Animals of Clay Show the Way to Saving the Planet

I've always known that we can learn a lot from animals, and now Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts, has proven it, with the creation of The Animals Save the Planet, 11 cute, clever, uber-short animated films on different environmental topics, including meat eating, plastic bags, water use, light bulbs, recycling, waste and transportation. Each video features animals in their natural habitat encouraging others to make green choices (such as the farting cow, the showering hippo, the recycling lions, and the bicycling penguin).

The shorts were originally created to show on Animal Planet, and they’re a terrific way to spark discussion about important environmental topics. With all the depressing news all over the media, it’s nice to find a fun, uplifting tool to encourage positive change.

~ 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.

Student raising funds for teaching/learning trip to Tanzania - Welland (4/29/08)
Reports on a student who is fundraising, so that he can spend 6 months teaching students in Tanzania…and learning from them.

A Shroom with a view - New York Times (4/27/08)
Reports that Fort Bragg, California (U.S.), has been left with land contaminated with dioxin, which they must treat or dispose of. One possible solution: mushrooms.

Poorest in Cairo bringing environmental change - NPR (4/27/08)
An NPR story focusing on the trash pickers in the slums of Cairo, Egypt, a school that teaches plastics recycling, and a program to bring solar hot water to the community.

Human rights education becoming focus in Soweto - All (4/24/08)
The Justice and Constitutional Minister in Soweto has announced a new social change program that will include books, a radio series and a national poetry competition “to foster youth dialogue on racism and xenophobia.”

Gas prices projected to double by 2012National Post (4/24/08)
The chief economist for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reports that gas prices will double by 2012, and a shortage of gas will require significant lifestyle changes.

A tea of change - Times of India (4/23/08)
Reports on efforts to promote social justice and human rights by gathering people together over tea.

Students use technology for social justice - City on a Hill Press (4/23/08)
Reports on the Global Information Internship Program at the University of California – Santa Cruz, which partners students with nonprofit social justice organizations to help them become more effective.

Is the U.S. educational system teaching cluelessness? - New York Times (4/22/08)
An opinion article on the state of education in the U.S.

Poverty can adversely affect brain growth - News Record (4/22/08)
Reports on a study that notes the negative effects of poverty on a child’s brain growth, including “learning disabilities, behavior problems and other psychological and emotional problems.”

Orangutans, not cookies - (4/14/08)
Two Ann Arbor, Michigan (U.S.), Girl Scouts have stopped selling cookies and started educating others about the impact of palm oil production on rainforests and wildlife.

Germany's “forest kindergartens” showing resurgence - Wall Street Journal Online (4/14/08)
Reports on an increase in the number of young children in Germany who are learning from nature, rather than in a classroom.
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The Onslaught Continues - Using Unilever to Explore the Impact of Our Choices

Back in November I posted about the controversy surrounding the mixed messages Unilever has been sending with its seeming concern (via Dove and the “campaign for real beauty”) for the body images of young girls via its Onslaught video (see below), and the fact that it owns Axe body spray, a product whose ads feature young, slim women lusting after those men who use the product.

In response to the Onslaught video, an ad exec created his own mashup video, warning parents to “talk to your kids before Unilever does.”

Greenpeace has now jumped into the field, creating its own Onslaught-type video, focused on the fact that palm oil, which is destroying rainforests in Indonesia, and thereby contributing to forest destruction, species extinction, human and animal suffering, and global climate change, is an ingredient in some Dove products.

This new campaign provides an excellent opportunity to look at the interconnectedness of issues, and the impact of all the choices we make every day. When we buy a product, we’re not just buying that product, we’re also buying everything that happened to create, market and distribute that product, and we’re buying whatever the impact of the disposal of that product is. Every time we make a choice, we’re choosing to support and nurture practices that are cruel, destructive, unjust and violent, or practices that are restorative, just, compassionate and sustainable.

Books like Stuff, the web video The Story of Stuff, and some of our humane education activities can also serve as useful resources for investigating the power of our choices, and the extent to which we have an impact on people, animals and the planet.

(Thanks to Corporate Babysitter for the heads up about Greenpeace’s Unilever campaign.)

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Being Right...or Not

The other morning I took a walk along the rocky beach by our house. I sat on a rock for awhile watching what I thought was a seal sunning herself on a rock with a crow standing by her. But after a very long time with only the crow moving, and not the seal, I decided that I was watching a crow by a rock atop a rock, rather than a seal. But then the seal moved, and I realized that I’d been right the first time, only now I realized there was no crow. The movement of the “crow” had actually been the movement of the seal’s head, which was darker than her body. Are you with me?

We’re so sure of ourselves. So sure we’re right. And when we change our minds, we’re sure we’re right about that, too. And then when we’re shown to be wrong, we blithely accept our mistake and we’re sure we’re right the next time.

The nice thing about the MOGO (Most Good) principle is that you never have to be right; you just have to persevere, commit to the 3 I’s of inquiry, introspection, and integrity and make choices that do the most good and the least harm to the best of your ability. It’s quite a relief to know that with MOGO as a guide you can choose differently tomorrow based on new information and deeper reflection. It’s also a relief to know that every person offers you the possibility to learn anew so that your choices can become even more MOGO. And finally, it’s a relief to know that while you won’t always be right, you’ll always be good.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Students Getting Active This Weekend Around the World

This weekend, April 25-28, marks the 20th annual Global Youth Services Day. GYSD is the “largest annual celebration of young volunteers, where millions of young people in countries everywhere carry out thousands of community improvement projects.” Find out what projects are happening in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. Young people choose projects that address a range of issues, from hunger and health to education and environment – many of these project align with the Millennium Development Goals.

