Natalie Warne: The Power of Anonymous Extraordinaries

"What fuels a movement are the anonymous extraordinaries behind it." ~ Natalie Warne


When Natalie Warne was young, she learned about not just Martin Luther King, Jr., but all the people surrounding him who were equally committed to and involved in the Civil Rights struggle. Natalie calls such people "anonymous extraordinaries": "people who work selflessly and vigorously for what they believe in. People who are motivated by conviction and not recognition." She was inspired by what was possible.

Her senior year in high school Natalie learned about the plight of child soldiers through the film Invisible Children and was struck with the certainty that she needed to do something; but what? As she said, "What can one 17-year-old do? You've gotta give me something."
Natalie interned with Invisible Children to help get a bill passed that would make it possible to apprehend Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and to provide funding to help in the recovery of those areas devastated by the longest war in Africa. Natalie says, "For us, it would have been insane not to go. We all felt this urgency, and we would do whatever it took to pass this bill."

Watch Natalie's TEDx talk here (about 13 min):



Natalie ends her inspiring story by telling young people: "Whatever you want, chase after it with everything you have, not because of the fame or the fortune but solely because that's what you believe in. Because that's what makes your heart sing.... That's what's going to define our generation."

Natalie's experience and video are useful for so many reasons. It:
  • serves as an example of a great ordinary hero; 
  • shows the power of what youth (or anyone) can do to enact positive change; 
  • demonstrates that we can have an impact on people around the world;
  • highlights the power of anonymous extraordinaries and shows that we don't have to be MLK, Jr., or Jane Goodall to make a difference;
  • outlines how much work and time can be involved in striving for change.
Be sure to add this TEDx talk to your humane educator's toolbox.

~ 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.


Obama legalizes horse slaughter for human consumption (via One Green Planet) (11/29/11)

"African penguin colony at edge of extinction" (via National Geographic) (11/28/11)

Study reveals link between climate skepticism & inaction (via TreeHugger) (11/28/11)

Ringling circus agrees to USDA fine (via AP) (11/28/11)

"Racism leads to health disparities" (via Health24) (11/28/11)

"Hard times generation: families living in cars" (via 60 Minutes) (11/27/11)

"The danger of avoiding tough news" (via GOOD) (11/27/11)

"Occupy L.A. offers hands-on civics lesson for students, teachers" (L.A. Times) (11/25/11)

Town opens community store to keep big box retailer out (via CBS News) (11/23/11)

Known carcinogen allowed to spread through NJ groundwater for decades (via NorthJersey.com) (11/19/11)



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Guest Post: Taco Night


This post is by guest blogger Paul C. Gorski. Paul is founder of EdChange and an Assistant Professor at George Mason University, where he teaches courses on social justice education, animal rights, and environmental justice.




Image courtesy of TheCulinaryGeek
via Creative Commons.
I remember the invitations: red text on a white background, the name of the event in curly bold face surrounded by a crudely-drawn piñata, a floppy sombrero, and a dancing cucaracha. A fourth grader that year, I gushed with enthusiasm about these sorts of cultural festivals -- the different, the alien, the other -- dancing around me, a dash of spice for a child of white flighters. Ms. Manning distributed the invitations in mid-April, providing parents ample time to plan for the event, which occurred the first week of May, on or around Cinco de Mayo. 

A few weeks later my parents and I, along with a couple hundred other parents, teachers, students, and administrators, crowded into the cafeteria, for Guilford Elementary School's annual Taco Night. The occasion was festive. I stared at the colorful decorations, like the papier mache piñatas designed by each fifth-grade class, then watched my parents try to squeeze themselves into cafeteria style tables built for eight-year-olds. Sometimes the school hired a Mexican song and dance troupe from a neighboring town. They'd swing and sway and sing and smile, and I'd watch, bouncing dutifully to the rhythm, hoping they'd play La Bamba or Oye Como Va so I could sing along, pretending to know the words. If it happened to be somebody's birthday the music teacher would lead us in a lively performance of Cumpleaños Feliz and give the kid some Mexican treats.

¡Olé!

Granted, not a single Mexican or Mexican-American student attended Guilford at the time. However, I do recall Ms. Manning asking Adolfo, a classmate whose family had immigrated from Guatemala, whether the Taco Night tacos were "authentic."  He answered with a shrug. Granted, too, there was little educational substance to the evening; I knew no more about Mexico or Mexican-American people upon leaving Taco Night than I did upon arriving. And granted, we never discussed more important concerns, like, say, the racism against Mexican Americans or the long history of U.S. imperialist intervention throughout Latin America. Still, hidden within Taco Night and the simultaneous absence of real curricular attention to Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Chicanos, and other Latinos, were three critical and clarifying lessons: (1) Mexican culture is synonymous with tacos; (2) "Mexican" and "Guatemalan" are synonymous, and by extension, all Latino people are the same, and by further extension, all Latino people are synonymous with tacos (as well as sombreros and dancing cucarachas); and (3) white people love tacos, especially in those hard, crunchy shells, which, I learned later, nobody in Mexico eats.

Thus began my diversity education, my introduction to a clearly identifiable "other." And I could hardly wait until Pizza Night.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by guest posters are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute for Humane Education or its staff.

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Ode to My Garden

Flying home to Maine from New York on Halloween was surreal. A few minutes after the plane ascended over Westchester County, the fall foliage was interspersed with huge swaths of snow. The snow was thick all through New England, until the descent into Bangor where, on one side of the plane the snow covered the fields, and on the other it was completely clear. Somehow, although downeast Maine apparently did get hit with the storm, the snow was minimal and melted quickly here. Thus I came home to my garden.

