Is There Food Injustice in Your Community?

Most of us don't worry about access to healthy, fresh food. We just bop down to the grocery and fill up our bags. But what if the nearest grocery with fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods were too far to get to, so you had to settle for fast food and limp, expensive produce from the liquor store?

There is a national disparity in access to healthy food. Many of us living in higher-income areas aren't aware of this food injustice, because we don't experience it. In an effort to bring more attention to food injustice and environmental racism, the Food Empowerment Group conducted a survey to obtain data about food access in their own area of Santa Clara County, California. Questions they wanted answers to included:
  • Does access to fruits and vegetables differ for those in higher-income areas versus those in lower-income areas in Santa Clara County? If so, how significantly?
  • What are the differences in types of grocery stores (e.g., supermarkets versus liquor stores) available to those living in higher-income and lower-income areas within Santa Clara County?
  • How does access to healthy food products (e.g., fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy alternatives) differ for those living in higher-income and lower-income areas?
  • How do other factors, including quality of produce, cleanliness of stores, promotion of alcohol and tobacco products, etc., differ between higher-income and lower-income areas?

Their report, "Shining a Light on the Valley of Heart's Delight: Taking a Look at Access to Healthy Foods in Santa Clara County's Communities of Color and Low-Income Communities" (pdf), reveals several important facts about food disparities in Santa Clara County. Their findings include:
  • There are twice as many large supermarkets in higher-income areas than in lower-income communities.
  • In the lower-income areas, there are nearly twice as many liquor stores and 50% more meat markets than were found in the higher-income communities surveyed.
  • On average, higher-income areas have twice as many locations with fresh fruits and vegetables available compared to lower-income areas.
  • Alternatives to 'meat' and dairy were only available in 2% of the locations in lower-income communities.
  • Organic produce was virtually non-existent in the lower-income communities.
The report doesn't just point out what's wrong. It offers several recommendations for change, including:
  • Finding land to convert to urban gardens.
  • Requiring that prices for food items be easily visible to the consumer.
  • Clarifying the definition of "supermarket" and other grocery stores.
The Food Empowerment Project plans to take what they've learned and work with people in the lower-income communities to find ways to bring them equitable access to fresh, healthy food.

Read the full report (pdf).

What about in your own community? What neighborhoods lack equitable access to healthy foods? How can you make a positive difference? Start by reading FEP's report. Then check out the USDA's Your Food Environment Atlas, which offers an overview of a community's ability to access health food. Then find out who is already working on food justice issues in your community and learn more about how you can help!


~ Marsha

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Share Your Thoughts: What Should Schooling Be For?

I’ve written a lot about what I think schooling should be for and what we at the Institute for Humane Education believe should be the greater purpose of education. Now I’d love to hear from you. This week I’m using my blog to post questions to my readers. Here’s the first:

What should schooling be for?

Please share your thoughts. I look forward to reading your responses!

Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm

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Monday MOGO Tip: Just (Decide to) Do It

Both my husband and I cursed in frustration as we tossed an unopened but well-expired package of hemp seeds into the trash. Another failed attempt to get our omega-3s. Ridiculous! How hard can it be to make one little change in our lives? Obviously, it can be really hard; we've been trying to add a natural source of omega-3s to our diet for a couple years now, tired of the yucky tasty of the supplements we'd been taking. We'd bought flaxseed meal. Trash. Flax oil. Trash. Hemp seeds. Trash. Like we needed the added guilt of wasting all that food and adding to the waste stream.

But suddenly, last week, guess what? Success! We've now incorporated a daily source of omega-3s into our diet for about 10 days straight, and it's now a habit. What changed? Our intention and our follow through. Our intention before had been sincere, but we'd never mindfully followed through on our intention. We decided it was important enough that we take the time to create this new habit and work on it together. We thought about the easiest and most reliable way for us to add omega-3s and decided to go with ground flaxseed. Best delivery device? Lately, we'd been drinking more smoothies, so we decided to make one each morning and add the flaxseed to it. I was worried it would change the taste too much, but I only noticed a small change and am already used to it (it wasn't yucky, BTW, just different). Now we look forward to our morning smoothie.

We've found that deciding to do something -- not just having the intention, but actually mindfully taking the time to act on it -- has helped us make several positive changes in our lives, from using less plastic to exercising more to pursuing more joy and fun in our lives. Here are a couple of tips that have helped us:

1. Just decide to do it. Mindfully make the choice to add or change a habit and make the time and (head)space to do so.
2. Make the change with someone who's equally motivated. We've found that when only one of us is excited about/ready for a change, our success rate is much lower.
3. Identify your goal with the new habit and the obstacles to attaining that goal.
4. Brainstorm ways to remove the obstacles and choose the ones that will bring you success quickly, even if they aren't the ones that get you all the way to your goal immediately.
5. List out the steps you need to take to achieve your goal.
6. Take those steps, one at a time.

As the axiom says, "Good intentions are not enough." so choose something that you've wanted to do to get your life more in line with your deepest values and just decide to do it!

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of dailyfood via Creative Commons.

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WebSpotlight: Cooperative Catalyst

Want to join a juicy and meaningful discussion about education? Visit Cooperative Catalyst. I’ve recently been introduced to this blog discussion and it’s an exciting place to explore issues of education and schooling. I've also just become a contributing blogger there. You can read my first post here. Hope you’ll join me there!

Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education


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Zoe Weil Interview on Planet Green

Mickey Z of Planet Green did a terrific interview with IHE President, Zoe Weil, talking about the power of humane education and the challenges of making change. Here are a couple excerpts:
"When I speak about our vision for schooling, I never encounter resistance. Just the opposite. People respond incredibly positively. It’s as if they’ve been waiting for someone to say that schooling can be so much more meaningful and important and transformative than we’ve imagined it. Because I’m absolutely committed to ensuring that students learn the “basics,” which I perceive as foundational tools for everything else, there’s no argument that I’m mis-prioritizing verbal, mathematical, and scientific literacy....What tie these teachers and administrators’ hands are laws and regulations and systems and habits that prevent much change from happening, not necessarily philosophical resistance."

"People yearn for a better world and they long to live a life of meaning, purpose, and joy. Sometimes the act of exposing ourselves to atrocities and pervasive problems is debilitating, causing despair rather than igniting action. But we can fix the problems in our world. We have the ability to solve our entrenched challenges. We can create a humane, sustainable, and healthy society. The way this will happen is when each of us chooses to be an agent of change and meld our passions with our talents."

