You're Not Trying Hard Enough: Animal Protection and Conservation Are Completely Compatible

In E Magazine’sThe Greenie Wars: When Green Groups Clash, It Leaves an Environmental Impact” author Joanne Isaac discusses the conflicts that arise between animal protection advocates and conservation advocates. According to the article animal advocates strive to protect individual animals from harm, exploitation, and unnecessary death, whereas conservationists strive to protect species and habitats, even if this means killing individual animals. Thus, for example, an introduced species that is negatively impacting another species or the environment is subject to lethal eradication from a conservationist perspective, whereas an animal protection advocate would support live trapping and removal.

Isaac writes, “In a letter to the journal Conservation Biology this year, Dr. Michael Hutchins, Executive Director of The Wildlife Society, said that ‘animal rights and conservation are incompatible at the most fundamental level.’”

How strange.

As a conservationist and animal protectionist, I always look for solutions that protect the environment, habitat, and species, along with protecting individual sentient animals from harm.

I’m also a human rights advocate. In relation to habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity, no species is as destructive as humans, but I don’t advocate killing people to solve our biodiversity crisis. Rather, I advocate the reduction in human population through family planning and education, the greening of our economy, and practical solutions to eliminate poverty and hunger without further deforestation and habitat destruction, such as sustainable, plant-based agriculture.

It’s much more difficult to find solutions that work for everyone rather than a specific interest, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or that we should abandon complex, nuanced, and holistic thinking in favor of either/or answers.

Animal protection is no more incompatible with conservation than social justice is. We just need to be more creative, compassionate, and innovative.

~ Zoe
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Help Support a Humane World: Buy Nothing on "Black Friday"

On the day after Thanksgiving, most people will be joining the hordes that make up "Black Friday" -- the biggest shopping day of the year. But, of course, we know that the path to a humane world isn't paved by consumerism. So, if you're looking for a way to encourage others to consume less, consider participating in Buy Nothing Day.

Buy Nothing Day is an annual observance held on "Black Friday" in order to encourage others to "opt out of consumer culture completely, even if only for 24 hours." In addition to encouraging you to buy nothing for a day, the campaign also promotes events around the world, from hosting credit card cut ups, to zombie walks to other ways of bringing attention to the impact of our consumer culture.

Buy Nothing Day is sponsored by Adbusters. Visit their website for more information, resources, video clips, and to find out about their Buy Nothing Christmas campaign.

~ Marsha
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Give Thanks for Changemakers and Visionaries...And Then Become One

Thanksgiving is a time for family, connection and gratitude. This year also make it a time of inspiration and empowerment.

Tonight, CNN is running its "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" to honor the top 10 heroes selected for their CNN Heroes Award. Even if you don't have a television, you can still check out the website and find out about the winners, who include:

Liz McCartney, who "moved to New Orleans to dedicate herself to helping Hurricane Katrina survivors move back into their homes. Her nonprofit, St. Bernard Project, has rebuilt the homes of more than 120 families for free."

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, who, "moved by the lack of children's books and literacy in his native Ethiopia, Gebregeorgis established Ethiopia Reads, bringing free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of Ethiopian children."

Viola Vaughn, who "moved to Senegal to retire. Instead, a group of failing schoolchildren asked her to help them pass their classes. Today, her 10,000 Girls program is helping hundreds of girls succeed in school and run their own businesses."

If you need more inspiration to believe that a humane world is possible and that you have the power to make it happen, check out UTNE Reader's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World." The list includes political activists, artists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, community organizers and more.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks for the visionaries and changemakers who are helping make a positive difference in our world...and then go become one!

~ Marsha
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Make Your Voice Heard: Share Your "Ideas for Change in America"

With media, marketing and all those voices on blogs, social media and other areas of the web clamoring for people's attention and promoting their own agendas, it can be challenging to have your own ideas about world issues heard. But, opportunities are increasingly arising. We've recently mentioned Obama's Change.gov site, and TED prize winner Karen Armstrong has launched her Charter for Compassion site, to encourage people to share their views, ideas and stories for helping create a Charter for Compassion signed by religious leaders of all faiths.

Now there's a new opportunity. Change.org and MySpace, partnering with a variety of organizations, have launched Ideas for Change in America, a chance for citizens to share their views and offer their creative solutions for advancing positive change. At both Change.org and MySpace participants can share their ideas, discuss ideas, vote on ideas. The top ideas will be submitted to the Obama Administration.

What a great opportunity to reveal the power of humane education and humane living!

~ Marsha
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Humane Education is the Answer to the Consumerism/Population Paradox...And to So Much More!

At Bioneers I attended a talk by Annie Leonard (creator of The Story of Stuff) and Andy Revkin (New York Times reporter and author of the blog Dot Earth). Annie and Andy offered a presentation titled, “How Many? How Much?” about consumerism and population, and after their (excellent) talks, they opened for questions. There were many questioners who asked about the paradoxes we face in addressing consumerism and population. For example, with economies built around consumption, how can we sustain economic development and eliminate poverty if we diminish consumption? This is a real conundrum. If we all begin to live more simply, locally, and sustainably (either because we realize this is MOGO or because our economic crises demand this), we will buy much less and this will cause many to suffer tremendous economic hardships as their livelihoods disappear. With 6.7 billion people to feed, house and clothe, this is a paradox.

The U.S. government (along with others) has recently pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into our economy to prevent a depression. Some would argue that this fueling of our economy to keep production up and purchasing possible, is counter to our planetary need to reduce our consumption, our resource depletion, and our pollution. Paradoxes.

Annie and Andy didn’t have satisfying answers for these paradoxes because they are complex, and there aren’t simple solutions to them.

But there is an overarching solution, and that is humane education. I know, I know, I sound like a combination of a broken record and an unabashed idealist. But hear me out (again). While we must address critical issues such as global warming with immediate action, we cannot ignore the underlying problem: we do not yet teach for peace and sustainability, let alone for restoration, and if we neglect this root problem, we will forever be struggling to put out raging forest fires instead of preventing them from igniting.

I have no better answers for the paradoxes we face than Annie and Andy had, but I know that if we raise a generation with knowledge about the challenges we face and with tools and motivation to be creative problem-solvers, we will have answers, more and more of them at an ever quickening pace.

Capitalism 3.0 is a book that offers answers to restructuring our political/economic system. Cradle to Cradle is a book that offers answers to our architectural and chemical challenges. These are fantastic contributions that can (and will) create some of the changes we need, but just imagine how many answers will arise when a generation is offered real humane education. That’s the root solution to the paradoxes.

(For more information on how you can become a humane educator, visit www.HumaneEducation.org).

~ 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.

