Breaking Through the Nightmare to the Vision

I've just finished reading Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's new book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. I was one of the people who read their 2004 article, “The Death of Environmentalism,” and loved it. While some in the environmental community felt threatened by their call for an expansive, interconnected movement of possibility and care for all and away from single issue politics and approaches, I believed their essay reflected a similar vision to the one we hold at the Institute for Humane Education (IHE): that the issues of human rights, environmental protection, and animal protection are all intertwined and inseparable, and that we will only create a sustainable, peaceful, and humane world when we create visionary solutions that work for all.

So I was eager to read Break Through, and I was not disappointed. It is an extremely important book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. In particular, we need our leaders to read and heed it. But I have one critique that’s especially relevant to educators in general, and humane educators in particular. Nordhaus and Shellenberger begin their book with a discussion of their original essay’s query: “Imagine how history would have turned out had [Martin Luther King, Jr.] given an ‘I have a nightmare’ speech” instead of his famous “I have a dream speech.” Well, it turns out King did give an “I have a nightmare” speech immediately preceding his “I have a dream speech,” and the shift from the nightmare to the dream came only when jazz singer, Mahalia Jackson, cried out to King during the speech, “Tell them about your dream, Martin!” Nordhaus and Shellenberger discuss this shift, and it forms the foundation for their book’s central thesis: we must focus on the dream we have for a safe, healthy, prosperous world, not on the nightmare that environmentalists so often shout to any and all who will listen.

And so Nordhaus and Shellenberger critique books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: Why Societies Choose to Fail and Succeed, and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth for their nightmare scenarios that don’t inspire change, but frighten people into reactive self protection. I took this critique very seriously, as currently, all of these books are required reading in IHE’s M.Ed. and Humane Education Certificate Program. Nordhaus and Shellenberger perceive these books as doomsaying, negative scary-mongering that fail to promote vision, hope, and positive solutions; their point is valid, but, I believe, incomplete.

As a humane educator, I struggle with the challenge of sharing the real and frightening problems of our time with youth in a way that is inspiring, motivating, and empowering. How can I teach about escalating worldwide slavery, institutionalized animal cruelty, loss of biodiversity, and other issues without creating potential despair, hopelessness, rage, and sorrow? How can I speak of the problems we face in a manner that excites people to envision solutions and make choices wisely and compassionately? I believe that the answer is another “both/and” (something I’ve written about previously in this blog), not an “either/or.”

Nordhaus and Shellenberger begin their book analyzing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, but fail to ask the question whether it’s important that King began with the “nightmare” speech before launching into the “dream” speech. Would there have been enough energy to pursue the dream without diving into the terrible injustices and problems revealed in the nightmare?

After I taught the 8th graders at the Bay School several weeks ago (described in the previous blog posts Responsibility and Responsibility, Part II: Ordinary Heroism), I received some letters from them. Here are excerpts from a few:

“Although some of the experience was sad, you also showed us a lot of the good. To me that was what made the class so awesome. The best thing about the class was that you were able to keep us in high spirits the whole time, always making us see the good side of things and helping us think of ways we can help.”

“Thank you so much for coming to our class and teaching us about some of the great problems of the world, but most importantly, how we can help. I was really inspired by you, and I really can’t wait to get started on my MOGO plan. It was a shocking week for me, but I think that is an important part of educating people about these problems.”

“After you came into teach, I was opened to a new world of trouble and new ways to solve and diminish the problem.”

“You showed some of the world’s problems, but instead of leaving us in despair, you left us with hope. Much of what you taught us I had no idea of, but the information will definitely influence my choices.”
I spent time teaching these 8th graders about the nightmare of the real tragedies and dangers we face. Without that information, would they have known enough, or cared enough to do anything? But I also spent time telling them about what people were doing to create solutions and reminding them that they, too, could make a difference, live their values, and contribute to a better world. This is the “both/and” I believe we need to balance as changemakers. We must focus on the vision, but with an understanding of what needs to change.

If someone picked up Break Through, without having read any of the so-called “doomsday” books, would they be as deeply moved to envision and work for the positive, global changes that are so necessary? Without Silent Spring, would a movement to safeguard biodiversity have been born so readily and powerfully? Without An Inconvenient Truth, would global warming be front page news yet? I agree with Nordhaus and Shellenberger that these books do not offer us the vision we need, but books build on the work before them and lead to the work that comes later, and I’m grateful for Carson, Diamond, and Gore for their incredibly important contributions to understanding the problems we face, and especially in the case of Diamond, for giving us viable suggestions and meaningful understanding of how to create shifts.

