McDonald’s is not relevant.

I think you know what’s coming.

Modeling our message and working for systemic change are both necessary components of creating a humane world. Without effort to create structural changes, our individual choices are very small components of changemaking. But without modeling our message in our daily choices, our policy efforts become empty rhetoric. Neither approach can be fully successful on its own. Without changes that create just, peaceful, and sustainable systems we’ll always be faced with daily choices that cause harm. We won’t truly be able to model our message to the greatest extent. And without modeling our message, we will lose our integrity and our credibility, crucial ingredients in successful social change.

To the greatest degree possible, we must each strive to model our message and work for change, and to do so with humility, humor, and honesty.

~ Zoe
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4 Changemakers Honored with Right Livelihood Award

It’s pretty exciting to people who care about creating a humane world when people like Al Gore and Wangari Maathi win the Nobel Prize. Still, most of the prize winners tend to be older, North American or European men. Almost 90% of Laureates in the last 25 years have been men, and about 80% of those have come from North America or Europe. That’s why it’s great to have an “Alternative Nobel Prize” that recognizes the essential work of people from all over the world: the Right Livelihood Awards.

Since 1980 the Right Livelihood Awards have been honoring and supporting people who offer "practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." This year’s winners come from India, German, Somalia, and the U.S.:

Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan (India) have been working most of their lives for social justice and sustainable development. They focus on serving the needs of “Dalits, landless and those threatened by the greed of landlords and multinational corporations.”

Monika Hauser (Germany) works to prevent and bring to justice those who commit sexual violence against women and girls in wartime, and to support and nurture survivors of sexual violence.

Asha Hagi (Somalia) has played a major role in mobilizing women to empower themselves and take on significant roles as peacemakers and decision makers in their war-ravaged country.

Amy Goodman (U.S.) has become a journalistic powerhouse, cultivating public media collaboration and, through her radio program, Democracy Now!, providing news and commentary on important issues, especially those the mainstream media chooses not to cover (or which are underreported).

~ Marsha
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Beijing sets policy for reducing car useTreehugger.com (10/7/08)
”Starting October 11, roughly a fifth of the city's cars will be kept from the roads on weekdays….The government has also said it will limit the registration of new license plates to 100,000 (400,000 are registered every year at current rates), raise the price of parking downtown, and continue developing public transit.”

Mammals, other species at great risk of extinction - Common Dreams (10/6/08)
”The report, the most comprehensive to date by 1,700 researchers, showed populations of half of all 5,487 species of mammals were in decline. Mammals range in size from blue whales to Thailand's insect-sized bumblebee bat.”

Report shows paradox of using “skinny” models - Global Ethics Newsline (10/6/08)
”This creates a moral dilemma for advertisers, Laucius writes: ‘Should advertisers use ads that sell stuff knowing they make women feel bad about themselves?’ Or, she asks, should they take the high road and run ads that potentially are less effective?”

“Time” for a different kind of economy - Phoenixville News (10/5/08)
”Each hour of service is represented by one Time Dollar. Like currency, Time Dollars earned by providing a service can be spent for a needed service in return, or banked for later use. A paid part-time coordinator keeps track of the accounts.”

Colleges going green to make green - Boston Globe (10/5/08)
"It's happening because student advocates have gotten very effective, and schools are paying attention to energy costs and how their carbon emissions contribute to climate change. There's also competition among schools for the best candidates, and these programs are attracting a lot of attention."

Want an acid bath? Jump in the sea - Common Dreams (10/5/08)
”Scientists calculate that the seas are absorbing so much carbon dioxide that they are 30 per cent more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The change is three times greater and has happened 100 times faster than at any other time during the past 20 million years.”

New interest in urban farming - Alternet (10/2/08)
”Skyrocketing food costs, worries about food security and an urge to do things ourselves have led to a huge surge in urban farming -- gardens in backyards, on roofs, in abandoned lots and even, in the dream of a Columbia professor and his students, in high-rise buildings in the middle of cities.”

Kenya’s schools to offer peace educationDaily Nation (9/30/08)
”Basic Education Permanent Secretary Prof. Karega Mutahi said that the subject aims at teaching how to resolve disputes by engaging peaceful measures. ‘Through peace education, the entire society will develop a culture of living harmoniously and appreciating others regardless of their differences,’ he said. Some themes being addressed include conflict, perception and bias, negotiation and reconciliation, towards healing and problem solving skills among others.”

Wolves re-listed for protected statusStar Tribune (9/30/08)
"’The biggest change that people need to be aware of is they can no longer take a wolf to protect their livestock or pets,’ he said. ‘The only way a person can do that is if there's an immediate danger to human safety.’"

“Country of origin” labeling law takes effect - Common Dreams (9/30/08)
”The new rules aim to make it easier for regular consumers to know whether their food was imported or not, much like they can find out whether the toys they buy for their children were made domestically or overseas.”