Can peer pressure help save the world?Plenty Magazine (11/08)
”According to Bruce Link and Jo Phelan, professors at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, social stigma exists when four conditions converge: Categories are established to differentiate groups of people such as environmentalists and others who don’t care; some of these categories have certain adverse attributes; an 'us' versus 'them' separation results; and finally, that labeling causes a loss of status and discrimination.”

Global warming having major impact on world’s oceans - Daily Green (11/25/08)
”The world's oceans are growing acidic at a rate 10 times as fast as predicted, according to a new University of Chicago study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Charter of compassion hopes to help transform the worldChristian Science Monitor (11/25/08)
”The world needs more compassion. That is the premise for charterforcompassion.com, a new website that's inviting people all over the globe to draft an online charter aimed at putting the golden rule at the center of daily life. Participants are encouraged to share their own stories of compassion, define the idea, and propose specific steps that societies can take to engender it.”

Kids leading the charge to change the world - Christian Science Monitor (11/24/08)
"’It has become a value for young people to be personally involved,’ says Claire Gaudiani of the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University. ‘Many have seen first-hand where the needs are and what a difference individual citizens can make.’"

Vermonter focuses on living simply - Times Argus (11/23/08)
”Returning home to the states, Merkel decided to simplify. He not only cleared away stuff (enough for 13 yard sales) but also tapped his engineering degree from New York’s Stony Brook University to calculate the economic and environmental savings. By doing so, he figured out how to live comfortably — and income-tax-free — on $5,000 a year.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.

Institute helps connect children with nature - Los Angeles Times (11/23/08)
”The institute's organizers have armed themselves with studies linking nature-based education with children's improved academic performance, reduced disciplinary problems, improved mental and physical health and greater dedication to environmental stewardship.”

Student helps campaign to bring libraries, books to Ethiopia - Associated Press (11/22/08)
”Tobyn said he read about Ethiopia Reads in a magazine last year and wanted to do something to help Ethiopian children. He started by raising $1,800 selling ‘Shout Outs’ — complimentary messages to friends — for a quarter apiece to be read each morning on the school's public address system. Then parents organized a community golf tournament to raise the rest of the money.”

Canadian Supreme Court ruling paves way for citizen action to polluters - Globe and Mail (11/21/08)
”In a landmark ruling favouring the environmental movement, the court allowed a class action launched by 2,000 citizens near Quebec City who suffered for half a century from an irritating blanket of dust and odour emanating from a St. Lawrence Cement Inc. plant that was located in their midst.”

Peter Singer: Animal protection is becoming mainstream concernNewsweek (11/19/08)
”If this sounds radical, so did suffrage and civil rights a few decades ago. The notion that we should recognize the rights of animals living among us rests on a firm ethical foundation. A sentient being is sentient regardless of which species it happens to belong to. Pain is pain, whether it is the pain of a cat, a dog, a pig or a child.”

Companies want more time to get (some of) the lead out - Wall Street Journal Online (11/18/08)
”Manufacturers use lead in everything from snaps on clothing to electronic components. It can give heft to a product or intensify color, but if ingested, it can cause irreversible neurological damage. The new rules for the first time impose limits on the amount of total lead that can be used in children's products, and they toughen standards on the amount of lead allowed in paint....Congress is allowing companies to gradually decrease the amount of lead used in their products over several years.”
Thanks, Daily Green, for the heads up.

Animal rights group releases video revealing cruelty to turkeysNew York Times (11/18/08)
”In what is becoming an annual Thanksgiving rite, an animal rights group on Tuesday released undercover videotapes taken at the nation’s premier poultry-breeding operation, showing turkeys being stomped to death and punched by workers.”

The incredible shrinking product packagesCBS5.com (11/17/08)
"The companies have found a sneaky way to pass on a price increase by taking out some of the content from the package, but making the package look the same size…."
Thanks, PR Watch, for the heads up.
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National Social Justice Conference Seeks Proposals

Education for Liberation is seeking proposals for its Free Minds, Free People national conference, which will be held in Houston, Texas, June 25-28, 2009.

The conference seeks to educate, prepare and empower “the most excluded, under-served members of our society” to help create a just world by:
  • Teaching students the causes of inequalities and injustices in society and how communities have fought against them.
  • Helping them develop both the belief in themselves that they can challenge those injustices and the skills necessary to do that.
  • Supporting them in taking action that leads to disenfranchised communities having more power.
Organizers invite educators, activists, researchers and others to submit proposals in the following areas:

Education for liberation in the classroom or community

Proposals submitted to this section may address the following issues:
  • Critical analysis/academic achievement
  • Personal development. Organizations/programs dedicated to the holistic
  • development of youth and that treat youth as more than academic beings.
  • Programs/organizations might include the following components: 1) Cultural/ethnic/racial identity development; 2) Spiritual development; 3) Health awareness
  • Creative/artistic development
  • Organizing/political action

Creating the political/social/economic environment that makes education for liberation possible

Proposals submitted to this section may address the following issues:
  • Education organizing (i.e. testing, policing of schools, school funding etc.)
  • Parent organizing
  • Teacher organizing
  • Youth/intergenerational organizing
  • Research on impact of education for liberation

Proposals that include the following are especially desired:
  • Include young people in the planning and execution.
  • Are accessible to a variety of audiences. This conference will include people from a diverse range of experiences, cultures, educational backgrounds and professions. Even if the topic might be of particular interest to one audience the delivery should be widely accessible.
  • Involve collaborations between more than one organization or school, particularly from different parts of the country. We are also interested in collaborations by people of different professions. For example, could your workshop be co-led by a university professor and a high school student? A parent and a teacher?
  • Are led by people who reflect the communities that education for liberation should serve, particularly in terms of race, class and sexual orientation.

The submission deadline is January 15, 2009.

Find out more.

Image courtesy of Education for Liberation.
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To Bear Reality, We Must Cultivate Joy, Connection, Compassion

T.S. Eliot once wrote, "Humankind cannot bear much reality." In today's world, threatened as it is by global climate change, human overpopulation, massive extinctions, fresh water depletion, toxic waste, and replete with escalating worldwide slavery, brutal institutionalized animal cruelty, human starvation and many more problems, it’s no wonder we can’t bear much reality.

In our Master of Education and Humane Education Certificate Programs at the Institute for Humane Education, we know students struggle with the content of their courses (on education, human rights, environmental preservation, animal protection, and cultural issues such as consumerism, social psychology, media and globalization). Although every course has books and articles with practical and wise solutions to our problems, each also exposes our students to the challenging realities of our time. After all, we cannot solve our entrenched problems and transform unhealthy systems if we don’t know about and understand them.