I’m also deeply grateful for Break Through, and it will join the other required books in our programs. I think, though, that Nordhaus and Shellenberger might not have written it so well, so powerfully, and with such vision, were it not for some of the authors they critique.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Help Students Do the Math About Pet Overpopulation

Spay Day USA was observed February 26 -- an event designed to promote the spaying and neutering of companion animals in order to eliminate pet overpopulation and reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year -- but any time of year can be a good opportunity to share this humane education activity that uses Algebra to demonstrate how quickly cats can reproduce, and thus introduces students the issue of pet overpopulation and potential solutions. Too Much of a Good Thing takes about 50-60 minutes to complete and is most appropriate for middle school students.

Check out our other downloadable humane education activities.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane education issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Study shows negative impact of consumerism on children - Times Online (2/26/08)
A new study by the The Children’s Society revealed that pressure on children to have the latest and greatest stuff contributes to unhappiness and depression.

South Africa will resume killing elephants - Los Angeles Times (2/26/08)
Beginning in May, the government of South Africa will lift a ban on killing elephants, in order to control populations. Many animal protection organizations oppose this move.

Students strut the catwalk for sweat-free fashions - (2/21/08)
A fashion show organized by Students for Economic & Social Justice at the University of Montana highlighted clothes and accessories made by “companies that provide a safe working environment and offer good-paying jobs to their employees.”

“We’ll save the planet only if we’re forced to” - The Independent (2/21/08)
The commentator believes that green consumerism is only a distraction and that the only major meaningful change will come through regulation.

Ireland primary students to be taught human rightsBBC News (2/20/08)
Primary students in northern Ireland will be taught about their own rights in an effort to help them “stand up for their own human rights and those of others.”

2nd grader raises pennies for PakistanPost Independent (2/19/08)
A second grader in Colorado, inspired by a book, led a campaign at her school to raise pennies to help build schools in Pakistan.

UN says climate change threatens human rights - Africa – Reuters (2/19/08)
At a conference on climate change and migration, experts predicted severe consequences for millions of humans, who might lose their homes and lands due to the effects of global warming, and thus be subjected to increased risk of hunger, malnutrition, disease, etc.
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Education Against Terrorism/Education for Peace

Three Cups of Tea is mountaineer Greg Mortenson's account of creating schools, primarily for girls, in poor, rural regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1993, after rescuing a companion on K2 and failing his summit attempt as a consequence, Mortenson got lost on his way down the mountain and wound up in a small, Pakistani village nestled in the Karakoram. So grateful for the care he received from these villagers, Mortenson promised to build them a school. Fifteen years later, Mortenson has now built more than fifty schools, and Three Cups of Tea tells the remarkable story.

You’ve heard me talk about the potential of humane education to change the world, to raise a generation of caring problem-solvers who are committed to critical thinking for innovative solutions to challenges. I’ve said it’s the most profoundly important way to create positive change. In Three Cups of Tea we see another example of the power of education. The children who are educated in Mortenson’s schools, and who therefore gain the tools to escape poverty and make healthier choices for their future, are less vulnerable to extremists in Central Asia who would indoctrinate them in madrassas (fundamentalist Muslim schools) and turn them into potential terrorists.

The hardback version of Mortenson’s book was subtitled, “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations... One School at a Time.” His schools do indeed “fight terrorism.” But Mortenson urged his publisher to change the subtitle when the book came out in paperback. Now it’s “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time.” And that is indeed what Mortenson is doing.

But whether we call it fighting terrorism or promoting peace; whether we call Humane Education a path toward stopping oppression, exploitation, and destruction or a way toward a peaceful, sustainable, and humane world, we are talking about the same thing in different language, one that is hopeful and positive for sure, but a common vision nonetheless.

Education is the answer. Knowledge, critical and creative thinking, the 3 Rs of reverence, respect, and responsibility, and the tools for creating positive change are the pathways to a just and healthy future.

I highly recommend Three Cups of Tea.

For an educated world,

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Get Your (Humane) Game On: Mission Migration

There's always been something cool about birds. The eagle is the national symbol of the U.S. Lots of sports teams and schools have bird mascots. Birds are beautiful, fascinating, and known for doing amazing things, such as the arctic tern, which migrates basically from pole to pole twice each year.

Audubon New York has created an online game, Mission: Migration, to help students learn more about bird migration and to encourage positive choices in helping birds "thrive and survive" around your home. The goal of the game is to "try to help your flock migrate safely by learning how choices you make each and every day around your home, school, and neighborhood can affect the fate of these migrating birds - in both positive and negative ways."

