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.

Helping the planet one byte at a time - Ode Magazine (4/08)
Features Alex Lin, a high school student who has tackled e-waste in his community.

Innovative deal to preserve Guyana’s rainforests - Telegraph – UK (3/31/08)
In the first deal of its kind, a company has agreed to pay for “rights to the ecosystem services produced by a rainforest reserve.”

U.N. declares climate change a human rights issue - AFP (3/28/08)
The United Nations passed a resolution, recognizing the major impact of climate change on human rights and calling for a study of the issue.

Little worldchangers raise money to make a difference - The Times (3/27/08)
A kindergarten and a 4th grade class at a school in Tigard, Oregon have banded together to raise money to help children in India.

Jobs of a different color - The New York Times (3/26/08)
Explores the concept of green jobs, what that means, and what the future for them might hold.

Spring break = fun, sun & climate activism - Grist (3/26/08)
A blog post on Grist reports on 700 college students who spent part of their spring break at Clinton’s Global Initiative University.

Hip-hopper steps it up to abolish capital punishment - Amnesty International USA Blog (3/25/08)
A blog post from AI USA reports that hip-hop artist Andre Latallade (Capital-X) is planning to walk 1700 miles through the 10 U.S. states with the highest execution rates, in order to bring awareness to capital punishment and advocate for its abolition.

Lagos Instituting Climate Change Initiatives in Schools - This Day (3/25/08)
The governor of Lagos announced plans to launch climate change clubs and other initiatives in schools to help youth become “actively involved in the protection of the environment in order to safeguard and secure their future.”

Report reveals slaughterhouse abuse not uncommonUSA Today (3/24/08)
A report from the Animal Welfare Institute reveals that USDA inspectors spend less than 2% of their time with live animal inspections. The report also outlines some of the numerous violations discovered.

Majoring in sustainability a growing trend - (3/24/08)
Focuses on university’s efforts to offer students programs and degrees in sustainability and other “green” economy areas.
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Just a Little Nudge?

What if we had the power to change people? What if we could compel them to act humanely? Would we use that power? Should we?

In some of my wild fantasies as humane educator, I dream of creating a huge Humane World Empire; I’ve joked with my husband and friends that the motto of this organization would be “compassion through coercion.”

The more we learn about all the suffering and injustice and destruction in the world, the more we want it to stop. Right now. And the more our desire can grow to hurry people up on their own journeys to a more humane lifestyle. It can become so easy to want to give people a little nudge onto the “right path.” To “help” them change their minds through sheer force of one’s own mental will, almost like a no-touch Vulcan mind meld. It’s appealing to wish for that divine touch – one little “doink” on their shoulder, and they see what you see; feel what you feel; believe what you believe. And the world becomes a better place….

There’s something really alluring about wanting to try on that cloak of power over others: you know in your heart that, unlike others, you wouldn’t succumb to the temptation to manipulate others—you know that your convictions are true and pure and for the betterment of the world.

But, Hitler thought his beliefs were for the betterment of the world. Slave owners and colonialists thought that they were doing the “poor savages” a favor by civilizing them and teaching them the value of hard work. Some of our government officials have the strongest of convictions that they are personally doing God’s will in ridding the world of terror and trees and trade restrictions. Though I might have the best of intentions in compelling everyone to act humanely – who could disagree with a world full of humane people? – my own view of right and wrong, good and evil, as manifested in the actions of others, might translate into destruction and violence.

Though the goal may seem good, trying to compel others to live humanely won’t work. One of humanity’s most treasured gifts is our power of choice and free will – to take that away would make us less. Additionally, though it seems like it would be nice to be able to blink my eyes or click my heels and have everyone immediately begin to make humane choices, we can’t create a humane world by forcing people to comply with something they haven’t freely chosen. We have daily evidence that compelled obedience doesn’t work: murder, rape, pollution, discrimination, child abuse, slave labor, drug use, corruption, speeding in a school zone – we have laws in the U.S. that prohibit all of these, yet they are still daily occurrences. If we ask everyone whether these behaviors are wrong, most people will say yes; that hasn’t stopped people from committing these acts anyway. Yet, for every act of violence or evil, there are many of us who have consciously made different choices. And that number is steadily growing.

Creating a humane world can only happen by increasing the number of people who choose to live humanely of their own free will. And that can only happen by our choice as humane educators to compassionately and joyfully inspire and educate others about humane issues, make them aware of the positive choices available…and then let them choose their own paths for themselves.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Seal? or No Seal? The Controversial Canadian Seal Hunt

Every year in the spring, animal protection groups bring out the photos and video of adorable, precious, fuzzy seals on Canadian ice…and pair them with gruesome images of men with clubs and bloodied seal bodies in order to protest Canada’s annual seal hunt. Hundreds of thousands of seals are killed and skinned each year, mainly for their fur, which is usually shipped to markets in places like Russian and China. The annual hunt is the “largest slaughter of marine mammals”; this year the Canadian government has set a limit at 275,000 seals, many of whom are only a few weeks old.