Many of our students struggle with the dark content of some of the books and films in the program because, indeed, it is hard to bear that much reality. But there is another reality that our program explores: that of our human capacity to experience wonder, joy, connection, compassion, and understanding. Our students are required to spend time in a natural setting, participate in activities that reawaken their reverence, meet and connect with people from other cultures, listening to their stories and building relationships. Each student also does a practicum, not only to put their knowledge and training into practice, but also to experience the joy that comes in doing the work of humane education.

Yes, we cannot bear much painful reality, and so we must cultivate the joyful reality that is our inheritance so that we can hold the joy and pain together and rely upon our experience of profound connection and empathy to face and transform those systems which harm. If we expect to change the world through doomsday stories, we will find that many turn away, unable to bear that much reality. But if we inspire people to fall in love with this gorgeous planet, revel in their senses and ability to feel awe, turn their apathy into compassion, and hear the stories of the heroes among us, then we will discover that our reality is huge: full of light, dark, and everything in between, and we can bear it all in our hearts and minds in order to create a better world.

~ Zoe
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Presidential Climate Action Plan Exemplifies What We Need for Systemic Change

In a few months, a new president will take office and face challenges we haven't seen since Franklin Roosevelt became president. In particular, this president will be faced with a financial crisis, an environmental crisis, an energy crisis, a fresh water crisis, an educational crisis, and a national security crisis, not to mention a host of other problems. Fortunately, the University of Colorado and several partner organizations are engaging the nation’s science, policy, business and civic leaders to produce a Presidential Climate Action Plan (PCAP) to offer the new president practical plans and ideas for addressing global warming, arguably the most pressing of these crises, in ways that will also address these interconnected challenges.

The advisors to PCAP represent the best and brightest of thought leaders, green business proponents, scientists, policy-makers, educators, and changemakers.

This is an example of the kind of project and partnership that can create the system changes we need.

Visit the Presidential Climate Action Project.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of PCAP.
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16 Days Calls for End to Violence Against Women

"Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned."
~ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

At least in the Western world, many people believe that the “battle” for equal rights for women has been won. More women in the work place, in “traditional” male roles, in positions of power. Mark that one off the list and move on to the next task. Not so. Violence against women all over the world is, as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) states, “a problem of pandemic proportions.” According to a UN General Assembly 2006 study, “at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.”

In order to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue and to empower others to take positive action in ending violence against women, The Center for Women’s Global Leadership is sponsoring “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence,” from November 25 – December 10. Since December 10 is the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, the theme for this year is “Human Rights for Women: Human Rights for All.”

The goal of the campaign is to eliminate all forms of violence against women by:
  • raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
  • strengthening local work around violence against women
  • establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
  • providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
  • demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
  • creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
According to the website,
“Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.”
The campaign website includes a Take Action Kit, as well as a list of resources.

You can find out more information about issues surrounding violence against women at the UNIFEM website.


~ Marsha
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It's Time for a Radical Shift

Fritjof Capra, physicist, systems thinker, innovative writer, professor, and environmental educator, said this at Bioneers: “Solutions require a radical shift in our perceptions, thinking, and values.”

I agree. So how do we create this shift? Embedded as we are in dysfunctional and outdated systems that have influenced our perceptions, thinking, and, to an astonishing degree, our values, how do we step outside these systems far enough to assess them clearly and transform them wisely? Some thoughts:

1) Our perceptions, thinking, and values are malleable.

If, for example, people immigrate from one culture to another, they begin to live on a hyphen, carrying their perceptions, thinking and values from their original culture, while slowly absorbing and accepting new perceptions, thinking, and values from their new culture. Their children continue this hyphenated existence, generally moving further toward the new culture. Their children’s children are likely to be fully enculturated in the new society. What does this mean? It means that we are capable of holding disparate views and perceptions simultaneously, and that our thinking and values can shift, with new information and new experiences. This bodes well for the radical shifts we must make in our perceptions, thinking, and values.

2) Most of us share core values.

Many, if not most, of us subscribe to the Golden Rule to do unto others as we would have done unto us (or the reverse, to not do to others what would be anathema to us). Many, if not most, of us know that the accumulation of things (beyond what is necessary and a bit more for enjoyment) does not bring us happiness, whereas joyful and helpful relationships with family, friends, and neighbors do. And, many of us know that a restored environment secures our health and the health of generations to come. In other words, we value kindness and peaceful, sustainable human and ecological communities.

Yet we have created and perpetuated systems that defy these values in favor of other values and interests, pursuing profits at the expense of the biosphere and creating and using products and systems that cause terrible harm to other people, other species, and the environment. We fail at living according to our deepest values, not because we don’t value kindness and peaceful, healthy communities, but because our perceptions and thinking are molded by faulty systems and because other competing interests take root. Instead of recognizing this conflict and trying to resolve it practically and wisely, we fail to acknowledge it, choosing sides and clinging to false options. We create either/or choices (Republican v. Democrat, Socialist v. Capitalist, Christian v. Muslim, Urban v. Small Town, Elitist v. Joe Sixpack), as if these options are at all viable for the radical shift required. They are not. We need to find systems that support our shared core values of creating a peaceful, healthy, sustainable world for all, and shift our perceptions and thinking toward the attainment of this goal. This may not be easy, but it is absolutely possible.

3) We need humane education at all levels of society.

I have said for years that if we can raise a generation with the information, tools, and motivation to solve our greatest challenges, infusing all curricula with humane education, we will transform our world. But, we do not have the luxury of waiting a generation to reverse the trajectory of global warming or to slow population growth, two of the most frightening challenges we face. This is why humane education must be offered everywhere – in schools, of course, but also for and through the media, health care providers, architects and engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, legislators, farmers and more. Humane education – that is, education about the interconnected issues of our time that promotes inquiry, introspection and integrity, as well as far-reaching systems transformation – allows us to step outside our current perceptions and thinking in order to deeply examine our values and make long-term, wise decisions representing the radical shift we need.

~ 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.


They slaughter horses, don’t they?
- USA Today (11/18/08)


”A Government Accountability Office report issued last week lent support to the agency's assertion in June that the costs of caring for the animals have skyrocketed. The GAO said the agency should consider euthanizing some horses or selling them, likely to a slaughterhouse, as an alternative to keeping them in long-term holding pens for their entire lives.”



Child soldiers found around the world - Radio Free Europe (11/16/08)

”Increasingly modern, user-friendly military technology and weapons have made it easier for armed groups to misuse children and turn them into warriors. Once recruited, children can be used as cooks, suppliers, or guards. But more often than not, they are sent to the front line of combat, to patrol mine fields, and even on suicide missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.”