Players choose from four different types of birds, each of whom has different levels of speed, agility and stamina. The flock has to navigate hazards and obstacles (such as storms and planes) and find safe places to land (no pesticides, poisons, pollution, etc.) in order to rest and feed. Flocks must maneuver through different types of "habitat," such as farmland, suburban neighborhoods, etc.

This game would be most interesting to upper elementary and lower middle school students. It provides a springboard for students to learn more about birds, migration, and the impact of our choices on wildlife.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Generation Hope

Is the younger generation apathetic and self-absorbed, or are they the leaders who will positively transform the world? The news media can't seem to make up their minds, but a professor in Kalamazoo, Michigan, doesn't seem to have any doubts that it's the latter.

Today I happened upon an op-ed by Olga Bonfiglio, who shared the reactions of her college students after studying global issues for more than six weeks. While Bonfiglio was concerned that the dire information would depress and overwhelm her students, she discovered the opposite. As she said, "I consistently discovered that my students were far from being paralyzed by all these troubles. Instead they were facing the world with hope and courage and actively seeking practical solutions."

In the op-ed, she shared several of her students' inspiring thoughts and some of the actions they've vowed to take. Here are just a couple:

“Yes, it is true that our generation will be facing some of the most challenging decades to come….Yet, humanity is at the mercy of its own doings, and this is a beautiful concept in my eyes, because it means that there is a budding potential for change. If we look upon the history and disposition of civilization that produces such circumstances as human-made, they become influence-able. We have full responsibility.”

“One person at a time will change the world little by little, even if our good actions aren’t seen instantly.”
Actions her students have decided to take include starting an urban organic garden, reducing carbon footprints, working to reduce urban sprawl, or getting an "ethical" job.

I found the sentiments and passion of her students incredibly hopeful and inspiring. It reminds me a great deal of our own students and graduates in our humane education programs. While learning about all the suffering and destruction in the world can be traumatic and paralyzing, our students (and other humane educators), work past that pain to focus and build on all the power they have in their own daily choices and in inspiring and teaching others.

Truly a positive transformation is under way!

~ Marsha, Web Content & Community Manager
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Humane Toolbox: Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems

We know that human activities are having a negative effect on the oceans of the world. We've read about overfishing, pollution, dead zones, loss of biodiversity, temperature changes, melting ice, endangered marine species, etc. But how bad is it? And how much is really attributable to humans?

The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis recently created "A Global Map of Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems," depicting "the global impact humans are having on the ocean's ecosystems."

The map shows that "more than 40% of the world's oceans are heavily affected by human activities" and few, if any, areas of the ocean remain undamaged by human influence.

As the researchers pulled data from a variety of resources and studies, their website also includes maps depicting issues related to fishing, climate change, pollution, ecosystems and more.

The map provides an excellent tool for exploring human impact on the world's oceans. Students can consider questions such as:
  • Where are the greatest/least destructive impacts and why?
  • What are the greatest/least destructive impacts and why?
  • How are these impacts affecting people?
  • How are these impacts affecting animals?
  • How are these impacts affecting the rest of the planet?
  • What might this mean for my future?
  • How might my choices be contributing to this destruction?
  • How can my choices have a positive impact?
  • What, if anything, can be done to mitigate and repair the damage?

Older students could also dissect the data to better understand how researchers came to their conclusions (and decide whether or not they agree).

Consider adding this resource to your humane toolbox.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane education issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Rising oil prices cause rise in wood as fuel, rise in environmental problems - New York Times (2/19/08)
As oil, gas and propane prices rise, more people are returning to wood to heat their homes. But using wood as a fuel causes a variety of environmental problems.

Is “global warming” too "cozy" to spark much concern? - New York Times (2/18/08)
Blog post regarding concerns that the words “global” and “warming” don’t connote much concern or danger to people, so perhaps we need a change in the language we use to talk about it, such as “global climate disruption,” or “atmosphere cancer” or “planetary meltdown.”

Artists use their work to bring attention to human rights issues - Thaindian News (2/18/08)
Several artists from the northeastern states of India have come together for an art conclave, to promote human rights through their work.

Bottle backlash brings new strategies for beverage industryBrandweek (2/17/08)
With the growth of bottled water sales declining, companies like Pepsi and Coke are experimenting with new strategies, including “socially responsible” water brands and hooking up with celebrity endorsers.

