My Favorite Part of Traveling

I love traveling, even though I’m well aware of the carbon footprint I leave when I fly far from home. Traveling is one of my less-than-MOGO (most good) choices, although I do try to minimize my impact, stay in eco-friendly places, and take some comfort knowing that I am positively affecting those who rely on tourism for their livelihoods. Where I live near Acadia National Park I’m reminded all the time that, without tourism, many of my friends and neighbors would have little income, so I try to be a “good traveler” when I leave Maine and support local economies even as I leave my own for awhile.

I went on vacation to Belize a few weeks ago, because for years I’ve wanted to explore the coral reefs to see the incredible undersea life that abounds there. What I didn’t expect, or plan for, was the amazing day I spent with two Mayan brothers in a jungle preserve.

I had half a day and an evening after I left the small atoll island where I’d stayed for 5 days before my flight home, and I decided to head to a somewhat remote national park where there was a single lodge that housed those who wished to explore this beautiful jungle and its myriad waterfalls. I was the only visitor, and the cook was ill, so when I arrived, the only people at the lodge were two young Mayan men, the lodge caretakers.

I spent the afternoon hiking up to the waterfalls with one of them. I asked lots of questions about his life, and he introduced me to lots of edible jungle plants, while asking questions about my life. When we returned to the lodge, his brother told us that the power was out, so we spent a couple of hours that evening talking by candlelight, eating the nuts and papaya I brought to share and talking about our lives. Although I had spent a week reveling in the eye candy of the coral reefs, this day and night may well have been the highlight of my trip.

In the end, my favorite part about traveling is usually not the great sights, the ruins, the flora and fauna, or learning about the history of another place, but rather truly connecting with other people and learning from and sharing with them. This is when I usually laugh, and sometimes cry, and always grow the most. I make new friends and feel like I am giving back a part of myself after all I’ve received.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

Image courtesy of tacogirl via Creative Commons.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article air travel / Belize / connection / flying / local economy / MOGO choices / personal growth / relationships / tourism / traveling with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-favorite-part-of-traveling.html. Thanks!

Video to Help Teens Stay Behind the Hate Crime Line

Bullying and harassment in schools are making daily headlines. Tea Party members are heard using racial and homophobic epithets. Hate crimes are on the rise. It seems that the world is filled with anger and angry action.

"What are you gonna do?"

A group of teenagers in Nassau County (New York) helped create a 12-minute video for their police department in order to educate other teens about hate crimes and to encourage them to choose more positive action. Called Hate: Crossing the Line the video features 39 teens from around the county, who outline what exactly a hate crime is, the consequences of committing a hate crime, and why it's important not to cross from having the freedom to think whatever you want to think to causing harm to a person or group because of who they are of what they believe.

The film offers several examples of hate crimes (graphic images and language are included), and though the film was created specifically to educate teens in Nassau County, it is relevant and useful for educating teens everywhere.

Use this video as a tool to talk about "-ism" issues in your own community.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of k763 via Creative Commons.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article films / hate / hate crimes / human rights / humane education / Social Justice / videos / youth activism with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/video-to-help-teens-stay-behind-hate.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

Do-without practioners test their consumer limits (via Time) (4/5/10)

"Moral judgments can be altered" (via Science Daily) (3/31/10)

"Childhood obesity is a social justice issue, too" (opinion) (via Huffington Post) (3/30/10)

EPA proposes to veto mountaintop-removal mining at major site (via Grist) (3/29/10)

"Maine passes landmark product stewardship law" (via Miller-McCune) (3/28/10)

What has happened to the culture of play? (opinion) (via NY Times) (3/26/10)

"The ethical dog" (via Scientific American) (3/10)

Audit shows EnergyStar program highly "vulnerable to fraud" (via NY Times) (3/25/10)

Jane Goodall calls for "fewer babies" to help curb climate change impact (via AFP) (3/24/10)

Chicago students rally for healthier school lunches (via ABC) (3/24/10)

Lawyer turns to bottles, refuse to help build homes (via Treehugger) (3/24/10)

Group wants to fine Coca-Cola for pollution in India (via NY Times) (3/23/10)

Years of cheap food imports leave Haiti hungry (via Washington Post) (3/20/10)

"The dropout economy" (via Time) (3/11/10)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article consumerism / environmental protection / ethics / human rights / humane issues / marketing / media literacy / news media / Social Justice / youth activism with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-issues-in-news.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Food Environment Atlas

What if where you lived had a significant impact on whether or not you ate fresh, healthy food, exercised more, lived in poverty and/or had a better chance of developing obesity or diabetes? Well, it does. Unless you're one of the millions who have to, say, shop at a convenience store for your groceries or rely on fast food to fill your stomach, you may not have thought about it, but we don't live in a society of food equal opportunity.

The USDA has developed a great tool for exploring the "food environment." Your Food Environment Atlas offers a variety of indicators for exploring questions such as:
  • Who has the best (and worst) access to grocery stores?
  • How many people are experiencing food insecurity and need food assistance?
  • Which states have the highest levels of obesity and diabetes?
  • In which states do people spend the most on fast food?
  • What areas have the highest rates of poverty?
  • How do prices for certain kinds of foods compare around the country?
  • What areas offer farmers markets and farm-to-school programs?
Users can customize the indicator categories for the entire country, by state, or by county.

There's also an "advanced query" tool that can identify counties with similar indicators, such as counties with both low access to healthy food and high rates of diabetes.

The atlas is a great tool for helping students explore food security and equality issues (great for integrating into subjects like math, health, civics, language arts, or social studies), or for exploring the "food environment" in your own community.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article food and diet / food insecurity / health / humane education / humane toolbox / poverty / resources / Social Justice with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-educator-toolbox-food.html. Thanks!

Why Sometimes, Against All Sense, I Grow Food

It's bizarrely warm in Maine. The ice on our pond broke up a month early, and we haven’t had a snowstorm since January. The only remnants of snow and ice are deep in the woods. So on a 60-degree March day, I decided to work in the garden and prepare it for spring (I know it’s officially spring, but spring in Maine is in May). There was lots of work to do: removing the straw mulch, pulling up the black cloths that have served as walking paths, yanking out the deep roots of the brassicas and sunflowers that were too strong to pull up in the fall, all in preparation for adding compost and tilling it in next month.

In the past few years, I’ve considered whether growing my own food is worth it. The amount of time and money I put into the garden is significant. In fact, there’s no question that it would be less expensive in time, and perhaps sometimes even in dollars, to simply frequent the farmers’ markets or join a CSA.

Last summer, for example, I lost our entire corn, tomato, and winter squash crops to, respectively, a pillaging wild animal, a fungus, and insects. The brussells sprouts never sprouted. Half the asparagus was eaten by one of our dogs (she would often get to the asparagus just hours before I). Our potato crop was also struck by a fungus, so while we had potatoes, they were tiny – more like fingerlings. When I think about how many hours I spent, from choosing the seeds in the winter, to starting the seedlings in the spring, to preparing the beds, transplanting and direct seeding, adding nutrients to the soil, buying straw to cart home for mulch, and then endlessly weeding, it made me pause. Was this really worth it?