What’s the future for fishing?
New York Times (11/16/08)


”But the biggest consumers of these smaller fish are the agriculture and aquaculture industries. Nearly one-third of the world’s wild-caught fish are reduced to fish meal and fed to farmed fish and cattle and pigs. Aquaculture alone consumes an estimated 53 percent of the world’s fish meal and 87 percent of its fish oil. (To make matters worse, as much as a quarter of the total wild catch is thrown back — dead — as 'bycatch.')”



Why aren’t more people paying attention to the global warming threat?
- AlterNet (11/14/08)


"’For most of us, most of the time, risk is not a statistic. Risk is a feeling,’ says Weber. We are swayed by our feelings, and those feelings-while an essential part of the decision-making process-can be misleading guides, depending on the type of risk involved.”



Kids inspired to change the world
- Ventura County Star (11/13/08)


”Today, they said, they're working on changing themselves and their school. But tomorrow, it will be their city, country, maybe even the world. ‘If we're passionate about it, I think we can do anything,’ fifth-grader Camille Manoukian said.”



Michigan students learning hands-on environmental stewardship
- Muskegon Chronicle (11/13/08)


”Students, for instance, learn about water quality by conducting scientific studies of streams instead of solely reading about water pollution in textbooks. In some cases, students select an environmental issue to study and develop proposed solutions.”



Tough economy, concerns about consumerism mean more DIYers
- Sign On San Diego (11/12/08)


“’Everybody gets so wrapped up in what big sparkly things they want or they're getting,’ Napier said. ‘I know it helps the economy, but how much impersonal crap do we need in our lives?’”



Supreme court rules for Navy, against whales
- New York Times (11/12/08)


”The court, in its first decision of the term, voted to allow the Navy to conduct realistic training exercises to respond to potential threats by enemy submarines. Environmental groups had persuaded lower federal courts in California to impose restrictions on sonar use in submarine-hunting exercises to protect whales and other marine mammals.”



Two environmental groups to initiate e-waste certification program in 2010
- ITWorld (11/10/08)


"’We're developing this program because there's just a severe lack of controls on this electronic waste stream,’ Westervelt said. ‘This certification program is vital right now because our government is essentially asleep at the switch.’ Recyclers wanting to be certified under the new program will not be able to dump toxic e-waste overseas or ship it to local landfills or incinerators. The certification will prohibit companies from using prison labor to process e-waste and prohibit them from releasing private data contained on discarded computers. E-waste processing facilities in many developing countries are the ‘sweatshops of the new millennium,’ Neil Peters-Michaud, CEO of e-waste recycler Cascade Asset Management, said during the press conference.”



Do you want corn with that?
- Wired (11/10/08)


”Chemical analysis from restaurants across the United States shows that nearly every cow or chicken used in fast food is raised on a diet of corn, prompting fresh criticism of the government's role in subsidizing poor eating habits.”

Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.


Nature is good for youBBC (11/7/08)

”Across the country, there are ‘health inequalities’ related to income and social deprivation, which generally reflect differences in lifestyle, diet, and, to some extent, access to medical care. This means that in general, people living in poorer areas are more likely to be unhealthy, and die earlier. However, the researchers found that living near parks, woodland or other open spaces helped reduce these inequalities, regardless of social class.”

Thanks, Worldchanging, for the heads up.
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Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Voltaire once wrote "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." The most common translation is “Perfect is the enemy of good.” For many months I struggled with the title of my upcoming book, Most Good, Least Harm. After reading the fantastic books Cradle to Cradle and Break Through, I found myself wanting to avoid environmentalism’s (often deserved) negative stereotypes of painting doom and gloom scenarios and demanding endless sacrifices to save the world. For many people, such approaches simply don’t work to inspire change. My title, while stressing “good” also acknowledges “harm.” In Cradle to Cradle and Break Through the authors take a different approach, suggesting that we really can create just good.

But I kept the title Most Good, Least Harm, and I did so, not because I reject the idea that we can one day create a truly good world with systems that are beneficial to all, but because I don’t want the pursuit of perfection – an impossibility until we actually do create the necessary systems – to become the enemy of good. For many, the fact that current systems prevent us from doing all good and no harm can become an impediment to incremental, individual changes because they see their imperfect choices as either equivalent or insignificant. (For example, I’m typing this blog entry on my computer, which is filled with toxic metals, mined in an unsustainable manner, and put together and eventually disassembled by people who are often treated miserably and exposed to these dangerous toxins.)

But just because the choices that we currently have are imperfect does not mean that those choices are equal. A Prius is not equal to a Suburban, even though neither is perfect and both depend on an unsustainable system of fossil fuels. As we work to make MOGO choices (and note that the term I use to shorten the concept "most good, least harm" is actually short for "most good"), we mustn’t let a commitment to finding what is ultimately perfect stand in the way of doing good.

~ Zoe
You have read this article Break Through / cradle to cradle / MOGO choices / Most Good Least Harm / perfection / systemic change with the title November 2008. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2008/11/perfect-is-enemy-of-good.html. Thanks!

Kids Books You Can Be Thankful For

In the U.S., November often brings tales of pilgrims, Indians, turkeys for dinner and the “First Thanksgiving” to children in schools and library storytimes. If you want to celebrate the season with kids, but prefer stories reflecting more compassionate food choices and/or want a more accurate portrayal of the relationship between colonialists and natives, look to titles like these to share:

In A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting, Mrs. Moose asks her husband to bring home a turkey for Thanksgiving, but what they turkey doesn’t understand is that they want him to join them FOR dinner, not BE the dinner.

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey follows what happens when a group of school children visit a turkey farm and decide that the turkeys shouldn’t become anyone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

You can also look for books that are about harvest or that focus on particular fall foods, such as pumpkins.

There are a slew of “First Thanksgiving” children’s books available, but most of them are from a “colonialist” perspective. Judy Dow and Beverly Slapin have written an article deconstructing myths about “The First Thanksgiving.”

They also offer recommendations of books by Native authors to use during Thanksgiving time, including:

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac, which tells the tale more accurately from Squanto’s viewpoint.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine Grace O’Neill and Margaret M. Bruchac, which provides a view of the “first thanksgiving” from a Wampanoag perspective.

Dow and Slapin also recommend other books that focus on Native thanksgiving and harvest, such as:

Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally Hunter, which follows a young Winnebago boy through the year as he learns about his people’s relationship with corn.

The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering
by Gordon Reqquinti, which follows an Ojibway wild rice harvest.

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
by Jake Swamp, which offers up a message of thanksgiving to Mother Earth.

Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking by Laura Waterman Wittstock, which follows a young boy who learns the traditions of tapping trees to make sugar.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of justjennifer.