The GYSD website has a section with tips for strategic planning, identifying a project, building community partnerships, getting publicity, and more.

Find out more.

Tomorrow (Friday, April 25) also marks the Day of Silence in the U.S., a day meant to “bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.” Participants mark the day by being silent during the entire school day. Each year, a particular person is memorialized on that day. This year, the 12th year of DOS, an 8th grader in California who was shot and killed by his classmate because of his sexual orientation is being remembered. The website includes an organizing manual, planning ideas and other resources.

Although organizers of the Day of Silence emphasize that the purpose of the event is “about unacceptable behavior (anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and name-calling in schools) not debates about beliefs,” some people object to the event, saying that it offends their religious beliefs, or believing that it is meant to support the “gay/lesbian agenda.” Some conservative groups are encouraging parents to withhold their children from school in protest of the observance. (If you search news stories for “day of silence,” you’ll find several news articles about the event and the controversy.)

Find out more about the Day of Silence.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Step-by-Step: Dismantling Privilege

“Privilege is not something I take and which I therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which gave it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and egalitarian my intentions.” ~ Harry Broad

“Having been born into circumstances that give me certain privileges—based on my gender, the color of my skin, the country of my birth, my education—it becomes my duty to use those privileges to undermine or eradicate the basis for them.” ~ Derek Jensen

Before studying humane education, it had never occurred to me that I could be colluding in perpetuating oppression against others in American society just by being part of that society. I am completely aware that some of my choices have negative consequences for others around the globe (chocolate=slavery, clothes=sweatshops, etc.), but I always felt that, because I wasn’t racist and didn’t discriminate against other cultures or “special interest groups,” and because I’m trying to make non-oppressive choices in my own life, that I was doing pretty much all I could to be supportive—short of joining a group or taking more aggressive political action. I never thought about the fact that, as Allan Johnson, author of Privilege, Power & Difference says, “Privilege is always a problem for people who don’t have it and for people who do, because privilege is always in relation to others.”

Recently I’ve heard a great deal about privilege walks taking place, especially on college campuses. The purpose of a privilege walk, in the words of Ruckus Society Executive Director, Adrienne Maree Brown, is to “expose the lifelong impact of privileges and 'normality' that we were either born into or born without.” As Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women says, she has come to see privilege as “an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day.”

In a 1988 paper, McIntosh developed a list of 50 questions to help her identify “some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life.” These questions have evolved into the “privilege walk” activity, in which students stand in a line and, based on their response to each question, either move up one step – or don’t. The inequalities in the lives of participants become clear, as does the reasons behind those inequalities. Here’s a blog post revealing one person’s experience with the walk.

Adrienne Maree Brown has reversed and modified the walk to help social justice groups focus on community building.

The privilege walk provides a great opportunity to explore issues of privilege, power and oppression with youth and adults alike. (Johnson’s book, Privilege, Power and Difference, which examines the systems of privilege and difference also serves as an excellent resource.)

But, the conversation can also go further. For example, Keith O’Brien, one of the commenters on the blog post by Doug Noon, mentions that in addition to using the privilege walk, he has students do the walk again, using a second set of statements “all based on choice. These second statements are all things they have a conscious choice over, regardless of their starting point (privilege) in life.” Additionally, how about looking at privilege and power through the eyes of indigenous peoples who live (or lived) outside of “civilization”? How many indigenous people (and how many “modern” folks) could step forward on questions about having their lands (or water or other natural resources) stolen? Their culture and traditions suppressed or destroyed? Their children taken away or indoctrinated with the “right” values? Their people wiped out?

Students can also examine questions such as: Does the privilege walk ask the right kinds of questions? What can be done to dismantle these systems of oppression? What daily choices can we make to help those who are left steps behind us to move forward? What can we do to help us pay attention to the impact of privilege (or the lack of it) in our lives and work toward a world where everyone, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, gender or culture, can take step after step forward together?

~ 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.

Artist quilts her way to changing the worldSeacost Online (4/22/08)
Profiles an artist who uses quilting to bring awareness to environmental issues and to teach others about helping the earth.

China has “long way to go” on human rights, environment & press freedoms - Washington Post (4/21/08)
Examines the positive changes China has made in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, as well as where the country has reportedly not kept promises.

Compassion while incarcerated - Daily Camera (4/20/08)
An opinion piece by biologist, author & teacher Mark Bekoff about the impact of bringing Roots and Shoots concepts to the jail in Boulder, Colorado.

NYT Green Issue - New York Times Magazine (4/19/08)
This week’s NYT Magazine is all “green.” Check out a variety of articles relevant to environmental, human rights and other humane issues.

Bikes help build Rwandan economy - Santa Barbara Independent (4/19/08)
Profiles the work of Project Rwanda, which supplies bicycles to coffee farmers to help them increase their income.

Journalist makes homicide personal - (4/18/08)
Crime reporter Jill Leovy wanted to bring a personal face to the hundreds of people murdered each year in Los Angeles. So she started a blog.

Drought in Australia = global rice shortage
- New York Times (4/17/08)
Reports on the impact of the drought in Australia on a worldwide rice shortage.

Making peace in Senegal - IRIN News (4/17/08)
Reports on efforts to bring peace to southern Senegal by teaching children about peaceful conflict resolution.

Report says no to GMO - Daily Mail (4/16/08)
A report from International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development stated that genetically modified foods and biofuels are not the answer to the world’s food crisis.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2008 - (4/16/08)
Treehugger reports on the 2008 report just released by the organization American Rivers.

