Race Relations Through a Child's Eyes

Image courtesy CNN screenshot.
"A lot of white parents...have this view that if you talk about race you are creating the problem."

Anderson Cooper 360 recently aired a segment about a study they sponsored of kids' perceptions of race and friendships. As part of the study, children were shown two pictures with one white and one black child in a somewhat ambiguous situation involving a swing.

Responses showed that 70% of white children interpreted something negative going on in the pictures, while only 38% of black children did. The children were also asked open-ended questions about friendships with children who have a different skin color. Watch the video (about 10 min):




The results probably aren't surprising to most of us, but they're certainly frustrating. Racial bias continues to be a significant problem, and that won't change unless we're willing to admit that there is no such thing as colorblindness (nor should there be), and that, as difficult as conversations about race are, it's essential that we engage in them with our children, our students, our friends and family, our co-workers and acquaintances.

How do you discuss race in your classroom, family, or workplace?

~ Marsha

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The Solution to Every Problem That Impacts People, Animals, and the Planet

Image courtesy of CERTs via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for One Green Planet, a website dedicated to ethical choices. Here’s an excerpt from "The Solution to Every Problem That Impacts People, Animals, and the Planet":

"About 25 years ago I submitted a question to a local newspaper contest about what I perceived as a largely unaddressed quandary: Since we measure the health and well-being of our nation primarily as growth in the GDP; and since unlimited growth is destructive (and ultimately impossible) because of the negative consequences that arise with more people, more resource depletion, more pollution, etc.; our primary indicator for health and well-being was ultimately one that led to numerous dangerous systems. Given the negative repercussions of such growth, why was (and is) our national conversation about how well our nation is doing limited to the growth of GDP?"

Read the complete essay.


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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Sarah Bexell: Environmental Education, Activism, & Staying Sane

Image courtesy of W_PeacePlusOne
via Creative Commons.
Our friends at Mongabay recently did a great interview with conservationist and educator Dr. Sarah Bexell. According to interviewer Ryan King:

"Dr. Bexell has conducted conservation field studies, animal behavior, and environmental education programs in the United States as well as internationally. She is currently serving as a Research Scholar in Residence in the Human-Animal Connection Institute at the University of Denver and functions as the Director of Conservation Education and Communications at the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding."

Here's an excerpt from the interview addressing the importance of education in changing the world:
"I think that perhaps environmental education is taking on a whole new meaning; honestly it needs to be seen as one mechanism for survival of humanity. We are not there yet because most of humanity (especially the rich and powerful) is in a severe state of maladaptive denial. However, I have had some really promising discussions lately with folks who have more influence in global issues and the importance of environmental education is being discussed, and not just by the environmental educators, as has only been the case in the past. If you peruse websites sponsored by the UN and UN agencies, you can see they are following the sciences of global environmental change and human population issues, tracking the impact on humanity and wildlife and global ecological stability and they are gravely concerned. Admitting and facing the problems is the first step.

Now the global human populace needs to join forces, hearts and minds and decide if we are going to allow Mother Earth to continue to provide for us. I had hoped we would do it for the other animals as well, and it is so painful to watch us cause them harm and suffering and snuff them out. Now it really is Earth's children who are at stake as well, but so many people don’t really know that. We have to use education and compassion to create a global social movement for compassionate and wise living.

I still have hope that education will be our most powerful tool. This is the arena in which we are not progressive enough, as esteemed environmental educator, David Orr states, 'We still educate our children as if there is no planetary emergency.' I think that quote is from about 2004, we need to get off our butts and reform global education! No time to waste!" 

Read the complete interview.

~ Marsha

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Zoe Weil Interview in Forbes Magazine: The Heart of Education

Image courtesy Amy Wilton Photography.
We're delighted that IHE's president, Zoe Weil, has an interview in Forbes Magazine with Michael Tobias! Here's an excerpt from "The Heart of Education: A Discussion with Zoe Weil":

Michael Tobias: In your opinion, why is humane education so important?

Zoe Weil: While there are many ways in which humanity is becoming less violent, less prejudiced, and less cruel, the reality of a warming planet with over 7 billion people and limited resources means we face potential economic, social, and environmental catastrophes. While every generation has faced its challenges, only in this century do we confront the possible loss of half of all species on earth, with the simultaneous breakdown of the ecosystems which sustain us all. At the same time, through the Internet, only in this century do we now have the capacity to work together across every border, and collaborate and innovate so quickly and powerfully. There is great and realistic hope that we can solve the challenges we face and transform dysfunctional, inhumane, and destructive systems, but we’ll be hard-pressed to succeed if children in school continue to be taught under centuries-old models, and if our grand purpose for schooling remains to “compete in the global economy,” which is the buzz phrase of our time regarding education reform.

Read the complete interview.

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Why We Need Humane Education: The Alarming Gap Between Our Climate Emergency & Teaching About Climate Change in Schools

"We still educate our children as if there is no planetary emergency." ~ David Orr

For some time, scientists have been saying how serious a problem global climate change is, and a recent poll shows that Americans are finally starting to be convinced. But you wouldn't know it from looking at the attention paid to global climate change in the school curriculum.

Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools and Bill McKibben of 350.org recently co-wrote an important essay for Common Dreams about this startling gap between reality and what our students are taught. Here's an excerpt from "Changing the Climate in Our Schools":
"Maybe you've heard. We are facing a climate crisis that threatens life on our planet. Climate scientists are unequivocal: We are changing the world in deep, measurable, dangerous ways -- and the pace of this change will accelerate dramatically in the decades to come.