Read the full interview.

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From Fake Plastic Fish: Say No to Single-Use Plastic

In case you need a little reminder about the importance of breaking up for good with plastic (especially single-use plastic), one of our favorite bloggers, Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish, has a nice post about the different categories of "singles" plastic products. She also introduces us to the Facebook Plastic Crap Wall of Shame.

Terry highlights 3 categories of singles to watch out for:

1. Single-use disposables, like plastic drink cup lids, clamshells, and plastic bags for umbrellas.
2. Single-serving sizes, like individually-packaged wine, or individually-wrapped jelly beans.
3. Single-purpose items, like the banana saver, and the avocado saver and the contraption that cuts the crusts of bread.

Read the complete post (and get ready to roll your eyes at some of the photos).

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Muffet via Creative Commons.

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How Does Your Neighborhood Score for Walkability and Public Transit?

When you step outside your door, is it an easy amble, bike or bus to all the basic amenities your family needs -- groceries, restaurants, common spaces like libraries, etc. -- or is it a no-brainer that you have to drive just to pick up a carton of soymilk? Walk Score is an online tool for folks in the U.S. that lets you calculate a neighborhood's "walkability" -- how easy it is to get to schools, public spaces, useful businesses and such. Neighborhoods are rated on a scale of 0 to 100. Just type in an address, and a map pops up with the locations of various places you might want to walk to, along with a rating for that neighborhood. You'll also find walk scores and rankings for the "40 largest U.S. cities."

Like any tool, this one isn't without its faults. For example, right now the system calculates distances "as the crow flies" instead of using walking distances. So, you might find useful businesses, only they'll be across a busy interstate. A "street smart" version of Walk Score is in the works, which will pay attention to such issues. The score also doesn't take into account the quality of the "walkable" options. For example, my neighborhood rates a "very walkable" score of 86. However, a lot of those options aren't useful to me, such as all the fast food restaurants (no vegan options there) and big box stores (I prefer local, thanks.). And, most of the amenities are along a busy, noisy, four-lane highway that's not very pleasant to traverse. Still, the searches are customizable, and it does give you a good sense of your options.

Walk Score has also recently added a Transit Score feature, so that you can explore public transit options in your neighborhood. Currently it's only available for just under 60 U.S. cities, but they continue to add new locations as they can. And, another cool little tool is their Commute Report (which becomes an option once you view your Walk Score). With the Commute Report, you can type in a destination, and the system will show you both the point to point route and the time/miles it will take to get there by car, bike, foot, or public transit. Added bonuses are the display of elevation gain (useful for bikers and walkers) and the links to relevant third-party apps that might also be useful in planning your commute and other trips.

If reducing your eco-footprint and increasing your health is on your to-do list, be sure to check out these handy tools, which can help get you out of your car and into the streets.

~ Marsha

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A, B, C and Not Yet: Embracing Our Identities as Successful Changemakers

I’ve been reading the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The book identifies key factors that spur positive change. In one section, the authors discuss creating a new identity and a growth mindset. They tell the story of Molly Howard, a special education teacher who became the principal of Jefferson County High School. This particular high school was low achieving for many years, with only 15% of graduates going on to college. Molly Howard changed this when she became principal, and she began by altering the identity of the students. Students, teachers and administrators had begun to think of only some kids as potential successes, able to attend college and achieve more than they currently were achieving. Molly Howard challenged this assumption and changed the grading system in her school. Instead of A, B, C, D and F as potential grades, she limited grades to three: A, B, or C. If you hadn’t achieved at least a C your work was described as “Not Yet.” In this way, no child would ever be perceived or perceive him or herself as a failure or a D student. All learned to identify themselves as able to succeed in learning. In 2008, she was named Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Not only do our students need to identify themselves and be identified as able to succeed in academics, we also need to identify them and ourselves in other visionary and important ways. It isn’t enough for students to succeed on standardized tests measuring their acquisition of certain scholastic skills; we all need to create bigger identities for ourselves as agents of positive change. Many have come to believe that we really can’t change pervasive problems in the world. Last summer I spent a couple of nights with a group of strangers on an island off Newfoundland. Among them was an Israeli couple. The subject of Israeli-Palestinian peace came up, and not only did the Israeli couple believe that there would never be peace, many of the Americans in the group agreed with them.

If we believe that peace is impossible, that we cannot end slavery or institutionalized animal cruelty, reverse climate change or restore habitat, slow human population growth or find non-polluting energy and mineral sources, then we will never achieve these important goals. But if we change our identities, realize that we have the ingenuity and capacity to solve problems, we can do so. We have the ability, and many have the will. But we need the belief, the identity, and the commitment to raise a generation who with this same believe and identity. And then we must provide this generation with the tools and knowledge to achieve this great task.

Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education, Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind

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Killing Flipper's Kin: "Blood Dolphins" Examines Dolphin Trade, Captivity & Slaughter

If you were moved by the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, or are a fan of "Whale Wars", be sure to tune into Animal Planet's new mini-series that examines the dolphin trade, captivity and slaughter, "Blood Dolphins." In the three-part series, which begins August 27, dolphin activist Ric O'Barry, and his son, Lincoln, return to the Japanese village of Taiji (the scene of the slaughter in The Cove) to continue their mission to save dolphins from slaughter and captivity. They also travel to the Solomon Islands to attempt to stop dolphin hunting there.

As Ric O'Barry said in a recent commentary:

"They are the only wild animal I know who have [sic] saved human lives — not a few times, but repeatedly through history. They are superbly adapted to the ocean, and make even the best human swimmer look clumsy. But we have repaid them by killing them, again and again. Or by keeping them confined in small inadequate cages to do dumb tricks for us. Isn’t it time we stopped and just let them alone in their ocean world? Is that really too much to ask in this day and age?"

(By the way, if you haven't yet seen The Cove, it airs on Animal Planet Sunday, August 29.)

~ Marsha

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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.