Animal lovers call the hunt barbaric, destructive and unnecessary; sealers call it an important part of their livelihood. It seems like an intractable problem…and thus one potentially worth exploring with students (in age appropriate ways, of course).

Those against the seal hunt say:
  • It’s cruel and barbaric. The seals are killed in gruesome ways (either clubbed or shot), and are often skinned alive.
  • Many of the seals killed are young ones.
  • The seal hunt is difficult to monitor, so there’s no good way to tell whether any regulations are being followed.
  • The hunt doesn’t provide a lot of money for the sealers (in 2006, the slaughter of 325,000 seals brought in about US$25 million), so stopping it wouldn’t hurt them too much, and they can be trained to make their livelihood in other ways that don’t require killing innocent animals.
  • The seals are mainly hunted for fur, which is an unnecessary fashion item.
  • Hunting so many young animals will harm the future of the seal population.

Those supporting the seal hunt say:
  • The hunt is humane (especially with the new regulation introduced this year that says that, if clubbing doesn’t kill the animal, the hunter is to bleed the seal out until the seal is dead by severing the arteries under the flippers, so that no seals will be skinned while alive).
  • The hunt is well-managed and a necessary source of income for hunters.
  • There are other countries that have seal hunts, including Greenland, Norway, Russia, Namibia, and Finland.
  • Some seal hunters are from indigenous populations who live in the Artic, where conditions don’t allow other ways of earning a living, so what else are they supposed to do?
  • It’s a proud tradition for some indigenous cultures.
The U.S. has banned Canadian seal products since 1972, and the Netherlands and Belgium recently introduced bans. This year the EU is considering measures to protest Canada’s seal hunt, including banning all seal products (they already banned the import of baby seal pelts in 1983).

As you can imagine, the news media is full of stories about the annual hunt, some opposing, some supporting, and some just reporting:

Two recent “neutral” stories about the hunt, from CNN and the UK Telegraph.

Inuit people in Nunavut have a unique view about hunting seals.

The Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare are two major opponents of the seal hunt; both have information and video on their sites.

Some ways of exploring this topic might include to:
  • Lead a discussion to find out how much students know about the seal hunt and the various stakeholders and issues involved.
  • Have students conduct a media browse to find out the details of the viewpoints of the various stakeholders.
  • How many people support the seal hunt? How many oppose it? What various groups/stakeholders are the supporters/opposers from?
  • Have students explore the impact of the seal hunt on humans, animals (both as individuals and as species), environment, and culture. What might be the most good/least harm choices for each? What are the most good/least harm choices when looking at the needs of all as a whole?
  • Have students take on different roles of stakeholders (indigenous hunter, “regular” hunter, fur industry representative, anti-hunt advocate, scientist, citizen, seal, etc.), learn about the positions of their “roles” and roleplay a conference at which everyone shares their views and works to develop positive solutions for all.
  • Encourage students to explore important questions, such as:
    • Is killing seals a humane choice? Is there an alternative? If it is determined that seals “must” be killed, what is the most humane way to do so? (Is there a humane way to kill another being that doesn’t want to be killed?)
    • Should killing seals for fur for fashion and killing seals for subsistence living be considered separately?
    • Is “tradition” reason enough to continue a practice that some consider cruel? Can the traditions and needs of an indigenous culture be honored and respected in a way that doesn’t require harming other beings? (Students may want to write to indigenous seal hunters and ask for their input.)
    • How much do seal hunters rely on the annual hunts for their livelihood? Are there humane, sustainable alternatives for the seal hunters to gain a livelihood that doesn’t involve killing seals?
    • When there are other countries that also conduct seal hunts, why is so much attention given to Canada’s hunt?
    • What happens to the fur, blubber and meat? How much of each is used for what purposes? Who benefits? What happens to what’s left over?
    • Some entities, including the Canadian government, subsidize the hunt. What does that mean? Who benefits?
There’s certainly no easy answer to Canada’s seal hunt. But exploring all the issues involved in-depth and learning more about the perspectives of the various stakeholders can help students think critically about a complex and controversial topic and encourage them to develop potential solutions that would do the most good/least harm for all.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Social Business

I've written about Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus' microcredit movement in previous posts; I’ve just finished his new book, Creating a World Without Poverty, and in this book Yunus offers us another visionary idea for ending poverty: social business. Critiquing the triple bottom line approach of social responsibility in business, Yunus reminds readers that for-profit corporations, beholden to their shareholders and charged with increasing shareholders’ investments, can only be socially responsible to the extent that doing so does not interfere with profits. Non-profits, NGOs, and charities, on the other hand, are charged with achieving their mission through their resources, but because they must raise funds continuously, their efforts at changemaking are diluted by their need to raise money.