Then again, if you've been a middle school or high school student recently, you may not know this.

That's because the gap between our climate emergency and the attention paid to climate change in the school curriculum is immense. Individual teachers around the country are doing outstanding work, but the educational establishment is not. Look at our textbooks. The widely used Pearson/Prentice Hall text, Physical Science: Concepts in Action, waits until page 782 to tell high school students about climate change, but then only in four oh-by-the-way paragraphs. A photo of a bustling city includes the caption: 'Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other sources may contribute to global warming.' Or they may not, the book seems to suggest.
"

Bigelow and McKibben recognize that teachers' reluctance to embrace interdisciplinary teaching plays a large part in hindering students from learning about such important issues. As they say:
"But the enormity of the climate crisis demands that educators, scientists, environmental activists, parents, and students join together to pull down the barriers between disciplines, and to rethink the curriculum. The cost of continuing with business as usual is too steep.

The good news is that addressing this crisis with the urgency that it deserves offers the possibility of revitalizing schools as young people develop the consciousness and commitment that the earth desperately needs."
Read the complete essay.

A curriculum that addresses the most important issues of our time and that helps students become effective thinkers and creative solutionaries is a big part of what humane education advocates. Our students hunger for real-world learning that is meaningful to their lives and that helps prepare them to become thoughtful, conscientious, active citizens.

What schools do you know about that are addressing climate change in a meaningful way?

~ Marsha

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One Small Step for a Better World: Plan a Gadget-Free Day for Your Family

Technology and media have become such a ubiquitous part of our lives that some people actually exhibit signs of addictive withdrawal if they’re away from their gadgets for too long. Our preschoolers in the U.S. spend an average of 32 hours a week with screen media.

While media and technology are important tools, helping nurture qualities like reverence, respect, curiosity, and creativity in our children (and ourselves) necessitates mindfully planning time to tap into the natural world and our creative selves. Take this small step: Plan a gadget-free day -- with no TV, video games, computer, or other electronics -- and relish finding creative, fun ways for your family to spend time together (preferably in a natural setting). If you enjoy this, try to integrate it regularly into your week or month. You might consider not mentioning to your child(ren) that this is gadget-free day -- simply plan a fun day without the influence of technology. This can open up new ways of having fun for kids without the resistance that might come from the announcement that we are purposefully removing them from their “gadgets.”

If positive peer pressure might work better for your family, you can get involved in special events such as Screen-Free Week (April 30-May 6), which offers ideas and events for rediscovering "the joys of life beyond the screen." You can download an organizer's kit (free registration required), which includes activity ideas, resources, lesson plan ideas for educators, facts about why less screen time is important, and suggestions for talking with others about your screen-free plans.

For additional gadget-free ideas, check out resources such as:
Good Times Made Simple: The Lost Art of Fun (pdf) by the Center for a New American Dream.

~ Marsha

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Curiosity and Care: The Core Necessity for Learning

Image copyright Edwin Barkdoll.
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 "Curiosity and Care: The Core Necessity for Learning":

"Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went out to Otter Bog, where we stumbled upon a vernal pool filled with salamander and Wood Frog egg masses. It was marvelous. We had decided to go to Otter Bog instead of attending a vernal pool conservation talk that evening. We didn’t think we had time for both, and attending a presentation didn’t seem as exciting as heading outdoors with our dogs on a beautiful spring afternoon. But once we saw the vernal pool and realized how much we didn’t know about it we decided to head back in time to attend the talk.
...We humans love to learn. We are endlessly curious and eager gatherers of new knowledge. But we do need motivation to learn new things, and that motivation comes from our enlivening experiences and our ability to care. Most people have no reason to get excited or care about vernal pools and their ecology or conservation, because vernal pools mean nothing to them. Even if they stumbled upon a vernal pool in the woods, they would be as likely to find it mucky and gross as they would to find it amazing and compelling. There’s a positive feedback loop that occurs with curiosity. It is fed by care and some knowledge, which then inspires the desire to gain more knowledge and which makes us care even more."

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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Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.


Koalas under siege (via National Geographic) (5/12)

Study says cities could save billions by "going green" (via The Atlantic Cities) (4/24/12)

Study says ravens have ability to recognize friends, foes (via NY Times) (4/23/12)

"Doing good and staying sane amidst the global environmental crisis" (via Mongabay) (4/23/12)

21st century bullying is 24/7 (via Baltimore Sun) (4/22/12)

17 top scientists call for "radical action" to create a better world (via Mongabay) (4/22/12)

"Small kids bring Pentagon big lesson" (via Portland Press Herald) (4/21/12)

Study explores impact of background TV on young children (via Education Week) (4/20/12)

"Laboratory chimps get a new lease on life" (via CNN) (4/20/12)

Student's study of plastics inspires town to consider plastic bag ban (via Portland Press Herald) (4/19/12)

Oregon "School of Sustainability" focused on real-life learning (via Education Week) (4/18/12)

Studies raise concern about food in plastic (and plastics in food) (via Washington Post) (4/16/12)


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Humane Educator's Toolbox: Planetary Problem Puzzle

Image courtesy of dddaag via Creative Commons.
This humane education activity, which is a favorite of YEA Camp director, Nora Kramer, helps participants gain a more sophisticated understanding of the interconnectedness of global issues and see how issues they may not have realized were important to them actually have a significant impact on an issue they care about.