It’s hard to describe just how much food my 900 square foot garden has produced this year, or how much fruit I still have from the apple and pear trees and the kiwi vine. I’ve been juicing beets, carrots, apples and pears almost daily (the color is unreal), and still have a garbage-can-sized bucket of beets. I’ve only dug up 1/4 of the potatoes, but the pantry bin where I store them is already full. I’ve yet to eat all the melons that ripened during the Indian summer, and the crisp, crunchy and delicious kohlrabi (see photo) looks like it’s on steroids (it’s not; the garden is organic). I have two bins of delicata squash, and I’ll be picking kale leaves and brussels sprouts for some time. I just hope I manage to eat all the leeks before they succumb to the cold. Fortunately, I canned some of the tomatoes before the frost so no worries there. It’s a cornucopia.

Which is amazing to me. When the ground was bare in April and I planted tiny seeds, sometimes so small I could barely separate one from the other as I sowed them, I had to trust that each would sprout and grow into food. Sure enough, they did, the sun and rain having given them all they needed so that tonight, at the beginning of November, I can make a hearty soup oozing with flavor, color and nutrients. And tomorrow night another feast, and so on for months to come.

Having grown up in Manhattan, and having lived the first 35 years of my life in the east coast’s biggest cities, it is so gratifying to grow so much of our family’s food, to understand what it entails to do so, to marvel at the miracle that is life. Every spring and early summer, before the bounty is in, but when the time required to prepare and sow and weed seems endless, I wonder why I do this. Tonight I won’t be wondering.

Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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2 New Tools for More Ethical Shopping

At IHE we frequently emphasize the importance of being mindful about whether or not we really need a new project or gadget. But sometimes, we really do, and there may be no other way to fill that need than to go buy a particular kind of product.

The way our systems and stores are set up doesn't make it easy to determine which products are most aligned with our values, but two new tools have been released recently that can help.


We've been fans of GoodGuide for awhile now, but they've just released a free and nifty new "Purchase Analyzer" that is designed to use your shopping history to help your find "healthy, safe, green, and socially responsible" products. Once you've signed up for a free account you can:
  • create a filter with up to 12 different categories, based on what's important to you, from fragrance free to animal welfare to climate change to organic to fair trade.
  • sync up recent online purchases from stores like Amazon.com, and Safeway.com.
  • get a score that evaluates your recent purchases based on your filter.
  • get recommendations for different products that may be more aligned with your values, as well as suggestions for saving money.
According to TreeHugger, GoodGuide founder, Dara O'Rourke, described it this way:

"The free tool makes comparison shopping personal, with the ability for consumers to customize a shopping filter with issues that matter most to them (health issues, climate change, animal rights, etc.). The Purchase Analyzer instantly pulls peoples' shopping history from sites like Amazon.com, Soap.com, Diapers.com, Safeway.com, etc. and then matches their purchases against their personal preferences. Better products are suggested, as well as retailers offering the lowest price. The dashboard pulls all this information together into one place and tracks future shopping trips to measure improvement, just like a green personal assistant."
You can change your filters at any time, and although the system only analyzes purchases from mainstream online stores, there's plenty of room for growth and refinement.

If you're near the beginning in your journey toward lifestyle choices that do more good and less harm, this is an especially useful tool.


Also new on the scene is a mobile version of Consumer Reports Eco-labels. This helpful tool unpacks all the confusion and clutter around various labels and helps you determine what those labels really mean and how useful they are in helping you find eco-friendly products.

You can find answers to questions such as, "Is 'hypo-allergenic' meaningful?" "What does 'organic' mean exactly?" " If something has the 'leaping bunny' logo on it, is that reliable?"

The app costs only $.99 on iTunes -- a bargain -- and lets you search alphabetically by label/certification or by product. You can also delve into what those labels really mean via "report cards." The tool covers food, personal care products, and cleaners.

If you don't want to pay the $.99 or don't have a mobile device, you can always use the web version.

If you know of any useful and reliable apps or online tools for helping us make choices that do more good and less harm, let us know!

~ Marsha

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Why We Need Humane Education: Doing the Ethical Thing Isn't Automatic

Image courtesy of amk713
via Creative Commons.
We like to think that we're good people.  But research shows that our perceptions and reality are sometimes at odds. It's not as easy to do good as we think, and we don't do good as often as we'd like to think we do.  As reported in a recent New York Times article about ethics, studies show that "... people want to behave well but give in to temptations” and that people are more critical of others' ethics and “believe they are more honest and trustworthy than others and they try harder to do good.”

And as researchers have long known, as Francesca Gino says, “unethical acts can become an integral part of the day-to-day activities to such an extent that individuals may be unable to see the inappropriateness of their behaviors.”



Read the complete article.

So what's one essential tool we can use to help instill ethical action into our daily lives? You know what I'm going to say: humane education.  When we're raised (or taught) with a foundation of humane education principles, in every situation we're faced with, we're much more likely to make mindful choices based on critical thinking, respect for others, a sense of responsibility that extends beyond those closest to us, and the ability to bring creative and compassionate problem solving to the challenge. People exposed to humane education are less likely to be bystanders and perpetrators and more likely to be solutionaries. Humane education can help make doing the ethical thing a habit.

~ Marsha

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We Are All Potential Humane Educators

Image courtesy of soozums
via Creative Commons.
As far as I know Anita Springer is not a teacher and doesn’t work in the field of education. But she is a humane educator, and in less than a minute, she made a lasting difference. She recounts the story of coming to the rescue of a snapping turtle being brutalized by parents and children alike in her housing development, yelling at them, “Don’t you adults realize what you are doing? You are teaching these children that it is okay to torture and torment an innocent, helpless animal who, in all likelihood, was there to dig a hole and bury its eggs.” She saves the turtle and years later learns just how big an impact she had.