Can eating veg help the hungry? - The Independent (UK) (4/16/08)
Discusses the global food crisis and calls for eating less meat in order to make more food available for the hungry.

Chemical used in plastic food & drink packaging reportedly harmful - Reuters (4/15/08)
Reports that the findings of the National Toxicology Program (U.S.) show that the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, may have significant health consequences.

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Live in the NE? Mark Your Calendar for These Conferences

Two upcoming conferences that may be of interest to educators who live in the Northeast:

The Teaching About Global Child Labor and Human Trafficking Conference is this weekend, Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26, at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (25 miles west of New York City). Sponsored by Drew University’s new Master of Arts in Teaching Program and the International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE), the conference features sessions on learning more about issues such as child labor, sweatshops and child labor, teaching about child labor issues, taking action against child labor and human trafficking, and listening to victims of human trafficking.

According to conference organizers, “The highlight of the program will be the forum where former child laborers from South America, and victims of trafficking within the US will share their stories. These stories will be videotaped for teachers to use in their classrooms. The end purpose will be for the participants to develop teaching ideas which can be used with these narratives. The narratives and lessons will be published for use in the schools. When American students are able to see and hear the stories of their peers trapped in bondage, it can be a transformative experience and motivate them to begin to think and act as global citizens who must solve the problems of the 21st Century.”

Find out more.

The Erie County (New York) SPCA is hosting its first Humane Alliance, an interactive conference focusing on the connection between humans, animals and humane education. The conference is Thursday, June 5 through Saturday, June 7, at the Holiday Inn Grand Island Resort & Conference Center in Grand Island, New York.

Conference topics will include humane education in the classroom, animal assisted therapy, violence prevention, and more. According to conference organizers, “This conference is outlined around the idea of interaction and building relationships with those who share in the passion that drives all of us, the connection between humans and animals and the power behind education.”

Find out more.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Charting the Organic Waters: Who (and What) Are You Supporting When You Buy Organic Products?

One of the Most Good/Least Harm choices I make is to try to buy organic foods and products whenever possible. USDA standards help protect me (at least for the moment) from the more toxic chemicals and pesticides, from genetically modified products, from irradiation and sewage sludge. Plus, organic farmers have a greater tendency to work more in harmony with the land than do conventional farmers. And, I like to support smaller and local/regional companies whenever I can, rather than multinational corporations.

When people buy organic, they often feel that they’re doing something really good, for themselves, for the planet, for farmers, and for the people running the small companies who create organic products. But, with the increased demand for organic goods (demand has grown about 20% a year for the last several years), major food companies have decided to grab a cut of the organic market – primarily by buying up smaller companies that are already well-established and have achieved a level of customer loyalty.

So, when I buy Boca Burgers, I’m supporting Kraft and their practices (which include selling genetically modified foods and being criticized for supporting unfair labor practices with coffee growers). When I buy LightLife veggie sausage, I’m supporting ConAgra and their practices (which include selling genetically modified products and dealing with factory farms). When I buy Silk soymilk or Horizon orange juice, I’m supporting Dean Foods and their practices (which include selling dairy products [I’m vegan] and being criticized for discrimination). (Check out Co-op America's Responsible Shopper Guide for info about the practices of major companies.)

It’s the same for many organic health & beauty products, too. Tom’s of Maine (toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, etc.) is owned by Colgate-Palmolive. Burt’s Bees (lip balm, shampoo, etc.) is now owned by Clorox.

This dichotomy can be a really useful one to explore, both as individuals trying to make MOGO (Most Good) choices, and as humane educators sparking creative and critical thinking in your audience. Two tools that can help, include:

Good Magazine recently published a chart in an easily-readable format which shows which of the top 30 food processing companies in North America own what organic brands.

For a more in-depth exploration, visit the website of Dr. Philip Howard, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University. His site offers several complex charts, graphs and maps about the organic industry structure. (Dr. Howard also created the chart for Good Magazine’s article.)

There are numerous opportunities for exploration here, including:
  • Does it matter who owns a company, as long as the product is a good and reputable one?
  • Is it a good choice for these smaller companies to allow themselves to be purchased by multi-national corporations, so that their product can reach more people? Or, is that selling out?
  • If a multinational corporation who owns a product we like supports unethical practices, what power does a citizen have?
  • Why do organic foods and products tend to be more expensive?
  • Who doesn’t have easy access to organic food and products? Why?
  • What role might farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture have in all this?
  • What role might buying locally/regionally have in all this?
  • What other options for acquiring fresh, healthy food might exist (such as planting our own food gardens)?
~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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ABC's Democratic Debate

I had a hard time falling asleep last night after ABC’s Democratic Debate. Had Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos really spent almost half the debate asking trivial, relentlessly rehashed gotcha questions to primarily Senator Obama and secondarily to Senator Clinton? I was teetering on despair. How on earth could we change anything if the level of our discourse is so inane, irrelevant, and, forgive me, just plain stupid and obnoxious?

Where were the questions on transforming education in the U.S.? On global warming, massive species extinction, and other environmental challenges? On the health care crisis? On growing anti-American sentiment and terrorism? On war?

When we finally heard a question ostensibly about the oil crisis, it was phrased thus: “What are you going to do about $4/gallon gas?” Is that the best question these supposedly highly intelligent newsmen could ask about the looming energy crisis that the whole world faces? When we finally got a question ostensibly about the failing U.S. economy it was “Do you promise not to raise taxes?” Is that the best question to elicit meaningful answers to the serious economic problems we face?