Here's how Nora describes Planetary Problem Puzzle:

"We start by asking participants to share some of the problems they see in our society that they are most concerned about. They typically say things like racism, homophobia, war, animal cruelty, climate change, homelessness, poverty....

We then say that while these issues may seem unrelated, there are many connections between them that might surprise people. We choose 8-10 of these and write each one spread out around a large piece of easel paper, and draw a circle around that word or phrase. (The title is a bit of a pun because while these are problems affecting the planet, the display also kind of looks like planets in the sky.) We then ask if anyone can see any ways that any one of these problems contributes to or is related to another, and how.

The comments are fascinating and quite intelligent, among our campers, who are operating at a pretty knowledgeable level. They recognize some of the more obvious things, like that environmental problems are bad for animals too, but also much more sophisticated things, like that a high number of homeless people are veterans, or that war contributes to climate change -- not just because war results in burning carbon that contributes to climate change, but because we are spending billions on war and then use the excuse that there is no money to protect the environment.

Some see connections between racism and poverty, between people who are low income not having access to more sustainable or humane items (food or products), which harm the environment. There are just so many connections to be made. Each time someone makes a connection, we validate it and ask any clarifying questions regarding how those items connect, and draw a line between the items.

Critical to this activity is a facilitator/educator who is knowledgeable about many different social issues and can help direct the conversation if participants are struggling."



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YEA Camp Empowers Youth Activists

Image courtesy of YEA Camp.
Kids are amazing changemakers. As Pearl Buck said: "The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation." And when young people are provided with skills, resources, and support, they can become unstoppable forces for good. 

The amazing YEA (Youth Empowered Action) Camp is dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth who want to make a difference in the world. Their 7-day summer camps for ages 12-17 provide youth with the "knowledge, skills, confidence, and community to take effective, inspired action on the issues that matter most to them for years to come." 

During these camps, which are currently offered in Oregon, California, and New Jersey, youth from around the U.S. connect with other youth passionate about becoming changemakers; learn about important social issues and identify what they're most passionate about; learn effective activism skills; and create a personal action plan. And of course there are plenty of games, food, and fun. Post-camp each young activist is paired with an adult mentor to help them realize their action plan.

And the response to these camps has been phenomenal. YEA Camp's website is full of quotes like these:

“This camp has truly changed my life. You have inspired me to do so much with my life and to make the world a truly better place. You have inspired me to believe in myself and to not just say ‘I’m just a kid, what can I do?’ Because of you, I have been able to actually make a difference.” -Bianca, 15

Nora Kramer, founder and director of YEA Camp, is thrilled with YEA Camp's success. She says:

"It has been so inspiring to see some of the amazing things that our campers have accomplished after attending camp, as well as how excited they are to see the results of their efforts!

One camper, Emily, from northern California, met with her principal and the PTA to discuss the bullying at her school and persuaded them to implement an anti-bullying program based around an activity that we did at camp! Ramon, also from northern California, spearheaded a recycling campaign at his school that resulted in the purchasing of recycling bins for every classroom in the school, and bolstered by this success, is embarking on an effort to get solar panels at his school!

Deborah, from Oregon, started volunteering at Planned Parenthood after attending YEA Camp and was invited to be the final speaker at Planned Parenthood Oregon's annual luncheon, where she did a fundraising pitch in front of 900 people and helped to raise more than $170,000!

Jasmine, from Connecticut, recently spoke at a hearing at the Capitol to discuss a statewide dissection choice policy, and after camp she also successfully got more vegan options in her school cafeteria and interned with Compassion Over Killing! Another camper, Bianca, from southern California, started a school club called Hearts For Animals, which has done fundraisers for their local animal shelter, done beach clean-ups, and held a screening of the powerful film Earthlings, among many other things.

There are so many inspiring stories of campers doing amazing things -- everything from starting school clubs, getting screenings of important films shown at school, changing school policies, starting blogs, volunteering with local organizations, using school projects as opportunities to draw attention to an issue, as well as daily stuff like going vegetarian or vegan and making sustainable transportation and purchasing choices."


This year YEA Camp has also launched their newest program, YEA Academy, which offers a free monthly Saturday workshop on humane education issues and helps youth learn skills and strategies for successfully enacting positive social change. Right now the academy is available in Portland, Oregon, but the program will expand soon.

To keep up with YEA Camp, you can subscribe to their blog and/or e-news. Go to their website for more information, or for ideas about volunteering or helping them spread the word. They still have a few spaces available for enthusiastic campers.

~ Marsha

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"I have to return these because I'm having a girl": Beyond Gender Identity

Image courtesy of [F]oxymoron via Creative Commons.
I was with a friend who was exchanging some clothes at Target, and I overheard the person ahead of us in the returns and exchanges line explaining that she had to exchange a bunch of items because she found out that the baby she was carrying was a girl, not a boy, as she’d first been told.

She said she needed to get pink now instead of blue. She had purchased a big navy blue plastic bucket, a small turquoise throw rug, and a toy truck. Her new items were the same big plastic bucket, now in pink, a pink throw rug, and a tiny dress.

Although this woman’s actions were not unusual, I found myself startled by the attachment we still have to forced gender identification. Her baby won’t likely care much about the color of the throw rug and bucket for some time, if ever. Nor will she care one whit about the dress, which she will outgrow by 6 months old. And she might well have liked that truck in the years to come, but she probably won’t ever get one now.