Never forget that regardless of what you do for a living, you can be a humane educator, teaching through words and example how to be kind, compassionate, wise, and courageous.

(For another example of speaking out to help turtles, read about our own M.Ed. grad, Sophia Erlsten, and her experience in Trinidad.)

For a world full of humane educators,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Happy Thanksgiving Gratitude Round Up

Image courtesy of Dominick Gwareck.
We write a lot about gratitude, as it's an important part of a joyful, examined life. In honor of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. today, we've linked to a selection of our blog posts about gratitude. Enjoy!

The Possibility of Possibility

Finding Daily Gratitude in Thank-You Letters

Gratitude in the Midst of Catastrophe

Finding Gratitude in Every Situation...Like in Cat Bites

Cultivating Gratitude with Naikan

Why We Are So Lucky That We Are Going to Die

Thank Everyone

And we'd like to take a moment to say how grateful we are for your support. We couldn't do this work without you. So Thank You So Much!

~ The IHE Staff
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The False Dichotomy of Localization vs. Globalization

I recently watched Helena Norberg-Hodge's TEDx talk, The Economics of Happiness. I’ve appreciated Helena Norberg-Hodge’s work for some time, but I was disappointed in her TEDx talk. Helena is an impassioned speaker, with much global experience underlying her perspectives, but I wanted more than what I perceived to be a simplistic, either/or solution to our problems. She begins her talk by saying, “For all of us around the world the highest priority, the most urgent issue, is fundamental change to the economy.” She goes on to say, “The change that we need to make is shifting away from globalizing to localizing economic activity.” Essentially, she believes that a return to localization will bring about happiness. I found myself thinking that this solution lacked nuance and complexity, and I doubted very much whether it was truly the urgent answer for our time.

As she went on to argue that 99% of us don’t benefit from globalization, I found myself thinking of the vast majority of us who have certainly benefited from many aspects of globalization. While the farmers’ market and local food movements have surely done good, helping farmers, communities, and individuals alike, I could only imagine the 99% of coffee drinkers I know here in New England, and all those who eat bananas, drink orange juice, enjoy black and green teas, consume avocados, lemons and wine, eat rice, and wear cotton foregoing it all for apples, potatoes, wheat, blueberries, mint and chamomile tea, mussels and clams, and linen clothing and deer hides. Further, I thought of the people in temperate climates who’ve been saved by medicines derived from tropical plants, and the people in the tropics saved by the medicines discovered by scientists working in New England laboratories.

Imagine what would happen to the Ethiopian coffee farmers depicted in the film Black Gold whose organic, fair trade coffee would no longer have a market outside their communities, or to the sustainable and fair trade collectives producing goods and clothes for a living wage that are lifting individuals out of poverty as these products are sold beyond their borders. I wondered what would happen to all these people were we to all choose to buy locally.

The choice between localization and globalization is a false one. There are more nuanced choices we can and should make. If the primary problems lie in monoculture farms, poisonous chemicals, fuel-guzzling animal agriculture, exploitation of farm workers, cruelty to animals, and reduction in biological diversity of crops, we can address these problems directly. Fair trade, organic, sustainable, diverse, plant-based farming will help solve these challenges without closing markets between north and south, east and west, or in the U.S. between the fertile heartland, citrus-bearing Florida, and California (where just about everything grows). I’m happy that my state of Maine provides blueberries and lumber to people across the country (although I would like it to do so without toxic pesticides and clear-cutting), and I’m also happy that I can live in Maine and still occasionally eat dates and drink red wine.

What I see as the bigger challenge with globalization is the fuel necessary to transport crops and products across the globe, but as Michael Berners-Lee reveals in his carbon footprinting assessment of hundreds of products and foods in his book, How Bad Are Bananas?, local doesn’t necessarily mean less carbon intensive. Bananas from equatorial regions, he points out, use a fraction of the fuel of hothouse tomatoes grown next door to him in England. These are complex problems that are going to require innovative solutions, and we’re going to have to find clean energy sources no matter what we do, whether we buy locally or globally, assuming we want to live without returning to a fuel-less life.

I don’t know many people – even local food advocates – who really want to give up everything produced outside of 100 miles or whatever constitutes “local.” It’s great that we’re witnessing a revival of local, sustainably-produced food, and I for one enjoy producing much of my family’s food in our 900 square food organic garden, but localization is not a panacea. My hope is that in the process of coming up with solutions to our very complex global challenges, we will not resort to simple answers that may fail to harness the creativity and brilliance we really need to build a just, healthy, and happy world for all.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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10 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste During the Holiday Season

Image courtesy of Neogene
via Creative Commons.
According to the UN, one third of food worldwide is wasted. That's a lot of waste when so many are going hungry and so many animals are suffering to become that food. As the holidays spark an increase in wastefulness, our friends at Worldwatch Institute just sent out a useful little guide to reducing food waste during the holidays.



Here are the highlights:
  1. Be realistic about how much food is needed.
  2. Plan ahead.
  3. Go small with portions; you can always go back for more.
  4. Encourage self-serve so that people have control.
  5. Store leftovers safely so they're not wasted.
  6. Compost food scraps.
  7. Create new meals out of scraps.
  8. Donate extra.
  9. Support food recovery programs.
  10. Be mindful when giving food as gifts.
Read the complete article.

To find out more about food waste issues, check out resources such as:
  • The FAO's Global Food Losses and Food Waste report (May 2011)
  • The Wasted Food blog by Jonathan Bloom [also author of the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (2011)]
  • Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart (2009)

~ 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.