Human rights group wants to stop execution of woman convicted of “witchcraft” - Reuters – Africa (2/17/08)
A Saudi woman has been convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to be executed by beheading. Human rights groups are calling on the Saudi government to stop the execution.

Students make activism fashionable - Bainbridge Island Review (2/16/08)
Two young women used their fashion skills to create clothes made from recycled and vintage fabrics in order to put on a show to benefit an Afghani women’s education fund.

Theater group promotes social justice - Iowa City Press-Citizen (2/16/08)
Members of the Darwin Turner Action Theatre at the University of Iowa perform pieces centered on social justice issues, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and “white privilege.”

Art & activism merge at summit for teensTwin Cities Daily Planet (2/16/08)
Minnesota teens attended a summit which nurtured the connection between art and activism and gave teens a chance to dream and create their own activist artwork.

U.S. aims to reduce number of animals used to test chemicals - The Guardian (2/15/08)
The NIH and EPA have announced plans to use cell cultures, computer models, and robotics to test the toxicity of chemicals, thus reducing the number of animals used in such experiments.

Teacher challenges students to “take a stand” - LaCrosse Tribune (2/14/08)
Recently a 5th grade teacher asked her students “What would you be willing to take a stand against?” Answers included poverty, war, global warming and animal cruelty, and the exercise has sparked some students to take action on their own.

Company strives for fairer worker conditions; is it enough?New York Times (2/13/08)
Profiles Counter Sourcing founder Joe Falcone and his efforts to improve conditions for the workers that produce licensed wear for several universities. Also quotes his critics.

Conditions of “global trade in animals” for food revealedThe Independent (2/13/08)
“Across the world, more than a billion live animals are transported every week.”
An investigation by a coalition of animal welfare groups revealed the horrific conditions under which animals are transported thousands of miles to become food.

Safeway increases animal welfare standards Meat & Poultry (2/12/08)
Safeway has announced that it will make several changes in its animal welfare policies, including buying more chickens killed with the slightly more humane controlled-atmosphere stunning system, buying pigs not kept in gestation crates, and buying more cage-free eggs.

“Shopping won’t save us” - Orlando (2/11/08)
A columnist shares her views on the negative impact of consumerism and materialism.
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Responsibility Part II: Ordinary Heroism

In my last blog post, I wrote about the 8th graders at the Bay School whom I taught recently, and I mentioned that they were unwilling to take significant risks to help others. I could relate to these 14-year-olds. Ever since reading Marc Ian Barasch’s superb book, Field Notes on the Compassionate Life, I have been haunted by the truth that I’m unwilling to donate a kidney to save a stranger’s life, as do many of the generous people Barasch profiles. I’m no hero. Only a few special people are heroes, and they are fundamentally different from the majority of us, right? Not quite.

As I also mentioned in my last blog post, all the 8th graders I taught last week eagerly and passionately wanted to help end poverty and felt they had a responsibility to do so. They were inspired by the film segments in The New Heroes of Albina Ruiz and Mohammad Yunus who, without risking their lives, dramatically and positively affected millions of people living in poverty. Ruiz and Yunus are true heroes for sure, dedicating their entire lives to help others, but they inspire the rest of us to be ordinary heroes. They remind us that we, too, can and must be part of the solution to pervasive challenges, using our creativity toward positive ends.

Assuming that our basic needs are met, each of us can easily be an ordinary hero by making MOGO (Most Good) choices in the face of desires, peer and social pressures, laziness, and greed that might lead us away from the healthiest, kindest, and most restorative decisions. As one of the students in my class last week said, “We can choose what is right instead of what is easy.”

Matt Langdon has launched the Hero Workshop, which he brings to schools to inspire ordinary heroism. If you’re a teacher interested in bringing this workshop to your students and inspiring their ordinary heroism, too, visit the Hero Workshop website.

For a world of ordinary heroes,

~ Zoe Weil, IHE President
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There is No "Us" or "Them"

One of our Certificate program students, Ginnie Maurer, was recently selected to write a monthly column for The Journal, her local paper in West Virginia. Ginnie's column is "Joy is a Choice" and will often focus on humane issues.

We found Ginnie's latest column, "It's Neither 'Us' Nor 'Them' But 'All,'" really inspiring, so we wanted to share it. Below are some excerpts:

"Have you drawn lines between “us” and “them?” Is one religious group OK, but another fanatical? Is one nationality acceptable as a neighbor, but not another? What if a Muslim family moved in next door? Would you be baking bread to give to the new arrivals or would you be calling Homeland Security instead?....