I remember when my son was four, and we were going to paint his room. We let him choose the color. At the time, his favorite color was pink – bubblegum pink. Pink hasn’t been his favorite color for 13 years, but somehow, we never got around to repainting his room. It didn’t matter.

What does matter is whether this woman’s baby will be loved and cherished; whether her curiosity and wonder will be nourished; whether the world she grows up in will be fair and healthy and just and humane; whether she will be able to discern good from bad and become wise and generous; whether stores like Target will be filled with products and clothes that come at the expense of other children, other species, and the environment. And so much more.

I wish that mom-to-be had just kept her blue bucket and turquoise throw rug and truck and allowed the child she bears to lead her toward choices that reflect that child’s individuality, proclivities, and interests, and not those dictated by silly social norms.

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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Nominations Sought for Young Activist Award

The Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Fund is seeking nominations for its annual Young Activist Award.

Each year the award is presented to a young person (or persons), ages 16-26, in the U.S., "with a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action."

The award includes a cash prize of $6,000 divided equally between the winner & an organization of his/her choosing.

The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2012.

Find out more.

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In Praise of Wonder, Uncertainty, and Possibility

Neuroscientist David Eagleman gives a powerful and provocative TEDx talk about the importance of relinquishing dogma in favor of celebrating possibility. Watch it here:






By inviting us to ponder all that we don’t know, Dr. Eagleman reminds us that the best possible response to the mysteries that surround us is a combination of awe, wonder, curiosity, and a thoughtful search for understanding, rather than the dogmatism that pervades so much of society.

What I love most about this talk is its implicit message for education. If we cultivate the innate curiosity of our children and foster their creative and critical thinking capacities, while nurturing their wonder and reverence, we will be laying the groundwork for their open and eager search for new and better ideas that will lead us toward greater understanding, connection, collaboration, and truth-seeking.

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: Tennessee Passes "Denial Science" Law

Learning to think critically and question information and issues is an important part of schooling (or at least it should be). But what if "critical thinking" is used as a cover for inaccurately framing mainstream scientific theories?

Recently Tennessee became the second state (Louisiana was the first) to pass a law that allows public school teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” such as biological evolution and global warming.

On the surface, the new law seems to support a healthy encouragement of critical thinking, respect for others' opinions, and improved environmental literacy. Proponents of the law say that it's merely a means of encouraging critical thinking and "evidence-based reasoning."

Opponents of the law, such as Eugenie Scott, director for the National Center for Science Education, say the real goal is "a permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial and other non-science into science classrooms.” As a representative from the National Association of Biology Teachers said:

"Concepts like evolution and climate change should not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of special evaluation. Instead, they should be presented as scientific explanations for events and processes that are supported by experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision based on detectable and measurable data."

It's too soon to tell what kind of impact such a law might have, but any legislation that hinders true critical thinking and authentic learning (such as the recently proposed 50 "banned" words on standardized tests in New York schools) should spur us all to pay attention.

Sources Consulted:

Nature.com
The Guardian
Slate.com

~ Marsha

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Humane Education in Action: Students Speak Out Against Gang Violence

One of our friends and partners in pioneering comprehensive humane education is the organization HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers). They offer humane education programs in schools (and after-school programs), and do teacher training and consulting in the New York City, Chicago, and Indianapolis areas. We're proud that several of our M.Ed. graduates & students work for HEART, and our co-founder and president, Zoe Weil, is on their board.

HEART just released a new video showcasing their work with students at Westcott Elementary School in Chicago. Humane educator Mickey Kudia (who is an IHE M.Ed. student) helped facilitate a student-led project to educate others about gang violence:





This is another great example of the power of humane education to inspire young people with the passion and skills to create a better world for all.

~ Marsha

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Frans de Waal: We Should Only Do Experiments on Chimpanzees That We're Willing to Do on Humans

Frans de Waal knows about chimpanzees. He has been studying primate behavior since 1975, and he currently serves as the C. H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He has written numerous books about primates, and his most recent book,The Age of Empathy, explores the evolutionary origins of morality, empathy, and emotions.

As we learn more about our animal kin, the issue of medical experimentation becomes more contentious, especially regarding chimpanzees and other primates. Currently only the U.S. and Gabon use chimpanzees for medical experiments. De Waal says:
"The same reason chimpanzees are biomedically important provides a compelling ethical argument against their use. The more an animal is like us, the easier it is to extend our moral outlook to it [sic]. Recent studies have amply documented cognitive, social, and emotional similarities between chimpanzees and humans, including empathy and the rudiments of morality, power politics, and the ability to pick up habits from each other as reflected in multiple cultural traditions across the African continent." 

In that same article de Waal, who has a PhD in Biology and Zoology, calls for an end to most medical experiments using chimpanzees. His view is that we should only use chimpanzees in experiments that we believe it's ethical to do on humans. He says, "My personal definition of non-invasive research on apes is simple: the sort of research I would not mind doing on human volunteers. This would include all sorts of cognitive testing, trained giving of (small) blood samples, behavioral observation, and voluntary neuroimaging."

Recently the Public Library of Science conducted an interview with de Waal,  fleshing out his views about invasive research on primates and his reaction to a recent Institute of Medicine Report. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Gross: Do you see any applications for our current understanding of this cognition continuum for animals? Are there any policy recommendations aside from the Institute of Medicine report on chimpanzees that you can see coming out of our deeper appreciation of animal capacities in cognition and behavior?