In comes social business. Yunus offers an entirely different model for changemaking: financially viable -- even profitable -- businesses, whose mission is creating positive social change. Social businesses still require investors to launch, but unlike non-profits, which require donors ad infinitum, these investors will get their money back -– they just won’t get more than their original investment. Why would anyone invest in such companies? Well, why do people donate to charities -- because they want to do good in the world. Imagine this scenario, however: the donor becomes an investor who sees their funds not only going toward positive change, but also setting up businesses that succeed into the future without requiring their annual donations to stay viable. This is the premise behind Investors donate small sums to enable people to start businesses. The investor is repaid and can choose to reinvest, or take back their money knowing that they’ve helped a family escape poverty. They may not have seen a “return” on their investment in the form of interest or dividends, but they’ve seen a return on their investment in the form of a better world.

Yunus wants to see the social business model grow and develop so that soon business news analyzes successful social businesses, investment opportunities specializing in social businesses appear, and social business courses in M.B.A. programs become part of the business curricula. He envisions people choosing social business as an exciting career path.

What does this have to do with humane education? Every year I revise the Institute for Humane Education’s Master of Education and Humane Education Certificate Program curricula. These programs train educators to teach about the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation, animal protection, and cultural issues in order to inform and inspire a generation to be engaged, knowledgeable, motivated citizens who participate in the creation of a better world for all.

Now social business is part of that equation. When I taught the 8th grade at the Bay School last month, the students were eagerly engaged in envisioning social businesses –- without my realizing that their ideas had a movement that was growing to meet them. As humane educators offer their students the most relevant information and skills for critical and creative thinking, now the vision of social business will be a viable option for those who want to make a difference in the world while making a decent living at the same time.

I highly recommend Creating a World Without Poverty, and I hope that you will spread the word about this simple, but powerful vision to your students and colleagues.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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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.

Working for water for all - Plenty Magazine (3/08)
Interviews water rights activist Maude Barlow, who fights for universal access to clean water.

More college grads wanting to change the world - (3/25/08)
Reports about a growing trend in college graduates to focus their energies on helping people and making a positive difference in the world.

Bicyclists turning wheels of social change - Daily Free Press (3/24/08)
Boston University student Jake Curtis and 29 others will spend two months biking across the U.S. to “further the charity organization Bike and Build’s goal of ending poverty housing.”

Couple tries slow travel around the world…in 381 days
The Independent (UK) (3/21/08)
Concerned about the environmental impact of plane travel, a couple decided to travel to tourist “hot spots” around the world, all via alternative means, from cargo ships to trains to camels.

Children take charge in clean water program - Al-Ahram (3/20/08)
A School Sanitation and Hygiene Education project has been implemented in several schools in Egypt, and the children are emerging as leaders in the program.

Spring is here…too soon, thanks to global warmingIdaho Statesman (3/19/08)
Reports that spring’s harbingers are appearing earlier and earlier, which is causing problems for the species that rely on other species as food sources.

Students training in social justice leadership - – Brookline (3/19/08)
Students at Brookline’s high school in Massachusetts are learning about and taking action for social justice issues, as part of the Social Justice Leadership program.

Commission recommends zoo become rescue center
- (3/19/08)
San Francisco's Animal Control and Welfare Commission is sending a proposal to the Board of Supervisors, recommending that the zoo be transformed into an animal rescue and rehabilitation center.

Uganda to add peace education to curriculum
- (3/18/08)
"We want peace education to be part and parcel of our syllabus. We should now use the children to fight that hatred among us before it explodes to another generation." The Ministry of Education in Uganda announced a new course on peace and conflict resolution, to be taught in schools.

Nature’s Classroom draws students from near & far - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (3/18/08)
The Nature’s Classroom Institute near Mukwonago, Wisconsin, offers an in-residence experience for students, with a focus on environmental education and social justice.

Charter school would focus on students as naturalists
- (3/18/08)
A new charter school has been approved in Minneapolis, MN, which would focus on teaching students via nature and environmental education.
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Does Something for Something Mean Nothing? Exploring "Consuming for a Cause"

Want to help AIDs victims? Buy an iPod. Breast cancer? How about a t-shirt, or M&M’s? Children without clean water? Why, water of course…but only a certain kind, that comes in a lovely plastic bottle with inspiring words on the front.

As more of us learn more about the global challenges of the world, we naturally want to help. One of the means increasingly promoted to us is: buy x to help y. Consuming for a Cause. For example:

Ethos Water

Ethos Water is owned by Starbucks. Recently, Ethos Water became part of a campaign (along with Matt Damon) for the H20 Africa Foundation, which works toward clean water and good sanitation for villages in Africa.

For every bottle of Ethos water we buy, a donation of $.05 goes toward the Ethos Water Fund goal of donating $10 million by 2010. Each bottle (which costs about $1.38 USD), has the tagline “helping children get clean water.”


Tampax is promoting the use of pads with young women in Africa. In order to help fund their work in good education and sanitation, we are encouraged to buy a t-shirt, with the slogan: "Use your period for good." The t-shirt costs about $21.99 USD. (The cheapest design sells for $17.99) $1 of this goes to their program.

Thanks to Sociological Images for the heads up about these two examples. You can find a couple other examples with one of their recent posts.

It seems that we’re increasingly given the opportunity to help a cause through what we buy. The Susan G. Komen “Promise Shop” offers products so that we can “purchase with purpose to end breast cancer.” With this organization 50-80% “of the purchase price of all gift items sold funds research and community outreach programs.”