(Reprinted from our November 2008 Humane Edge E-News.)
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Students Should Graduate With Financial Literacy and More

In an interesting series of online articles in Edutopia, the case is made for education that results in financial literacy. I fully agree. I believe that one of the contributing factors to our current economic collapse is a failure to educate for financial literacy. While we’ve all been schooled in math, science, literature, and social studies, few of us ever received education about financial security and responsibility. Unfortunately, we don’t generally educate our students in basic life skills for a changed and changing world. This is an enormous failure and needs to be remedied.

But it’s important not to stop at financial literacy. In addition to understanding why they shouldn’t buy an SUV on credit if they won’t be able to make their monthly payments for years to come, students also ought to receive education about the consequences of an SUV on people, animals and the planet. Along with learning about the economic consequences of spending lots of money in the cafeteria on sodas, burgers, and candy (rather than saving their money and eating fewer calories brought from home), we need to teach our students about the effects of such food choices on their health, animals, and the environment. In addition to helping students realize the financial impact of buying expensive brand name clothes and shoes instead of saving for more important future goals, we must help them become skilled at analyzing the advertisements that insidiously influence their purchasing choices and become aware of the effects on other people and the environment from outsourced, sweatshop-produced products.

Certainly, let’s start educating for financial literacy, but let’s not stop there.

~ Zoe

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Bring Sustainability to Your Classroom: The Otesha Book

Visualize a hoard of young people bicycling around Canada, bringing the message of sustainable living and the power of our choices to people in a positive, interactive way, and you have a snapshot of The Otesha Project. The Otesha Project tours around Canada each year, giving presentations and workshops to thousands of people. They’ve also created a book for youth and a teachers guide for educators to help bring a deeper level of humane living exploration to the classroom.

The Otesha Book: From Junk to Funk (PDF) is divided into chapters analyzing issues about water, clothing, media, coffee, food and transport. Each chapter offers the following section headings:

  • Removing the Blinders gives a brief overview and some facts regarding the topic and debunks a few myths.
  • Mirror shares someone’s personal story connected to the topic, so that readers can reflect on their choices.
  • Empowerment mentions the positive actions that other people or organizations have taken.
  • Action offers a couple of positive actions that youth might want to try.
  • The Action Addict shows several ways that someone is taking positive action with their own personal choices.
  • Go Further provides additional books and websites to consult.
The book helps young people pay attention to the impact of their choices and explore ways of living that do more good and less harm.

The Otesha Teacher Menu (PDF) is a companion book to The Otesha Book and is full of activity and lesson ideas for exploring the issues raised in The Otesha Book. The teacher’s guide also includes curriculum alignment information.

The book is divided into “meals,” following the same issues covered in the youth book. Each meal is divided into the following:
  • Hors d’oeuvres, which are ice breaker-type activities.
  • Entrees, which offer lesson plan ideas.
  • Desserts, which are post-class assignments and activities.
The "meals" include discussion, interactivity, pro/con debates, collaborations and other types of learning strategies.

You can download PDFs of both books for free. The content is also appropriate for adapting to other educational situations, such as church groups or community youth clubs.

~ Marsha
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Lessons From the "One Dollar Diet" Project

When is a spoonful of peanut butter the best treat ever? When you’re trying to eat on $1 a day. In our September e-news, we mentioned that IHE graduate Christopher Greenslate and his partner, Kerri Leonard, were embarking on a “One Dollar Diet” experiment to each eat on $1/day for 30 days. The experiment is over, and we asked Christopher to share about the experience. Read his essay below:


"After working for ten hours, the last thing we wanted to do was come home and roll out tortillas. It wouldn't have been so bad if they were going to be filling enough to make sure we went to bed satisfied. However, the meager portions of homemade refried beans and minimally flavored Spanish rice often left us wanting more. On some nights, if we could afford it, we went buck-wild and had a spoonful of peanut butter to make the rumbling sounds in our stomachs subside.

"Breakfast was always the same: plain oatmeal. Sometimes we could put a third of a tablespoon of butter on it. Either way, for the first few days it was difficult to choke down and by the end, given the option, we would have eaten anything else. The lunch menu was not much more appealing. Peanut butter and jelly on dry homemade bread left much to be desired. Once in a while we would split an orange.

"In May of this year, the two of us were discussing how much money we had been spending on groceries. We knew that a fifth of the world's population eats on one dollar a day. Soon enough we decided to attempt to eat this way for a month, just to see if we could. In September, we embarked upon our quest to survive on a dollar. In order to help guide the experiment, we created five rules.

  1. All food consumed each day must total $1 for each of us.
  2. We could not accept free food or "donated" food unless it is available for everyone in our area (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving).
  3. Any food we planted, we had to pay for.
  4. We would do our best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles could only be prepared if there was no other way to stay under one dollar. (We had only six packages.)
  5. If we decided to have guests over for dinner they had to eat from our share -- meaning that guests didn't get to eat their own dollar's worth of food.

"Dealing with work, the stress of trying to figure out what was for dinner, and how much of we could eat led to frustrations on both sides. After the first week, the excitement wore off; it seemed as though dinner couldn't be ready soon enough. Not only did we have to make the food, we also had to calculate the cost and measure portions into affordable quantities. There were tense discussions on almost a nightly basis when we were trying to get dinner ready. It wasn't uncommon for the tension to break into an argument about who was or was not doing what. The validity of the "rules" was debated on more than one occasion. By the time we sat down to eat, we had gotten over our frustration, but the urgent need for food made for many slammed refrigerator doors and several dirty looks.

"We created a blog to document our experience. (We also invited people to “sponsor” our effort by donating money for the Community Resource Center here in Encinitas; we ended up raising $1500.) While we expected to face hardship in terms of feeling hungry, getting bored with meals, and frustration at what we could not have, it didn't take long to learn there was more involved. We realized through our experience and through writing (as well as comments from readers), that there are a variety of assumptions about what it means to struggle to eat, and about poverty in general. While a month-long experiment couldn't account for all experiences concerning poverty, it brought up many important questions. One of the most universal questions to come up was: At what daily cost can people eat well? Not just get "full", but to actually eat well? At the end of our "One Dollar Diet Project," we knew that a dollar a day wasn't a sufficient amount of money to eat healthy meals.

"So, what does it cost to eat healthy in America? We’re going to find out. We are embarking on a quest to discover the answer to this question. We’ve got our ideas and new experiments ready to go, and you can be sure that we’ll share our results.

"In fact, it’s the impetus for our new book concerning the subject. Through a number of new food-cost experiments, and research with professionals in nutrition, economics, and cultural studies, we will bring you with us on our journey. Check back at our blog for occasional updates."


Image courtesy of One Dollar Diet Project blog.

(Reprinted from our November 2008 Humane Edge E-News.)