De Waal: I’m not sure that what happened with chimps is going to happen to all species because people don’t worry much about rodents. For example, when we have rodents in the home we try to get rid of them, and so I’m not sure that people are going to apply the same concern that they have for chimps or elephants to other animals.

But I do feel there is a general trend in society, in the public, and scientists need to pay attention to that, of taking animals more seriously than we used to.

And this may also have an effect in the agricultural industry, on how we treat agricultural animals, which is a much larger number than research animals, actually, and so it may have effects everywhere, effects on the ethics of how we treat animals, and this will probably also affect the biomedical community.

It doesn’t mean that we will stop doing what we’re doing but we may start doing it differently. That’s my understanding of the movement, that we will increasingly think twice before we do certain procedures on animals.

Read the complete interview.

 De Waal's work, and the IOM report provide an excellent opportunity to explore the ethics of vivisection with older students as well as the inconsistencies in our relationships with nonhuman animals, especially those so similar to us.

~ Marsha

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Egg-Laying Hens in the News...At Last!

Image courtesy of Farm Sanctuary via Creative Commons.
When Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times and co-author of Half the Sky, uses his platform to tell the world about institutionalized – and profoundly cruel – egg production, one realizes that things have changed. For the better.  

Half the Sky, which documents the exploitation and abuse of women and girls around the world, is a fantastic and important book – one that’s required reading for the students in our graduate programs at the Institute for Humane Education. But one of my frustrations with the book was the dismissive tone that periodically crept into its pages regarding nonhuman animals. It saddened me that Kristof felt compelled to diminish the plight of animals in a book that was about the oppression of those without power.

But just a couple of years after writing Half the Sky, Kristof is now condemning the abuse of chickens in egg production. Compassion, it seems, can be extended when we acknowledge that pain and abuse is pain and abuse. Comparisons between humans and animals are not necessary. We can address all forms of cruelty and in doing so increase the overall measure of compassion and kindness in the world. Thank you Nicholas Kristof, and thank you to the anonymous worker at Kreider Farms who willingly endured your own hell to bring to light the unimaginable hell endured by those hens whose eggs millions of people eat.

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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MOGO Heroes: 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners

Image courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize.
We all need inspiration and motivation. We all need to believe that we can indeed change the world. This year's Goldman Environmental Prize winners serve as both inspiration and reminder that each of us has a role to play in creating a just, sustainable world for all.

Each year the Goldman Environmental Prize, which is the world’s largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalists, recognizes 6 activists from around the world (one for each of the 6 inhabited continental regions) who have shown significant leadership in helping the environment and their communities. Here are the 2012 winners:

Ikal Angelei/Kenya:
"Risking her life, Ikal Angelei is fighting the construction of the massive Gibe 3 Dam that would block access to water for indigenous communities around Lake Turkana."

Ma Jun/China
"Ma Jun is working with corporations to clean up their practices with an online database and digital map that show which factories are violating environmental regulations across China."

Evgenia Chirikova/Russia
"In the face of rampant political corruption, Evgenia Chirikova is mobilizing her fellow Russian citizens to reroute a highway that would bisect Moscow’s protected Khimki Forest."

Edwin Gariguez/Philippines
"A Catholic priest, Father Edwin Gariguez is leading a grassroots movement against a large-scale nickel mine to protect Mindoro Island’s biodiversity and its indigenous people."

Caroline Cannon/USA
"Caroline Cannon is bringing the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling."

Sofia Gatica/Argentina
"A mother whose infant died as a result of pesticide poisoning, Sofia Gatica is organizing local women to stop the indiscriminate spraying of toxic agrochemicals in neighboring soy fields."

 ~ Marsha

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Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.


"18 ways higher ed can support occupy and other social justice movements" (commentary) (via Alternet) (4/16/12)

"'Guerilla gardeners' spread seeds of social change" (via Washington Post) (4/14/12)

Study says people in developed countries need to cut meat consumption by 50% to curb global warming (via The Guardian) (4/13/12)

"The myth of 'sustainable meat'" (commentary) (via NY Times) (4/12/12)

"Consumerism leads to depression, study finds" (via Treehugger) (4/12/12)

Study shows baboons can recognize real words (via Fox News) (4/12/12)

"Uncompromising photos expose juvenile detention in America" (via Wired) (4/11/12)

Is micro-labor a great way to pay the bills or a new way to be exploited? (via Alternet) (4/11/12)

Study says being "nice" may have genetic connection (via Vancouver Sun) (4/11/12)

Is zero-waste becoming more mainstream? (via Alternet) (4/11/12)

"Study links autism with industrial food, environment" (via Civil Eats) (4/11/12)

"Getting the market to tell ecological truths" (commentary) (via Common Dreams) (4/11/12)

"Should teachers be responsible for teaching social issues?" (commentary) (via Education Week) (4/11/12)

Bill undermining evolution, global warming, becomes law in Tennessee (via Education Week) (4/11/12)


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Paul Gorski: Complicating White Privilege: Poverty, Class, and the Nature of the Knapsack

Image courtesy of EliasSchewel via Creative Commons.
Our friend and colleague, Paul Gorski, has recently written an important essay about the complexities of white privilege, and the importance of considering issues of economic injustice and other interconnected forms of oppression. It has relevance for educators and activists alike.