In the fight against AIDS, there’s the Bono-promoted campaign RED, through which we can buy all sorts of products, and a portion of the money will go to fight AIDS.

There’s a wine company that donates 50% of its profits to partner charities that help “support the fight against” breast cancer, AIDS and autism.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with individuals or businesses wanting to help a cause. But it might be worth exploring with your students whether or not the "consuming for a cause" method is the most humane, sustainable, just choice.

Take, for example, the Ethos water. It comes in a plastic bottle, which will most likely end up in a landfill, where it will sit for generations. It’s expensive (tap water is cheap). Only a tiny portion of what we would pay actually goes to the cause. And who’s supporting Ethos? Starbucks, which owns it. Pepsi is increasing distribution of the product, to get itself aligned with “socially responsible water.” What do Starbucks and Pepsi use rivers of? Water. Water used for processing, made into coffees and sodas, etc. Water that could be used as, well, water.

And how about that Tampax t-shirt? Is it made of organic cotton? Was it made under fair trade conditions in a sweatshop-free factory? If not, then when we buy the t-shirt, we may be helping young women get pads, but we’re also supporting practices that harm others. And what about those pads? They’re disposable and contain potentially toxic chemicals, like dioxin. What about giving young women reusable pads, or menstrual cups? And, if only $1 is going to help the program, where’s the rest going?

Another question you might want to raise with students, is why people seem to be willing to spend a fair amount of money to help a cause and get something, when they could spend an equal or even smaller amount to directly help the cause. For example, instead of buying a $1.38 bottle of water, for which only $.05 goes to the cause, why not donate $5 (or even $1.38) directly to H20 Africa? Or donate $10 to fight AIDS, instead of buying an expensive phone or laptop and having only a few dollars of that go to the cause? Why do we want something for something, and is there anything wrong with that?

Helping students look beyond the surface of "consuming for a cause" can increase their awareness of the impact of such choices, and help them find ways to make their money really count.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Get Wise About Water Woes: World Water Day

Many children take for granted washing their hands, using flush toilets, getting a drink of clean water, and having water on demand for whatever they want. But nearly 1.1 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. World Water Day (tomorrow, March 22) is a project of the United Nations. The focus of World Water Day this year is sanitation. The UN’s WWD website includes fact sheets about the effects of sanitation on health, the environment, children, etc.

There are a variety of ways you could explore water issues with students, including:
  • Brainstorming a list of what needs water to survive (people, animals, plants).
  • Having students list everything they can think of that contains or uses water (soda, nuclear power plants, agriculture, canned food, etc.). Which of these uses are vital to our sustainability and survival and which are not?
  • Having students list all the ways they use water every day, calculating how much water they use each day, and then comparing their use with how much water people in other countries use.
  • Having students carry around a gallon jug full of water and seeing how long it takes them to use it all up (drinking, hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.). Then repeating the exercise, seeing if they can reduce the amount they use (while still maintaining proper hygiene).
  • Brainstorming all the ways that students can conserve water.
  • Learning about people taking positive action to help those who need clean water, such as Ryan Hreljac, who learned about the water crisis and, at age seven, raised money so that a well could be build in a Ugandan village. Now Ryan’s Well Foundation works in 14 countries around the world.

A few additional resources that may provide useful information and teaching ideas.

Water Aid (UK)

Water for the Ages

Water Partners International

Water Wise (UK)

Water Partners International has even created Water Partners Village, a virtual exploration of the global water crisis via the virtual world Second Life (free registration required). There's a virtual concert at the Water Partners Village (virtual) stage at 5:00 pm PST tomorrow.

And Water for the Ages, a blog that tracks world water issues, has posted several of the events and opportunities occurring in honor of World Water Day.

Check out these resources to learn more about water issues, and how you can teach others about them.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

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We are a species that often gravitates toward poles, toward thinking in either/ors, toward duality. We talk more about night and day than that crepuscular time of in-between. We often castigate our political candidates for nuance and ambivalence, preferring strong rhetoric that comes with black and white thinking, rather than complex analysis that is often wiser (although this may be changing ...). We forget that there is not only a middle path, but also the perspective of both/and, in which one thing can be true and its opposite can be true, too.

Too often we feel compelled to narrow ourselves, to decide that we are thinkers rather than feelers; extroverts, not introverts; believers instead of nonbelievers; animal people versus people people; pro-choice, not pro-life; business folks rather than non-profit types; sanguine not melancholic; type A’s not type B’s.

There are times to choose, to cast our vote, to commit to our values through our actions and our decisions – this is true. And its opposite is true, too. In the midst of our choosing, of our taking sides, of our speaking our truth, we can and must remember that we – the human family, the Earth family – are one, inextricably connected, the same despite our myriad differences. We know and learn with our hearts, our hands, our spirits, and our minds.

Openness to all and commitment to our deepest values. Let’s find the balance.