And yet here I am, doing it all over again.

I can’t abandon my garden. There is something so fundamental about growing food for my family. I love that every summer evening I can walk out the kitchen door and gather food for dinner. And the hard work of producing food – and its miraculous origin from a small seed – keeps me humble and grateful for all the food that others grow, cultivate, harvest, and transport. I know what it takes to produce food because I participate in the process, and this makes me profoundly appreciative for what I eat, whether I or others grow it.

I guess that when I ask myself whether it’s MOGO to grow my own food even though it keeps me from other work I might do and often produces many failed crops, I keep answering yes.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Claude and Medea, and Above All, Be Kind

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article farm workers / food / gardening / gratitude / growing food / Maine / MOGO choices / spring with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-sometimes-against-all-sense-i-grow.html. Thanks!

Teaching for a Better World: A Summer Institute for Teachers

As an educator, whether you are just beginning your professional journey or are a veteran, you know that as you help shape the future of so many, so, too, are you shaping the future of our society.

If we're serious about preparing young people for their future, educators and schools everywhere must provide students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation required to create healthy, peaceful, and sustainable lives for themselves, other people, all species and the planet.

Spend an amazing and valuable week this summer (June 28-July 2) learning to incorporate pressing global issues into your teaching, while enjoying the beautiful coast of Maine. Our Teaching for a Better World Summer Institute, designed for classroom teachers and community educators, will rejuvenate you and your teaching.

The week takes place at IHE's beautiful facility, situated on 28 oceanfront acres overlooking the mountains of Acadia National Park. The grounds include an organic garden, a beautiful wooded trail, and a pebble beach where seals, eagles, loons and osprey are frequently seen.

Each day:

Enrich your mind with new ideas and reconnect with the most fundamental reasons for choosing to teach. Explore your passion for education as a means of confronting pressing global challenges and learn to bring issues of social justice, environmental preservation, human rights and animal protection into your classrooms and communities in ways that vitalize your teaching and add even greater depth and relevancy to your curricula. Practice new skills with other committed educators who share your enthusiasm for inspiring young people to hope and action.


In the evenings:

Enjoy the optional group activities, such as:
  • Dining at nearby restaurants where you can socialize with faculty, staff and your fellow participants;
  • Hiking up Blue Hill Mountain to see the sun set;
  • Joining a group cook-out at our facility, where you have the option of inviting your friends or family (for a small fee) who may be traveling with you.
IHE is just a 30 mile drive to Mount Desert Island (MDI), widely known as the home of Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor. More than two million visitors each year come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery. Before or after the Summer Institute or in the evenings during the week, you might like to include some activities on MDI or in the Park.

You can also explore the nearby towns of Blue Hill, Deer Isle, Stonington, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, which offer other hikes, restaurants, films, performing arts and comedy. Whether you choose camping, an affordable nearby motel, or a local bed and breakfast, this region of Maine will enrich and delight you.

Tuition:

Tuition is just $575 for the whole week, including lunch and snacks and the required reading materials. Lodging and travel are not included. CEUs are offered through the University of Maine.

Join us this summer June 28-July 2 in Maine for a very extraordinary week of rejuvenation and learning! Enroll now - only 10 spaces remaining.

Learn more about the Teaching for a Better World Summer Institute.


Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article animal protection / educational reform / environmental protection / global issues / human rights / humane education / professional development / Social Justice / summer institutes / Teaching with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/teaching-for-better-world-summer.html. Thanks!

Important Article: "Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards"

Please read this article and share your thoughts.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article civil rights / curriculum / education / educational reform / history / politics / schooling / social studies / texas / textbooks with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/important-article-conservatives-win.html. Thanks!

Humane Education in Action: A Summer Camp for Engaging Youth in Transforming the World

Summer opportunities for youth abound, but there are few options for young people who are interested in a variety of humane issues and who want to help create a better world. Activist and educator Nora Kramer saw that need and launched Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp in the Bay area last summer. This year there will be three sessions of YEA Camp, including a new one in the Portland, Oregon area. We talked with Nora about her education and activism experiences and about YEA Camp.

Quick Facts:

Current hometown: San Francisco, California
IHE fan since: 2002
Current job: Director, Youth Empowered Action
Book/movie that changed your life: Diet for a New America
Guilty pleasure: Sports – I grew up watching baseball and football with my dad and grandpa and am still hooked!
Inspired by: Activists who are just unstoppable and think big.
Love about yourself: How much I care and have grown and overcome.
One of your strengths: Maintaining a sense of humor.


IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?


NK: After several years of grassroots activism, I experienced that young people tend to be more receptive to new ideas and to changing their behaviors than adults. (This is obviously a generalization, but this was my experience overall.) I felt that there were lots of opportunities in this area to make a difference. I also really wish that I had had access to some of this information, or to adult activist role models, when I was a kid, so I appreciate providing and being this for youth now.

I sort of stumbled on humane education. Way back in 2001 I spent 6 months interning at Farm Sanctuary and PETA, and when I returned I was out of work and looking for ways to help animals. I was looking up volunteer opportunities on Craigslist and saw postings to teach at after-school programs. Having never taught before, I pitched a course called Animals and the Environment, and was pleasantly surprised that it was approved! In doing Internet research to create my curriculum, I found IHE and soon went to a Sowing Seeds workshop, practically memorized IHE's materials and attended humane education workshops at conferences, and then began teaching as a guest speaker through a program called The Empathy Project. It was very rewarding.


IHE: You’ve been doing a lot to empower youth and to teach others about humane education issues. One of your recent projects has been to start Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp. How did that come about and what made you decide to manifest humane education in that way?

NK: When I began working with youth, many kids and parents asked if I knew of any summer opportunities for passionate kids who want to help animals or the planet or otherwise contribute to society. Parents reported that most animal shelters and other community organizations won't accept volunteers under age 16 or 18. I started looking around, sure that there must be lots of summer programs for young activists, but I found hardly anything.

I loved summer camp when I was a kid, and I love teaching and working with youth in general. I also recognized camp as a huge opportunity because there are no state standards or curriculum requirements like in school, and there's so much freedom to create the program you want. So I decided I would start this camp some day, and I worked at several camps, including as a camp director, and got my teaching credential in preparation for that. After getting laid off from teaching environmental ed last spring, I decided this would be the year, and we launched YEA Camp last summer.


IHE: The first YEA Camp was in summer 2009. Tell us about some of the curriculum and activities you used and why you chose them.

NK: We have a good balance of typical camp-type activities and workshops that slightly resemble school (there is some teaching and learning and discussion) but these are also camper-driven, interactive, relevant, and fun.

All of our curriculum is based on each camper learning about different social issues while identifying and pursuing an issue of importance to them, and then building knowledge, skills, confidence, and community that will empower them to take action. These are the areas we think are most important to supporting new activists.