Here's an excerpt from "Complicating White Privilege: Poverty, Class, and the Nature of the Knapsack":

"Here, then, is the rub: We, in the white privilege brigade, often, and somewhat generically, in my opinion, like to say that racism is about power. That word, power, might be the most often-spoken word in conversations about white privilege and schools. Rarely, though, do we speak to the nature of power beyond the types of privilege so eloquently expounded upon by Peggy [McIntosh]. This is where critical race theory, with its frameworks for deconstructing racism, has flown past the white privilege discourse. Critical race theorists centralize the fundamental questions too often left unasked in conversations about white privilege: What, exactly, does power mean in a capitalistic society? Why, in a capitalistic society, do people and institutions exert power and privilege? What are they after?

So yes, yes, undoubtedly yes. Grandma has white privilege. But it’s a relative white privilege. It’s not the same white privilege that I have or that Peggy or Tim Wise or Paula Rothenberg or Robert Jensen has or, for that matter, that any white person has who has managed to sustain a financially solvent career out of writing or talking about whiteness. I feel the tug—believe me, I do—of that race-only white privilege rule. Still, no matter how I slice it, I come back to this: Class matters, even when it comes to white privilege. In other words, I have come to believe that the white privilege brigade, with me among its chief enforcers, has been wrong to police the complexities of class (and, for that matter, other forms of oppression) out of conversations about white privilege and schooling."

Read the complete essay.

~ Marsha

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Planet as People: Efforts Increase to Establish Rights for Nature

Does the natural world have intrinsic rights? Western culture has attempted for centuries to create a division between humans and nature, despite the fact that many other cultures (and even the ancient Romans) recognized the interconnectedness of people and planet. Recently there has been a "reinvigoration of the idea that we [humans] are not the center of the universe." The Earth Island Journal recently published an article that outlines new efforts to provide nature with legal standing and highlights the long journey that has catalyzed these campaigns.

From communities in Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Massachusetts, to the governments of Ecuador and Bolivia, people are striving to protect themselves and their ecosystems by establishing rights for the natural world. One of the first successful efforts was in Tamaqua Borough, in Pennsylvania. Where efforts to dump sewage sludge in the community led to the establishment of a new ordinance that says, in part:
“It shall be unlawful for any corporation or its directors, officers, owners or managers to interfere with the existence of natural community or ecosystems, or to cause damage to those natural communities or ecosystems. The Borough of Tamaqua, along with any resident of the Borough, shall have standing to seek declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief for damages caused to natural communities and ecosystems within the Borough … ecosystems shall be considered to be ‘persons’ for purposes of the enforcement.”

Some of these communities are also discovering that, just because a law has been passed, it doesn't automatically assure a desirable outcome.

Read the complete article.

Efforts like these mark an important opportunity for humane educators and citizen activists. Not only are concepts such as rights, property, legal standing, and other issues worthy of discussion and exploration, but this growing reframing of our relationships with the natural world provides us with a chance to help students of all ages expand their circle of compassion and to empower them to create greater positive change both in their own lives and in the global community.

~ Marsha

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50 Words You Should NOT Say on a Standardized Test

Image courtesy of Paul G via Creative Commons.
For my blog post today, I'm sharing a recent post I wrote for Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here's an excerpt from "50 Words You Should NOT Say on a Standardized Test":

"... when I first read about the New York City’s department of education effort to ban 50 words from city-wide tests, I thought that I’d better corroborate the source. It sounded too much like a satirical piece in The Onion. I thought that this couldn’t possibly be true – my home town, New York City, banning words? Alas, it was not satire. Here is the list of words that NYC Department of Education chancellor, Dennis Walcott, believes should be banned...."

Read the complete essay.

For a world full of critical thinkers,

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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Cigarettes and Cell Phones: Latest Annual Coastal Cleanup Collects 9 Million Pounds of Trash

Image courtesy of Ocean Conservancy.
For centuries the oceans have been a favorite dumping place for human waste. Now that we're all civilized and operating on a global economy that requires massive consumption to function, our oceans have become even more of a toxic trash pit. But more people are taking action to clean up the oceans and stop the waste at its source.

Each year the Ocean Conservancy sponsors an International Coastal Cleanup, in which volunteers not only pick up waste of all sorts, but they count it. This year nearly 600,000 volunteers from around the world picked up more than 9 million pounds of trash.

The most frequent items founds were cigarette butts (more than 2 million), with all sorts of plastic trash -- from caps to bags to straws to food wrappers -- also dominating the count.

Image courtesy of Ocean Conservancy.

Of course all this waste has a devastating impact on the plant and animal life who call our oceans home.

For those of us wanting to help stem the tide of trash that clogs our oceans, Ocean Conservancy offers 10 things you can do for "trash free seas."

You can also join the next International Coastal Cleanup on September 15, 2012.

~ Marsha

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NY Times Contest Invites Student Essays About Bullying

Bullying continues to be a serious problem. There have been a lot of school officials, consultants, and other adults weighing in, but few people are asking students for their solutionary ideas.

Nick Kristof of The New York Times invites teenagers to submit a 500 word essay sharing their ideas and insights. As Kristof says,

"... kids should only submit their essays if they are really prepared for the essays to be published with their names attached. It can be cathartic to share these experiences, but also embarrassing, so think this through carefully. And remember, too, that this is for a newspaper and must be the truth – no exaggerations whatsoever!"

Kristof is co-sponsoring the contest with The New York Times Learning Network and Teen Ink magazine.