Chevron admits responsibility for Brazil oil spill (via Huffington Post) (11/20/11)

"Doing the ethical thing may be right, but it isn't automatic" (via NY Times) (11/18/11)

Number of "near poor" skyrocketing (via NY Times) (11/18/11)

McDonald's, Target dump egg supplier after undercover investigation (via ABC News) (11/18/11)

Teen brings books to villages in Africa (via Take Part) (11/18/11)

In tough financial times, Oregonians get creative (via OPB) (11/16/11)

UK universities forced to reveal details of controversial primate research (via The Independent) (11/16/11)

"Are conflict minerals laws doing more harm than good in the Congo?" (via Treehugger) (11/15/11)

Congress fights plans to make school lunches healthier (via Washington Post) (11/15/11)

"More U.S. land conserved as parks, farms, nature areas" (via USA Today) (11/15/11)

"5 old-timey prejudices that still show up in every movie" (via Cracked) (11/15/11)

12-year-old girl helps build homes, school for Haiti (via NBC) (11/14/11)

Teacher's plea for help sparks community generosity (via Vancouver Sun) (11/12/11)

"The Re-emergence of Concentrated Poverty" (via Brookings Institute) (11/3/11)


Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
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Changemaker Jay Smooth: We're Not Supposed to Be Perfect When It Comes to Navigating Race

"It's the connection we maintain with our imperfections that allows us to be good." ~ Jay Smooth

Virtually all of us want to think that we're good. But, as video blogger, radio host, and acclaimed commentator, Jay Smooth, discusses in his recent TEDx talk on talking about race, when we're confronted with evidence of our imperfection, we often deny it, because we're afraid it means someone's saying we're not a good person. We tend to see things from an either/or lens: either we're good 100% of the time, or we're not a good person. Jay has some great insights in his talk that are dead on about our discussions (or lack thereof) about race, and his core message that we need to rethink our perception about what being a good person means extends to all aspects of our daily lives. As he says:

"We deal with race and prejudice with this all or nothing, good person/bad person binary in which you either are racist or you are not racist. And if you're not batting 1000, you're striking out every time. And this puts us in a situation where we're trying to meet an impossible standard. And if anything less than perfection means that you are a racist, that means any suggestion that you've made a mistake, any suggestion that you've been less than perfect is a suggestion that you're a bad person, so we've become averse to any suggestion that we should consider our thoughts and actions. And it makes it harder for us to work on our imperfections. When you believe that you must be perfect in order to be good, it makes you averse to recognizing your own inevitable imperfections, and that lets them stagnate and grow. So the belief that you must be perfect in order to be good is an obstacle to being as good as you can be." Watch his talk here:



This is great stuff for exploration in a classroom, as a conversation starter with friends and colleagues, or just as a reminder to ourselves to rethink our perceptions about what it means to be racist and what it means to be a good person.

~ Marsha

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Give the Gift of Creating a Better World & a Better Life

Image courtesy of balanced crafts via Creative Commons.
This holiday season give yourself and your loved ones a gift that will bring real meaning to your life and contribute to a just, compassionate, healthy world for all.

Whether your an educator, activist, parent, or concerned citizen, our online courses help you connect your deepest values with your actions and become more a effective leader for positive social change.

Imagine the delight of your loved ones when you give them an experience that is truly life-changing. Course participants join looking for insights, support and strategies for making a difference in the world and for pursuing a more mindful, joyful life. A few days into the course, they're inspired, empowered, and already making meaningful changes in their habits and choices.  Here's what people are saying about our online courses:


"I love, love, love the course!  I love everything about it  - the topics, the reading, the videos links, the on-line commons!"

"This course is so insightful and interesting – I’m really enjoying it!  I’m so excited to begin thinking about what I can implement in my classes next semester."

"The course ... is wonderful and I'm lapping up the course book. It is food for the soul."

BONUS! Sign up for yourself or register for your friends/loved ones before December 15 for the special price of only $100 per person! That's $35 off the regular price. Just use the discount code: IHE_Holiday_Discount

Take advantage of our next sessions:

Sign up for Raising a Humane Child: February 6-March 16, 2012


Sign up for Teaching for a Positive Future: February 6-March 16, 2012  or October 8-November 16, 2012 (Or, sign up for our special summer 4-week intensive, July 9-August 3, 2012)


Sign up for A Better World, A Meaningful Life: March 5-30, 2012 or October 1-26, 2012


Find out more about our online courses.


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9 Resources for Helping Green Your Electronics

The love affair we have with our electronic gadgets is fierce and deep and is only growing exponentially. A recent report from the Consumer Electronics Association projects that electronics sales for the holiday season will account for as much as "one-third of all holiday gift spending." But the collection of all those shiny new objects has a cost well beyond the price tag, which is why it's important for us to ensure that we're making informed, mindful choices about our electronics. Here are 9 resources to help:

If we're buying and using:

1. We can start by asking ourselves these 7 questions before we buy, so that we ensure that we're making our product choices mindfully and that those choices are aligned with our values.

2. Buy used, borrow, or share? We can use our creative skills to hunt for bargains. Is your friend upgrading? Is it available on places like Craigslist, Freecycle or Ebay? Can you share with your significant other, so that you only need one between you? Can you repair and maintain what you have to help it last longer?

3. Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics - It won't tell you specifically what products to buy, but it does give you an inside look at where companies are "on policies and practices to reduce their impact on the climate, produce greener products, and make their operations more sustainable."

4. How to Green Your Electronics - This guide from TreeHugger is old (2007), but the concepts (such as reducing vampire power and extending the life of your gadget) are still useful.