Our activities are interactive and both thought-provoking and fun. To give a few examples: for knowledge, we do a “Compassion Into Action” workshop each day on a different social issue and discuss daily actions we can take, such as consuming less stuff, the world water crisis, and eating less meat. For skills, we do workshops on nonviolent communication practices (such as taking responsibility for your emotions, not blaming other people, making requests, and listening generously to other people for their commitment) as well as on articulating the issue that's important to them and inspiring others to get involved. We also discuss starting and running an effective club, publicity and new media, and campaign planning.

For confidence building, we do one great activity called “Don't Stop Till You Get a Yes,” where campers practice making requests – and don’t allow themselves to be stopped by getting a “no” for a response. We want to build their muscles for causing others to take action and not to stop or take it personally when people don't respond the way we want them to. We also do activities called “Supermodel Role Models” and “A Million Ways to Make a Difference,” where campers learn about inspiring actions others are taking and brainstorm things they can do, too. We also do “Theater of the Oppressed,” which entails acting out and overcoming the things we fear.

Community-building is happening all week, but we also do some great activities that are really just based on all of us sharing ourselves and really getting to know each other authentically, as well as challenging stereotypes or norms about how we “should” be. We credit the work of Challenge Day, and their activities about gender roles, race, class, and privilege in general.

Some of the confidence- and community-building things we do are not as explicitly incorporated into the curriculum but are built into the way we speak and listen to the campers.

Our days are action-packed, and there's so much more to say. You can read more on our website at www.yeacamp.org. We also have dance parties, free time, a (vegan) ice cream social, nature walks, appreciation circles, singing time, and other fun camp activities. It is summer camp, after all!


IHE: What was the response to YEA Camp?

NK: It was phenomenal. The kids had such an amazing time they actually decided to thank the staff by cooking us dinner on the final night, which was one of my top camp highlights, and certainly a new tradition! Just about all of the kids said they want to come back next year, and we got some of the most incredible feedback from parents. Two different moms said they hardly recognized their sons when they picked them up – they were so peaceful and happy. Our staff also had rave reviews.


IHE: What have been your successes and challenges in developing a summer leadership camp for teens that is focused on multiple global issues?

NK: The biggest success was just how well camp went last year, our first summer – and that it actually happened! I really couldn't have imagined it would go any better. There were no cliques, fights, or even disagreements about different issues. My most cherished moments of success, I think, were on our final night hike and closing appreciation circle, when campers and staff thanked me for “following my dream” and making the camp happen. I definitely got teary at many points.
As for challenges, it has been a major challenge to get kids to stay in touch and to work on the projects they created at camp. I know kids can be very busy, but this was a bigger challenge than I expected, and we're putting some new things in place for next summer to support campers working on their projects when they get home. Developing the camp has been a huge personal challenge, while also being incredibly rewarding.


IHE: Any future plans, dreams or projects?

NK: Build YEA to be a nationally recognized organization that people identify as invaluable training for youth who want to make a difference. Like I said, I am committed to us having more camps and reaching youth all over the country, as well as offering programs in schools. Perhaps we would package our curriculum or train teachers or create other programs during the school year. Feel free to offer any ideas!

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article animal protection / camps / environmental protection / human rights / humane education / interviews / media literacy / Social Justice / summer camps / youth activism / youth leadership with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-education-in-action-summer-camp.html. Thanks!

What a Humane World Looks Like: Speaking the Good in Others

(Note: I'm short on blogging time this week, so here's a favorite post from 1/29/09 that I hope you'll enjoy reading again.)

My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Leddy, had us students do something that I have never forgotten. She called it a “car wash.” Every week one of us would be the “car,” and the other students would form two lines in front of the car. One by one, zigzagging from one side to the other, the car would go to each person in the “wash” line, and that person would whisper into the “car’s” ear something good about them — something that the speaker liked, respected, appreciated or admired about them. I don’t remember many of the things my fellow students said to me. I remember one guy said that I was his third girlfriend (whatever that meant). I remember that the boy I had a crush on told me that he liked playing sports with me (I was a major “tom-boy”…and still am.) Someone else liked my smile. Someone else said that she noticed that I tried to be nice to everyone. The details of those individual encounters is fuzzy, but the memory of how I felt after having been washed in all that good will and kindness is still precious to me.

I introduced this activity to my cohort of fellow humane educators when we had our Residency one year, and the faculty liked it so much that they used it as the closing activity for Residency. (They’ve modified it now so that students write down something about their fellow students during the week, so that everyone has something positive to take home from everyone else — a more meaningful way to do it.)

For my 25th birthday, my husband wrote down 25 things he loved about me and put them in a simple handmade book — one item per page, one page per hour of the day. It was one of the best gifts he's ever given me; I still have it these 18 years later.

One New Year’s Day, just after midnight, I sat around with a small group of friends in my co-housing community, and we each took turns sharing an intention that we had for each of the others. When we finished, everyone in that circle felt loved, appreciated, respected, more confident, more hopeful about the future — and more powerful about helping shape that future. I’ve never forgotten that night.

These are just a few examples of the times that sincere, authentic, kind words have helped shape my view of myself and have affected the next steps on my life’s journey. Yes, it’s important to look within ourselves for all those important qualities of joy, confidence, meaning, respect, love, and so on. We can’t rely on others for our self-perception, and it can be detrimental to pay too much attention to what others say about us. But I also think that it’s important that we help serve as a reflection for others so that they can more easily break through the static of culture and personal history that get in the way of their being able to see their own good and value.

Look for the good in the people around you and speak it. You will both be empowered by it.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article communication / humane world / kindness / MOGO Habits / positive choices / self-concept / self-perception / values with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-humane-world-looks-like-speaking.html. Thanks!

My Faith in Humanity Got a Boost Today

This past weekend I watched two disturbing movies: Woody Allen’s Whatever Works and Shutter Island. Whatever Works was not meant to be disturbing, but in typical Woody Allen fashion, the protagonist raises persistent questions about humanity’s cruelty and destructiveness, and for some reason, this particular time, such rants left me less amused and more despondent. Shutter Island is a dark movie about people who have perpetrated the worst imaginable atrocities, with Holocaust visuals to boot. So after a weekend of these two films, I was aching for some renewed hope and faith. As luck would have it (or, more accurately, as lack of luck would result in), I got my wish.

The morning after watching Shutter Island, my husband and I loaded my old car up with our trash and recyclables to bring to the transfer station (aka the dump) on our way to our local mountain to walk our dogs. About a mile past the transfer station my car died. While I was calling for roadside assistance my husband walked to the nearest house to see if he could buy a gallon of gas just in case the reason the car died was because the fuel gauge had broken. Although the man he spoke with had no gas, he offered to drive my husband home (15 miles round trip). Meanwhile, someone I knew passed my car and quickly turned right around to help, followed by another person who did the same thing.