Billions of U.S. dollars in aid goes to Pakistan - so why does so much anti-American sentiment remain? (via Washington Post) (8/24/10)

The terrible toll of war on soldier's mental health (via Common Dreams/USA Today) (8/23/10)

Researchers point to correlation between higher "active transportation" cities and lower rates of obesity, diabetes (via Treehugger)(8/23/10)

One microfinance company has just "gone public"; will it help the poor or just make money off them? (via GOOD) (8/23/10)

Do people become less compassionate as they get wealthier? (via NY Times) (8/20/10)

"Framing for change: how we tell our story matters" (via YES! Magazine) (8/19/10)

"Pay-as-you-throw" experiment cuts trash by 50% in one month (via Treehugger) (8/19/10)

Study shows humans predisposed to altruism, even as infants (via Greater Good) (8/18/10)

It's time to acknowledge the consciousness & intelligence of cows (commentary) (via Psychology Today) (8/18/10)

Seattle psyched for its zero-waste initiative (via YES! Magazine) (8/16/10)


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Humans Max Out Ecological Credit Card on "Earth Overshoot Day"

You know how you read in the news or hear stories from friends about people who are deeply in debt? Who max out their credit cards and yet keep on spending? You either think, "Wow, I'm grateful that's not me!" or perhaps you even feel a little superior and wonder how on earth they could be so irresponsible? Last weekend, while many of us were strolling the sidewalks, taking a hike, doing a little yard work (or like me, bouncing between dog park and chores), we citizens of Earth yet again maxed out our ecological credit card without a second thought. According to the Global Footprint Network , August 21 was “Earth Overshoot Day.” Each day between now and the end of the year is a day in which we humans of the world use more resources than the earth has the capacity to generate in 2010. As GFN says, "From [this] point until the end of the year, we meet our ecological demand by liquidating resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." This year humans are projected to use 150% of the resources the earth can create.
“Globally, we now require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. But of course, we only have one Earth. The result is that our supply of natural resources -- like trees and fish -- continues to shrink, while our waste, primarily carbon dioxide, accumulates.” ~ Footprint Network
Of course, not everyone is using those resources to the same degree, or at the same rate (even though many are trying). Global Footprint’s National Footprints Accounts data from 2006 shows how many Earths we’d need if everyone lived like a resident of these countries:
  • United States - 5 Earths
  • United Kingdom - 3.4 Earths
  • Argentina - 1.7 Earths
  • South Africa - 1.5 Earths
  • China - 1 Earth
  • India - 0.4 Earths
And, the “biocapacity” being measured doesn’t take into account the needs of the animals and plants all over the world. How much room do they actually need to be sustainable, healthy and happy? Almost no one considers that in their footprint calculators.

Fortunately, we don’t have to sit back and feel defeated at such news. We can decide to pay attention to the impact of our daily actions and take steps to make choices that do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. We can determine what’s most important in our lives and what’s only distraction, noise and perceived obligation or ephemeral desire and choose to nurture the former and release the latter. We can learn to look beyond what our culture has raised us to think is relevant to our lives and needs to what really brings us fulfillment and joy (which usually isn’t stuff). We can embrace the fact that we have enormous power to make a positive (or negative) difference around the world and choose to use that power to help create a peaceful, compassionate, sustainable world that doesn’t live beyond its capacity.

~ Marsha

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Share Your Voice: What is the Biggest Challenge Facing Education Today?

At the U.S. Department of Education blog, readers are invited to answer this question: What is the biggest challenge facing education today?

I wrote the following, and I hope you will share your thoughts as well:
I believe the biggest challenge in education today is that our current purpose for schooling is inadequate. We are not yet teaching for the future our children are inheriting. We have largely defined the goals of schooling as verbal, mathematical and scientific literacy in order to graduate students who are employable and able to compete in the global economy. But given the global challenges we face, such as climate change, war, poverty, escalating worldwide slavery, habitat destruction and extinction of species, energy, access to clean water, overpopulation, genocide, institutionalized and massive animal cruelty, genocide, and so on, it’s imperative that we educate a generation that has the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be problem-solvers and system-changers in order to create a sustainable, peaceful, and humane world for all. If we were to succeed at achieving our current educational goals, we would simply produce a generation that perpetuates many destructive, inhumane, and unsustainable systems. The “basics” must be seen as foundational tools for achieving healthy societies. They are critical, but not enough. But if we expand our goals for schooling, making our children’s education truly relevant to their future, their personal investment and interest in their schooling would grow in proportion to the meaning and importance we would offer them through their studies.

Zoe Weil
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm

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4 Ridiculously Simple Actions You Can Take for a Better World...the Next Time You Go Shopping

Most of us do it every day -- or at least several times a week. We get groceries, we pick up a few things for the house, we pop out to find a gift for our friend's birthday, we stop to fill up the car. "Shopping" is a ubiquitous and almost unconscious part of our daily lives. But every time we stop in to a store, we're voting for what kind of world we want. Here are 4 ridiculously simple things you can do to help nurture the just, compassionate, sustainable world the next time you zoom off to spend money.

1. Bring your own reusable bags. Yes, I know this one is on pretty much every single green list you've seen, but seriously, there's no longer any excuse not to do it. Just yesterday I saw an article on a prominent green website debating the merits of paper vs. plastic. We know the answer by now is neither! Whether it's canvas, nylon, or some space-age material, reusable is the way to go. And if you have a habit of forgetting, put those little smooshable bags in your car, in your purse, or attach one to your keychain. Or, put your child in charge of being the bag bringer.

2. Smile and be friendly to the store staff. Folks who work retail are perpetually between that proverbial rock and hard place. They have none of the power and get all of the customer dissatisfaction. Stuck in the line that never moves? Don't get annoyed with the check-out clerk; take time to think about all the people in your life for whom you're grateful, or sing a song in your head. When you finally get up there, smile and thank them for their help. Has the clerk or the store made a mistake? Think about how you'd want to be treated if you were the one in error. And just generally send them a little positive energy. Show them that people really are kind, even in stressful circumstances. (Remember to extend your kindness to the other folks in the store, the parking lot, etc., too.)

3. Pause and ask yourself a couple of questions. When you've got the coveted object in your hands, ask yourself:
  • Is this a want or a need? Will it really add joy and meaning to my life? Is buying this thing the only way to get my need met?
  • It it worth the life energy I'm trading it for? (as expressed through the money you've earned)
  • What are the impacts (both positive and negative) of this thing on:
  • myself
  • other people?
  • other animals?
  • the earth?
  • And what choice does the most good and least harm?
Consider whether you can find more creative and MOGO ways to meet that need that don't require you to spend lots of money or buy lots of stuff.