This is why we need humane education - desperately and immediately. A generation taught to be critical and creative thinkers, with in-depth knowledge of global issues, and the tools and motivation to seek out viable, visionary solutions to problems will simply not stand for the dumbing down of our politics. That generation won’t be watching embarrassing debates like we saw last night. Those newscasters among them will ask brilliant, relevant, important questions of our visionary, committed, and honest future candidates. That is, if we raise that generation.

We need to get to work – first by letting ABC know what we think of last night’s travesty and next by building a humane education movement that reaches every school, every teacher, every child, teen, and young adult.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Global Climate Gore: Al's New Video

I recently learned from that Al Gore has created a new talk on the global climate issue, "New Thinking on the Climate Crisis", which is available for free viewing on The talk is about 22 minutes long, with Q & A after.

According to, in Mr. Gore's presentation he "presents evidence that the pace of climate change may be even worse than scientists were recently predicting, and challenges us to act with a sense of 'generational mission' set it right."

In addition to showing the new talk to students for discussing the issues presented and exercising critical thinking, it could be useful to view Mr. Gore's talk from 2006, "15 Ways to Avert a Climate Crisis" and compare. Or, to have them view parts of Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth and compare.

It might also be useful to lead a discussion and analysis of some of the comments about Mr. Gore's new presentation (scroll down below the video), which vary from wide support to saying that Gore has "zero credibility" and that "a 16-year-old can refute most of Al Gore's claims."

It would be interesting and useful to have students consider that meat production and consumption have largely been left out of the climate conversation, especially with the UN's 2007 report, Livestock's Long Shadow, from their Food and Agriculture Organization that reveals the significant negative impact on the planet (and the global climate crisis) of eating animals. The group Vegan Outreach has a page of information and links about the same issue.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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The Future is Open

In their book Break Through, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger write: “The future is not destined to be dark or bright, fallen or triumphant. Rather, the future is open.” The emphasis on the word “open” is theirs, and every time I read it, I shiver just a little. It’s a powerful word in a powerful sentence. Open. Not destined, not predictable, not fated. Open. Ours to create.

When I read these words I realized that my attitude, and yours, matter. Our optimism and hope drive the open future. And so do our pessimism and cynicism.

We can choose our attitude -- not completely, not without the influence of our emotions -- but through our will and our effort, we can choose to embrace optimism and hope. And that choice then influences our behaviors, leading us toward the creation of a better future. If we choose cynicism or pessimism instead, whether to protect ourselves from disappointment or absolve ourselves from responsibility for the open future, we generally fail to bring about the future we actually want. The choice is up to us.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote:

Our beliefs become our thoughts,
Our thoughts become our actions,
Our actions become our habits,
Our habits become our character,
Our character becomes our destiny.

If we believe in our power to bring about a better future, such a future will follow.

~ 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.

College cafeterias serving up green - E Magazine (3-4/08)
Reports that more college cafeterias are focusing on becoming more sustainable by buying organic, local, etc., whenever possible.

MIT students changing strategies for fighting poverty
- Boston Globe (4/14/08)
An op-ed piece from the president of MIT shares some of the projects at MIT (like the Poverty Action Lab) that are revolutionizing how people fight poverty.

Fuel vs. food: biofuels linked to higher food prices, hunger - Top (4/14/08)
The World Bank recently reported that a “boost in bio-fuels products was largely to blame for an 83% increase in food prices over the last three years.” Such increases are causing major hunger problems worldwide.

It sucks to be a guy (chick) - The Oregonian (4/13/08)
Talks about the very limited market for male chicks and how many are disposed of either just after they’re born or once they start crowing.

Poor neighborhoods targeted for sludge experimentYahoo! News (4/13/08)
“Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil.” Families were never told about potentially harmful effects.

Few non-animal alternatives used for testing products - Washington Post (4/12/08)
Reports on the human-created barriers to reducing the number of animals used for tests on cosmetics, pesticides, household products, etc.

Cruelty to animals degrades humans - Christian Science Monitor (4/11/08)
An opinion essay about the need for humans to develop deeper skills of compassion, kindness and mercy, especially toward animals.

The meat of the matter - Dot.Earth (NYT Blog) (4/11/08)
The blogger discusses the rise of manufactured meat and what place it might have in the future, as well as whether or not humans can (or should) move toward a meatless diet.

Students participate in unique triathlon for (4/10/08)
Students at a middle school in Illinois recently completed a unique triathlon that required them to run, read, and do 26 acts of community service.

Farmers trying to cash in on higher food prices by chucking conservation programsNew York Times (4/9/08)
Reports that, with the hope of cashing in on higher prices for certain crops, more farmers are cultivating their lands that used to fall under conservation easement plans.

8-year-old girls seeks divorce - Yemen Times (4/9/08)
After her father forced her to marry a man 22 years her senior, an 8-year-old girl sought legal intervention.

Is eco-chic an eco-charade? - The Manitoban (4/9/08)
Reports on the eco-chic trend of ethical consumerism, and whether or not it actually helps environmental preservation and sustainability.

Student finds errors, inaccuracies in his textbook - International Herald Tribune (4/9/08)
A widely-used government textbook published by Houghton Mifflin is being criticized, after a high school New Jersey (U.S.) student raised concerns about errors and inaccuracies in the book.

Classrooms connect students with natureDaily Democrat (4/8/08)
Teachers in Yolo County California are using the local environment as a way to teach students important skills and concepts while meeting state standards.

FDA allows inaccuracy in nutrition labelsABC News (4/7/08)
An ABC show hired a lab to conduct nutrition tests on certain foods and revealed that the FDA allows “wiggle room” in what’s reported.