So in a world awash with such horrors as slavery, genocide, rape, torture, and so on, kindness, generosity, and helpfulness still remain the norm, at least in my neighborhood in Maine, and they remind me that most of us are good despite all evidence that we cannot seem to create a truly humane society.

Zoe Weil
Author of Above All, Be Kind and Most Good, Least Harm

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article compassion / despair / faith / generosity / gratitude / helpfulness / hope / humanity / kindness / movies with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-faith-in-humanity-got-boost-today.html. Thanks!

Humane Educator's Toolbox: Dig Into "Dirt!"

"Floods, drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt."

Ask people about the most pressing global environmental issues of our time, and probably few would put "dirt" on the list. But, the reality is, just as with air and water, soil is precious and necessary for our survival. Filmmakers Bill Benenson and Gene Roscow have created Dirt!: The Movie, a documentary that "brings life to the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has." The film looks at our relationship with dirt and, through the expertise of global visionaries, shows how that connection has become broken and now needs to develop into a healthy, sustainable, symbiosis between us and "the living skin of the earth."

Check out the trailer:





Dirt! was a favorite at Sundance in 2009 and there are screenings being hosted around the U.S. and beyond. The DVD is also available.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article dirt / documentaries / environmental protection / films / human rights / humane education / humane toolbox / Social Justice / soil / videos with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-educator-toolbox-dig-into.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

"Behind the shady world of marketing junk food to children" (via Alternet) (3/23/10)

Group fuels help for Haiti with rocket stoves (via Coloradoan) (3/22/10)

U.S. human rights record for indigenous peoples challenged (via Alternet) (3/22/10)

EPA plans to overhaul drinking water regulations (via NY Times) (3/22/10)

"Unclean water claims more lives than war" (Environment News Service) (3/22/10)

No more good vs. bad guys: "it's time to grow up as a species" (opinion) (via Alternet) (3/20/10)

Michelle Obama scolds grocery manufacturers about marketing junk food to children (via Daily Green) (3/17/10)

"Animal abuse as clue to additional cruelties" (via NY Times) (3/17/10)

Steven Chu says we need to focus on energy efficiency (opinion) (via Huffington Post) (3/16/10)

Study finds catchy smoking ads snare teens (via Business Week) (3/15/10)

"For obese people, prejudice in plain sight" (via NY Times) (3/15/10)

U.S. water, sewer systems in desperate need of repair (via NY Times) (3/14/10)

"'Mean girl' behavior begins at early ages" (via Boston.com) (3/9/10)

"Building a better teacher" (via NY Times) (3/2/10)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article animal protection / bottled water / education / environmental protection / food and diet / human rights / humane issues / media literacy / news media / Social Justice with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-issues-in-news_23.html. Thanks!

World Water Day Roundup

Since yesterday was World Water Day, water was the topic du jour in the blogosphere. Here are some resources we want to make sure you didn't miss:

The Story of Stuff Project has released their new 7-minute video The Story of Bottled Water, which outlines some of the complex issues surrounding the bottled water industry.

The Surfrider Foundation has created a short animated video called The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water, which outlines how the water cycle is broken and ways we can "fix it." (h/t to Grist)

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water - TRAILER 1.




You can calculate your Water Footprint, thanks to H2O Conserve.

PlanetGreen posted about eight important water activists.

Here are a couple of useful InfoGraphics:

Glass Half Empty: The Coming Water Wars (from International Networks Archive)

World's Water Content (from Treehugger)

The cover story for the March/April issue of E Magazine focuses on water, and the entire April issue of National Geographic is a special issue about water. (For a limited time you can download a free PDF of the entire issue.) You can find additional special water coverage on NG's website.


~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article conservation / environmental protection / humane education / MOGO choices / Social Justice / water / world water day with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/world-water-day-roundup.html. Thanks!

Sir Ken Robinson on Why Education is Failing and a New Blueprint for NCLB

This short interview with Sir Ken Robinson on why education is failing is quite thought-provoking and powerful.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has just issued its blueprint to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.

At the Institute for Humane Education, we believe that we need to reconsider the very purpose of schooling and educate a generation with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to address pressing challenges with practical and visionary ideas in a rapidly changing world.

What do you think as you consider these different perspectives? Please share your thoughts, especially if you are a teacher, school administrator or educational reformer.

Zoe Weil, President of the Institute for Humane Education
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article education / educational policy / educational reform / humane education / Ken Robinson / No Child Left Behind / schooling / systemic change with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/sir-ken-robinson-on-why-education-is.html. Thanks!

Get Wise for World Water Week

Skim through the news, and the message about the future of water seems pretty grim: climate change, a growing population, and a thirst for foods, fuels and other products and services that require an increasing amount of water mean major shortages worldwide. In fact, the United Nations recently released a report that warned that by 2030, nearly half the world’s population “will be living in areas of acute water shortage.” There are already more than a billion people worldwide who don’t have access to clean water.

This week is World Water Week, and March 22 is World Water Day, a campaign sponsored by the United Nations to bring attention to the importance of clean, fresh water for all, and for the need of sustainable management of freshwater resources. Organizations around the world have planned activities throughout the week to bring attention to water issues.

This focus on water is a great opportunity to explore water issues with others. Here are a few ideas:

  • Brainstorm a list of what needs water to survive (people, animals, plants).
  • Have kids/students list everything they can think of that contains or uses water (soda, nuclear power plants, agriculture, canned food, etc.). Which of these uses are vital to our sustainability and survival and which are not?
  • Have kids/students list all the ways they use water every day, calculating how much water they use each day, and then comparing their use with how much water people in other countries use.
  • Have kids/students carry around a gallon jug full of water and see how long it takes them to use it all up (drinking, hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.). Then repeat the exercise, seeing if they can reduce the amount they use (while still maintaining proper hygiene).
  • Brainstorm all the ways that people can conserve water.
  • Use resources such as The Story of Bottled Water and A Skwril's View - Bottle vs. Tap to help spark discussion about bottled water use.
  • Learn about people taking positive action to help those who need clean water, such as Ryan Hreljac, who learned about the water crisis and, at age seven, raised money so that a well could be build in a Ugandan village. Now Ryan’s Well Foundation works in 16 countries around the world.

You can also challenge yourself (and your friends, family and co-workers) to conserve and protect water. Start by noticing when and how much water you use: when you wash your hands, bathe, brush your teeth, do dishes and laundry, wash the car, water your lawn or plants, prepare food, and so on. And then, work to get by with less. There are really simple changes you can make, such as not running the water when you brush your teeth and taking shorter showers -- and there are more significant changes, such as installing a greywater system and using rain barrels.

And, there are plenty of ways to get involved in your community, from learning more about where your water comes from, to helping set policy about the use of bottled water, to ensuring that everyone in your community has access to clean, safe water, to supporting clean water projects worldwide.

Here are just a couple websites focused on water issues. Water for the Ages also lists suggested books and movies, so be sure to check out those resources, too.


