The No Numbers Game

We humane educators know about the Power of One person to make a positive difference. Apparently, that Power of One holds true for motivating people to take action or make a donation, too. We know the dire state of the world: more than 24 billion land animals killed for food each year; more than 200,000 killed in Darfur so far; 28 million human slaves worldwide; enormous numbers of homeless, of those living in poverty, of animals abused and oppressed, of species going extinct, of victims of violence. Those numbers add up to a lot of suffering. So, what's keeping people from doing more? Why won't people give more money and take more action to help?

According to a group of researchers, it's because of the numbers. People are willing to do more and give more when they can identify with a single or small number of victims. Researchers Small, Lowenstein and Slovic conducted several studies comparing people's willingness to give and discovered that "When donating to charitable causes, people do not value lives consistently. Money is often concentrated on a single victim even though more people would be helped if resources were dispersed or spent protecting future victims."

What does this mean for Humane Education? I think it reaffirms the importance of personal connection. We protect what we love, and we love what we know. We can tell people all we want about the numbers and watch their eyes glaze over and their attention wander. Or, we can share the stories of individuals. We can help them get to know Drussa the boy sold into slavery to work a cocoa bean plantation so that we can have our chocolate bar; Freedom the cow, who became a friend instead of food; Luna the tree who lived for hundreds of years and helped nurture an ecosystem until she became housing lumber and toilet paper. We can inspire people to care by showing them how we're all connected, one relationship at a time.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

Photo by: Vanessa David
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Say It Again! Say It Again! Say It Again! (If you want people to believe it.)

So, you're sitting around in a group, and someone says that the moon is made of marshmallows; no one in the group contradicts him. Does that mean he's right? No, of course not! But, it may mean that others in the group are more likely to believe him. Okay, probably no one over 5 will really believe the moon's made of marshmallows (at least I hope not!), but a recent post on PsyBlog discussed a new study from the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, which says that in a group situation, repetition of a message is the key. According to the study, the
impact of mutiple people saying the same thing has only a little more impact than the same person repeating his opinion multiple times.

Similarly, when the same message is heard over and over again, and a counter message isn't heard, people tend to believe the message represents the general opinion.

I had first person experience with the power of a repeated message when I went to an author talk recently. The author's primary message was about environmental issues. During the Q and A portion, a vegan acquaintaince of mine stood up and challenged the author that if he would go vegan on Mondays, she'd buy a copy of his book. When he declined, and she shared some information about the positive environmental impacts of going vegan, the author firmly asserted that he wasn't going to go vegan, and furthermore, humans are hardwired to be omnivores, it's not something we can fight, and trying to make people stop eating animals is too radical.

While I completely support inspiring others to make more compassionate, sustainable food choices, trying to convince an author to go vegan in the middle of his talk (admidst a large crowd) isn't a forum that seems ripe for success. In fact, I believe it had the opposite effect. If my acquaintance hadn't publicly brought up the topic and had instead spoken to him privately, who knows what could have happened? Instead an audience full of people who had been swayed by his speaking for the last hour heard him repeatedly say that we're hard-wired to eat animals and that trying to get people to go vegan is too radical.

So while it's essential to choose your forums carefully, the message of this study is important to humane educators: if we want a compassionate, sustainable world, then we should take every (appropriate) opportunity to speak out and speak up, again, and again, and again, so that our message of a humane world becomes the one that people remember.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

Photo credit: Joshua/Yoon Hernandez
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Want to connect with other people interested in permaculture? Interested in finding an organization in Indonesia that works to protect primates? Looking for a job that reflects your social justice values? WiserEarth is a "community directory and networking forum" that connects you with people, organizations, topics, jobs, events and other resources related to the important issues of our time, from poverty to peace, pandas to pollution. (WISER stands for World Index for Social & Environmental Responsibility.)

The site is organized into organizations, people, areas of focus, resources, jobs, and events. Users can create a profile, add to any of the abovementioned categories, chat live, join the forum & more. Since the site relies a great deal on user-generated content, it varies in usefulness, though it has the potential to serve as an excellent resource for those wanting to connect with others interested in these issues.

There are plans for WiserBusiness, WiserCommons and WiserGovernment portals, as well.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Creating the Canon

Last week, fifteen of our M.Ed. and Humane Education Certificate Program students were at IHE’s facility for their residency training week. We had students from all over the United States, one from Canada, and one from Kenya. We learned so much from one another, each student contributing her or his creativity, passions, skills, and knowledge. All the students offered humane education presentations as part of their training week, and their imaginative activities and lessons will now become part of the canon that comprises the field of humane education that we’re creating together.

Peterson Obusuru, our Kenyan student, has almost single-handedly been bringing humane education to Kenya. From his efforts to make humane education part of the national curriculum, to his school presentations, to his teacher trainings, to his community outreach, Peterson demonstrated how humane education can and must pervade all aspects of society and reach all ages. He was an utter inspiration to all of us, and a group of IHE students now plans to travel to Kenya next summer to help Peterson in his work.

In the coming weeks, you’ll find new downloadable activities our site, courtesy of our creative students. Stay tuned, and let us know if you have activities and lessons you want to share.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Word Power

Words are powerful. Words have changed me. Words have changed others. People have written books about how words have changed others. Speeches have been immortalized because the words in them have changed others. Hoards of people write and speak in the hope that their words will change others.

Recently at our July Residency for people in our M.Ed. and HECP programs, one student, Andrea, shared a presentation about the power of words. Based on the book, The Four Agreements, she shared insights about the following concepts:

Be Impeccable With Your Word....
  • Speak with integrity
  • Say only what you mean
  • Use the direction of your word in the direction of truth and love
  • Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.

Though humane education focuses a great deal on how important it is to communicate compassionately and with integrity, it was this last concept -- of the power of your own words to speak against yourself -- that really resonated with the group. Andrea asked each of us to "Share a word or phrase that you tell yourself -- such as how you describe yourself -- that keeps you 'down.'" Everyone was able to think of many words they use against themselves: "bad mother," "neurotic," "loser," "ugly," and so on. Andrea helped several of us explore how and why we use our own words against ourselves and how that manifests in our daily lives.

Many of us realized that we were allowing words that we (or others) had used to label us to strangle our power as people and as humane educators.

Though the words we use to inspire others to make more humane choices are essential, the words we tell ourselves are just as important. Remember how powerful our words are.

~ Marsha - Web Content/Community Manager
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WebSpotlight: Sustaine

As a humane educator, people often ask me for suggestions for sustainable businesses and products. I can always recommend those with which I have personal experience, or websites such as Responsible Shopper, but when it comes to making choices, it's also always good to get multiple perspectives. I, for one, have wondered just how good Better World Club (the sustainable version of AAA) actually is. Or, since I don't drink coffee, but many of my friends do, what's a tasty fair-trade brand I can give as a gift? SustainLane is a "community-powered directory of green products and businesses." You can find reviews of (as well as listings for) products, local businesses and online businesses. You can also become a member (for free), and post your own reviews, which opens up a great opportunity to share and promote humane products and businesses that others might not know about.

SustainLane has a couple of other really useful features. They have ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities by sustainability. (My town, Portland, OR, came in 1st! Yay!) And, their SustainLane Goverment pages offer "best practice" documents and other information for helping city & state governments and interested citizens improve the sustainability of their region.

It's unfortunate that "sustainability" doesn't include issues like human rights or animal protection, but SustainLane resources can still be quite useful for those interested in making more humane choices and in helping others do the same.

-- Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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