"If I don’t know you, will I fear you? If I fear you, will I hate you? If I hate you, will I hate everyone who looks like you, dresses like you, walks like you, talks like you? If I hate all of you, then what becomes of me? If fear grips my heart, I am not free.

"The one who is prejudiced is a prisoner of his or her own thoughts, words and deeds. The bigot, the racist, the “ist” in all of us hurts us as we hurt others. We all suffer whether we see ourselves as an “us” or a “them.” We all lose when we let prejudice, bigotry or hatred rule our actions.

"Today, hold a door open for a stranger, smile at someone you don’t know, wave to a passing car. Instead of cutting in front of someone in line, wait your turn. Better yet, give up your turn. Pick up a piece of trash, help a stranger carry groceries, go out of your way to find your way....

"Break the bonds of “us” and “them.” There is no “them.” There is no “other.” There is only “all.” Take that first step, tiny as it may seem, to embrace the “all.”"

Read the complete column.

Here's to a world for ALL of us!
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Last week I taught another humane education block at the Bay School, this time for my son’s 8th grade class. We covered animal issues, environmental issues, and human rights issues. We watched clips from The New Heroes PBS series about individuals who are working to save children in slavery and help end the cycle of poverty. The students in this class had been reading The Diary of Ann Frank so heroism and courageous acts of compassion and generosity were already on their minds.

When I asked them whether they thought they would have housed escaped slaves in 19th century America or Jews during World War II, none was willing. Too great a risk. When I asked them if they thought they would have been abolitionists in 1830 here in Maine, they said they couldn’t answer; how could they really know? One said, “What if I had an uncle in the South who owned slaves? I might be influenced by him.” I was impressed by their self-awareness and honesty.

On the second to last day we discussed poverty and watched The New Heroes profile of microfinance leader and Nobel laureate, Mohammad Yunus. When it was over I asked the students whether they felt responsible for helping to end poverty. Frankly, I was expecting a variety of responses, not a unanimous “Yes!” After all, they are not legally responsible, and they were perfectly comfortable not striving for heroics in the face of dangers. I reminded them that at the beginning of the class I had encouraged them to speak up, even if their opinion was different from their classmates. I had let them know all opinions were welcome. But they all agreed they were responsible, nonetheless.

I pressed further. “Why?”

One by one they told me:

“Because we have so many privileges, and others so few.”

“Because I care.”

“Because it’s right.”

And so on.

We don’t have to risk our lives to save others and make this world better, though those who do so are inspiring heroes for all of us. All we have to do is take responsibility for our part in making a difference as we are able. The students came up with great ideas for helping to end poverty (among other problems), and they completed their own personal MOGO plans with commitments to take steps to make MOGO choices in their lives. Thanks 8th graders.

~ Zoe Weil, IHE President

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Get Your (Humane) Game On: Great Green Web & Hunger Banquet

Looking for a way to tear your electronics junkies away from their stash of goodies and encourage them to explore humane issues? Consider some of the social justice-focused "games" that are becoming more prevalent in cyberspace. We've already highlighted a couple such games, like Darfur is Dying and Ayiti: The cost of life, or Planet Green Game from one of our global warming posts. Two more games you might want to consider adding to your online arsenal are The Great Green Web Game and The Hunger Banquet.

The Great Green Web Game, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, is mostly a multiple choice trivia game. Participants choose an avatar, and then answer questions to move along a game board; the speed of movement is based on how well they answer the questions. There are factoids connected to each question, and when participants land on a star, they given a scenario and asked to make a choice, such as "You've decided that you need a new car, but what kind of vehicle do you want to drive?" and then see how their choice impacts the planet. Some of the questions can be pretty challenging. Additionally, many of the alternatives don't provide a wide range of options (such as having to choose between different kinds of animal products, rather than having the option to choose none at all, or not being able to choose a bike instead of a car). Many of the questions repeat, so you wouldn't want an individual participant to play the game more than a few times. The game is also very U.S.-centric.

The Hunger Banquet is from Oxfam. Participants are randomly assigned a character, are given a basic scenario, and then are asked to make choices, based on the life and options available for that character. For example, one character is a widow with three children, living in Mozambique, and trying to grow crops on a small plot of land. She has to make choices such as whether to take her sick child to the doctor, whether to allow an investor to lease her land (the only thing of value she owns), whether to move to the city, etc. Each choice comes with a (positive or negative) consequence. There are also little factoids about the culture and circumstances of the characters.