And, if you’re a classroom teacher, peruse the lesson plans about water from Water Partners International. They have both short lessons and complete curriculums for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article campaigns / conservation / environmental preservation / Events / health / human rights / humane education / MOGO choices / water / world water day with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/get-wise-for-world-water-week.html. Thanks!

New Year's Resolution to Stop Complaining: Update #3

Believe it or not my inner complainer was in full bloom during a nine-day vacation in Belize. Yes, when I was at my most privileged – getting to snorkel and scuba dive at a remote atoll – I was complaining (and not always to myself!). So much for my New Year’s resolution. And what was my inner complainer harping upon? Mostly the weather (it was cloudy, cold and windy almost every day), but also the food (despite assurances, they did not have any vegetarian entrees, so I had a lot of mashed potatoes and coleslaw). I had one truly justifiable complaint – the owners of the island on which we stayed were nasty to their employees and treated them terribly disrespectfully – but really, the weather?

I think my inner complainer was so alive and active because of how many expectations I had wrapped up in the trip. I envisioned calm seas, sunny days, and warm weather during which I’d snorkel for hours. Normally, I don’t “look forward” to vacations, but this trip to Belize was fraught with hopes and dreams and visions of what it would be like. When my expectations weren’t met, I was disappointed.

This was such an important reminder to stay present, shelve expectations as they pop into my mind, and meet what appears in life with acceptance. My friend Erica, who had joined me on the trip, had such a good attitude. The “bad” weather didn’t bother her a bit. She was happy to knit if the weather was too cold and the seas too rough for snorkeling. I marveled at her lovely and impressive equanimity.

I need to work on my New Year’s resolution more resolutely, and I think that I’ll begin by focusing on what is most good, instead of what is most disappointing. This is a new twist on the MOGO principle that I would do well to cultivate. I think it’s also time to add to my New Year’s resolution not just a negative imperative (stop complaining) but a positive invitation (cultivate gratitude).

Please wish me fortitude and continued perseverance!

By the way, lest you think I was a grumpy complainer the whole trip, please stay tuned for more blog posts on the amazing and wonderful experiences I had in Belize.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind and Claude and Medea

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article attitude / Belize / complaining / expectations / gratitude / habits / intentions / MOGO choices / privilege / resolutions / vacations with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/new-year-resolution-to-stop-complaining.html. Thanks!

What a Humane World Looks Like: Taking on the System(s)

I've been thinking a lot about systems lately. In the "green" world there is so much emphasis on our individual choices, and it's essential that we make choices that do the most good and the least harm for ourselves, other people, other animals and the earth. But, even if we were to become model choicemakers overnight, it wouldn't be enough, because there are so many systems in place that make it difficult or impossible to make truly humane choices. We may not support those systems, but we’re still complicit in them.

Here’s an example: How many of you have a cell phone? How many of you have kids who have video game consoles? How many of you have airbags in your cars?

Now, how many of you support civil war? How about slavery? Genocide? The destruction of the environment? The killing of gorillas?

Of course we don’t – none of us does. But, there’s an ore called coltan that is used to make electronic components in products like cell phones and air bags, and one of the places that coltan is mined is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mining coltan has contributed to civil war and genocide there, to the use of slaves (including children), to environmental destruction, and, because the miners need something to eat, they hunt gorillas for food (not to mention destroy their habitat), so there’s the decimation of another species.

We don’t want to be a part of that death and destruction, but we are because we use these products. The systems in place often don’t allow for any better alternatives (other than not using these things at all).

Yesterday I had the Tab key on my laptop replaced. A couple weeks ago it just popped off in the course of normal use, and one of the little "teeth" on the back of the key-cover broke. I contacted the company from which I purchased my laptop (fortunately, it's still under warranty) and asked them to please send me a new Tab key. Nope. Can't do it. They have to replace the entire keyboard, they said (as well as send over a tech guy to do the work). I respectfully mentioned how wasteful and ecologically destructive it is to replace the entire keyboard, when I just needed a single key-cover replaced. Sorry, that's their policy.

So, the tech guy came over yesterday and replaced the entire keyboard. Fortunately, he told me he keeps the old keyboards and finds a use for them, so mine wouldn't be going into the landfill just yet. That was a relief, but still. All that waste because of the way the system is set up.

I have two sets of friends who have been trying to adopt children for more than a year now. The system is complicated, and though it's meant to benefit the children and ensure their safety, it often means those children are left in dire circumstances for much longer. My friends have had their hopes raised and then crushed many times, because -- after a ridiculously long process -- they were told they might be able to adopt children X and Y; but then, those children are given to someone else instead. Repeat. And, it's not like anyone is intentionally trying to prevent children from finding good homes -- just the opposite. But the way the system is set up impedes that process and discourages more people from adopting.

Look at all the systems we're surrounded by: education, immigration, criminal justice, child welfare, food, housing, transportation, political, media, and so on. There are so many systems that condone and perpetuate discrimination and violence and destruction and cruelty; when you look at all our different systems, you can see how challenging it is to be able to make good choices, even when you really want to.

That's why it's so important that we who passionately want to realize a compassionate, just, sustainable world don't stop at our own choices, but strive to transform these systems, as well. Look around your community. What systems need help? Brainstorm some ideas, find some like-minded folks, and start creating a positive transformation.

A lot of my humane education work has been focused on educating and empowering the individual, but I've decided I also want to do more work in my community for systemic change. I'll keep you posted.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article citizen activism / courage / MOGO choices / systemic change with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-humane-world-looks-like-taking-on.html. Thanks!

Receiving

Recently, I tried to help a friend who’s facing a crisis that includes financial challenges by sending a check to cover some of her unexpected, huge bills. She returned my check (along with a beautiful letter) because although the crisis is big, she couldn’t accept the financial help. I found myself dejected. I totally understood her perspective. It’s hard to accept what feels to many like charity. Although we may be deeply charitable people ourselves, being the recipient of someone else’s help can feel like a burden, something we can’t ever “repay,” and for some, it can even feel humiliating. I called my friend and shared with her my dismay and sadness that she returned my check. I think I guilt-tripped her into accepting my gift – albeit in a different form that was more palatable to her – but what I tried to convey is that giving brings people joy (something she actually knew well as a giver to many over many years), and that it brought me great happiness to be able to help. We had a wonderful conversation – another gift – and I realized just how important it is not only to be generous and giving ourselves, but to receive with open arms the gifts of others.

Receiving can be very difficult, often fraught with a terrible sense of unwanted obligation that we may carry from unhealthy childhood experiences where we were made to feel guilty or indebted for receiving. I know that when I was sick for two months about a decade ago and a friend cooked me a lasagna and delivered it to my door I almost burst into tears. I was so grateful, but I also felt that she’d done me a favor I didn’t deserve. How crazy!