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Prop 8 and Prop 2: It's Not an Either/Or Issue

On election day, there were two propositions on the California ballot that would grant or remove rights to historically oppressed groups. Prop 2, if passed, called for more space for chickens, pigs, and calves in California agricultural facilities. Prop 8, if rejected, would uphold the recent California law granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Prop 2 passed, granting farmed animals a bit more comfort and space. Prop 8 also passed, taking away the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry.

In the aftermath, I have read and heard too many people implying that Californians like animals more than people; that it’s “ironic” that animals received rights while humans lost them.

For the record, I supported Prop 2 and opposed Prop 8. I believe that animals should not be, in essence, tortured in factory farms, and I believe that people should be able to marry, whether they are gay or straight. I was extremely disappointed that Californians amended their constitution to ban gay marriage.

But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.

In our society, we abuse farmed animals mercilessly. Hens are crammed into cages so tightly that they are barely able to move and unable to stretch a single wing. Their beaks are severed (without pain relief) as chicks to keep them from killing each other under these conditions. They stand on sloping wire that cuts into their feet...for a year or more. I’ve visited such facilities, and they are far worse than I’ve described here. If you were to put your pet parakeet into conditions like these, you’d be in violation of virtually all state anti-cruelty laws.

Pregnant and nursing sows are currently confined in “iron maidens,” cages that prevent them from moving at all beyond standing and lying down. Veal calves are chained at the neck in stalls so that they can’t even turn around. These are "normal" agricultural practices, even though they would be illegal if perpetrated on dogs and cats, and Californians, rightly in my opinion, passed a proposition that will simply grant these abused animals a bit more space. These animals will still be exploited for human palates, but the degree of cruelty will slightly diminish.

I believe that gays and lesbians should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals, but we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of bobster1985.
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Beyond Green: Tips for Bringing Humane Choices to Your Office

You’re making positive changes in your life at home in support of a compassionate, healthy, sustainable, just world, and now you’d like to extend your circle of humane choices to your work place. Easy, right? ‘Cause everyone wants a humane world! Actually, not so easy. At work you have to deal with the potentially-conflicting values, knowledge and practices of co-workers, company policies and long-standing traditions of “That’s how we’ve always done it!” and other potential hurdles.

Roberto Giannicola, IHE graduate and founder of Provokare Presentations, an organization that helps businesses and their employees make more socially-responsible choices, says,
“For a company to be socially responsible, and not fall in the “greenwasher” category, then every member of the organization or company needs to begin to act as a socially responsible person. And being responsible goes beyond recycling the can of soda or reducing paper usage, it means learning about how our lifestyle impacts people, animals and the world, and how we can choose to change that.”

Here are 15 general tips for helping you inspire humane choices at your place of work:

  1. Start with your own circle of control. What can you affect in your daily work life? Can you bike to work? Recycle all your waste? Find creative ways to reuse supplies? Bring cruelty-free personal products? Wear snazzy work clothes purchased at a thrift store? Bring your own tasty, organic vegan lunch (with a bit extra to share)? Model what’s possible to others.
  2. Share your humane messages in a compassionate, subtle way. If nothing else, you can share bits of information about your own choices with curious co-workers. If you have your own office or cubicle, you can put up (office-appropriate) posters or other paraphernalia. Is there a general information board where you can place flyers about upcoming humane events in your community, or veg restaurant guides, or tips about choosing fair trade? Look for logical opportunities.
  3. Begin with small changes. Recommend veg, organic food from a local business for the next meeting. Host a “zero waste” contest amongst your co-workers (from increasing recycling, to using double-sided copies, to only printing when necessary, to using technology to decrease use of paper, to bringing your own mugs and dinnerware from home, etc.). Bring a guest speaker to talk about investing in socially responsible companies.
  4. Find colleagues who share some of the same interests and concerns that you do and team up to work on small changes. Are both of you crazed over the number of plastic water bottles your company uses? Start a campaign to encourage reusable bottles and water filters. Tired of donuts and junk food? Organize a potluck featuring local, vegan, organic food. Want to bring awareness to fair trade? Pitch in together to supply fair trade coffees, teas, sugar and other products.
  5. Increase your knowledge about humane business practices by reading resources such as Cradle to Cradle, Sustainable Industries, and looking for resources such as Sustainable Business and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
  6. Examine every aspect of your workplace (not all at once!) and ask yourself how the company’s policies and operations, and the actions and habits of employees, can be tweaked to do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. Look for opportunities to introduce positive change a bit at a time. Alternative transportation? Low-tox, cruelty-free office, kitchen and bathroom supplies?
  7. Provide credible data and positive solutions. If you want to replace a product, service, practice or policy, offer several specific positive alternatives that will meet the need as well or better. If you’re trying to change a company policy, write up a proposal, showing how making certain changes will save time, money, resources, etc. – the sorts of criteria that bring joy to the hearts of managers and CEOs.
  8. If your company produces a product or service for citizens to purchase, consider how you can make that product or service more MOGO (Most Good). People are increasingly concerned about the impacts of their choices – and about the practices of the businesses they patronize. If you can provide them with compassionate, sustainable, just alternatives, you could well increase your business.
  9. Network with other businesses and community organizations to investigate how you can share resources and collaborate. Can you go together to buy sweatshop-free uniforms? Recycled or tree-free paper? Establish reciprocal business relationships with local/regional companies, so that profits stay in your communities.
  10. Be ready for “No.” When co-workers or employers tell you something isn’t possible because of x (it’s too expensive/complicated/time-consuming/radical, etc.), challenge yourself to investigate and develop creative solutions that can facilitate a “Yes.” Pull from the expertise and interests of others to help you.
  11. Explore ways that other businesses and employees are bringing the humane philosophy to the workplace and find out which ideas are right for your office. If another business is already doing it successfully, you're more likely to get a "Yes."
  12. Volunteer to coordinate a “Humane Office” group to work on steps toward sustainable, just, humane goals.
  13. Provide educational opportunities for your co-workers. Initiate discussion courses, such as those available from organizations like the Northwest Earth Institute, or start a brown-bag lunch series and invite in local speakers to talk about ways to live a humane life. Be sure there’s sufficient interest among colleagues.
  14. Use technology as a strategy for humane choices. Can your next meeting use web conferencing? Is document-sharing or the use of wikis a possibility? How about telecommuting at least part of the week?
  15. Remember to keep the journey toward a humane workplace fun and engaging and empowering for everyone.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of OfficeNow.

(Reprinted from our November 2008 Humane Edge E-News.)

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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.