If we're disposing:

5. E-Stewards - This is a new third-party audited certification program that identifies electronics recyclers conforming to these standards:
  • No export of hazardous waste to developing countries
  • No landfill or incineration
  • No use of prison labor
  • Protection of private data
  • Protection of worker health

6. The Electronics Take Back Coalition - A coalition of organizations dedicated to greener design and more responsible recycling and disposal of e-waste. Offers tools for finding an e-waste recycler near you and for getting more involved in creating a better system.

7. Electronics take-back companies like Gazelle and You Renew are sprouting up to pay you (usually a minimal amount) for your old electronics to give them new life & keep them out of landfills.


If we're working to learn more & change systems:

8. The Story of Electronics - From Annie Leonard, this brief video outlines the impacts of our gadget habit & offers suggestions and resources for taking action. 

9. There are numerous organizations who keep tabs on the electronics industry. You can find useful and informative reports, such as Switching on to Green Electronics (2009) from Greenpeace, or this report on the "Truth Behind Electronics Sweatshops" (2011) from China Labor Watch (read the beginning parts & the executive summary to get the gist).

~ Marsha

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Is Sea World a Slave Plantation? Lawsuit Says Yes

Image courtesy of christopherallisonphotography
via Creative Commons.
Bruce Friedrich's recent essay asks whether PETA’s lawsuit against Sea World, invoking the 13th Amendment’s prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude to demand the freedom of five orcas, has merit. After all, the 13th Amendment was written to free humans from slavery. But not only is Bruce, the Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives for Farm Sanctuary, impressed by the legal initiative, he is delighted that Harvard Law School professor and constitutional scholar, Laurence Tribe, finds that the suit does indeed have merit. Read his thought-provoking essay and judge for yourself.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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9 Turkey-Friendly Children's Books for Thanksgiving

Traditionally, stories involving Thanksgiving end up with a turkey on the table, but as more families are celebrating Thanksgiving by seeking more mindful and compassionate choices, they're also looking for children's stories where the turkey has a happy ending.  Here are 9 turkey-friendly picture books.




  1. Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson. 2005. (40 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    Provides some new twists to the traditional song, as a turkey family is traveling to Grandma's and must outsmart a young hunter on the way.
  2. Turkey Surprise by Peggy Archer. 2007. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-2.
    A turkey being hunted for Thanksgiving dinner tries to hide from two brothers. When one of the brothers decides he’d rather not eat a turkey, he convinces the other that pumpkin pie would be so much tastier.
  3. A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. 1995. (32 pgs) Gr. K-3.
    Mrs. Moose asks her husband to bring home a turkey for Thanksgiving, but what they turkey doesn’t understand is that they want him to join them FOR dinner, not BE the dinner.
  4. Albuquerque Turkey by B.G. Ford. 2005. (36 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    A rhyming story (that can be sung to the tune of "My Darling Clementine") in which a man prepares a Thanksgiving feast for his pet turkey.
  5. Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr. 2009. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    Turkey manages to camouflage himself from the farmer until he gives up and spares the turkey from being dinner.
  6. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey. 2004. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-3.
    Follows what happens when a group of school children visit a turkey farm and decide that the turkeys shouldn’t become anyone’s Thanksgiving dinner.
  7. The Best Thanksgiving Ever! by Teddy Slater. 2007. (32 pgs) Gr. Pre-K-2.
    A rhyming tale of a turkey family who comes together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  8. Happy Thanksliving!: A Coloring Zine by Nathalie VanBalen. 2011 (20 pgs) All ages.
    A coloring zine for all ages, with a delightful rhyming story featuring a joyful, compassionate Thanksgiving feast.
  9. Turk and Runt by Lisa Wheeler. 2005. (32 pgs) Gr. PreK-3.
    "Runt" has figured out why people come to the turkey farm in November, but no one believes him at first.
~ Marsha

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Coloring Zine Celebrates Thanksliving

How many times have we thought, "Gosh, it would be great if someone would create x" and then gone on about our business? Artist and author, Nathalie VanBalen, thought it was time for a more compassionate and fun take on Thanksgiving, but instead of just wishing for it, she created a coloring zine for all ages.

Combining a catchy rhyme, creative illustrations, a compassionate message and the fun of coloring, Happy Thanksliving! offers a sweet alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving story and an opportunity to create new traditions and gently explore assumptions about current ones. The rhyming story highlights a joyful, compassionate Thanksgiving feast, emphasizing gratitude --  “give thanks for all that is living — on the ground, in the sea, in the sky” -- and the deliciousness of a veggie feast.

The back cover highlights a few factoids and suggested titles for further reading about turkeys, indigenous people, and Thanksgiving. Here are a couple of screenshots from the zine:

sample page from zine: feathered friendssample page from zine: fall feast























Parents and educators looking for something fun and fresh for Thanksgiving will want to snatch up a copy of Happy Thanksliving! 

The zine is available for purchase here for $5 (which includes shipping within the U.S.). It consists of 20 black and white pages, is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and is bound with thread “for the safety of little ones."

Nathalie has also written and illustrated the children's book Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice.

~ Marsha

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Making MOGO (most good) Choices: The True Price of Bottled Water

Image courtesy of stephendepolo
via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for One Green Planet, a blog dedicated to ethical choices. Here’s an excerpt from Making MOGO (most good) Choices: The True Price of Bottled Water:
"When I was growing up, there was one kind of bottled water – Perrier – reserved for very special occasions. Today, bottled water is ubiquitous. You can find shelves of it in convenience stores and supermarkets, filling up vending machines, and sitting in cupboards and pantries in homes across the U.S. There are numerous brands, some of which appear to be spring water even when they’re not (e.g., Poland Springs), some “artesian,” – whatever that means (e.g., Fiji), some making no special claims beyond the seductive ads that urge us to buy them, which is good because they are just purified tap water (e.g., Dasani and Aquafina).