Happy Equinox,

~ Zoe, IHE President
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WebSpotlight: International Museum of Women

International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (March) try to bring the issues and accomplishments of women worldwide to the fore for at least part of the year, but the International Museum of Women is working to “amplify the voices of women” year-round. The I.M.O.W. calls itself
“a groundbreaking social change museum that inspires global action, connects people across borders and transforms hearts and minds…through global online exhibitions, history, the arts and cultural programs that educate, create dialogue and build community."
Although the I.M.O.W. is still in its growing stages (with elements such as the blog not yet operational), it still provides some useful resources for exploring women’s issues and educating others about the role and impact of women worldwide.

The most useful part of the site for educating others about women’s issues are the exhibits. The current exhibit is “Women, Power and Politics,” the stories of women “claiming and exercising their power around the world and throughout history.” The exhibit features the stories of many women, and each month the exhibit will add a new focus. The exhibit also includes a podcast, resources, and the ability for viewers to make comments. The website includes an “education” section, which offers curriculum ideas tied to women’s themes, as well as links to other relevant organization.

Past exhibits have included “Imagining Ourselves: A Global Generation of Women” -- which offers video, images, audio and text on a variety of themes -- and art slideshows on themes such as “Women of the World” and “Progress of the World’s Women.”

Check out the exhibits, and keep an eye on this website as a useful resource for your humane education 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.

Electric vehicles good news for gas, bad news for water - New York Times (3/18/08)
Many advocates are calling for significant increases in electric-powered vehicles, which would reduce our dependence on oil. But more electric cars means more use of an invaluable resource…water.

Hostelling International working for peace - Daily Aztec (3/18/08)
Describes a recent “Peace-ing Communities Together” conference, focused on teaching conflict resolution and peace skills.

Israeli women bringing environmental education to schools - (3/17/08)
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has begun a program, training local women in Maghar to teach environmental education to students and to conduct conservation projects.

Professor uses emotions, self-exploration to inspire social justice action - Edmonton Journal (3/17/08)
Philosophy professor David Kahane’s Equality and Social Justice students meditate, practice sending others positive energy and take on other tasks to help them get in touch with themselves and others around the world.

Tribal rights vs. whale protection
- (3/16/08)
Five Makah tribal members face prosecution for illegally killing a whale, which has stirred up controversy about tribal rights and traditions versus animal protection.

Students sweat for sweat-free products - (3/14/08)
Students in the Social Justice League at Bridgewater College (in Massachusetts) are working to educate fellow students about sweatshop issues, and to keep their campus bookstore sweatshop-free.

“Natural” products found to include probable carcinogen - Los Angeles Times (3/14/08)
The Organic Consumers Association recently tested 100 “green” personal care and house cleaning products. 47 of them contained traces of 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen.

Advocate bringing peace education to schools - Deccan Herald (3/13/08)
Sangeeta Krishan is helping bring peace education to schools in India and abroad.

Middle school students part of anti-genocide forum - Denver Your Hub (3/12/08)
More than 500 middle school students in Denver, CO, recently attended a forum focused on teaching and inspiring students about issues of genocide, and what they can do to help bring aid to Darfur, Sudan. From this event, students have created the Darfur Student Activities Council, with plans for future student and community events.

Are Americans shopped out? And what does that mean for the world economy? - The Nation (3/11/08)
An essay by Barbarah Ehrenreich (author of Nickel & Dimed) on the descent of America’s shop-a-holic reign, and what that might mean.

Students as green teachers benefits many - Santa Monica Daily Press (3/11/08)
Highlights a program that connects high schoolers with younger students, to mentor and teach them about leadership and sustainability.

“Bridging the Green Divide”
- The Sun (3/08)
An interview with social justice activist Van Jones about eco-apartheid, a green jobs corps, prison reform, and the future.

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The GDP: Greal Deal? or Grossly Destructive?

Now when a lot of people are understandably freaked out about the U.S. economy might be a good time to explore issues like economic health with your older students.

Like many other countries, the U.S. measures its economic health primarily by the GDP.

The GDP (gross domestic product) is “the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.” It doesn’t include income earned abroad. Source:

The GNP (gross national product) is the GDP plus “the income accruing to domestic residents as a result of investments abroad, minus the income earned in domestic markets accruing to foreigners abroad.” Source:

The primary issue with the GDP and GNP are growth, growth, growth. Most people believe that economic growth is good, and healthy, and desirable.

But, what counts as economic growth?

A 1995 article from the magazine Atlantic, “If the GDP is Up, Why is America Down?” (old, but still very relevant) explores the impact of the GDP on U.S. society and offers suggested alternatives for measuring the health and well-being of U.S. society. As the article says,
"The GDP is simply a gross measure of market activity, of money changing hands. It makes no distinction whatsoever between the desirable and the undesirable, or costs and gain. On top of that, it looks only at the portion of reality that economists choose to acknowledge--the part involved in monetary transactions. The crucial economic functions performed in the household and volunteer sectors go entirely unreckoned. As a result the GDP not only masks the breakdown of the social structure and the natural habitat upon which the economy--and life itself--ultimately depend; worse, it actually portrays such breakdown as economic gain."
Divorce? Up goes the GDP. Oil spill? Up it goes. Cancer? War? Crime? Layoffs? Environmental destruction? Up it goes.