4. Ask the store's staff questions. Want to know whether those shoes were made in a sweatshop or with fair labor practices? Interested in where that vacuum was made? Is that real fur on that coat's hood? Ask. Most store employees won't know the answers to many of your questions, but showing interest may spark their own desire to inquire and will show the store management that you're a shopper who's conscientious about how you spend your money.

~ Marsha

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Finding Joy in My Dog Elsie

I’ve shared my home with seven dogs in my life, and none have had quite as much “personality” as Elsie, who joined our family one year ago. When my husband, Edwin, brought Elsie home from the veterinary clinic where he works, I agreed to a trial weekend. We already had three dogs, one of whom was old and dying from cancer, and the last thing our household needed was a 6-month-old, non-housebroken dog. Besides, Edwin wasn’t supposed to have been at work that day, as we had been planning a camping trip that weekend. But a hurricane dashed those plans, and Edwin forgot something at work and so went into the clinic on a Saturday morning just as Elsie, who’d come in as a stray 10 days earlier, was about to be picked up by a local shelter.

When Elsie arrived in our house she walked in fairly confidently, despite the fact that the house was already full of dogs, two of whom were much bigger than she. In one swift move, she plopped down on the floor, as if signaling her intention to stay. And stay she has, taking her place in our family and my heart as the funniest, most engaging, most loving dog I’ve ever known. Elsie makes eye contact like nobody’s business, but not aggressively. When Elsie looks at you it’s as if she’s trying to pour out her overflowing, enthusiastic heart. I have never felt so adored in all my life as I do by Elsie.

This summer has been a joy for Elsie. If she has tired out our 7-year-old dog, Ruby, and if none of us are willing to play stick, Elsie will simply play stick by herself. She has collected a couple of very large sticks (more like branches), and she keeps them in a specific place by the kiwi arbor. When she wants to play with them she picks one up and runs around with it, and then throws it up in the air and catches it, and then chews it for awhile, leaving it by the arbor for next time. And when she gets hot from such activity, she trots down to the pond and goes for a swim.

Elsie is so attentive that as soon as I awake in the morning, even before I open my eyes, she jumps on the bed (or, if she’s already on the bed, slinks up it), to greet me. She’s learned not to paw me or lick me on my face (I don’t like either of these behaviors), but to give a teeny lick on my hand and rest her head on my body to say good morning. And then I pet her, and we are both so happy.

It’s hard to describe the joy that Elsie brings me. The best way I have of understanding it is by observing her. She is joyous in a way I can only imagine, and lucky for me, I experience a measure of it in her presence.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs, and So, You Love Animals: An Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Book to Help Kids Help Animals

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Survey Shows Public Prefers Activism via Education

Good news for those of us passionate about cultivating a just, compassionate, peaceful world through education. A survey about social movement tactics conducted by the Humane Research Council as part of the Animal Tracker annual survey revealed that the majority of those surveyed support education as a tool for encouraging social change. As HRC noted, "Those tactics that favored education efforts received the most support." Specifically, more than 70% supported speaking in schools as a tool for social and political movements to use (less than %15 specifically opposed it as a tactic). Those surveyed were least supportive of more "confrontational" strategies, such as demonstrations or protests.

Find out more.

~ Marsha

Thanks to Animals & Society Institute for the heads up.

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Save the World Through Kindness

by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Educational Programs

“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” ~ Sir James Barrie

“Kindness is my religion.” ~ The Dalai Lama

When asked what he would do if he had one hour to save the world, Albert Einstein responded by saying that he would spend the first 55 minutes understanding the problem and the last 5 minutes solving it. You might feel that way in your mindful lives: there is so much to consider and to understand before we can even think about living in a way that does the most good and the least harm. It's like gardeners say: if you have ten dollars, spend nine of it cultivating good soil, and one buying good seed. Our understanding lays the groundwork for all the decisions we will ultimately make that help bring about a more compassionate and sustainable planet.

I used to think Mother Theresa said this: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." And maybe she did say that, but based on my research, I guess either Philo of Alexandria or Plato said it first. No matter -- I think of this phrase as important for our efforts to nurture a humane world, not only in our personal relationships, but in our supreme efforts to be kind to the earth, all species, and all our brothers and sisters struggling for freedom, equal rights, a living wage, a chance to thrive. We can be kind through our choices, our activism, our willingness to speak out or make changes on behalf of everything in the world that is at our mercy.

What we eat, what we buy, what we drive, where we choose to live and work, how we spend our precious time -- these decisions are of great consequence to us, and of even greater consequence to our shared habitat, the Earth.

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Otter Bog Blog #1: Through the "Microglass"

My husband and I planned to spend an afternoon and evening doing what has become a favorite outing: climbing a short, rigorous rung-and-ladder hike in Acadia to a beautiful pond where we love to swim, grabbing a burrito for dinner, and then heading to our favorite evening entertainment, Improv Acadia, an improvisational comedy group in Bar Harbor. But it being high season in Vacationland, by the the time we called Improv Acadia, that night’s show was sold out. We thought we’d still do the first two parts of our favorite outing, but our dogs looked up at us expectantly, and we deferred to them. Rather than leave them at home and go to Acadia (where they must be leashed), we changed our plans and decided to go canoeing at Otter Bog, a wilderness area about 30 minutes from us.

By the time we got the canoe in the water and cajoled our dogs into the boat, it was 4:30. Perfect timing, as it would mean we’d still be on the pond as the crepuscular animals came out near sunset. Otter Bog has several beaver lodges on it, and lots of old logs covered in sundews. The bog itself has pitcher plants growing all over it as well, and is nestled between small mountains. It’s a wildlife extravaganza, and in addition to the beavers we’ve seen or seen evidence of such megafauna as bears, moose, deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, otters, wood ducks, and many species of song birds, including rare migrating warblers.

Dancing over the surface of the pond were water bugs that my husband named “aquagraphs” because their movements seemed like writing on the water, and periodically a snapping turtle would poke her head above the surface. When we wound our way down the stream that feeds the pond, we ended up in an area that was once a forest before the beavers flooded it to create their home. Long dead but still tall white pines stood high in the water, the largest the former site of an osprey family’s nest. We paused for a time by a massive beaver lodge, and my husband began looking at a piece of thick grass poking out of the water. There were tiny worms crawling through the grass, and fortunately I had brought my “microglass,” the name I gave the high-powered magnifying class that my husband had had for years and which he gave me last year for my birthday. Not only could I watch these worms slithering through this piece of grass, but I also saw planaria! I’d never seen planaria (non-parasitic flatworms) outside of high school biology.