There is a cost to bottled water beyond the dollar price, and in this series on the True Price of everyday products (such as a cheeseburger and a T-shirt), that examines the effects (both positive and negative) of our choices on ourselves, other people, animals, and the environment and considers alternatives that do more good and less harm, it’s worth taking a closer look at bottled water."

Read the complete post.


For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Powerful Changemakers Help Themselves First

Image courtesy of Jamison Wieser
via Creative Commons.
Recently I came across a blog post on Connection Revolution that's a great reminder for those who care deeply about the suffering in the world and want to make a positive difference. It begins:
"Here are some important things that I think Really Important Change Makers do, things I want you to do to become an unstoppable, powerful agent of change in the world.

Are you ready? 



They are: Go for a walk. Take a nap. Doodle. Write in your journal. Dance. Knit.



I can hear you now: 'There is real oppression and discrimination going on every day…and you want me to go for a walk? Take a nap?  Do something silly and creative? Are you nuts?!'

And yet, what I’ve seen over and over with change agents, activists, and others who are able to profoundly impact the world for the better is that their approach to change is rooted in love and in joy. This depth of joy can only begin with taking care of our own needs first."
Read the complete post.

The idea of taking care of our own needs first and pursuing our own joy can be counter intuitive for many, especially when the dominant culture is telling us the opposite. But, as IHE faculty member, Melissa Feldman says in Zoe Weil's book, Most Good, Least Harm,  doing the most good and least harm "starts with me." She says:
"As they say on the airlines, in case of a loss of oxygen, put on your oxygen mask first and then help your kids put on their masks. I believe that I deserve to have a good and happy life, even though others are suffering. This was a hard concept for me to understand years ago.  At the same time, one of the cardinal philosophies of my life comes from Helen Keller, who said, 'I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.' So, I start with myself, but I don't end there."
 As Connection Revolution blogger, Julica, says:
"Here’s the bottom line: when you are joyful, spiritually nourished, loving yourself, you can’t HELP but change everything you touch. Using joy and love to fuel change is like using the Force — instead of just your human strength to rely on, your efforts are buoyed by something much greater. Instead of pulling and pushing, you become a magnet for change."
What steps can you take today to nurture joy and fulfillment in your own life? Start now!

~ 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.


With need for rare earths minerals, green technologies not so green (via Mother Jones) (11/14/11)

"Chimps' days in labs may be dwindling" (via NY Times) (11/14/11)

Vancouver, B.C., aims to be greenest city in the world by 2020 (via Seattle Times) (11/12/11)

Federal subcommittee reports fracking has "real risk of serious environmental consequences" (via TreeHugger) (11/11/11)

"Irreversible climate change looms within 5 years" (via Common Dreams) (11/10/11)

"Next frontier in natural gas wars: psy ops" (via Mother Jones) (11/9/11)

Grand Canyon plastic bottle ban plan shelved after Coca-Cola steps in (via NY Times) (11/9/11)

"Entire mammal genus on brink of extinction" (via National Geographic) (11/8/11) 

Global Soap Project recycles little hotel soaps for good (via TreeHugger) (11/8/11)


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One Small Step for a Better World: 7 Questions to Ask Ourselves Before We Buy

It's the middle of November and already the holiday shopping frenzy has blanketed the country like a snowstorm. We know from experience that the stuff that surrounds our holidays doesn't bring lasting joy, and it often can cause harm to people, animals, and the earth.

Yet, especially during the holiday season we can feel the pressure to consume and buy. Even if we're eco-conscious, we're surrounded by marketing messages telling us that we can have our healthy, vegan, organic, fair-trade chocolate and sugar, locally-produced, compostable cake and eat it, too. It can be challenging to stop and ask ourselves whether or not we need (or want) this stuff that's triggering our covet buttons and to think consciously about its impacts beyond our pocket books. 

When we want to bring mindfulness to the material goods and services we add to our lives, we can ask ourselves these seven questions when we feel that urge to lay down some greenbacks.

7 Questions to Ask Ourselves Before We Buy:
  1. Is this a want or a need?
  2. How much will I use it? How long will it last?
  3. Could I borrow it ? Make it? Do without it?
  4. Will having this add meaning to my life?
  5. Is purchasing this item the best way to care for myself and the planet?
  6. What is the true cost of this item to:
    • Myself?
    • Other cultures?
    • Other people?
    • Other species?
    • Other animals?
    • The environment?
  7. What will happen to this item when I’m finished with it?
I can already hear some people saying, “There’s no way I’m going to take time to think about all that stuff before I buy every single thing. That’s crazy! That’s overload!”

Making choices that do the most good and least harm isn’t actually about perfection; but when we start bringing awareness to the impact of our choices, and take a few seconds to think about questions like “Is this a want or a need?” then such questions become part of our new awareness and gradually become easier habits, and then grow into old easy ones.

~ Marsha

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Guest Post: Finding Wonder in a Cockroach

Image courtesy of Anthony Kei C
via Creative Commons.
Right now we're in the middle of a fabulous session of Teaching for a Positive Future, our online course for teachers and community educators/activists. One of the assignments asks participants to spend time observing nature, reflecting on what they observed, and considering how they might bring a sense of wonder for nature to their students. There were some wonderful responses, and I wanted to share one.

Gypsy Wulff is an educator and author who lives in Australia. This is her beautiful essay about observing the natural world.

Being somewhat homebound because I rely on a wheelchair for mobility, getting access to the places I love to go to has become a challenge. Fortunately however, I am surrounded by a beautiful organic garden tended to lovingly and regularly by my green fingered mother.