I’ve learned a lesson through this. Although the adage may be: “Tis better to give than to receive,” I believe this is largely true because of the joy that comes with giving. It is imperative to also receive with open arms the gifts bestowed upon us, and to pass along the great magic and beauty of generosity as we are able.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind and Claude and Medea

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article compassion / friends / generosity / gifts / giving / gratitude / helpfulness / joy / MOGO choices / pay it forward / receiving / values with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/receiving.html. Thanks!

Changemaker Annie Leonard: Consumption, Books & Bottled Water

Since Annie Leonard first blasted onto the cyber-scene with The Story of Stuff, a short video about consumerism and consumption that has been viewed millions of times and is alternately ballyhooed and booed in school districts, she has become a media favorite (whether to praise or pan her).

Director of The Story of Stuff Project, Annie has been involved with environmental health and social justice issues for more than 20 years, and has spent the last decade exploring the "materials economy" worldwide.

Because of some of her new projects (and the continued popularity of The Story of Stuff, she's been in the news a lot lately, from the Colbert Report, to Newsweek, to interviews on Grist and Fake Plastic Fish.

What has she been up to? Annie has turned the short video into a longer book (by the same title) that offers more details about the whole extraction-production-distribution-consumption-disposal process, as well as stories and examples of positive action and hope.

Additionally, next week Annie lends her voice and views to the topic of bottled water. A new video, The Story of Bottled Water, debuts on World Water Day.

Something we talk about frequently at the Institute for Humane Education is the concept of ordinary heroes -- people passionate about an issue or problem who have taken positive action and helped create a more compassionate, just, sustainable world. Annie Leonard is definitely a good example of an ordinary hero.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article Annie Leonard / books / bottled water / changemakers / consumerism / garbage / ordinary heroes / Story of Stuff / waste with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/changemaker-annie-leonard-consumption.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

Experiment shows adding iron to seas to capture carbon does more harm than good (via Grist) (3/15/10)

"Why our kids don't go to kindergarten" (blog post) (via Salon) (3/15/10)

"Partying to change the world" (opinion) (via NY Times) (3/13/10)

"Texas conservatives win curriculum change" (via NY Times) (3/12/10)

Teen sues school after it cancels prom because she wants to attend with her girlfriend (via AP) (3/12/10)

U.S. ranks as one of worst "food safety offenders" (via Food Safety News) (3/11/10)

Study shows "cooperative behavior is contagious" (via Science Daily) (3/10/10)

National academic standards proposed, most states scheduled to sign on (via NY Times) (3/10/10)

Animal fighting fans turn to finches (via USA Today) (3/9/10)

White House hosts eco-friendly Easter egg roll (via Mother Nature Network) (3/9/10)

Woman makes 400 lunches a day to help homeless (via Christian Science Monitor) (3/8/10)

U.S. government seeks to ensure fairness, equity in schooling (via U.S. News & World Report) (3/8/10)

"Children, commercialism & environmental sustainability" (via CCFC) (3/2/10)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article citizen activism / consumerism / education / global warming / human rights / humane issues / news media / schooling / Social Justice / sustainability with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-issues-in-news_16.html. Thanks!

Arbor Day Now Seeks Treehuggers to Take On Their Video Challenge

Looking for a way to score some trees for your community or college campus? Enter Arbor Day Now's Video Challenge.

Participants should create an original 60-90 second video that "educates, inspires and encourages people to go outside and plant trees." The top three videos will be posted online for public voting in mid-April.

The first place winner will receive $2500 in trees (about 25 trees) for their community or college campus.

The deadline for entries is April 9, 2010.

Find out more.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed
You have read this article Arbor Day / citizen activism / contests / environmental protection / filmmaking contests / sustainability / trees with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/arbor-day-now-seeks-treehuggers-to-take.html. Thanks!

Fair Food Fighters Seek Entries for Children's Drawing Contest

Here's a quick opportunity for teaching your students or children more about the plight of farm workers while offering a bit of support. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is sponsoring a "Campaign for Fair Food Children's Drawing Contest." CIW is encouraging young people to "draw what 'Fair Food' means to you and show how you can work together with farmworkers to make a fairer world for the people who pick our fruits and vegetables."

Entries are accepted in four different age categories. The winning drawings will be transformed into postcards that will be distributed around the U.S.

The deadline for entries is April 9, 2010.

CIW also offers free, downloadable lessons that help young people explores issues surrounding fair labor, human rights, modern slavery, and citizen activism.

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed
You have read this article art / citizen activism / contests / farm workers / food and diet / food policy / human rights / humane education / labor practices / modern slavery / Social Justice with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/fair-food-fighters-seek-entries-for.html. Thanks!

Apologizing for MOGO Choices

Do you ever find yourself subtly (or not so subtly) apologizing for your out-of-the-mainstream-but-very-conscious MOGO (most good) choices because you want to put others at ease and diffuse any defensiveness or awkwardness? Do you struggle to reassure people that you’re really quite normal even though your ___________ choices (fill in the blank with lifestyle, food, clothing, transportation, product, entertainment, etc.) differ from the vast majority of people in our culture, including theirs? Do you periodically practice a sort of false humility and laugh-at-yourself-for-your-oddball-ways attitude?

I do. I want people to feel comfortable with me and open to what I have to say, not disinclined to include me because of my “weird” choices. I work hard to make sure others who are making different choices than I don't feel judged or defensive in my presence. I don’t like those feelings any more than they, and I dislike being around judgmental, holier-than-thou, self-righteous people as much as anyone. Plus, I make so many choices that are less than MOGO, so I’m in no position to judge anyway.

But I walk a tightrope between apologetics for what I actually believe are some of my best qualities and inevitable off-putting judgment because my different choices cannot help but contrast with others – implying judgment even when I don’t feel judgmental. My apologies are sincere. I hold two truths simultaneously when, for example, I acknowledge to a host that my food choices have caused them to go to extra trouble, and as I recognize that those choices are made consciously and intentionally in order to minimize the harm and maximize the good I do in the world. I don’t want to be a bother. Yet I do want everyone to “bother” to make more informed, compassionate, sustainable, and peaceful choices in their lives and through their work.

I get tired of apologizing for my MOGO choices, though. It’s like saying I’m sorry for what I consider the best in myself when what I’m really sorry about is that we live in a world in which it’s so challenging to make choices that are truly humane and restorative and peaceful.

What about you? Do you face similar challenges? How do you deal with them?

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind and Claude and Medea

Image courtesy of ell brown via Creative Commons.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article apologies / attitudes / judgments / mainstream / MOGO choices / perceptions / relationships / social psychology with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/apologizing-for-mogo-choices.html. Thanks!

Featured Resource: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs & Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs & Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others
by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.
Conari Press, 2010.


“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

“What we consider normal is, in fact, nothing more than the beliefs and behaviors of the majority.” ~ Melanie Joy

Right on the first page social psychologist and animal advocate Melanie Joy jumps into the inconsistencies we maintain in our relationship with animals by offering the scenario of eating a stew we find delicious and discovering that it’s made with Golden Retriever dog meat (which would repulse most Americans). We have a strange relationship with animals. Some we eat, wear and experiment on, others we passionately protect, and/or enjoy as pets. Where did we get this skewed lens about which species are tasty, which are gross and which are off limits? (And it differs in many cultures.) And why do we vigorously defend our right to eat animals when we in most industrialized countries have no biological need to do so?