The contest is open to students, ages 14-19. The deadline is April 30, 2012.

Find out the details here.

~ Marsha

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Banning "Pink Slime" Would Do More Harm

When “pink slime” hit the media, outrage ensued. Many were disgusted and appalled that their meat was full of cow parts that were grosser than other cow parts, necessitating ammonia treatment to kill bacteria (a practice that has been occurring for over 40 years).

But now an analysis in the Washington Post of the effects of banning “pink slime” (could there be a grosser name?) reveals the negative impact such a ban would have both on cows (between 300,000 and 1.5 million more would be killed) and the environment (because of the impact raising cows for consumption has on the environment.)

Sometimes what seems obvious – that “pink slime” shouldn’t be in food – turns out not to be so obvious. When considering what does the most good and the least harm (the MOGO principle), “pink slime” comes out ahead of a ban; yet there’s another obvious choice (less encouraged in the media) that is MOGO. By reducing consumption of animals and animal products in general, there’s less pink slime, less slaughter of animals, less global warming, and less pollution.

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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Stories of the Holocaust From Those Who Lived It: iWitness

Research (and our own experience) shows that stories are a powerful motivator and learning tool. It's challenging for us to relate to statistics, but we can more easily connect one-on-one. As we struggle with ever expanding global challenges, the stories of those affected  by our choices -- and the choices of our ancestors -- become even more essential.

The University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation Institute has created iWitness, an online library for educators and students, offering more than 1,000 video testimonies from survivors and other witnesses of the World War II Holocaust.

These personal narratives can be browsed or searched by topics, from specific events or places (Krystallnacht, Auschwitz), to types of people (children, perpetrators, liberators), to other topics (resistance, tolerance, discrimination).

Anyone can watch a sampling of brief video clips, but access to the complete testimonies and other benefits are currently restricted to educators and their students, who must apply for free registration.

The site also includes a resource section with links to other helpful resources about the Holocaust.

April 19 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. iWitness is a great resource to share with your students to offer them a lens on history told by those who were there. Click here for more suggested resources on genocide.

~ Marsha

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Exploring the True Price of Palm Oil

Image courtesy of SJ Photography via Creative Commons.
Look in your shopping cart, and you probably see soap and other beauty products, baked goods & other processed foods, perhaps some cleaning products. What you don't see is that about half those products contain palm oil, which means they are contributing to the destruction of forests and communities, and the extermination of endangered orangutans and tigers, and other wildlife.

In fact, according to a recent story, orangutans in parts of Indonesia are on the verge of extinction -- literally within months -- as companies burn them and their habitat to make way for palm oil plantations.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from the fruits of palm trees (it's extracted from the pulp of the fruit). It's a popular cooking oil in Africa and Southeast Asia, and it's increasingly popular as an ingredient in thousands of food, beauty, and other products, including biofuels. Palm oil has become such a lucrative and coveted commodity that millions of acres of rainforest and peatlands in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Nigeria have been burned and torn down to create commercial palm plantations.

Why is palm oil so popular?

In addition to the jobs created by palm oil plantations and production, palm oil is in high demand for several reasons. It's highly versatile, so it can be used for hard, semi-solid, and liquid fats & oils. It's cheaper to produce than some other kinds of oils. It doesn't contain trans fat, so it's very useful for companies that make processed foods. And palm oil is a popular component of biofuels.

The Effects on People, Animals, & the Earth

While palm oil is a convenient product and a lucrative commodity, its negative effects on people, animals, and the earth are many. Here is just a sampling:

  • To make room for palm oil plantations, forests and peatlands are cleared. This means both people and animals lose their homes. Many people are evicted from their own land.
  • People in indigenous communities that rely on the forests lose their livelihoods.
  • Draining and burning peatlands and clearing rainforests releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Endangered animals, such as Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinos, Asian elephants, and Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, are becoming more endangered as their habitat disappears, and/or they are killed outright.
  • Orangutans, especially, are being burned, shot, kidnapped, and killed in other ways to remove them from their habitats and stop them from destroying young palm trees on the plantations.
  • Plantation workers are usually paid (and sometimes treated) poorly.
  • Human and animal communities find their air, water, and land polluted from fires, chemicals, pesticides, and untreated palm oil-mill effluent.
  • Plantations cause soil erosion and increased sedimentation in rivers.
  • Plantations hinder animal migration and block travel corridors.
  • Roads & plantations facilitate illegal hunting and poaching.
  • Plantations use large amounts of chemical fertilizers.

What can we do?

We can choose not to buy products that contain palm oil, but since companies are going to rely on some sort of oil to do the job they want, boycotting may not be the most effective choice. Here are 3 actions we can take to help do more good and less harm:

  1. Educate ourselves and others about the impact on people, animals, & the plant of palm oil plantations.
  2. Lobby both companies that own palm oil plantations and those that use palm oil in their products to change their practices and implement only truly sustainable, humane policies and practices.
  3. Put pressure on your government officials (and those of countries most involved) to strengthen regulations that will require truly sustainable, humane palm oil operations.

Sources Consulted:

"Body Shop Ethics Under Fire After Colombian Peasant Evictions." The Guardian. 12 September 2009.

Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Cruel Oil:  How Palm Oil Harms Health, Rainforest & Wildlife." Report. 2005.

Greenpeace UK. "How the Palm Industry is Cooking the Climate." Report. 2007.