Both games leave animals out of the circle of concern, but they still provide opportunities for learning about the impact of our choices on the planet, and what it's like to have few choices and little food. The also provide excellent impetus for discussing humane issues.

~ Marsha, Web Content & Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Campus social justice groups band together to increase effectiveness - NYU News (2/12/08)
A new coalition of campus social justice groups is emerging on the NYU campus. The goal of “Just Is” is to educate students about social justice issues, and to promote collaboration among the university’s social justice groups.

Youth spurring parents to greener actions - Canadian Press (2/11/08)
Reports that kids are pressing their parents to take larger steps to help protect the planet and reduce their negative impact. Also discusses how parents can find balance with their kids’ visionary plans.

Report points to biofuels as cause for human rights abuses - The Guardian (2/11/08)
A recent report, Losing Ground, from Friends of the Earth and other organizations, documents the connection between the increase in biofuels production and human rights abuses, as well as environmental destruction in Indonesia.

Poets use their craft to promote human rights
- (2/11/08)
A group of poets in Zimbabwe is collaborating to "try to develop, educate, transform and advocate for the respect of human rights using performance poetry as the main medium."

“Retrofilling” suburbia - New York Times (2/10/08)
In his blog post, Andrew Revkin discusses the need to “uninvent” suburban neighborhoods and turn them into something more sustainable; he also highlights several essays and sources that address this issue.

More businesses, business schools putting sustainability on the agenda
The News & Observer (2/10/08)
Reports that more companies are working to become socially responsible and that more business schools are requiring some education in sustainable issues for their students.

Photographer reveals much about consumer society and waste - The Vancouver Sun (2/9/08)
Profiles photographer Chris Jordan, whose work focuses on the impact of mass consumerism.

Students bring awareness to global issues to raise money for children in Kenya
- Mississauga News (2/8/08)
Students from the Youth for Global Action team at Glenforest Secondary school in Mississauga, Ontario, held a fundraiser to inform citizens about global issues and raise money for children in Kenya to go to school.

Student lauds her fellow teens as “Generation Change.” - Bend (2/8/08)
An essay by a high school junior in which she shares her generation’s enthusiasm for and dedication to enacting positive change.

Report reveals “discrimination against blacks linked to dehumanization”
- Science Daily (2/8/08)
Research conducted by psychologists at Stanford, Penn State and UC-Berkeley revealed that “many Americans subconsciously associate blacks with apes,” and are “more likely to condone violence against black criminal suspects.” (Thanks to Racialicious for this one.)

Second step program helping kids learn important character skillsGreater Good Magazine (Winter 2007-08)
Schools using the Second Step program are successfully teaching kids important skills like empathy, compassion, and self-control.

Statistical patterns help human rights - Christian Science Monitor (2/7/08)
Statistician Patrick Ball has been using his skills to provide useful data about the “scale and pattern of human rights violations.”

Social justice becoming important topic in more schools
- The Nation (2/7/08)
More educators and schools are becoming interested in integrating the exploration of social justice issues into the curriculum.

The face (and body) of male models is changing - New York Times (2/7/08)
The article notes that the new trend in male models is thin, thin, thin – the waif look. (This article could be an interesting jumping off point for a discussion of body image in young men and women and how trends affect how we feel about ourselves.)

Maryland school district integrating environmental lessons into all aspects of school - (2/7/08)
Prince George schools have started integrating “environmental content in almost every aspect of the school day.” Additionally, students are creating after school clubs, and administrators are creating greener schools.

Schools in India strive to teach students importance of ecological conservation - Treehugger (2/5/08)
Select schools in India are teaching students about ecological issues, and integrating them into the schools’ operations, in order to “teach people the value of water and other scarce resources in a world where they are becoming more and more precious.”

People spending less time outdoors is worrisome to conservationists -Scientific American (2/5/08)
More Americans are staying indoors, rather than visiting parks or doing other activities in nature. Some conservationists point to electronic entertainment as a major culprit.

UK survey finds that shoppers care more about animal welfare than climate change - The Guardian Unlimited (2/4/08)
In a survey of more than 100,000 people conducted by the Co-op grocery, 21% of respondents rated animal welfare as a top ethical priority, while only 4% rated climate change as such.

Design students use skills for social change - Sierra (Jan./Feb. 2008)
Students in the Design and Social Change class at Carnegie Mellon recently created posters to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint. Several were published in Sierra.