In her book Why We Love Dogs, Joy explores this culture of confusion. Her primary assertion is that we have such a skewed relationship with different species of animals, not because the animals themselves are different, but because our perception of them is different. And those perceptions influence our beliefs, ideas and experiences.

Joy introduces “carnism” as a belief system in which eating certain animals (but not others) is “considered ethical and appropriate.” Like many oppressive and exploitative systems, it exists nearly invisibly, an internalized habit that we’ve been taught is “normal and natural” – it’s “just the way it is.”

In the book she outlines the ideologies, strategies, systems and psychological paradigms that “carnists” rely on to sustain, legitimize and justify eating certain species of animals. One of the strategies Joy outlines as a means for people to defend their choices she calls The Cognitive Trio. These are:

  1. Objectification – Viewing animals as things, objectifying them – through language, legislation, media, etc. – allows us to exploit them with little or no moral discomfort.|
  2. Deindividualization – Viewing animals as just a member of their group – seeing them as having only characteristics of their group (a sheep is a sheep is a sheep), rather being an individual with individual wants, needs and interests – allows us to see animals in the abstract, providing distance.
  3. Dichotomization – Viewing animals in simple, black and white, inflexible categories (edible vs. inedible; smart vs. dumb; pet vs. pest, etc.) allows us to feel justified in our exploitation of certain species.

Joy also provides a brief overview of the treatment of farmed animals, the environmental impact, and the “collateral damage” of the impact on people of raising and eating animals; she also lets the voices of “carnists” speak for themselves in their struggle to reconcile their choices with their deepest values, through quotes and excerpts from interviews she conducted with numerous people, from slaughterhouse workers to students.

Why We Love Dogs concludes with a call to stand as a witness to the extensive suffering inherent in industrial animal agriculture. As she says, "Virtually every atrocity in the history of humankind was enabled by a populace that turned away from a reality that seemed too painful to face, while virtually every revolution for peace and justice has been made possible by a group of people who chose to bear witness and demanded that others bear witness as well." Joy also offers suggested resources for more information and for taking action.

One of the strengths of Joy’s book is her integration of the data from numerous psychological studies on a variety of issues to construct a solid platform for why and how we are able to make cruel, destructive choices that conflict with our deepest values (and why it bothers us to do so). From experiments demonstrating our natural aversion to killing, to studies exploring the connection between our compassion and the number of victims we’re asked to care about, to the famous Milgram experiments examining obedience to authority and personal responsibility, the examples Joy uses reveal enlightening and frightening realities about us.

Regardless of how you feel about eating animals, Joy’s exploration of carnism offers a powerful and fascinating examination of the lenses through which we see the world and the psychological and social means we use to shape, support and sustain our choices and habits. It’s a call to awaken ourselves from the fog of culture and strive to make conscious choices that reflect our deepest values, rather than perpetuating a path of unconscious choices and habits that have been established for us since we were children. As Joy says, “…understanding carnism can help us think more critically about all systems in which we participate.”

~ Marsha

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article animal protection / beliefs / books / carnism / food and diet / humane education / paradigm shifts / paradoxes / reviews / social psychology / systemic change / values with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/featured-resource-why-we-love-dogs-eat.html. Thanks!

Humane Education as Entertainment

I’m frustrated by my seeming inability to reach the numbers of people I’d like to reach with humane education. Twenty years ago, I began regularly visiting schools and colleges, giving humane education presentations on pressing global issues. Within a few years, I was reaching about 10,000 people a year. I co-founded the Institute for Humane Education in large part to increase the numbers of people exposed to humane education. Our thinking was that if we trained other people to be humane educators we could reach so many more. And we have. But twenty years later, the numbers are still too small. Comprehensive humane education has yet to become integrated into schools and curricula on a large scale, and our educational system has moved even further from critical and creative thinking and problem-solving and toward more standardized test-testing.

What will it take to spread humane education issues and inspire more solutionaries for a better world? Well, I have a new idea, and I welcome your thoughts on it. Among my favorite things is improvisational comedy. I love attending improv performances, and it seems I’m not alone. Our local improv theater is often sold out. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? I also happen to love participating in improvisation. So I think it’s time to embark on a new approach: humane education entertainment.

I’m ‘entertaining’ the idea of creating a show to take on the road that’s part stand-up, part monologue, part improv – with some visuals thrown in – that will be funny, moving, occasionally intense, and consistently thought-provoking, bringing humane education themes of human rights, environmental preservation, animal protection, and issues of culture and change into the realm of entertainment.

My goal is that instead of 25 people showing up for one of my “talks,” I’ll have at least 100 for each of my “shows” with gigs lined up across the U.S. and Canada. My hope is that people will come to be entertained, as well as inspired and engaged.

What do you think? Would you bring me to your city? Do you have any ideas or suggestions as I embark upon this plan?

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind and Claude and Medea

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article changemakers / comedy / entertainment / humane education / improvisation / laughter with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-education-as-entertainment.html. Thanks!

Featured IHE Student: Russell Elleven

Russell Elleven was called to serve others as a minister. He recently discovered another calling through words he found on IHE's home page: “Help create a humane, sustainable, peaceful world for all people, animals and the planet.

Now, as a student of IHE's Humane Education Certificate Program, Russell is discovering the power of bringing the message of humane education to others and is exploring with his congregation what it means to live a life in which we all make "the best, most informed, and compassionate decisions."

Read Russell's essay about his experiences:

"I have found a calling in the words I found in bold on the homepage of the Institute for Humane Education: “Help create a humane, sustainable, peaceful world for all people, animals and the planet.” That kind of idea was ever present on my mind as I searched for a structured avenue through which to study these types of issues further. I have found what I was looking for in the Humane Education Certificate Program (HECP).

"In some ways, as a minister of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, I am called to think deeply for a living. Most Sundays I am expected to bring forth what I have been thinking about to the ears of those who have called me to serve. It is an exciting, frightening, and demanding way to make one’s way in the world.

"I do not believe one can think deeply these days without coming across the ideas espoused by the Institute for Humane Education. None of us really knows what comes after we die. What we do know is that we are here now, that we have a chance to make a difference in the world, and that the people, the animals, and the planet depend on us making the best, most informed, and compassionate decisions.

"I must admit to being attracted to IHE through my desire to learn more about animal rights and protection. Google helped me find the program after seeing a small blurb about an IHE student in VegNews Magazine. When I looked over the coursework required for the certificate I was reminded of something from my faith tradition that calls us to have, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

"The interdependent web was right there before me on the IHE website. The planet, the animals, the people and our cultures are all interdependently linked together. I have no doubt about this linkage and that we have an opportunity to play a role in the betterment of this web of existence.