Certainly some type and amount of economic growth is necessary, but there are some people who believe that there need to be different, better ways to measure the health and well-being of our society. They advocate using “alternative progress indicators,” focusing on the value of things like volunteering, good health, happiness, sustainability, safety, etc. As two examples, Redefining Progress discusses its highly-lauded Genuine Progress Indicator and Sustainable Seattle offers information about its widely-reproduced regional indicators.

Adbusters has produced a brief video PSA about the GDP that can help spark discussion.

IHE offers a free downloadable activity about the GDP: Is What's Good for the GDP Good for Me? that increases student awareness about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and what it measures, introduces them to alternative indicators and encourages critical thinking about what factors contribute to a healthy, sustainable, stable economy. (It's recommended for grades 8 and up and takes about 60-90 minutes.)

In this time of economic uncertainty, it's important that we think critically about how our money is being used and how "growth" is determined, and that we search for tools that accurately reflect, reveal and support the kind of healthy, humane sustainable world we want.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Wouldn't it be great if you could get guest speakers like Al Gore; writer Michael Pollan; former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, Jaime Lerner; author Isabel Allende; musician Bono; Jane Goodall and other great thought leaders and changemakers to come to your class and talk about important global issues, like poverty, sustainability, the natural world, and climate change?

You can, with TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) started out as a way for leaders from those three "worlds" to come together; it has blossomed into an annual conference that brings together "the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)." The website includes sample talks and performances (almost 200) from past conferences. You can explore by theme, talk title, or speaker to find just what fits your need.

It's a great (and cheap) way to hear from world leaders, and to spark your students to think critically and creatively about global issues (and whether or not they agree with how these world leaders are handling things).

Consider adding to your bag of humane tricks.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager.
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Words to Live By?

We've had rules and guidelines about how to live floating about us for centuries, from the Golden Rule to aphorisms to spiritual teachings. Those sorts of guidelines are finding their way more and more into business, government and community policy. Below are three such "guidelines" that I've run across (again) recently:

Precautionary Principle

The true origin of the Precautionary Principle seems unclear, though Wikipedia points to the German concept of Vorsorgeprinzip (precaution principle) from the 1930s. One of the most popular definitions of the PP in the U.S comes from the 1998 Wingspread Statement from the Wingspread conference, convened by the Science & Environmental Health Network. That statement says:
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action."
It can sort of be summarized as first, do no harm; or, better safe than sorry.

Code for Corporate Citizenship

Whether a fan or a foe of corporations, most people can agree that the main purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for its shareholders. So, even if a company wants to “do the right thing” for people, animals and the planet, if it harms the bottom line, it’s not to be done. Lawyer Robert Hinckley has developed a Code for Corporate Citizenship, 28 words to add to a corporation’s charter, that would allow them to do good AND make money. Those 28 words:
“…but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public health or safety, the communities in which the corporation operates or the dignity of its employees.”
Hinckley is trying to get each state to adopt the code as a requirement for all corporate charters.

Cradle to Cradle

In 2002 William McDonough and Michael Braungart published Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, a “manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.” The authors offered a new paradigm for using natural systems as a guide for how we make and “dispose of” all the stuff we think we need to live. Cradle to Cradle has become an important philosophy for many businesses, governments and communities, and has spawned a C2C certification. C2C basically means that:
“...products are developed for closed-loop systems in which every ingredient is safe and beneficial – either to biodegrade naturally and restore the soil, or to be fully recycled into high-quality materials for subsequent product generations again and again."
On the surface, these three (and the many others like them out there) seem like great, adoptable ideas; so why are they meeting such resistance? Are they realistic and implementable? Or, are they too idealistic and costly? (Can you be too idealistic?)

Guidelines (or rules, or concepts -- however you want to think of them) like these provide great opportunities for exploring what's possible (and what's not) with youth: What about these ideas work well and are easily adopted? What about them is more complex? Why do people support them? Why do people oppose them? How can we bring together stakeholders with opposing views and come to consensus on solutions that work for everyone? What ideas do youth have for making that happen?

Whatever conclusion students come to about these particular guidelines, the humane bottom line is: What choices will do the most good and least harm for people, animals and the planet?

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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No (FossiI) Foolin'! A Youth Day of Action for Climate Justice

In a couple of weeks on April 1, people will be playing jokes and pranks on friends, family and co-workers. But groups of students all over the U.S. will be taking to the streets to bring awareness to "dirty energy" and to take action for "a clean and just energy future."

The youth-focused group Energy Action Coalition is co-sponsoring the annual Fossil Fools Day. As with recent global warming- and energy-focused action events, thousands of youth will be organizing rallies, bike rides, demonstrations, and other actions in their local communities. There is a map of planned actions, as well as suggested resources.

Fossil Fools Day also features "The Foolies," an award given to "fools" who are considered "the world's biggest contributors to our global addiction to fossil fuels." This year the Foolies are being co-sponsored by Co-op America and the Rainforest Action Network. Interested people can still vote for their favorites for the Foolies, via Co-op America's site.