Museum recreates one-room school to help students understand segregated education (4/7/08)
Students in Smithfield, Virginia (U.S.), are learning what it would have been like to be a black child in 1930s Virginia trying to get an education by touring the new School House Museum. The focus of the museum is to give students a taste of segregated education.

Meditation linked to compassion
- Scientific American (3/26/08)
A new study about brain activity in people who focused on compassionate feelings while meditating implies that compassion can be cultivated.
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Field Notes From a Fabulous Green Fest

I just returned last night from my first experience tabling for IHE at the Seattle Green Festival. This was Seattle's first (but not last) time hosting a GF, and while I don't know how the official numbers compare to the others, it seemed pretty jam packed with people checking out booths, listening to speakers and music groups, and enjoying some pretty tasty food (especially the yakisoba noodles and the Temptation vegan/fair-trade ice cream sundaes!).

Although I am a pro-tabler, having staffed tables for several groups in the past, I was a little nervous about tabling for IHE. How do you condense the complexity of what IHE is and does into sentences short enough not to short-out the brains of folks completely overwhelmed with visual and aural input? How do you stand out amongst all the freebies, food and fanfare?

I shouldn't have worried. The three of us representing IHE this weekend had dozens of terrific conversations, with those curious about who we are and what we do (I don't how many times I heard someone say "That is so cool!" after I told them about our emphasis on educating others in a variety of ways and on the interconnectedness of all the issues), and with those seriously looking for a career that nurtures them, taps into their deepest values, and helps them truly make a positive difference in the world.

Who wouldn't be proud to work for such a fabulous organization? I had such fun telling people about IHE's work.

Just a small sampling of the giant crowds that filled the convention center both days (Saturday even had to compete with the Dalai Lama and a Mariner's game!)

One of our M.Ed. graduates, Carolin Behrend, talks about her own humane education work and the terrific programs and resources IHE offers.

Carolin and I had a blast having conversations with people about humane education and humane living, and we look forward to doing it again!

People are so hungry for a way to make a significant and sincere difference. They're ready for positive change. They want to be able to live in ways that respect and honor all people, animals and the planet. And IHE is ready to help.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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A Tasty New Batch of Eco-Heroes Just Whipped Up

Each year the Goldman Environmental Prize is awarded to honor “grassroots environmental heroes” from around the world (one for each of the six inhabited continental regions). Among other rewards, winners receive $150,000 to help them continue their work.

This year’s winners have made significant and lasting differences in their communities. They are:

North America
Jesus Leon Santos – Mexico
Santos is leading a campaign in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca to work with farmers and communities to transform eroded, wounded land into something beautiful, renewed and sustainable for agriculture and other economic practices. Among other actions, they have planted more than 2 million trees.

Feliciano dos Santos – Mozambique
Dos Santos is using the power of music and grassroots outreach to help teach villagers about the importance of water and sanitation and sustainable practices.

Mariana Rikhvanova – Russia
Rikhvanova is leading efforts to protect Lake Baikal, one of the world’s most important fresh water bodies.

South & Central America
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Luis Yanza – Ecuador
Fajardo and Yanza are heading up one of the largest class action lawsuits against a big oil company, to seek justice for residents of the Amazon rainforest who have been harmed by the company’s practices, and to demand a complete clean up and remediation of all contaminated areas.

Ignace Schops – Belgium
Schops is leading the campaign to establish Belgium’s first and only national park and to create “a new model for land conservation.”

Islands & Island Nations
Rosa Hilda Ramos – Puerto Rico
Ramos is working to protect Las Cucharillas Marsh, thus protecting San Juan’s residents from polluting companies and maintaining important habitats for wildlife.

You can view videos about each winner (and learn more of their stories) on the website, as well as learn about previous years’ winners. Issues that winners have addressed include environmental policy, habitat and wildlife protection, oil and mining issues, sustainable development, toxics, and more.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Why We Don't Have What We Want

I read an interesting article in Newsweek about why it is that we won’t see cars on the market getting 50 miles per gallon any time soon. In addition to a professional interest, I had a personal interest. My Volvo station wagon, at only 167,000 miles –- barely past middle-aged for a Volvo -- is making monthly visits to the mechanic these days. I’ve begun to consider my next car. My plan when I bought my Volvo in 1999 was to pass it down to my son, who would be getting his license around the Volvo’s 200,000 mile mark. Seemed like a good idea to pass along a car with the reputation as the world’s safest to my teenage boy just when he was starting to drive. I plan ahead.

I also planned ahead in this regard. When I bought my Volvo there were no fuel efficient options for station wagons. With several dogs and often several kids piling into my car, I wanted a vehicle big enough to carry us all, and I figured my Volvo would last me until a better option was available (this was long before the Prius). Just one more fuel-inefficient car in my life I assumed. But nine years later, there is still no fuel efficient station wagon on the market, and the two small hybrid SUVs (Toyota’s Highlander and Ford’s Escape) get barely more per gallon than my Volvo. Fuel efficient, hybrid wagons won’t be rolling off the assembly lines for a few more years. Not in the U.S. anyway. It seems that people in the U.S. aren’t willing to sacrifice all the other things we want, even for fuel efficiency.

I planned to feel indignant as I read the Newsweek article. Until I realized that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice much myself. I, who implore people to live according the MOGO principle, was no different than those I often criticize. I want the safety the steel in my Volvo affords. I want the space of a station wagon. I don’t want to spend $50,000 to get a lithium battery-powered, highly fuel efficient vehicle. And I don’t want to move from my beautiful, rural Maine community to a city, even though such a move would obviate the need for a personal car.