"Orangutans in Indonesia's Aceh Forest May Die Out in Weeks."  Reuters.  28 March 2012.

"Once a Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be an Eco-Nightmare." The New York Times. 31 January 2007.


For more information:

Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Cruel Oil:  How Palm Oil Harms Health, Rainforest & Wildlife." Report. 2005.

Greenpeace UK. "How the Palm Industry is Cooking the Climate." Report. 2007.

Journeyman. "Lost in Palm Oil." 43 min. documentary. 2007.

Robinson, David. "Scientists Sound Alarm on Massive Palm Oil Development in Cameroon." National Geographic. 20 March 2012.

Thompson, Claire. "The Push for Sustainable Cookies Isn't Over Yet." Grist. 7 February 2012.

Union of Concerned Scientists. "Palm Oil & Tropical Deforestation: Is There a Sustainable Solution?" 6 February 2012.

World Wildlife Fund. "Palm Oil: How Our Consumer Choices Affect Wildlife." Video. 2010.

~ Marsha

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Help IHE Win a Green Award: Write a Brief Review

Word of mouth is one of the most important ways that people find out about IHE and our work.

GreatNonprofits has launched its 2012 Green Awards. Organizations who receive 10 or more positive reviews from supporters before April 30 will be listed as a Top-Rated Nonprofit and will be featured by GreatNonprofits. Please take a few minutes to write a review and help us win!

Thanks!

~ Marsha

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Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.



Study ties fertilizer use to global warming (via Grist) (4/10/12)

More schools now feeding hungry students supper (via NPR) (4/9/12)

Some hospitals trying to remove fast food chains from their cafeterias, others embrace them (via NPR) (4/9/12)

Teachers should talk with students about Trayvon Martin (commentary) (via Education Week) (4/9/12)

National parks strive to recruit younger visitors (via USA Today) (4/5/12)

Study says younger people drive less, use transit, bike more (via U.S. PIRG) (4/5/12)

Study finds arsenic, banned antibiotics, & other chemicals in chicken feed (via NY Times) (4/4/12)

Some companies preparing for a fossil-free future (Spiegel Online) (4/2/12)

"Labor of love: domestic fair trade grows" (via Grist) (4/2/12)

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Featured Activity: Council of All Beings

Image courtesy of KDL Designs via Creative Commons.
What does a mountain wish for? A wolf? A cow? A river? We can't know for sure, but when we tap into our empathy and creativity, we can imagine. We can also envision what we would want if we were that mountain or cow.

The Council of All Beings
(suitable for children and adults) is a great activity for helping participants make connections and build reverence. Participants “become” a being or part of nature and share the lives, concerns, hopes, and wisdom of their being in a Council. It's relevant for any time, but especially pertinent with Earth Day on the horizon.



~ Marsha


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Debut of My 1-Woman Show: My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl

On Friday, April 13th, I’ll be debuting my new 1-woman show, My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

For some time now I’ve been thinking about new ways to share humane education issues with different and larger audiences than typically come out to hear a talk or attend a workshop. It occurred to me that everyone likes to laugh and be entertained (especially me!), so I created this show to bring important and serious global issues to audiences in an entertaining format. I’m eager to debut the show next week and to bring it on the road in the coming year.

Let me know if you’d like to bring the show to your community!

Zoe


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6 Tips for Living with the Darker Emotions

There’s no question that when we explore global issues, we discover an enormous amount of exploitation, oppression, cruelty, and suffering. Exposing ourselves to this new information often elicits deep and painful emotions that can be overwhelming and paralyzing. How can we make our way through these darker emotions, while still learning about the pressing challenges of our time and finding ways to be joyful, effective changemakers? Here are a few tips:

  1. Recognize that witnessing atrocities is the first step toward stopping them. We can’t change what we can’t see. As our director of education, Mary Pat Champeau, says, "We must learn before we can act, and the learning can be very difficult; but if our purpose is to cultivate meaningful lives and to change the world for the better, then what choice do we have but to keep putting ourselves in the way of new information?"
  2. Find someone else to read and watch with you, and process it together. Shared experiences are easier to bear, especially when you're able to talk, cry, rage, and discuss together.
  3. Express how you’re feeling through conversations, creative writing, blogging, journaling, or through the visual arts. It's damaging to our bodies and souls to stifle those darker emotions within ourselves, we also don't want to inflict the pain and anger we may be feeling on others. It's important to find a safe outlet, so that we can maintain our compassion.
  4. Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t. There may be a significant gap between the world you envision and the world that is, but we'll maintain a healthier, saner outlook and be much more effective changemakers if we focus on what our skills, passion, and circumstances enable us to do.
  5. Take occasional breaks from the problems. When we find ourselves despairing or feeling overwhelmed, it may be a good time to limit our exposure to the world's problems and to focus more of our time and energy on positive solutions and experiences.
  6. Engage in experiences that bring you joy, revitalization, and a sense of safety. If we're not healthy, happy, and balanced, then that will be reflected in our interactions with others and will hamper our effectiveness as changemakers. Take time every day to nurture joy and find places and experiences that make you feel safe and refreshed. Reconnect with people, animals, and the natural world to help remind yourself why you're doing this work.
Start helping yourself today: Generate a list of ways to cultivate joy and experience empowerment for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and despairing. Post the list where you can find it when you need it and do something from the list today.

If you're especially struggling with the darker emotions, try this book, which is recommended reading for all our graduate students: Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair by Miriam Greenspan (2004).

 ~ Marsha

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