~ 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.

Students eager to change the world - Daily Pilot (3/11/08)
“We are the next generation of scholars and professors. If we have the knowledge at this age; whether it be global warming or crime, it will be easier to create awareness.” Middle school students had a chance to learn about environmental activism from college students.

Classrooms are going green - The (3/10/08)
Profiles how more teachers are integrating environmental issues into their curriculum.

Animal deaths funding human deaths - Newsweek (3/10/08)
The killing of endangered animals has escalated into a profit-making industry for militias and warlords.

New studies say carbon output must become near zero to avoid major consequencesWashington Post (3/10/08)
Two new studies have revealed that, in order to avoid severe negative consequences, “both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.”

The green movement needs more colors to be successful - Seattle Times (3/9/08)
Using Seattle as an example, the article discusses the need for the environmental movement to include the needs of people of color, focusing on issues such as public safety and toxics.

Hunters are turning to classrooms to recruit new members - The New York Times (3/8/08)
Hunting is on the decline in the U.S. But, hunters are determined to refresh their ranks with youth by bringing hunting to classrooms.

Students get spring break kicks from volunteering - (3/8/08)
Focuses on the increasing number of youth who are spending their spring break time volunteering, instead of partying.

School of a different kindMontrose Daily Press (3/7/08)
Teachers at Montrose High in Colorado have been giving their students a taste of what other kids have to go through to get an education.

Mobilizing youth to change the world - College Times (3/6/08)
Profiles Courtney Klein, who was inspired by a trip to Mexico and has created an organization to “mobilize young people in the United States to help solve the world’s biggest problems.”

Students finding their global roots - VUE Weekly (3/6/08)
“If I want to change the world, you can bet I’m going to change it.” An Edmonton-based program, Rural Roots, is reaching out to youth in small towns to educate and empower them about global issues.
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People Like Us: Resources About Genocide in Europe

Recently I came across a couple of resources that would be useful for anyone teaching about genocide in Europe.

For the straight shock factor, check out two 30-second videos created by about the Holocaust of WWII. (I found them on the blog Informed Dissent.) One video shows a middle-class white family at home, enjoying their evening. There's a pounding on the door, and armed soldiers break in and aggressively herd the terrified family to a big truck, already filled with other people. The frame freezes and then morphs into an actual photo taken from WWII, with people in that same situation. The second video begins in a crowded subway car (which, as you can imagine, reflects the cattle cars used to transport Holocaust victims). When it stops, soldiers with guns and dogs herd people out. A child is taken from his mother. Again, the frame freezes and morphs into an identical image from WWII. The tagline for both videos is: "The Holocaust happened to people like us." It's a great springboard for discussion.

20 Voices is a website that focuses on the 1915 Armenian genocide. The website offers a short introductory video (8 minutes) to the Armenian genocide, and a short video about Armenian genocide survivors arriving in the U.S. via Ellis Island. The main section of the website focuses on the stories of 20 survivors, shared in text, sound and photos.

If you teach about the Armenian genocide, the Genocide Education Project is offering $500 to an outstanding teacher who has "implemented unique and innovative lesson plans" about the Armenian Genocide. The deadline to apply for the award is June 1, 2008. Download the details.

~ Marsha, Web Content & Community Manager
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DIY Changing the World: Social Entrepreneurs

It seems like I'm seeing social entrepreneurship mentioned everywhere lately. This week's New York Times Magazine online has a slideshow featuring "Faces of Social Entrepreneurship." There's a new book out that I've seen mentioned numerous times in the last couple weeks: The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. It profiles people from all over the world who have used their vision and skills to positively impact the global community. And recently, I learned about two organizations that help fund and support social entrepreneurs.

Echoing Green works to support social entrepreneurs at the very beginning of their work. Each year they fund 20 visionary fellows whose work will make a significant positive difference in the world, as well as provide other kinds of support.

Ashoka also supports social entrepreneurs. In addition to funding fellowships, they also work to promote “group entrepreneurship” and to help build the infrastructure necessary to support social entrepreneurs in the long-term.

Social entrepreneurs are hot. And they're changing the world. People are no longer waiting for governments or officials or experts to enact positive change...they're doing it themselves.

If you're looking for ways to inspire your students and to help them realize the power they have to be a positive changemaker, consider sharing with them some of the stories of these social entrepreneurs...and then challenging them to change their own corner of the world.

Wanting to make a positive difference yourself? Have an idea for making the world a better place? Consider applying for a fellowship with an organization like Ashoka or Echoing Green, and starting on your way to creating the kind of world you've always known is possible.

~ Marsha, Web Content & Community Manager
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Mark Your Calendar: Learn to Help Kids Maneuver the Media Maze

Because it has become such a part of the landscape, many people are unaware of just how many (and what type of) images we're bombarded with daily. It can be easier for adults to avoid and ignore the mass of media, but kids and teens get it full in the face and often don't have the skills to think critically about what they're experiencing. In these days when it seems that every teen, tween and tot are hooked by umbilicus to any number of technologies, it's especially important for humane educators and others interested in helping youth maneuver the media maze to educate themselves.