5 Recycling Myths Exposed - Popular Mechanics (11/10/08)
”Is chucking a soda can in the trash an unforgivable sin? That depends who you ask: You'll find plenty of people on both sides of the great recycling debate, each equally convinced the other side is ill-informed. The truth is that opponents and proponents alike often rely on facts that are outdated, oversimplified or simply untrue.”
Thanks, Lime.com, for the heads up.

Citizens, companies looking for creative ways to increase drug take back programs -Treehugger.com (11/10/08)
”According to Federal regulations, no one can receive any narcotic or controlled substance from anyone else, unless they are a law officer. In addition, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy still advises people to flush medicine down the sink, throw them in the garbage or crush them up into kitty litter or coffee grounds. This leads to everyone just pointing fingers, taking a step back and letting someone else deal with it.”

Are “carbon footprint” labels helpful in changing consumer behavior? - Christian Science Monitor (11/10/08)
"’Only a handful of our focus group participants associated carbon emissions [and climate change] with what they buy in the shops,’ the report concluded. ‘The majority knew that carbon emissions are linked with cars, airplanes, and factories. They made that connection because they can 'see' the emissions, which makes them easy to interpret as being 'bad for the environment.' However, the link between products and climate change was less intuitive to them.’"


“Eating is a political act”: Michael Pollan interview
- The Progressive (11/08)
”A good diet is really pretty simple, Pollan declares: Avoid ‘edible foodlike substances.’ Instead, eat real food. ‘Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.’”
Thanks for the heads up, AlterNet.


The Tale of Toxic E-Waste
CBSNews.com (11/9/08)
"’Lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, polyvinyl chlorides. All of these materials have known toxicological effects that range from brain damage to kidney disease to mutations, cancers,’ Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and authority on waste management at the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained. ‘The problem with e-waste is that it is the fastest-growing component of the municipal waste stream worldwide,’ he said.”

Cellphone users contribute to war in CongoTelegraph (UK) 11/8/08
”Few people have heard of this rare mineral, known as coltan, even though millions of people in the developed world rely on it. But global demand for the mineral, and a handful of other materials used in everything from cellphones to soup tins, is keeping the armies of Congo's ceaseless wars fighting. More than 80 percent of the world's coltan is in Africa, and 80 percent of that lies in territory controlled by Congo's various ragtag rebel groups, armed militia and its corrupt and underfunded national army.”

Cornell students bring social justice lessons to elementary studentsIthaca Journal (11/8/08)
“’It's really important to create a space for students to think about things that don't relate to standardized tests, that don't relate to numbers, but that relate to issues beyond that,’ said Ariela Rutkin-Becker, a senior Near Eastern Studies major at Cornell and a founding member and current president of IndyKids.”

Behavioral scientists calling for new ways to engage citizens in reducing impact of climate change - Christian Science Monitor (11/7/08)
”Now behavioral scientists are joining environmentalists to address the problem of climate change and human attitudes toward it. Maybe it’s time, they say, to refocus the global-warming debate on solutions rather than causes, to design more “opt out” conservation programs, and maybe to promote a soap opera or two with a green theme.”


More schools implementing “food-related curricula”
- Edutopia (11/5/08)
”As Americans sharpen their focus on education, health, and climate change, more states and school districts are embracing food-related curricula to teach topics as varied as chemistry, nutrition, and environmentalism. Many believe the vegetable's time as a teaching tool has finally come.”

Students bring environmental message to art - Sydney Morning Herald (11/5/08)
”The Sustainability Projects Coordinator at the council, Chris Munro, says they need to start with a grass roots approach to create change. ‘Start with the kids and hopefully catch them for life … These days kids learn more than their parents about environmental issues. So they bring it all home and teach their mum and dad about what they're learning at school.’"

Some mayors and governors looking greener - Treehugger.com (11/4/08)
”While the federal government has been asleep at the wheel for most of the last decade, local and state government officials have been a driving force in many green initiatives. Through the U.S. Conference of Mayors and regional alliances such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), environmental action has been taken which hopefully will spread to other cities and states, and lead to more stringent federal environmental regulations.”

Less oil dependence means more water use - Christian Science Monitor (11/3/08)
”As the United States tries to end what President Bush once referred to as the country’s addiction to oil, the country likely will be trading foreign oil for domestic water. That’s not a bad thing, they argue – as long as people realize that rising water demand from the energy sector could have a significant effect on regional water supplies and plan accordingly. Energy represents one more set of users joining thirsty urban residents and farmers at the water trough.”
Thanks, AlterNet, for the heads up.

Economic tough times show decrease in sales of organics -New York Times (10/31/08)
”If the slowdown continues, it could have broad implications beyond the organic industry, whose success spawned a growing number of products with values-based marketing claims, from fair trade coffee to hormone-free beef to humanely raised chickens. Nearly all of them command a premium price.”
Thanks, Daily Green, for the heads up.
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Humane Education Isn't Controversial, It's Patriotic

The title of a recent online article in Education Week (free registration required) gave me pause: “Election renews controversy over social-justice teaching.” Social justice education is often perceived as “left wing” and biased, as if the content of our public school humanities curriculum has no bias. As if the United States wasn’t built upon the Constitution, a document detailing within its pages ... social justice. As if each amendment to that Constitution over the years wasn’t an effort to better fulfill the vision of equality and freedom that lie at its core.

Humane education encompasses social justice (along with environmental ethics, animal protection and analysis of cultural issues), and like social justice, occasionally raises controversy. But I believe that this controversy is false, and that we must clearly and forcefully reject it. This does not mean that the issues that humane education addresses aren’t controversial; many of them are. But, humane education as a field of study and approach to learning ought to be embraced by all as education at its best. Humane education asks students to identify and embody their deepest values in order to address the realities of persistent injustices, oppressions, and destruction in the world. Ultimately, this enables them to help create not only a more perfect union, but also a more perfect world. There should be nothing controversial in this.

But humane educators, like all educators, need to take care to make sure that their particular biases on specific issues do not subtly deter their students from questioning and thinking independently. Such influence is neither good education, nor humane education. We should be delighted when our students disagree with us and articulate their own perspectives. Perhaps to some, this is controversial. If so, let’s debate that, not the importance of discussing the most pressing challenges of our time.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of jackietam.
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Help Create a Humane World With Change.gov

Want to do something MOGO (Most Good)? Want to help create a MOGO world? The Obama administration has launched www.change.gov, inviting your ideas. Please share your knowledge, vision, and practical suggestions for how to solve the challenges we face. We’ve never had quite this opportunity before. Now’s the time to use your voice.