Got cooption of school students to promote products? - New York Times (9/26/08)
”Classes at three high schools in California will be spending the next six or seven weeks developing ideas for the 'Got milk?' campaign, which is sponsored by the California Milk Processor Board. In a kind of academic version of 'The Apprentice,' the classes will function as if they were advertising agencies, responsible for research, strategy, creative concepts, media plans and account management.”
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Humane Halloween

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent more than $5 billion dollars on Halloween last year, an average of almost $65 per person. Even though Halloween is “only” the 6th largest spending holiday, that’s still a lot of candy corn and plastic fangs. There are numerous reasons to enjoy celebrating Halloween: dressing up as your alter-ego; partying with friends; shoving your face in ice-cold water bobbing for apples; giving yourself nightmares watching creepy movies; celebrating the coming of winter (and winter holidays); getting kids to take candy from strangers….There are also plenty of ways to make this howlingly-popular holiday a more compassionate, sustainable, healthy one. Consider these ideas:

Treats

Candy, candy and candy are three of the most popular draws of Halloween. However, not only do all those wrappers generate a lot of waste, but candy has some skeletons hidden away in the closet. Candy made with animal products (such as dairy, eggs, and/or gelatin), supports suffering and cruelty to farmed animals. Additionally, there is a sad but real connection between chocolate and slavery, including child slavery. And, it’s not easy to forget just how big an impact all that candy has on our kids’ health.

Treats - What You Can Do

  • Buy fair trade dark chocolate. Global Exchange is one source for yummy fair trade mini-treats. Some retail stores are even starting to stock fair trade Halloween chocolate. If yours doesn't, order some online this year, and ask your local grocery to stock it next year.
  • Look for healthier alternatives, such as those listed at the Green Guide or Green Halloween.
  • Get together with friends and family (or like-minded organizations) to collaborate on creating a special trick-or-treat depot. Adults can make or buy the healthy, humane treats you want for your kids; kids have a safe, fun place to get their goodies.


If you’d prefer not to give out candy, there are plenty of humane alternatives. The Green Halloween website has several suggestions, from organic fruit leather and mini-snack bars to organic seed packets and non-toxic crayons.

You can also get your kids in the trick-or-treating mood by participating in campaigns to do good, such as Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, or Global Exchange’s Reverse Trick-or-Treating, which promotes fair trade and brings awareness to child labor and slavery.


Costumes

Dressing up isn’t just for kids. Almost a third of adults donned costumes for Halloween last year, and nearly 1 in 10 pet guardians decided to adorn their furry friends. But those costumes often come with a larger price than is listed on the tag. In addition to many costumes becoming another part of the trash on November 1, most costume fabrics contain hazardous chemicals, such as polyvinyl chloride or vinyl, and make up –- often thought to be a safer choice than masks –- often includes toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde, parabens or phthalates. Additionally, many costumes are made in sweatshops. And, have you noticed the kinds of costumes available for kids today? Marketers gleefully promote popular media characters and products through costumes; costumes for girls and young women are becoming more sexualized; costumes for boys often celebrate violence; and, some costumes promote biases and stereotypes. (For more on biases/stereotypes in costumes, read Questions to ask yourself before donning a Halloween costume and check out this activity designed to help kids identify biases/stereotypes in costumes.)


Costumes – What You Can Do:

  • Pay attention to the messages costumes convey. Help your child choose costumes that support and nurture positive messages.
  • Get together with friends, neighbors, co-workers and other parents and have a costume swap, so that costumes can be reused year after year.
  • Check out thrift stores; they often offer great bargains. If you can’t find the perfect costume, look for separate pieces to combine.
  • Invest in making costumes yourself. Have costume-making parties with other parents or friends.
  • Work with your kids to make their costumes out of “junk” around the house. It’s inexpensive, reuses objects, is a great bonding experience, and empowers kids to be part of the creative process.
  • Look for fair trade and sweatshop-free costumes and costumes made from eco-friendly materials. More online stores are offering them.
  • Combine costumes with education. Kids can dress up as endangered species and share a quick factoid when people ask “What are you?” Or, kids can travel door-to-door covered in plastic bags (or bottles) to bring attention to consumer waste.
  • Use healthy, humane, eco-friendly cosmetics for make-up.
  • Look to craft and similar magazines (online, too) for recipes for homemade horrorific Halloween make-up.



Other Tips:

  • Pumpkins – Grow your own or buy organic to avoid pesticides. Use as much of the pumpkin as you can (make pumpkin pie, roast pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Transportation – Walk, don’t drive, if possible. If not, carpool with friends.
  • Bag It – Buy, find or make a reusable bag to catch all those goodies each year.
  • Pets – Remember that Halloween can be a traumatic (and sometimes dangerous) time for your animal companions. The Humane Society has a few tips for helping keep pets safe.
  • Decorations – Stick with eco-friendly or homemade choices that can be reused year after year. Resist the lure of flashing orange lights, glittered plastic, and motorized, air-filled ghosts and goblins, all silently screaming Energy vampires! Sweatshops! Landfills! More stuff to store! Toxic materials!
  • Parties – Send evites instead of paper invitations, or create them out of recycled materials; use reusable goods; serve healthy, organic food (some farmers’ markets are still running!); get in touch with nature. Farm Sanctuary’s Veg For Life site has a list of links to recipes for tasty, veg Halloween treats.