The technology exists for 50 mpg cars. In fact such cars are ubiquitous in Japan and Europe. They’re not in the U.S. because we want our big, safe cars more than we want fuel efficiency. We’ll get it all, eventually, hopefully before we cause too much more climate change, but there’s a good, free-market, capitalist reason why I still don’t have the option I want. Car companies don’t want to lose money for their stockholders, and that’s what could happen if they put the tiny, lightweight fuel efficient cars on the market, or, conversely, the highly expensive new technologies. We might not buy them, despite the Prius’ success. And to produce the fuel efficient vehicles we do want takes investment, personnel, and time. It’s risky.

There’s a way to get what we want sooner, however. Government investment. If we make the production of 100 mile per gallon cars a national goal and priority, and if we invest in such a goal (the way we invest in our military, for example), we’ll have what we want in a flash.

Personally, I’m eager for my tax dollars to be invested in the technologies that will help us reach our best goals, stop global warming, and protect people, ecosystems, and animals. Seems MOGO to me.

~ Zoe Weil, IHE President
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Rethinking Recycling

One of the habits we in the U.S. have frequently been proud of is our recycling. Lots of us do it. It’s often one of the first projects students adopt to green their schools. The 3 R’s of Reduce – Reuse – Recycle have become a fond and familiar refrain. We feel good that we can buy stuff and then send the packaging back to become something else, instead of ending up as trash. Tossing that bottle or can into the bin has become almost second nature -- something we do without thinking.

It’s a great cultural myth, but it’s not the reality. The issue is much more complex, and a great one to explore as a humane educator.

In its Fall 2007 issue, Co-op America focuses on trash. An especially interesting article in this issue (though I think all their articles are terrific) is the one on “Following the Waste Stream.”

As the article mentions, glass and aluminum can be “perpetually” recycled and paper can be “downcycled” into lower grade products (until the fibers get too short to bind together). (Downcycling means recycling the material into a product of lesser quality.) Plastics are another story. Plastics can only be downcycled into something else once – and that’s only for certain plastics. And the thing that it’s downcycled into can’t be recycled or downcycled.

The article reports that most plastics can’t even be recycled, even though they carry that renowned symbol on the bottom. And even some plastics (and other recyclable materials) that get sent to recycling centers end up in landfills or incinerators. I learned from the article that plastic bags (though I try to avoid them as much as possible anyway), which are happily recycled by so many – are more likely than not shipped overseas, where they end up in incinerators and landfills (so our eco-friendly efforts are contributing to the pollution of other countries).

In No Impact Man’s post yesterday, he blogged about how recycling isn’t enough and shared a great video clip from a guy at Cornell University that demonstrates the difference in recycling and landfill rates for water bottles using...a torrent of water bottles. They make a really interesting sort of waterfall effect.

As Co-op America points out in their “Getting to Zero Waste” issue, and No Impact Man elucidates in his post today of 42 ways to not make trash, certainly, recycling is important; but, the more important and essential goal is not creating trash in the first place. Zero waste.

There are all kinds of great opportunities for discussion and exploration here. In addition, several of our free downloadable humane education activities (free registration required) can help students explore the impacts of the waste we create, including:

Trash Investigators
What’s in our trash that doesn’t need to be there? Participants investigate a trash source and analyze which items can be removed from the waste stream.
Recommended for grades 4 and up.
Time: 30 minutes

True Price
Help participants become more conscious in their consuming by analyzing the “true price” of the products we use.
Recommended for grades 6 and up.
Time: 20-60 minutes, or several days

Whale’s Stomach
Students learn about the impact of our “throwaway society” by exploring all the different kinds of trash found in a whale’s stomach.
Recommended for grades 4 and up.
Time: 15-45 minutes

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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Get Green While Doing Good

We recently discovered a couple of grant and contest opportunities for educators and students who want to make the world a better place...and maybe win a little green as a bonus:

For Teachers:

Middle School teachers in the U.S. are eligible to win 1 of 40 $1,000 “Live Green” Grants, sponsored by Discovery Education and GM Motors. Teachers can write an original essay of no more than 750 words about an “idea that will increase student learning of new and emerging technologies and their impact on the environment and energy use.”

The deadline for entries is May 15, 2008.

Find out more.

For Multiple Generations:

The EPA, Generations United and the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., are looking for intergenerational teams to submit poetry, essay and photography projects that embody “the Sense of Wonder that you feel for the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes" for their Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest.

The deadline for entries is June 16, 2008.

Find out more.

For Kids:

Animal lovers in the U.S., ages 5 – 19, are invited by the Weather Channel and By Kids for Kids (a marketing company) to enter their Akitas to Zebras (A2Z) Challenge. The challenge is to “create solutions which protect the welfare of all animals” by creating and developing a new idea. It could be a product, service, campaign, media outreach tool, etc.

The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.

The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008.

Find out more.
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Humane Education Fellowship Opportunity with Roots & Shoots

Do you know any high school seniors or college students who like traveling the world, mingling with changemakers and hanging out with Jane Goodall? Be sure to tell them that Roots and Shoots (a project of the Jane Goodall Institute) is seeking applicants for its 2008-09 Youth Leadership Fellow. High school seniors and college students are eligible to apply for this one-year position, which is based in Arlington, Virginia and begins August 1, 2008. The Fellow receives a monthly stipend of $1,400.

According to Roots and Shoots, “The fellowship is a truly unique opportunity, which gives the recipient a perspective that most young people will never have. It is a chance for a young person to work full-time for an international nonprofit and travel around the country speaking to and meeting people—young and old—who are making a difference. Most importantly, the Fellow is given the opportunity, skills and support to lead their Roots & Shoots peers in making an impact, globally.”