China’s skyrocketing meat consumption dangers water supply - Science News (1/19/08)
China’s trend toward eating more meat (the amount has almost quadrupled since 1980) is wreaking havoc with water supplies.
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Every Step You Take...Calculating Your Ecological Footprint

With the dire gloom of global warming predictions hanging above the world, and the increased awareness about the impact of our choices on other people and the planet, it's becoming more commonplace to find something in the media about reducing our impact, or lowering our "footprint."

Two websites that can help your students calculate their general impact are Redefining Progress's Ecological Footprint quiz, and a similar quiz for kids called Zerofootprint Kids Calculator.

The first is appropriate for older students and adults, the latter for younger kids. Both take a snapshot of usage and impact by asking questions about food choices, housing, energy use, transportation, and use of goods, and then calculate impact. The Ecological Footprint quiz calculates how many planets would be needed "if everyone lived like you." The Zerofootprint calculates usage of carbon, land, trees and water, as well as the total ecological footprint required. With this latter calculator, students can compare their footprint to the average in other sample countries.

These calculators are great springboards for discussing the impact of our individual and collective choices on people, animals and the planet.

IHE also offers an activity for grades 6 and up called Leave Only Footprints, which uses paper footprints and adaptations of the Ecological Footprint quiz questions to simulate our impact on the planet and spark discussion.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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ASPCA Launches Book Club for Kids

Looking for a way to connect kids with literature and a love for companion animals? The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has launched Henry's Book Club, for young people, ages 5 through young adult.

Each month, the club will feature one book for kids, ages 5-8, and another one for ages 9 and up. Though apparently teens and older kids read the same book, teens have their own space for discussing it. The "club" for kids isn't an actual online club, as it is with the teens. A book is recommended each month. along with sample discussion questions, and suggestions to kids for starting their own book club.

The site also provides information to teachers and parents about how to use the books to start a book discussion group for kids.

Wouldn't it be great if there were an online discussion group for youth that featured books covering all humane issues? Maybe you could start one!

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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2 Opportunities for Youth Wanting to Make a Positive Difference

Do you know a young person itching to make a positive difference but short on start-up cash? Burton Snowboards, author Justina Chen Headley and Youth Venture are co-sponsoring the “Go Overboard Challenge Grant” to “find the best youth-led ideas to change the world.”

Applicants fill out an action plan (either in narrative or worksheet format) detailing the issue about which they’re passionate and how they would “Go Overboard” to make a positive difference. The ventures have to be youth-created and youth-led and must benefit the community. They also have to be sustainable (long-term, not a one-shot deal). The best ideas will win grants of up to $1000. The challenge is open to young people 12-20, and the deadline to apply is May 1, 2008.

Find out more.

Younger students might be interested in wielding their pens and entering the 2008 Jr. Ranger Essay contest, sponsored by the National Park Foundation. The contest is open to kids, ages 9-12, who must respond to the question: “What can you do now to turn over a new leaf for the environment and help preserve our national parks?”

The grand prize winner and his/her family will travel to the Everglades on Earth Day to “star in an electronic field trip.”

Find out more.

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Do You Want Slavery with That Chocolate?

Just in time for the holiday of love and chocolate, makers of slave-free chocolate have won the 2008 international Brands with a Conscience award. The award is given each year by the Medinge group to companies who “succeed as they contribute to the betterment of the society by sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour.” Tony’s Chocolonely is a small company in Holland that produces 100% slave-free chocolate in order to bring attention to the conditions under which conventional chocolate is made.

Tony’s Chocolonely began when consumer reporter Teun van de Keuken learned that most conventional chocolate has cocoa made with slave labor (often children) and decided to turn himself in to be prosecuted, since he was knowingly buying a product that was made illegally (slavery is a criminal offense in Holland). Not only could Teun not get anyone to take him very seriously, he couldn’t find chocolate made without slave labor. So, he decided to start his own 100% slave-free chocolate company. Teun is in the process of creating a documentary about his experience, “Tony and the Slave-free Chocolate Factory,” to be released some time in 2008.

As Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days for giving and gorging on chocolate, it’s great time to spark a discussion about the connection between chocolate and slavery, and what positive choices are available.

One website that has links to a variety of useful news stories, websites and other resources is Stop Chocolate Slavery. It also lists several companies that offer chocolate most likely made without slave labor (from fair trade and organic sources).

You can expand your students’ knowledge of products produced with modern slave labor using our humane education activity Do You Want Slavery With That?