It is wonderful to sit in it when weather permits or to look through the bay window and see the world of activity that goes on. A large perch with a round table has been placed in the center covered with seed. The word has gotten out and we are visited daily by many beautiful birds.

As I look through the window I see the doves alight on the perch. They are plump and healthy, testimony to their abundant surroundings. Once their desire for seed is satisfied they gently fly to the ground and go "shopping" amongst the aisles of lush green plants and seek out further sustenance. At the same moment a Wattle Bird lands on the clothesline and announces his arrival with a loud rattling call. He eyes the birdbath and finally flies onto the edge...he eyes it a little further and then takes the plunge, literally. He flies back to the line and dries off and preens for a while, only to repeat the former ritual. I count at least 10 dives...he must have a special date this day. A cheeky Willy Wagtail comes onto the scene displaying her delightful wagging tail and hops into pots and onto branches, confidently displaying her agility to move from one spot to another.

As I ponder with delight the daily activities of our feathered friends my eye catches sight of a large cockroach coming towards me on the floor. He seems to be an old fellow, moving slowly. I notice he has a back leg missing. He bumbles along awkwardly and I see that he is going to arrive at my foot any moment. Here is a creature, despised by the human race and regarded as ugly and obnoxious and yet, this old fellow, vulnerable in his state, quietly seeks out my foot. I suspend all judgment and leave my conditioned reflexes on hold. I feel the gentleness of his soft silken feelers as he gently crawls on to my foot. He is unaware that he has come into contact with his nemesis...a being of the human race. I look at his perfectly sculptured body and the fine detail of the hairs on his legs. I feel for his state in life and let him cross my foot without moving. He gently crosses to safety on the other side and I wish him well on his journey. Why do we love and admire one species and hold another in contempt when all are simply different manifestations of the life force?

I know many will squirm when they read this but the truth I wish to bring to my students is that all life is sentient and a part of a diversity that remains in balance if we work with it. My approach is to tell stories from the perspective of the creature. The cockroach, whom I have named Cassidy, is now the subject of one of the books I am writing in the I LOVE Animals series and is called...
Different, That's All.

My students already bring in a wonderland of creatures for discussion. "... My next series of books will provide a place for them to explore their own observations of nature and hopefully develop an understanding of the sentience of all life. I hope to design one of the pages on my website to be devoted to the children’s own stories... .

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Gratitude in New York

Image courtesy of asterix611
via Creative Commons.
I had quite a weekend in New York the weekend of October 29. Nine months ago, I had been invited to give a big talk in L.A. on the 29th of October, which happened to be my mother’s 80th birthday. I called her up to ask her how she felt about my not being there for such a big birthday, and she said I should definitely go to L.A. I told her we would come earlier in the month to celebrate with her (which we did). In August, however, my mom’s friends planned a party for her and asked if I could come, and so I said yes, changing my plans (which, fortunately, were changeable). I decided to let my appearance at her party be a surprise for her, and planned events in NYC to make up for missing L.A. I offered a day-long MOGO (most good) workshop, and the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) held a Crystal Ball to celebrate our 15th Anniversary.

That weekend could not have turned out better. The workshop went beautifully, and everyone made it despite the blizzard. I called my mother during our lunch break to wish her a happy birthday, and she told me it was snowing in New York. I said, “Really! Wow!” and let her know it was lovely in L.A. Somehow, despite the fact that so many people knew I was in the city, no one slipped when talking to my mother so that when she arrived at her party and I was there, she was stunned. And so very, very happy.

And then our Crystal Ball was a huge success with wonderful people coming to support IHE and others coming to learn about our work. If you’d like to see the video tribute to IHE on our 15th anniversary, you can watch it here.

Sometimes, things work out so beautifully. I feel very grateful for such a wonderful weekend.

Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Non-human and Human Animals: More Similarities Than Differences

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via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Care2.com, an online community for people passionate about creating a better world. Here’s an excerpt from Non-human and Human Animals: More Similarities Than Differences:
"It’s common to read books about issues related to human psychology, sociology, behavior and history and find references to and comments about the essential differences between humans and other animals (more often referred to as just “animals”). It’s as if in every era and from every author, a new fundamental difference must be named. I generally find these irritating.

I realize that humans are, in a very obvious way, quite different from all other species currently residing on Earth (but imagine if we still shared this planet with Neandertals!). Our built world is a far cry from a termite nest. Our ability to adapt to every clime by creating and wearing clothes, building elaborate structures, and harnessing energy sources for warmth and light certainly stands out. The complexity of our languages and our ability to use representational symbols to convey information through writing (and now computing) doesn’t have a counterpart among other species; and yet, these lie along a spectrum, and what essential quality do humans really have that does not lie on a continuum with other species?"

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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Dr. Michele Borba: 4 Tips for Nurturing Empathy in Children

When people are asked to list the best qualities of humans, kindness and compassion are always at the top of the list. We're able to be compassionate with others in large part because we can empathize with them. Empathy is key to a healthy, compassionate person (and a healthy, compassionate world), and studies show that we're innately wired to be empathetic, and that even at a very young age we demonstrate (and show a preference for) empathy.

But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty, and self-absorption, empathy must be nurtured; and studies show that young people are less empathetic than in generations past. We know that humane education is essential in helping nurture empathy in others, but as their child's first teacher, parents have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion.

Recently parenting consultant, Dr. Michele Borba, wrote on her blog about the importance of nurturing empathy in children and offered four tips for helping parents help their children develop facility with recognizing and understanding others' feelings. Her tips included:
  1. Point out other people's feelings (so that children learn to recognize emotions and understand what others are feeling);
  2. Switch roles to feel the other side (so that children learn to put themselves in the place of others);
  3. Imagine someone's feelings (so that children learn to understand the feelings and needs of others);
  4. Create a goodness legacy for your child (so that children have long-term modeling and experience with building empathy).
Read the complete post.