The application deadline is April 31, 2008.

Find out more.
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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.

Teacher sneaks social justice into history course & changes lives - (4/7/08)
History teacher Denny Conklin’s plan to sneak a quick two-week unit about social justice into his history class has changed lives and made a positive difference in the school.

Women discriminated against worldwide - BBC News (4/5/08)
A recent UN-commissioned report reveals that, despite pledges from countries to outlaw laws favoring men, woman face numerous types of bias and discrimination in almost every country.

“Yes We Can” change the world for the better, says Sachs - The Guardian (4/5/08)
Profiles author, economics guru and director of The Earth Institute, Jeffrey Sachs.

More teens becoming “hardcore greens” and proud of it - Times Online (4/4/08)
Profiles three teens in Britain who have become green leaders in their schools and communities.

Students “celling” others on helping build a school - (4/4/08)
Reports about the social justice group at a Catholic school in Kingston, Ontario (Canada) who are collecting old cell phones and printer cartridges to raise money to build a school in a developing country.

Tween girls becoming regulars in salons - New York Times (4/3/08)
Reports on the increasing trend of younger girls to clamor for visits to the salon.

Teen ‘casts about for ways to change the world - The Ambler Gazette (4/2/08)
Profiles a Pennsylvania teen who produces a podcast focused on sharing ideas for helping make a positive difference in the world.

Matt Damon’s mom takes on media violence - Boston Globe (4/1/08)
Profiles the work of college professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige, whose new book looks at the effects of media violence on children.

Campus hosts “Tunnel of Oppression”ASU Web Devil (3/31/08)
Students at the Arizona State campus hosted a multimedia tunnel tour, designed to educate others about inequality and oppression.
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When I'm Afraid, I Fall

My husband, Edwin, and son, Forest, are rock climbers and very hardy mountain climbers and hikers. I’m a hiker and occasional rock climber, too, but there’s a big difference between us. Edwin and Forest are fearless. They walk right up to cliff edges, leap over crevasses, and sprint across logs high over rocky streams. I lie on my belly near cliff edges, climb down, across, and back up crevasses, and crawl over those same logs. I also fall and slip far more often than they.

I can’t explain my more frequent falls by carelessness, since I’m the epitome of careful. I could chalk my falls up to being less coordinated, but since I was a gymnast, specializing in the balance beam, and have been a dancer since childhood, lack of coordination isn’t the problem.

I fall more because I’m afraid. When I’m confident and unafraid, I hike and climb well, smoothly, and without mishap, just like they do.

What does this have to do with MOGO? When we are afraid, we may decline the adventure of making choices that do the most good and the least harm because we may worry we will be different, inconvenienced, less secure, or isolated from friends, family, neighbors, or religious communities. And when we fear, we may fall off the MOGO path that asks us to inquire about the effects of our choices, introspect, and live with integrity. “Not worth it,” we might say, fearful.

So how do we become unafraid?

We choose to be courageous.

Courage is not the same as fearlessness. Courage is when we do something despite our fear. I think I’m much more courageous than Edwin and Forest when it comes to rock climbing because I’m often terrified, and I climb anyway. They don’t need courage because they’re not afraid. Initially, this courage doesn’t keep me from slipping or falling, since fear still makes me unsteady. What courage does is slowly but surely supplant fear with confidence as I slip and survive, as I fall and get up again, as I reach a peak and feel euphoric.

When we courageously choose MOGO, we discover that new choices bring unexpected benefits. We make new friends, create exciting, supportive new communities, deepen our sense of self respect and inner peace, discover more joy, and often greater health. And one day we realize we’re no longer afraid.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Teen 'Casts About for Ways to Change the World

How can teens find quick and easy ways to help make a positive difference in the world? Pennsylvania high school student Julie Zauzmer thinks she's found a way -- she produces her own podcast, 52 Ways to Change the World. Zauzmer's podcasts, each about 4-12 minutes long, focus on "quick and easy ways to support charities and help out in everyday life." She has featured ideas such as growing a garden and then giving the bounty to a soup kitchen; finding places to donate gently used books, magazines, videos, etc.; sharing ways to help the homeless; learning about organizations for whom you can knit certain kinds of projects, and so on. The 'casts are all archived, and the summaries include links mentioned in the 'casts.

People of all ages can both learn from her podcasts, and perhaps, become inspired to create their own. Podcast listeners are a growing population, and, as Zauzmer is discovering, with her podcasts being downloaded more than 500 times since January, a powerful way to reach people.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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A Radical Equation: Math + Social Justice Issues = Better Learning and a Better World

War budgets and fractions, geometry and liquor stores, probability and racial profiling. What does one have to do with the other? It's learning math literacy by exploring social justice issues (and learning about social justice issues through math). It's Radical Math!

Radical Math is a resource for educators who want to connect math skills with social and economic justice issues. The site offers numerous lesson plans, articles, websites, a blog, a forum, and other resources, as well as a guide to integrating social justice issues into your math curriculum. Resources can be browsed by math topic, resource type, or social justice issue (death penalty, globalization, immigration, poverty, racism, sweatshops, etc.). Radical Math also sponsors an annual conference, Creating Balance in an Unjust World: A Conference on Math Education and Social Justice. This year's conference is this weekend (April 4-6) in Brooklyn, New York.