As we meandered back around 6:30, the beavers let us know they were not happy about our appearance on their pond. One in particular slapped his tail repeatedly, seeming to say “Get out of here!” We complied, but not all the beavers seemed to mistrust our canoe. Some just swam on by looking our way.

At dinner that night, I told my husband that if there was one item I would consider selling, it wouldn’t be organic cotton clothing, or fair trade chocolate, or some other seemingly MOGO product; it would be these amazing magnifying glasses. Lasting a lifetime, they offer a glimpse into a world so magical and amazing: our world. If every family had such a “microglass” and used it frequently out in the wild, it’s hard to imagine we wouldn’t do everything in our power to protect this mysterious, awesome planet.

As I’ve said before, please go outside, for yourself and the world.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

Image courtesy of Tom Gill (lapstrake) via Creative Commons.

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Humane Educator's Toolbox: Calculating Your Water Footprint

At my co-housing community, we have a tiny bit of "extra" money whose fate we're trying to decide. Should we save it? Spend it on conservation improvements? Throw a big party? Those who are passionate about an idea have been submitting proposals for the group to consider. One resident created a proposal for using the money to help us with water conservation, outlining products and strategies for reducing our personal household water habits.

Funny, then, that I should stumble upon a new water footprint calculator from National Geographic emphasizing that "very little of [the nearly 2,000 gallons of water the average American uses each day]—only five percent—runs through toilets, taps, and garden hoses at home. Nearly 95 percent of your water footprint is hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on."

When we see tips and suggestions on blogs and in the news about going green and conserving water, tips like "Take shorter showers" and "Turn off the water while you brush your teeth" are often plentiful. Not so much is said about the water implications of our food, energy and other choices outside our little abodes. Using a water calculator is a fun and engaging way to spark discussion about water issues and help students bring attention to their water usage; it can also make them more aware of the hidden connections between our choices (diet, energy, stuff) and one of our most precious resources.

With National Geographic's Water Footprint Calculator a little duck walks us through several questions about our water use. Throughout, we get to see how we measure up with the "average American," and the animations and a water gauge change according to our responses. The questions are broken into categories of "home," "diet," "energy," and "stuff," and at the end of the survey, we see how much water we use (for each category and as a total) and how that compares with the national average. We also have the opportunity to pledge to use less water.

For comparison, have your students check out the water footprint calculator by H2O Conserve. While there's a fair amount of overlap, there are some differences in content -- as well as in how some elements are measured -- so the outcomes will vary. The differences and variations make for interesting discussion and great critical thinking opportunities. For example, why does the H2O calculator ask about donating/reusing clothing, bedding and towels? Why does one calculator focus so heavily on household use when the other doesn't? Why are composting toilets considered in one but not the other, and so on.

Although it might seem like a hindrance that both calculators require some specific data that might not be easily-known by students, these calculators provide a perfect opportunity for getting families involved. Such explorations could even lead to friendly competitions to reduce water use, and to deeper investigations of that 95% of our water footprints.

When you're exploring these calculators as a teaching tool, be sure to notice your own results, so that you can point to yourself as either a good role model, or as a good model for needing help from your students with changing your habits.

~ Marsha

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New York Teachers: Sign Up for a Humane Education Professional Development Course

Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), in partnership with the United Federation of Teacher Humane Education Committee, is offering a 30-hour professional development course for K-5 New York teachers. Teachers will learn to "enhance student science and literacy skills using humane education themes" in six Saturday sessions, from September 25 - December 4.

According to HEART, this course has "the quality and rigor of a graduate level course" and qualifies toward a salary differential. The $195 fee includes curriculum packets and books for participants' classroom libraries.

Find out more
. (pdf)

~ Marsha

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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.

Independent report says almost 80% of oil from BP Gulf spill remains in the water (via Treehugger) (8/17/10)

"Two brothers with buckets take on world hunger" (via Treehugger) (8/16/10)

Fairness not a trait unique to humans (via NPR) (8/16/10)

"U.S. cancels some of Brazil's debt in exchange for forest protection" (via Treehugger) (8/15/10)

How egg-laying hens are confined in the U.S. (via NY Times) (8/14/10)

Economist says there's too much free parking (via NY Times) (8/14/10)

Study shows those who are poorer are more altruistic than those who are richer (via Greater Good) (8/11/10)

Are there changes coming in factory farming practices? (via NY Times) (8/11/10)

Report links decline in outdoor play with decline in children's health (via MNN.com) (8/11/10)

"My tiny, free house" (via YES! Magazine) (8/10/10)

Is work-sharing a better way to help the economy? (via YES! Magazine) (8/9/10)

Thanks to man with a vision, vacationers' leftover food goes to needy instead of to waste (via Charlotte Observer) (8/7/10)


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Corporate Advertisers Hope to Be Coming to a School Near You (& Probably Already Are)

We're big fans of Lisa Ray, founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing and her Corporate Babysitter blog. She kindly gave us permission to share her recent blog post about the brouhaha regarding the latest attempts by corporate advertisers and ad brokers to win their way into school systems. Here's Lisa's post:


Minnesota's In-School Advertising Controversy Moves to National Stage
by Lisa Ray, Corporate Babysitter

Advertising in public schools is back in the news as School Media’s (sic), a new Coon Rapids, Minnesota-based company, begins to pitch their in-school advertising and locker-wrapping services to area schools, including Centennial School District:

Centennial schools may soon tout everything from Crayola crayons to Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer” on their lockers.

Centennial School District was scheduled to vote on using School Media’s services a week ago, but didn’t [pdf]:

Advertising in Schools: Superintendent Stremick shared the feedback received on advertising in the schools. Discussion followed. Board would like gather more feedback from community and district staff before proceeding further. No School Board action was required.

The story hit the AP wire and got the attention of FOX & Friends, a morning talk show on the FOX News Network. Their producer contacted me while they were considering doing a segment on the topic. They’ve since postponed it but asked to contact me again “as the story develops.”