These are great tips that can be extended beyond our daily, face-to-face relationships to nurturing empathy for all other people, animals, and even the planet. (For one activity that touches on this, see Council of All Beings)

If you'd like additional ideas for raising compassionate, conscientious children, check out our online course, Raising a Humane Child. The next session begins in February.

~ Marsha

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Get Greener Electronics With Greenpeace's Guide

Image courtesy of Greenpeace.
Recently my troublesome laptop, which had repeatedly caused me problems since its purchase, decided to stop working -- about two weeks after the 2-year warranty expired, of course. I could have lobbied the company to fix it anyway, but since it had been a source of repeated frustration, I decided to recycle it and buy a new laptop.

After scouring reputable review sites, I found a reasonably-priced model that was highly recommended ... and then I remembered Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics and checked the ranking of the company that made the laptop. I discovered that that particular company was one of the lowest ranked for "green" policies and products. So I went back to my research and found a greener choice that was almost as highly recommended.

When it comes to purchasing electronics, we citizens can to look to the practices and products of the companies themselves to find choices that do more good and less harm, and Greenpeace's latest Guide to Greener Electronics is an important tool that can help. Since 2006 Greenpeace has been ranking electronics companies "on policies and practices to reduce their impact on the climate, produce greener products, and make their operations more sustainable."

Unfortunately, the electronics industry has a long way to go before it can be truly healthy, just, and sustainable, but several companies have been stepping up their efforts to be greener. HP tops the list this time (but only with a score of 5.9 out of 10). The report looks at 13 criteria over three categories: Energy and Climate, Greener Products, and Sustainable Operations.

The guide does have it limitations, and it doesn't include criteria such as how a manufacturer's workers are treated, but for those of us looking for additional information on which companies are striving for greener practices and products, it's quite useful.

Since companies are always tweaking their practices and products, they tend to move up and down in the rankings. Be sure to check out the next edition of the guide when it comes out in Fall 2012 to see which companies have made positive progress.


~ Marsha

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Why We Need Humane Education: Parents Have the Power to Nurture More Peaceful Children

"If we are to reach real peace in this world ... we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have to struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace...." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

As parents, we confront enormous challenges in raising our children to be kind and conscientious citizens of the world. With marketers now targeting children when they're infants, with studies showing that even preschool children can feel the pressure to conform to majority opinion, and with other outside influences, from media to school to friends to the messages from society, parents often worry whether they can have any significant impact in nurturing peaceful, compassionate children.

At least when it comes to peace, a new study says that parents can.

According to our friends at Greater Good Science Center, a new study focused on middle school students noted that children with parents who "actively advocated peaceful conflict resolution to their kids" tended to act less aggressively. Although the results weren't consistent in every situation, parents teaching their kids peace tended to have a positive influence on their children's behavior. And, as we might imagine, the study determined that the longer parents waited to talk about and model peaceful messages, the less influence they had:
"The results offer an important message to parents: If you want your kids to practice kindness instead of violence, you should stress the importance of peaceful conflict resolution strategies from the time they are still young."
Read the complete post here.

This study offers more evidence of the importance of humane education, especially starting at home when children are young. Parents are their child's first teachers and raising them to be humane nourishes them with deeply held values that help them resist peer pressure and cultural messages that are shallow or potentially harmful and help them embrace compassion and joy and seek truth and a life of integrity that respects all.

Parents are such an important teacher in their child's life that we offer a variety of helpful resources, as well as a six-week online course, Raising a Humane Child, to help parents in their journey to raise joyful, caring, peaceful children.

~ Marsha

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Teaching for a Positive Future

At the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) we're in the midst of our 6-week online course, Teaching for a Positive Future. During the course, educators complete exercises every other day that help them to bring humane education issues to their students, at whatever level and in whatever venue they teach. They watch short films, explore their passion for and beliefs about the value of education, learn about global issues relevant to their students, connect with and learn from each other and the course facilitator, and put what they’re learning into practice in their classrooms and teaching.

We always check in with the students mid-way, and here’s what participants are saying:
"I love, love, love the course!  I love everything about it  - the topics, the reading, the videos links, the on-line commons!"

"This course is so insightful and interesting – I’m really enjoying it!  I’m so excited to begin thinking about what I can implement in my classes next semester."

"The course is exactly what I needed."

"I am LOVING the course."

"The course ... is wonderful and I'm lapping up the course book. It is food for the soul."

Imagine what would happen if more and more educators took this course and learned how to incorporate the pressing global issues we face into their curricula so that their students could gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be solutionaries for a humane, healthy, and just world for all.

We’ll be offering this course again in 2012 in February, July (4-week intensive) and October. Please spread the word.


For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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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.


Some public charter schools adopting Waldorf-inspired education (via Harvard Education Letter) (11/11)

"A broader, bolder approach uses education to break the cycle of poverty" (via Phi Delta Kappan) (11/11)

Survey shows many brands no longer doing their job (via GOOD) (11/8/11)

"Should you go to the circus? How about the rodeo?" (via Mother Jones) (11/7/11)

"12,000 tar sands protesters wrap White House in human chain" (via Treehugger) (11/6/11)

U.S. supplements formula for defining "poverty" (via Christian Science Monitor) (11/4/11)

"Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases" (via Seattle Times) (11/3/11)

"A start-up tries to eliminate 'food deserts'" with mini-groceries (via NY Times) (11/1/11)

Interest rises in peer-to-peer car sharing (via USA Today) (11/1/11)


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