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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New Definitions of Democracy Are Ignoring, Violating Human Rights

Human Rights are an essential and integral part of Democracy, right? According to a recently-released Human Rights Watch 2008 World Report, there has been a significant “cheapening of democracy,” with dictators posing as democrats and Western governments condoning human rights violations. Speaking of the world’s “established democracies,” the authors of the report note:

“If they accept any dictator who puts on the charade of an election, if they allow their commitment to democracy to be watered down by their pursuit of resources, commercial opportunities, and short-sighted visions of security, they will devalue the currency of democracy. And if dictators can get away with calling themselves “democrats,” they will have acquired a powerful tool for deflecting pressure to uphold human rights. It is time to stop selling democracy on the cheap and to start substituting a broader and more meaningful vision of the concept that incorporates all human rights.”

The report provides useful and important information for the discussion of human rights issues with your students. The HRW report website includes a PDF of the complete report, as well as essays, photos, and audio commentary.

If you want to take your students further into the exploration of human rights, the Human Rights Education Association and Amnesty International have created a Human Rights and Service Learning manual, (a downloadable PDF file) designed to help teachers integrate human rights studies into your curriculum. The manual includes lesson plans and service-learning projects.

You can also find downloadable human rights lesson plans and activities on IHE’s website.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Environmental projects by students featured in new book for schools - Southern Maryland Online (2/3/08)
The Maryland State Department of Education has published a new book, showcasing 15 different elementary school projects students have undertaken to learn about and protect the environment.

Students work to prevent poverty in Latin America
- The Coloradoan (2/2/08)
Students at Shepardson Elementary have joined the Helping Hands O Ambassadors Club (part of Free the Children & Oprah’s Angel Network) in order to raise money to help poverty-striken children in Latin American countries.

Little high school in the big woods - NPR (2/1/08)
Features a high school in the northern Vermont woods that bases its lessons around the natural world and the writings and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau.

A closer look at the “model minority” (article 1 , article 2) – Rethinking Schools (Winter 07/08)
Two articles from Rethinking Schools magazine that address the issue of Asian American stereotypes in schools.

Video shows workers at California slaughterhouse abusing animals
- Washington Post (1/30/08)
The Humane Society of the United States recently released undercover video of the abuse of downer cows at a California slaughterhouse. (Note: Since the release of this video, several schools have rejected the “beef” supplied to them by these companies.)

Peace education now part of teacher training in India -News Post India (1/29/08)
Teachers in India now receive training in peace education as part of the teacher education program of the National Council of Educational Training and Research.

21 schools to teach students about their environmental footprint - The Jerusalem Post (1/29/08)
Sviva Israel, an non-profit, is instituting a “green” curriculum in 21 schools in Beit Shemesh. It will teach students about their ecological footprint and the impact of their choices.

Teacher challenges students to change the world…with $10Columbus Dispatch (1/25/08)
A high school English teacher gave each of her students $10 and challenged them to keep it, donate it, or pool it to make a positive difference.
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Teach-Ins Focus the Nation on Solutions to Global Warming

It's days like yesterday that spark a jump in the meter-of-hope for people who are urgently concerned about the future of the earth -- and the people and animals who live here.

Yesterday was the main event for Focus the Nation, a U.S.-wide teach-in to bring awareness to and inspire discussion about the need for proactive, positive, sustainable solutions to the global warming crisis. More than 1,500 organizations, schools, and places of worship hosted some sort of teach-in event.

I tabled at such an event yesterday, at the University of Portland (Oregon). Just in the building for exhibitors, there were hundreds of students excitedly buzzing from table to table, like bees sucking up vital nectar. I heard animated and thoughtful conversations everywhere about global warming and the future of the planet --- hallways, bathrooms, stairs. And this sort of thing was happening all over the country.

At the U of P event there were educational sessions and other events scheduled for the entire day. A lot of teachers canceled classes so that their students could freely attend the events. Topics addressed included "greenhouse gases and the scientific case for action, climate change policy training, barriers to climate change solutions, transitioning to more sustainable business practices, marketing sustainability, social welfare and climate change" and even the connection between global warming and meat consumption.

Local, organic food was available for students to try; our Secretary of State spoke about global warming's impact on Oregon; the UP fine arts department featured a play about global warming; and there was a huge discussion between students and lawmakers about global warming issues. And this sort of thing was happening all over the country.

The energy and enthusiasm levels were thick. And cautious hope and optimism were everywhere. And this was happening all over the country.

And Focus the Nation isn't stopping with one feel-good day. There are other activities and campaigns planned to cultivate and nurture and focus the momentum from the day's events into something even more powerful and world-changing.

This is the power of education. This is the power of people who care stepping up to make a positive difference.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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