Advertising in schools, called a “sacred cow” by the National School Public Relations Association, has long been debated as schools struggle to find solutions to their funding problems. (See also: Will new Minnesota legislation invite corporate interests into the classroom?) These are especially tough times for schools, who have been put in the position of coming up with their own creative solutions to the problems created by state and federal governments and/or mismanaged school districts (depending on who you ask).

Enter corporate marketers like PepsiCo or ad brokers like the now-defunct Bus Radio or School Media’s, who bring funding solutions to schools in a seemingly win-win situation: The schools get to hire the teachers they need, and the companies make a profit. So what’s the harm?

The harm has been documented in reports by the Commercialism in Education Research Unit at Arizona State University since 1998:

It is easy to understand why marketers would target children. They influence their parents’ spending, they spend a lot of money themselves, and when they develop preferences for brands in childhood, their loyalty often lasts a lifetime. Because children spend so much time in schools, corporations pursue access to them . . . . For their part, school districts, especially those facing higher costs and shrinking budgets, often see advertising as a potential source of additional funds. Some are also attracted to advertising and marketing activities because they believe that participating in such activities demonstrates goodwill toward the business community.

. . . Overall, marketing activities in schools actively threaten high-quality education by causing psychological, health-related, and academic harm to students. Commercial activities offer children experiences primarily intended to serve the sponsors and not the children themselves; they are therefore inherently “mis-educative,” because they promote unreflective consumption rather than critical thinking and rational decision making.

Emphasis mine. Corporate advertising messages in schools are in a direct conflict with the purpose and goals of education. Watch Nickelodeon! while researchers and educators are trying to encourage kids to move away from screens and into books. Eat Doritos! and Drink Pepsi! while nutritionists and district food services are working desperately to teach good eating habits and stem obesity.

Why don’t companies pursue placing ads in front of parents, instead? District websites, for example, are probably more frequented by adults than children. Could it be that it’s more cost-effective to influence a child — with years of spending power ahead — than it is to try to persuade adults to change their buying habits?

Children are easier targets, indeed.

As a parent who advocates for ethical marketing, I often hear the counterarguments: If you don’t like the ads, just turn off your television/don’t allow that website/don’t read those magazines. And that’s just what I do.

But I can’t keep my kids out of school.

Here’s a comment from a Facebook posting I read (status is private so you’ll have to trust me) about School Media’s wrapped lockers:

Locker ads are especially offensive to me. That locker is the closest thing a student has to a personal space while at school. It’s an anchor to personal sanity in an otherwise hectic, depersonalizing environment.

CCFC’s Josh Golin offers some advice to districts considering working with in-school advertising companies in Thinking About Allowing Advertising in Your School? Do Your Homework.

More from the Commercialism in Education Research Unit:

Policy and Statutory Responses to Advertising and Marketing in Schools (2010)
Click: The Twelfth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2008-2009
At Sea in a Marketing-Saturated World: The Eleventh Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2007-2008
Adrift: Schools in a Total Marketing Environment. The Tenth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2006-2007
The Ninth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2005-2006
Empty Calories: Commercializing Activities in America’s Schools (2005)
Virtually Everywhere: Marketing to Children in America’s Schools (2004)
No Student Left Unsold (2003)
What’s in a Name? The Corporate Branding of America’s Schools (2002)
Buy Me! Buy Me! (2001)
Commercialism@School.com (2000)
Cashing in on Kids (1999)
Sponsored Schools and Commercialized Classrooms (1998)

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A Dog's Purpose

I recently finished A Dog’s Purpose, a novel by W. Bruce Cameron. I loved this book. Told in the first person by a dog, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that rang so true about the inner lives and thoughts of our canine companions. Reading this novel has me looking at and relating to my own dogs differently, and I thank a novelist for the gift of this new insight and appreciation.

I love fiction, but I admit that sometimes I feel like I’m indulging myself by spending time with a novel instead of with non-fiction that will “teach” me more and enable me to do more and better work in the world. (This is ironic because I have an Master’s in English Literature!) The truth is that there are those novels that so transform us that we become better people because of them.

Check out this book!

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

(Image is of Zoe and one of her rescued dogs, Elsie.)

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Practicing the Third Side

This is a repost from 1/24/08 that we thought you'd enjoy reading.

One of the books our students in the M.Ed. and Humane Education Certificate Programs read as part of their studies is The Third Side by William Ury. Ury's book describes strategies (prevent, resolve, contain) and roles (provider, teacher, bridge-builder, etc.) for managing and solving conflict. He outlines a way of looking for resolutions outside the us vs. them, either/or paradigm that many of us have been taught.

One of our M.Ed. students, Nadia, wrote about two ways she has used the "third side" strategies in her own life, and we wanted to share her experiences with you:

"Provider: A few weeks ago, my mail carrier started delivering mail later and later every day. I could see that she was in a hurry. She would zoom into the cul-de-sac with her small truck, quickly open the mailboxes, quickly stuff them with mail and zoom out fast, sometimes leaving a few box lids hanging open. I did not mind receiving my mail late as long as I received it. But then, she started skipping on ringing the doorbell to deliver my registered mail. From where I work, I could see her come and go, and when I went out to fetch my mail I would find the “come and pick up your package from the post office” notice in my mailbox. I knew that mail carriers were required to attempt to deliver registered mail once before leaving a note for the recipient. Then one day, I received no mail, which had not happened before. Since I was expecting a particular piece of mail to be delivered that day, I was frustrated. The mail I was looking for did not show up in the following week either. I had to contact the sender and the post office to inquire about it. I was starting to feel angry towards my carrier. I thought about what I could do to resolve this problem and also prevent a potential confrontation with her. I ruled out talking to her directly. I thought that she was stressed and would possibly act defensively. I also ruled out talking to her boss as a first action, because I was afraid that she might get angry and not deliver some of my mail. Then, I wondered if she has a frustrated need that I can help with. She probably needed to feel recognized and appreciated, particularly now, when she is working harder. I decided to leave an early Christmas card in my mailbox for her with a “thank you” note and a gift card. It worked. A few days later, she saw me in the yard and stopped by to thank me. Now she knows me by name and delivers my mail to the door.