And if celebrating Halloween isn’t your thing, there are plenty of opportunities for alternative ways to celebrate. One of our graduates described what her family does:

"For a variety of reasons, we have chosen not to participate in Halloween or trick-or-treating. Instead, we invited grandparents and cousins over to our house to have an alternative celebration. It was a BYOP event... "bring your own pumpkin." Everyone brought their own pumpkin, and we spent the afternoon carving our pumpkins. I also made some vegan pumpkin muffins and shared some local apple cider, apples and vegan apple dip. We topped it all off by bobbing for apples, which was great fun for the young ones and old ones alike.

"One of our son's most favorite things to do is to read, so on the actual night of Halloween trick-or-treating, we took him to the bookstore, where we spent the next couple of hours reading book after book to him. To him, this was the best treat of all!"
~ Stephanie M., M.Ed. graduate

With a little foresight, ingenuity, and connection with others who share your concerns and interests, Halloween can become a fun, memorable holiday that also supports a compassionate, sustainable, just way of living.

~ Marsha
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Make MOGO Choices and It Doesn't Matter What Today's Headline Is

With major issues such as the financial implosion of Wall Street, Russia’s grabby hands and the Presidential election vying for that front page news spot, concerns about (and thus action on) the global climate crisis are being subsumed.

We know that global warming – which is an issue that affects everyone on the planet -- hasn’t suddenly gone away, so what’s up?

Studies show that people have a hard time staying on high alert, dealing with things that aren’t tangible and right in front of them, avoiding compassion fatigue, and caring about what happens to large numbers of people or animals versus individuals, etc. It’s also easy to assume a state of denial.

But there’s a solution to this capricious focus issue: making MOGO (Most Good) choices. If we’re focused on the choices that we’re making every day – and the impact those choices have on people, animals, and the planet – and we’re dedicated to making choices that are aligned with our deepest values, then we’re going to be making choices that minimize our negative impact and nurture our positive.

So, if we focus on making MOGO choices and encouraging others to do the same, it won’t matter what issue takes precedence in the news – we’ll already be taking positive action in our own lives and compelling systemic change in our local and global communities.

~ Marsha
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7 Ways You Can Support Fair Trade

October is Fair Trade Month, designed to educate others about the importance of fair trade and encourage them to buy fair trade products.

The goal of fair trade is to empower producers in developing countries, advocate for a fair price for their goods, and to establish social and environmental standards for the production of those goods. (Find out more from Wikipedia.)

When we buy products, most of us want to know that our desire for coffee or chocolate or sugar isn’t harming people or the planet. Fair trade is one avenue for helping us make more positive choices.

Here are 7 ways you can support fair trade:

  1. Buy fair trade products whenever you can. Look for the certified fair trade labels from Transfair USA or Fair Trade Labeling International. Fair trade products can include coffee, chocolate, sugar, rice, tea, bananas, flowers, and many other products (including non-agricultural ones). Transfair USA, Global Exchange and the Fair Trade Federation offer resources on where to buy such products.

  2. Ask stores, restaurants and any place that sells products like coffee, tea and chocolate to stock fair trade products.

  3. Educate yourself about issues surrounding fair trade, so that you can make informed choices and share what you’ve learned with others. A few useful resources include:
    Transfair USA
    Global Exchange
    Co-op America
    Fair Trade Resource

  4. Teach others about fair trade issues. Host film screenings, discussions, parties, tastings and other events. Talk with your friends and neighbors. Contact retailers and legislators. Write letters to the editor. Give presentations at schools and community events. Post to your blog, get a widget for your Facebook page, share with your online communities.

  5. Introduce fair trade products and issues in your community – at work, your place of worship, school, community groups, etc. Encourage your community groups to become part of Co-op America's Fair Trade Alliance, or suggest fair trade fundraising for your child's school.

  6. Participate in campaigns such as Reverse Trick of Treating or Fair Trade Month to increase awareness about fair trade issues.

  7. Work to get your town or city declared a fair trade town. Use resources such as those from Transfair USA and Fair Trade Towns USA to help you.
If we stay connected to our deepest values, maintain awareness of the impact of our actions, educate ourselves about positive alternatives, and take steps to make MOGO (Most Good) choices, then we can work to help create a world that's fair for everyone.

~ Marsha
You have read this article citizen activism / fair trade / human rights / Social Justice / sustainability with the title October 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2008/10/7-ways-you-can-support-fair-trade.html. Thanks!