If you're in the northeastern U.S., the 6th annual Northeast Media Literacy Conference provides a great opportunity. The conference is Friday, April 11, at the University of Connecticut Bishop Center in Storrs, Connecticut.

The focus of this year's conference is The New Media Literacies for Today's Plugged-in Generation. Topics include the impact of mass media on young children; the implications of male and female media images on youth; what are the violence and sex in movies, TV, video games, etc., selling; privacy, pop culture, health, and more.

Find out more
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Living Like Ed and Gene: Of Farmed Animals and Solar Panels

Two titles hot off the presses that you might want to consider adding to your humane bookshelf are Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life by Ed Begley, Jr., and Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food by Gene Baur.

Veteran actor Ed Begley, Jr. has been walking the eco-friendly talk for decades, and with projects such as his own show on HGTV, Living With Ed, and his new book Begley is becoming an eco-celebrity. Living Like Ed offers Begley's tips and advice for green living, from simply daily choices to more substantial (and expensive) life changes.

As co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, Gene Baur knows a lot about farmed animals. He has been to stockyards, slaughterhouses, factory farms and feedlots, and has seen all manner of atrocity. But, he has also experienced the great joys of rescuing farmed animals and watching them thrive and live as they were meant to. In his new book, Farm Sanctuary, Baur outlines how industrial farming has given rise to the horrific conditions under which farmed animals are raised and slaughtered. Baur exposes the brutal reality of how "food" animals end up on our plates, but he also shares inspiring stories of the animals who have come to live at Farm Sanctuary.

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

Dutch town adopts Cradle to Cradle plan - (3/4/08)
According to Treehugger, the Dutch town of Venlo, population 90,000, has decided that the whole town will adopt the Cradle to Cradle concept for all its operations. (Cradle to Cradle is the waste=food strategy developed by Michael Braungart and William McDonough.)

Teen’s group helps empower young women - Edmonton Journal (3/4/08)
Joanne Cave started the group Ophelia’s Voice when she was 12, in order to help educate and empower girls about issues like health, media literacy and positive choices.

Australia’s “chief law reform commissioner” calls for labels that consider animal welfare - Sydney Morning Herald (3/4/08)
David Weisbrot, President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, recently published an article in the commission’s journal calling for food labels to reflect treatment of animals.

Pro-whaling group says eating whales is eco-friendly choice - (3/4/08)
The High North Alliance, a Norwegian pro-whaling group, says that whaling has a lower carbon footprint than does raising other types of animals for food.

High on social justice - Inside Higher Ed (3/3/08)
A former college president shares his experience teaching a graduate social justice class at Harvard.

China’s ready for the Olympics, but what about human rights? - (3/3/08)
An NPR audio interview with a Human Rights Watch representative about how the Olympics may force human rights changes in China.

Bug monitors help children learn respect for life - Daily News (Los Angeles) (3/2/08)
An elementary teacher created the role of “bug monitor” as a way to help kids learn about kindness. Such actions reveal an increasing interest in tolerance and kindness toward other beings.

U.S. Agriculture department promises animal welfare improvements - New York Times (2/29/08)
After the recent backlash from video footage released by the Humane Society of the U.S. that shows abusive treatment of downer cows, the Department of Agriculture has pledged to see that treatment of farmed animals improves. Opponents say the "improvements" are merely minor tweaks that won't have a real effect.

1 in 100 now imprisoned in U.S. - New York Times (2/28/08)
A new study from the Pew Center on the States, revealed that almost 1.6 million U.S. adults are now in prisons or jails, meaning that “one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.” The ratios are higher for people of color. Some experts believe such figures have helped lower crime rates.

Teens inspired to testify about dogfighting - KATU News (2/08)
The video reports that two teen boys, who used to look up to Michael Vick, decided to testify before Oregon state lawmakers to encourage stronger penalties related to dogfighting.

German students taught about Holocaust via comics - New York Times (2/27/08)
As part of a trial program, some teachers in Germany are using a comic book to teach students about the Holocaust.

China willing to resume human rights talks with U.S.
- – Asia (2/26/08)
The Chinese government has announced that, after a 5 year halt, it is ready to engage in human rights talks with the U.S.
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Fellowship Opportunity for Visionary Youth

Do you know youth with the vision and leadership to enact significant positive change related to clean energy? Point them toward the Breakthrough Institute's Breakthrough Generation Fellowship Program. According to their website, the Fellowship program
"seeks to establish a founding group of the country's most highly motivated and capable young leaders, foster their strategic vision and intellectual clarity, and support their work on innovative projects during the summer or fall that achieve on-the-ground local solutions and build the larger movement for bold national action on clean energy."
Applicants between ages 18 and 28 are eligible for the up to 10 fellowships. Fellowships include a $5,000 grant, as well as expenses for a spring and fall summit and a summer conference. The deadline to apply is March 21, 2008.

Find out more.
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