"Mediator: I am friendly with two of my neighbors, and they are also friendly with each other. At least that was the case until a conflict arose between them due to a porch light that one of them left on all night. This porch light bothered my other neighbor because it shined very brightly and directly towards her bedroom window, which forced her to keep her bedroom blinds closed all the time. I thought this might be an opportunity to practice my mediation skills and invited them both for tea. When they arrived, I told them that I wanted to practice mediation with them as a school assignment. First I asked the neighbor who left the light on to tell us why she does it. She said that she lives alone and she feels safer when she can see her front and back yards clearly at night. Then the other neighbor talked and explained that she likes to sleep with her bedroom window open, or at least a little bit cracked -- even in the middle of the winter. She said that she has slept that way for 80 years and that she feels suffocated if she cannot open her window. The bright light shining in was preventing her from opening the window. We discussed using a lower strength porch light. My neighbor agreed to use a 60-watt rather than a 100-watt bulb, but that was not going to be enough. Then I suggested installing a bulb socket that rotates/swivels so that the light could be made to shine in another direction than the bedroom. Both neighbors thought that this was a good idea, but the cost of having it installed was a problem. In the end, they decided to share the cost of the installation. We drank our teas with the satisfaction of resolution and rejuvenated friendship."

~ Marsha

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Campers at the Institute for Humane Education

Last week, we hosted 23 people, children and adults from local Camp Featherfoot, for a day of reverence-building activities. Our summer intern, Emily Peake, introduced the group to such activities as Wonder Walk, Find Your Tree, Smell Teas, Seton Watching, and Gnome House Building and Ecology Discussion.

Watching the children share their love of these experiences and respond to these activities that awakened their senses with such joy and pleasure was a treat for us at IHE. We spend most of our working hours training others to be humane educators and advancing the field of humane education, so days when we get to share our beautiful space with children and watch their hearts and minds open to caring for the environment is a gift and a reminder of the power of this form of education.

Humane education is good for kids, good for society, good for animals, and good for the Earth. We hope you’ll introduce people to these wonderful activities in your community too!

Zoe Weil
Author of Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, Most Good, Least Harm, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

Images courtesy of Daniel DeLuca.

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Zoe Weil in the News

We at IHE posted recently about how proud we are that our president, Zoe Weil, was inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame, and that her latest book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life was honored with a Silver Award for the Nautilus Book Awards. Recently Zoe and her work have been featured on several websites and blogs, and we wanted to share a few.

Zoe was interviewed by Striking at the Roots author, Mark Hawthorne, about her work as a humane activist and educator. An excerpt:
"Humane education goes to the root of all our challenges and problems and invites learners to become what we call solutionaries. But education is not indoctrination. My biggest goal as a teacher is for my students to be creative and critical thinkers. Only with these skills will they be able to solve our problems effectively and wisely. We humans believe so much that is unsubstantiated and false, and if students just believe me, then I have not done my job, because even though I endeavor to always speak the truth and share what, through my research, I believe to be accurate, my students have no way of knowing whether the information I share is true unless they are prepared to follow up and learn for themselves. If I give them anything at all, it should be the capacity to discern fact from opinion and to be lifelong learners who seek the truth so that they are able to live with integrity."
Zoe was interviewed for a podcast for Our Hen House about the power of humane education and what it means to make choices that do the most good and least harm.

Zoe and her work as a humane educator were highlighted on the Sierra Club's Green Life blog:
“I focused my personal work on education because I believe that if we give everybody the knowledge, tools, and motivation to become conscientious choice-makers and engaged change-makers, they will be able to go out and do what they’re meant to with their lives.”

Zoe was interviewed on the Animal Rights and AntiOppression Blog about her work, humane education, and the connections among the different kinds of oppression. An excerpt:
"I believe that humane education is the most important and effective strategy not only for bridge-building but for creating a sustainable, just, peaceful, and humane world for all. This is because humane education addresses root problems. By interconnecting human rights, environmental preservation and animal protection, humane education doesn’t seek to find bandaids to solve a single problem, but true answers to entrenched and pervasive global challenges. It assumes that while none of us has the solution to every problem, students raised with knowledge about these interconnected issues and provided with the tools for problem-solving and the inspiration to make a difference will each contribute in their own ways and through their own professions to the unfolding of a better world."


~ Marsha

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Humane Educator's Toolbox: Making Data Meaningful with Infographics

Percentages, statistics, data. I can read that broccoli travels an average of 1,800 miles from farm to table, or I can get a general sense that, say, the things we're most likely to die from are not those most often reported, or those the public most fixates on. But, as the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words emphasizes, numbers, vague patterns and complex data are much more meaningful when put into a graphic context.

A new trend in visually representing data and information is sweeping cyberspace to help present complex information more clearly and succinctly. They’re no replacement for getting accurate, complete information, but infographics (and other similar animated visual tools) can be a great resource for sparking discussion and critical thinking for a variety of global issues. Here is a just a sampling of resources to consider for your own humane education work:

GOOD has a whole slew of infographics on a variety of topics. They create a new one almost every week now, and have started sponsoring contests for GOOD readers to create infographics that illustrate relevant global topics. A great resource.

Information is Beautiful, which is British-based, also offers great visual representations for a plethora of topics, from the eco-footprint of dogs to the number of deaths by certain drugs versus which drugs are most frequently reported on.

The Infographics Showcase collects data visualizations from other sources & makes them available. Since it’s an aggregator of infographics from numerous sources, this site tends to be a bit hit and miss in its usefulness to humane educators, but it’s still worth a look.

Visual Economics deals primarily with financial data and offers some interesting graphical resources, from food consumption in America (like 42 pounds of corn syrup) to how the average American uses energy.

AnimalVisuals is designed specifically to promote awareness about farmed animal issues. From the Farm Rescue game on Facebook to the animated “Rate of Slaughter” graphic, these tools serve as great resources for exploring animal exploitation.

And, if you don’t find useful visuals from these sources, you can always try a keyword search with your favorite search engine for infographics about your topic of interest.

As a bonus, you can encourage your students to create their own infographics for whatever issues and topics you’re exploring.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of AnimalVisuals.org.

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What Does Forgiveness Really Mean?