"What has been very exciting thus far is the way the instructors have worked with me to make the certificate the most meaningful for my circumstance. I will not likely be a classroom teacher so I am allowed to work within the courses and adjust assignments that make the best use of my time and learning desires. To work with these people at IHE is truly a blessing in my life and work. I truly believe the learning I do with the IHE will enhance my congregational work and make it richer, more vibrant, and that my efforts can have greater impact.

"I felt I was called to the ministry. I believe I am called to learn more and bring the message of humane education to others. If you have read this, you are probably called too. We are all called to take on and do this work of humane education. A great deal is at stake and this call must be answered by those who think deeply.

I hope to see you in class!

If interested, there is more about me here."


Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article animal protection / distance learning / global issues / humane education / IHE students / religion / spirituality with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/featured-ihe-student-russell-elleven.html. Thanks!

What a Humane World Looks Like: Stepping Up

During the Q and A part of a presentation I gave recently on living a joyful, meaningful, examined life, one of the participants asked me: "What do you do if you're the only one in your community like you?" I responded: "You're not." Rarely are we the only one in our communities, or even in a group of people, who feel the way we do. But often no one has yet had the courage to speak out about it. Through my teaching and activism experiences I've had to teach myself to push past my comfort zone as an inherently shy person and voice my views. I've had countless experiences of people coming up to me after I've done so and thanking me for speaking aloud what they, too, were thinking or feeling.

Many people are familiar with the quote from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." But someone has to step up and get that small group started. Someone needs to be the first one to speak out. To act. To ask questions. To seek out and connect with others who feel the same way and are just waiting for someone to help them tap into their own courage.

Amazing things happen when just one person decides to step up and take action. Think about Muhammad Yunus and the microcredit movement. Think about Mother Teresa. Gandhi. Annie Leonard and her "Story of Stuff." Craig Kielburger. Jane Goodall. Wangari Maathai. The free hugs guy.

We carry so many fears with us (many of which are inculcated by our cultures) that inhibit our actions. We don't want to appear stupid or vulnerable or needy or in any way weak to others, so we refrain from acting; we silence ourselves from speaking out.

I still struggle with fear and insecurity and lack of confidence in my life and work, but I'm learning to stretch my boundaries. At the dog park I regularly step in when someone's dog is being too aggressive, and recently I mediated an argument (which was headed toward a physical fight) between two men who had a disagreement about the proper way to train dogs. I've also started (gasp!) introducing myself to other dog guardians at the park -- not just to learn the dogs' names, but the names of the guardians, too. I give humane education workshops to the public, even though weasels wrestle in my stomach for hours before every presentation.

To achieve the just, compassionate world we want is going to take everyone embracing their trepidation and stepping up anyway -- not waiting until someone else speaks out first.

Here's a little video from One World to help inspire you:



~ Marsha

Image courtesy of cygnus921 via Creative Commons.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article changemakers / citizen activism / courage / fear / humane world / leadership / MOGO choices / systemic change with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-humane-world-looks-like-stepping-up.html. Thanks!

Newsweek Article: "Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers"

My blog post today is simply to refer you to this thought-provoking article in Newsweek. Please post your thoughts, especially if you’re a teacher.

~Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education



Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article accountability / education / education policy / schooling / systemic change / teachers / unions with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/newsweek-article-we-must-fire-bad.html. Thanks!

Doth Kids Protest Too Much? Where Should Parents Draw the Line with Kids and Activism?

Patience, blogging for PBS Parents, has a great post highlighting a recent experience responding to protesters spewing hatred and a discussion of how and whether young kids should be involved with activism (especially protests) at all.

When confronted with a group voicing hatred in their community, four moms decided to react positively. They created a website, Pennies in Protest, to encourage people to donate to the very groups being protested by the people promoting hatred. The response was prolific and profound.

But, when it came to attending the protest itself as witnesses, the moms struggled with how and whether or not to involve their children. As Patience said,
"With ten children between us we talked a lot about what we should do about our kids and the protest. There had already been so many teaching conversations, asking questions and listening to our small people and their view on the subject. Was this a clear opportunity to teach and share our values in an age appropriate manner? Should they go? Could they handle it, even if they can, should they? What are our responsibilities as parents regarding both their physical and emotional protection?"
Some of the kids really wanted to attend the protest. Patience notes what happened:
"The tension was so thick in the air as we watched a man, two women and a boy protest while we stood silently. A boy about the age of my son carried a sign saying, 'God hates Jews.' My heart dropped. I looked at my friend Sara (who is Jewish) and her little boy on her back. Two mothers, two sons, both living their convictions in completely different ways on the same street, it was chilling."
We raise our children hoping that they'll carry on the values most important to us. And most parents recognize that having conversations that help kids make sense of the world, that help them connect with those around us, are essential to raising healthy, happy children. But, where's the line in involving our kids in activism? How young is too young? What kinds of activism are appropriate? How can we educate while still protecting our children? What do we do when something happens (hateful language, violence) that we don't want our children exposed to?

What are your thoughts?

~ Marsha


Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.
You have read this article children / citizen activism / hate groups / humane parenting / MOGO choices / protests / values / violence with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/doth-kids-protest-too-much-where-should.html. Thanks!

Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.


"Externalized costs & the $4.99 radio" (opinion) (via Huffington Post) (3/9/10)

Poll shows more Americans involved in community service, volunteering (via CBS) (3/8/10)

LA schools going green (via LA Times) (3/8/10)

Experts say "humans driving extinction faster than species can evolve" (via Guardian) (3/7/10)

Journey of your t-shirt (via MNN.com) (3/5/10)

Research shows health, happiness depend more on equity than wealth (via YES!) (3/4/10)

USDA accused of overlooking slaughterhouse violations, including butchering of conscious pigs (via USA Today) (3/4/10)

Hope on the horizon for the bluefin tuna? (via Time) (3/4/10)

"Do kinder people have an evolutionary advantage?" (via Alternet) (3/4/10)

Worldwide, women's rights slowly gaining ground (via AP) (3/3/10)

Survey notes decrease in children's bullying (via AP) (3/3/10)

Study shows education about global issues increases feeling of empowerment in taking action (via Ekklesia) (3/2/10)

Giant garbage patch found in Atlantic, too (via National Geographic) (3/2/10)

Toronto schools set to integrate social justice themes into curriculum (via Toronto Sun) (3/2/10)

Kids show brand knowledge, preference as young as 3 (via The Globe and Mail) (3/1/10)

Malawian teen brings wind power -- and freedom -- to his village (via Inside Tech) (2/26/10)

Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Like our blog? Please share it with others, comment, and/or subscribe to our RSS feed.

You have read this article animal protection / community service / consumerism / education / human rights / humane issues / news media / Social Justice / sustainability with the title March 2010. You can bookmark this page URL http://actuosa-participatio.blogspot.com/2010/03/humane-issues-in-news_9.html. Thanks!