Radical Math is an example of integrating essential skills with real-world learning that can really make a positive difference.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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The Power of Ordinary People

When students learn about famous people who have made a positive difference, who have made “history,” they can be inspired. But sometimes, those kinds of people – world leaders, inventors, social activists – can seem larger than life, with powers beyond those of “ordinary” people. With all the seemingly intractable problems of the world, students can find themselves overwhelmed and disheartened.

With the increasing popularity of the blogosphere, “ordinary” people are beginning to document their own journeys of changing the world and trying to make it a better place. What a great learning opportunity for students! They can discover, day-by-day, the unfolding of someone’s journey – his challenges and triumphs, her dealings with daily obstacles and new adventures – over a period of time. Often, that journey includes more than just words on a screen; it may also include photos, audio, and video, which can enhance the experience even more.

One great example of an inspiring, empowering learning experience I recently discovered is Shawn Ahmed’s Upon hearing a speech by Jeffrey Sachs in 2006 (author of The End of Poverty) at Notre Dame, where Shawn was a graduate student, Shawn was so inspired by Dr. Sachs’ assertion that poverty can be ended in Shawn’s lifetime, that Shawn decided to travel to Bangladesh, a country with more than its share of the poor, and see what he could do to end poverty.

Shawn has been documenting his travels and self-funded efforts via his blog, as well as through pictures and video. In a recent video, Shawn went to a small rural village and asked some school children what they needed. He was able to buy them medicines and school supplies to last them awhile, and his total cost was about USD$70. Shawn’s tagline at the end of his videos is: “It doesn’t take much to make a difference. That’s kind of the point.”

Here is one person, with very few funds, doing what he can to make a positive difference for others, and he’s helping to change the world. And students can travel along with him.

Two other blogs that have documented the unique journeys of others as they seek to make a positive difference include Slow Travel and No Impact Man. Though their journeys are both over, their experiences can still be valuable.

Slow Travel chronicles the experiences of a couple who decided to travel around the world…without flying. They used all kinds of alternative transportation, from cargo ships to trains to buses to camels. And this unique mode of travel – as they put it – “the joy of slow and low-carbon travel” allowed them to really get to know the people, culture and landscape of the lands they traveled. In total, they traveled 381 days and more than 45,000 miles.

No Impact Man decided that he and his family were going to live for one year “without making any net impact on the environment.” NIM recorded his journey via a blog (as well as through a forthcoming book and film), and news of his family’s journey spread throughout the media and blogosphere. NIM’s year is up, but he still blogs about low- and no-impact issues.

When you’re looking for ways to engage your students in the “real world,” and inspire them to consider the power of the “ordinary” person, consider scouting out one or more blogs like these.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

Photo credit: Shawn Ahmed
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Nuance, Complexity, Redemption

I listened, rapt, to Barack Obama's speech on race on March 18. I could hardly believe that I was being spoken to like a thinking adult; that I was hearing nuance, complexity, and a rejection of either/or thinking in a political speech. I’ve written repeatedly in this blog about the concept of “both/and,” urging educators to teach a generation to think beyond either/ors, recognize the truths in seemingly contradictory positions, and help students learn how to create real solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. To hear a politician speak this way was beyond rare –- it was almost unheard of in the soundbite world of politics.

As I listened, I heard Senator Obama use long sentences, some with double negatives. “Oh no,” I thought. “Some media will pull out this or that phrase and distort his meaning, perhaps even make it appear that he’s said the opposite of his intended meaning. Their soundbites will ruin this.” And that is what happened among some media, but not most. Instead, most media have offered paragraph long reprints, so that we are able to read and understand the complexity of Senator Obama’s statements. His speech has been viewed millions of times on YouTube. I’m hopeful that a trend has begun, and that other politicians will take Senator Obama’s lead and speak to us truthfully, with nuance, offering the complexity of issues, helping us not to take sides but to solve problems.

One week after Senator Obama’s speech on race, I watched the film Crash, a movie that explores the nuance and complexity of race and racism as well, which offers no character as all good or all bad, which redeems the worst racist and casts the good man in the horrifying role of unwitting race-based murderer. Like Senator Obama, the film delves below the surface of racism, revealing its origins, offering us understanding so that we might grow in awareness and through that awareness find better answers. It’s not a happy film, nor is it a hopeless film.

There’s a trend in filmmaking these days to give us brutal, unredeemed reality instead of a happy ending. When No Country for Old Men won the Academy Award for best picture this year, I was stunned, and frankly, dismayed. I, personally, do not watch movies so that I can be reminded that the world is full of cruelty, insanity, suffering, injustice, and horrific violence. I can read the news for that. I want art to give me a lens into deeper truths; I want it to offer not sappy endings and unrealistic answers but legitimate hope, vision, and understanding. As I watched Crash, there was foreshadowing of a truly ghastly event: an honest, hard-working man who lifted his family out of the ghetto, but whose young daughter still feared the daily gunshots. A loving, creative father, he soothed his daughter’s fears by telling her a made-up story and giving her his invisible protective cape that would let nothing harm her. We viewers knew what was coming. Without this protective cape, and with the story unfolding of another man –- a victim of prejudice, robbery and fear -- accusing this heroic dad of enabling the crime that robbed him of his livelihood –- seeking revenge. I found myself deeply afraid, even though I knew this was just a movie. “Please,” I thought, “don’t let this movie give us nothing but more horror.” It didn’t. Which is why I found Crash, like Senator Obama’s speech, helpful in my own quest for deeper understanding and vision for ways past our prejudices and failures so that we can tackle and solve our complex and persistent problems with wisdom, compassion, understanding, and, yes, hope.

~ Zoe Weil, IHE President
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