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


“Forgiveness and reconciliation are not just ethereal, spiritual, otherworldly activities.... They are realpolitik, because in a very real sense, without forgiveness, there is no future.”
~ Desmond Tutu


“What we forgive too freely doesn’t stay forgiven.”
~ Mignon McLaughlin


I read these quotes in the August 2010 issue of The Sun magazine, and I find myself puzzling over them: three quotes about forgiveness, each with its own message, its own truth. For me, forgiveness is all of these quotes and none of them. Often I think I’ve forgiven only to taste the bitter seeds still lurking in the crevices of my teeth. I may have thought I’d spit them out, but like so many popcorn hulls, they’ve lurked another day. Maybe Mignon captures my failure; perhaps I’d forgiven too freely rather than dredged all the nasty rage and pain and fought my way toward a deep and abiding forgiveness that took work to achieve. But am I ever truly, completely done with resentment? For me, forgiveness has usually been a slow process, neither an act, nor a permanent attitude. One day, I may realize I believe I have forgiven. But the next that realization of forgiveness may be gone and my bitterness returned, albeit diminished.

I appreciate Desmond Tutu’s perspective that forgiveness may be better perceived as a pragmatic choice than an ethical perspective. If forgiveness has less to do with internal feelings and more to do with a practical decision to ensure a healthy future, we might more easily create such a future. But I also yearn for the spiritual component of forgiveness; the peace that comes with letting go of anger and resentment; the freedom that comes when I do not carry such a burden that harms no one more than me.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Do any of these quotes speak more strongly to you than the others?


Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of Kulturang Ewan via Creative Commons.

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Each One Teach One: We Are All Educators

by Mary Pat Champeau, IHE's Director of Educational Programs

As many of you may know, the phrase 'each one teach one' was born during the years of African slavery in the U.S. On top of all the other brutal and inhumane treatments enslaved men, women and children endured, they were denied any kind of education. Realizing the enormous disadvantage this was, many free blacks, literate slaves, and white sympathizers put themselves at great risk to conduct secret reading and writing classes. Each slave who learned to read and write accepted the responsibility of teaching another to read and write -- each one, teach one. The phrase has since been used to address poverty and literacy issues in other countries, and I'd like to invoke it for humane education.

As we learn, we teach. We help ourselves and each other along the path of understanding that might, if we're lucky and attentive, lead to wisdom. Teaching is a practice, always. We never really master it because as we continue to learn, our consciousness shifts, and the teaching changes. We are all teachers, whether we accept the role in our professions or not. People are learning from us all the time, just as we learn from others. It's how we grow, and it's perfectly natural, yet the act of teaching can feel almost unnatural if you aren't used to it; and let's face it, teaching has gotten a bad reputation over the years. As Winston Churchill famously said, "Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught." Clearly, he never had a good humane educator as his teacher!

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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.

"India asks: should food be a right for the poor?" (via NY Times) (8/9/10)

Puberty hitting girls at younger ages (via NY Times) (8/9/10)

Trend to separate classes by gender increases (via Washington Post) (8/8/10)

Judge orders protections for wolves in Montana, Idaho (via NY Times) (8/5/10)

WSJ interview with Michael Pollan on eating local (via Wall Street Journal) (8/5/10)

Making sustainable lifestyles "desirable" rather than "sacrifice" may be the key (via The Ecologist) (8/4/10)

Improving the lives of farm workers: an interview (via Worldwatch) (8/2/10)

Companies eye teen "haulers" as next marketing tool (via LA Times) (8/1/10)


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

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Featured Changemaker: Sophia Erlsten

"Within the first five minutes of the workshop, I was fighting off tears because I realized that I had found my calling as part of a movement for educational, cultural and social change." - Sophia

Sophia's passion for the natural world drew her to environmental clubs in school, but she despaired of finding her career calling, until she discovered humane education and IHE. Now an M.Ed. graduate of IHE's program, Sophia runs humane education centers at community festivals in Florida and offers her own humane education workshops and presentations.


Read Sophia's essay about her experiences with IHE and humane education:

"As a child growing up in Long Island, New York, beautiful wooded areas surrounded my home. I spent most of my time walking through the woods, climbing trees and watching wildlife. I experienced nature as if it were a friend that I could visit with everyday. When I was still young my family and I moved to the New York City borough, Queens. Since Queens consists of densely populated living areas, major highways and man–made parks, I struggled to keep my beloved friendship with nature. But soon I learned how to relax and smile when the sun hit my face and I learned that solace was as close as looking up at the artistic masterpiece in the sky.

"As I grew older, I realized that not everyone shared my love for the natural world and this motivated me to protect it from disappearing altogether. I joined the environmental club at my high school, where I learned about issues impacting the environment and nonhuman animals and became part of the solution. Once I experienced humane education, I kept looking for it, without success, throughout my educational career. I became frustrated with the quality of my education and hopeless about the career I would pursue after graduation from college.


"Then, during my last semester of college, I decided to attend a
Sowing Seeds Workshop to find out more about humane education. Within the first five minutes of the workshop, I was fighting off tears because I realized that I had found my calling as part of a movement for educational, cultural and social change. Shortly after enrolling in IHE’s Master’s program, I fell in love with the books on effective and humane educational reform assigned in the “Introduction to Humane Education” course. I started dreaming about founding a K–12 humane education school that would do more than simply depend on individuals to educate themselves about the world’s problems and work for change, the school would help students develop their compassion, responsibility, action and leadership. Today, I am working on an Independent Learning Project (ILP) that will help me make my dream school a reality.

"Outside of school, my role as a humane educator has been most prominent in my Central Florida community, where I have been developing and running humane education centers at community festivals. At the centers I offer fun, interactive workshops and displays, information on issues affecting humans, animals and the planet, teaching/home schooling materials and information about IHE’s programs. I have
developed a guide to running a humane education center at community venues for other humane educators around the world. Additionally, I offer humane education presentations and workshops to people of all ages -- sometimes with my two fostered pot-bellied pigs, who help people understand the importance of having compassion for animals.

"While most of my free time is spent advocating for human, animal, and environmental causes, I enjoy several hobbies with my partner, Steve. Our favorite hobbies include visiting animal sanctuaries, cooking our organic vegan food, playing board games and spending time with our cats and pigs."


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Mark Your Calendar: Raising a Humane Child Twitter Party

IHE's President, Zoe Weil, and Director of Educational Programs, Mary Pat Champeau, will be facilitating a Twitter Party, hosted by Holistic Moms Network, on Tuesday, September 14 at 7:00 pm PDT/10:00 pm EDT. The party discussion will focus on the topic of Raising Humane Children. Be sure to flit onto your Twitter account on 9/14/10 and follow the hashtag #holisticmoms. Get your questions answered and share your tips and insights for helping nurture healthy, happy, conscientious children.


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