~ Zoe










Image courtesy of VinceHuang.
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Greensuming Our Way to a Humane World Isn't Going to Work

It's almost the holiday shopping season, and with green being the new black and ethical consumption one of the hottest trends, people are putting at least some of their dollars to work supporting green businesses, products and services. While buying ethically is an excellent and important step on the way to a humane world, consumption is still consumption. In order for that compassionate, sustainable, just world -- with resources enough for everyone (including the animals) -- to flourish, we’re going to have to significantly reduce our consumption — especially we Westerners, who gobble up the planet’s resources at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

The International Forum on Globalization has created a satirical little video (just under 5 minutes) to remind viewers that we can’t buy our way to a sustainable world. Greensumption celebrates shopping against climate change, lauding such actions as buying a Prius for every member of the family or greening your 10,000 square foot second home. It's a great little tool for sparking discussion about the pit-trap of ethical consumerism.




Image courtesy of ralphbijker.

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In the Presence of Changemakers

I've been harping on hope versus despair and action versus apathy in my recent blog posts because I believe the major hurdle we face is our willingness to change. We humans are stupendously creative. I have not a shred of doubt that we have the capacity to change our often dysfunctional and outdated systems (political, economic, agricultural, medical, legal, corporate, energy, structural, etc.). We also have the capacity to change ourselves. In fact, recent brain research has demonstrated unequivocally that the human brain is plastic, that neurons develop new pathways, and that neuronal stem cells, thought to be non-existent, do in fact continue to generate new brain cells throughout our lives.

This capacity to change, however, must be cultivated. At Bioneers, the most exciting possibility, the most fantastic opportunity came, not from a specific talk or idea, but from the reality that thousands of changemakers joined together to learn from one another. While less than 100 actually spoke or led workshops, virtually everyone was engaged in actions and virtually everyone had positive ideas to share. This confluence of effort was so profoundly inspiring and energizing that I venture to guess that all the participants, speakers and participants alike, went home ready to do more, with more wisdom, greater commitment, and growing enthusiasm.

It’s very important that we gather with others who are working to create a MOGO (Most Good) world. We need to be in the presence of changemakers other than ourselves in order to provide fuel and create those new neuronal pathways that enable us to change and grow. It is how we become wiser and more effective.

If you are able to attend a workshop, conference or gathering in your area, do so. In addition to the MOGO workshops that we offer at the Institute for Humane Education, please consider attending one of the Green Festivals. It’s a fantastic event with amazing speakers and changemakers. Here’s an upcoming schedule:

Nov. 8-9, 2008: Washington, DC
Nov. 14-16, 2008: San Francisco
March 28-29, 2009: Seattle
May 2-3, 2009: Denver
May 16-17, 2009: Chicago

~ Zoe
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Take Action Against Everyday Bigotry

The New York Times headline on 11/5/08 stated “Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls.” Shimon Peres said that Obama’s election heralded the “end of racism.” A Newsweek journalist wrote that “racism, once a barrier, is now more like a hurdle.” On the other hand, three states passed measures banning gay marriage, and anti-immigrant and anti-equal opportunity measures were both on state ballots. Any number of people will tell you that, despite this historic event, bigotry and discrimination are alive and, unfortunately, doing fairly well.

That’s why it’s so important for people who encounter bigotry to speak up, and to inspire and encourage youth (and others) to embrace tolerance and acceptance of differences -- an essential element of a just, humane world.

Teaching Tolerance has launched a Speak Up! Against Everyday Bigotry campaign, designed to give people the tools, resources and courage to stand up against bigotry encountered with family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and strangers on the street.

The campaign offers:
  • 6 steps to speak up
  • A Speak Up! Pledge that people can sign
  • A Speak Up! lesson plan/training tool to help people learn how to respond to “everyday bigotry.”
  • A Speak Up! Guidebook, to help build skills and understanding for speaking out against bigotry. The guide is divided into sections, such as “What can I do... among family? among friends and neighbors? at work? at school? in public?, etc., and then breaks those categories into subsections focused on a particular theme. Sample real-life stories serve as a springboard for learning about taking positive action. Here are just a couple of the stories to give you an idea:
From an Arizona man: “I’m a Mexican American, and I worked for a time, a long time ago, in construction. One day (the supervisor) took me aside to deliver what he must have thought was a compliment. He told me, ‘You’re a good worker. You’re not like the other Mexicans.’ I just nodded and went back to work because I wanted to keep my job. But I wish I would have said something to him, set him straight that stuff like that isn’t a compliment.”
An African American man in the grocery store notices a cashier treating a non-English-speaking woman badly. After checking to see if the woman wants help, the man confronts the manager: “These people live in our community, this person spends money in your store, and your store has a responsibility to be part of this community.”
The guide is quite thorough and provides ideas and insights for numerous situations.

(Thanks to Yes! Magazine for the heads up about this campaign).

The Institute for Humane Education also offers activity and lesson plan ideas for exploring issues of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. The activity featured in our November Humane Edge E-news, Dare to Be Different (PDF), was created by an IHE M.Ed. student who teaches elementary students, and focuses on identifying and understanding prejudice and practicing being different. Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged (PDF) uses props or photos to explore our snap perceptions of others and looks at our own prejudices. More Than a Label (PDF) is an activity for older students that inspires them to think about their own areas of bigotry, to identify how we develop attitudes about others, and to take action to reduce bigotry in their own lives and in society.

As many have said, all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. Stopping bigotry at the source -- speaking out whenever we hear or see prejudiced behavior -- is something that all of us can do to help create a humane world.

~ Marsha
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We Begin Today

Less than ten hours after Barack Obama has won the presidency of the United States, it is already a cliché to call this moment historic. There is so much I am feeling and thinking this morning, so much I could write about, and so much that smarter, wiser, more eloquent people than I have already said and will say in the coming days, but I cannot let this moment pass without saying something.

When President-elect Barack Obama spoke at Grant Park last night in Chicago, he said this:
"What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."

Never in my lifetime have I heard a president call upon us to shoulder the vast responsibilities for solving our challenges. I know President Kennedy asked us to do this, but I was a baby then, and so this is a first for me and for most in the United States. I’ve been waiting for a morning like this all my life. I’ve been waiting for a leader to call upon our best qualities, to ask us to harness our talents and skills for a better nation and a better world, and to draw energy from our passion for justice, peace, and a humane, restored planet. I’ve been waiting for a leader who, rather than tear down solar panels on the White House roof, or tell me to go shop, or play upon my fears, instead calls upon my courage and perseverance with hope as my source of motivation.

If we are to heal this planet, help usher in peace, stop the exploitation and oppression of people and animals across our globe, transform outdated systems that don’t serve our economic interests, all of us will have to bring our greatest creativity, wisdom, compassion, and hard work to the task. Today we have a president-elect who will remind us of this and demand our participation. And young people in school this morning, and tomorrow, and for at least the next four years, will grow up knowing they have a role to play in perfecting this union.

With great hope for a better future,

~ Zoe
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