How Do We Change?

Artist and changemaker Chris Jordan asks several questions in his fascinating presentation at the TED conference. Through his powerful photographs of human behavior and mass consumption, Jordan attempts to make our unconscious societal choices conscious so that we can change destructive and unhealthy behaviors and systems. Jordan’s captivating wall-sized photographs depict, in a compelling and often visually stunning manner, such mundane realities as the number of plastic cups we use on airplane flights in the U.S. each day or the number of people who die from smoking cigarettes every year. By making our societal choices accessible in this way, he invites viewers to reflect upon their own individual contributions (presumably both positive and negative) to the world. I consider Jordan’s work to be a spectacular example of humane education through art.

But what I found most compelling about this particular presentation was his question to the audience. How do we change?

It’s an old question with a long pedigree of distinguished and not-so-distinguished answers. Psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists, preachers, and advertisers alike have all sought to understand the forces that mold us, and then to mold us toward their own aims.

This is true for humane educators as well. The primary goal of humane education is to provide people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to create a peaceful and humane world. Note that humane education seeks to do more than provide relevant information and skills; it must also instill desire to create a good world and motivate its recipients to be engaged changemakers. We humane educators are in the influence business, attempting to answer the question “How do we change?” so that we can help our students change themselves and the world for the better.

From my perspective as a humane educator, I believe that we change:
  • By emulating those who inspire us most (so humane educators must model a positive message as fully as possible)
  • Through daily practice and a commitment to live with integrity (so humane educators must provide maps for such a practice)
  • When the choices before us include convenient, healthy, and positive options (so humane educators must offer these and work toward their development)
  • When we are part of healthy systems and live in healthy situations (so humane educators must help create such systems and situations for our students)
  • With support from others who also strive to change for the better (so humane educators must provide such support)
  • By pursuing lifelong learning and wisdom (so humane educators must inspire others so that they are passionate about learning)
  • When we have hope (so humane educators must offer painful truths about current realities in ways that do not create despair but rather engender enthusiasm for new possibilities)
Our task as humane educators is to create change, and so we must seek to answer Jordan’s question so that our work has the greatest impact. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for answering this perennial question.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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IHE's President to be Interviewed on Dr. Pat Show

Zoe Weil, IHE's President, will be interviewed, live, on the Dr. Pat Show. The interview will be Tuesday, July 1, at 1:30 pm EST (10:30 am PST). Zoe will be talking about her books and about the power of humane education and humane living.

Be sure to tune in if you can!
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When Good Deeds Go Bad

Want to help stop breast cancer? Just buy a pink toaster. Or some lipstick from Revlon. Or, heck, how about going all out and buying a car to help fund the fight? Or, want to help the earth? Buy “Green Works” cleaning products from Clorox. They’re endorsed by the Sierra Club, so it must be a credible, green, safe product.

As more citizens demand products and services that help us to live a more compassionate, just, sustainable life and prefer corporations that give more than a nod to social responsibility, and as citizens look for actions they can take to make a positive difference, some corporations (and nonprofit organizations) are embracing time-honored techniques in misinformation, exaggeration, deception and/or confusion.

Take the “fight” against breast cancer. In a recent article, Anne Landman of PR Watch explores the phenomenon of “pinkwashing,” defined as “when corporations try to boost sales by associating their products with the fight against breast cancer.” While some companies are just out to make a profit, Landman notes, “The worst pinkwashers exploit the intense emotions associated with breast cancer while selling products that actually contribute to breast cancer” (such as some of the toxic chemicals found in cars and cosmetics).

Landman also observes:
“Few if any pinkwashers mention ways women can help prevent breast cancer -- for example, by quitting smoking, changing their diet, or avoiding unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals. Some critics say the almost total lack of focus on prevention is because prevention doesn't make money. It's much more profitable to make people believe that their consumer purchases are contributing to a ‘cure.’”
Shopping is one way we citizens have been groomed to “make a difference.” Plenty of other “opportunities” abound. Are you wearing a plastic wristband? Got a magnetic ribbon on your car? Did you participate in Earth Hour? Do you “click for a cause” to feed the hungry, plant a tree, or save a cute animal? Signed an online petition lately? The philosophy that we can take simple, easy, quick actions to make a significant difference can cultivate an adherence to “slacktivism,” which, according to, means “the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.” And plenty of corporations are encouraging citizens to join those ranks.

There’s also the ever-popular greenwashing strategy, which can be difficult to discern. Which companies are really serious about environmental preservation and sustainability, and which just want you to buy their product and not look too closely at their practices? A report from several months ago detailed The Six Sins of Greenwashing and examined the claims of more than 1,000 products. And when companies have video ads like this one, who wouldn’t want to believe them?

Pinkwashing. Slacktivism. Greenwashing. Great inducements to seek accurate information and to practice critical thinking before we act.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of klynslis.
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Giving Books New Life Can Help Make a Better World

Have you ever thought about what happens to books when they’re worn out or no longer wanted? If they’re really lucky, those in the latter category end up finding new life with someone else. Less lucky, and they get recycled. Completely out of luck, and they end up sharing space with dirty diapers, broken toys and other “waste.” And what about the millions of people who don’t even have access to good books?

A few years ago, three college friends got turned onto promoting literacy through book drives, and the social venture has expanded enormously. Better World Books believes “that literacy gives people water to drink, imparts knowledge to eliminate disease, and develops self-esteem that enables people to make their mark on the world.” BWB helps colleges and other organizations hold book drives, and those books get resold, thus generating money to fund literacy programs, creating jobs and saving thousands of tons of books from that date with the trash heap.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Better World Books.
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Films Reveal Horrors of Rape as a Tactic of Conflict

“In Sudan, girls as young as four are raped by rebel forces and government-backed militias. In Democratic Republic of Congo, women are sexually mutilated by roving gangs. In Burma, they are systematically raped as part of a military offensive.”
Source: The Star

Recently the U.N. voted unanimously on a resolution “classifying rape as a weapon of war.” In response to the resolution, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said:
"Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in societies attempting to recover from conflict….When you adopt resolutions with strong language on sexual and gender-based violence, the UN can respond more forcefully."

And U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said,
"I am proud that today we have responded to that lingering question with a resounding yes. We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women but the economic and social stability of their nations."
These are inspiring words, but what do they really mean as far as what kinds of action will be taken? And how they raise awareness about this issue?

While politicians have been debating these issues, courageous women have been taking action, and their stories are documented in two new/forthcoming films.

Filmmaker Lisa Jackson has produced The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, which details the stories of some of the women and girls who have been brutally raped, kidnapped, tortured and mutilated by soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some 40 women and girls are raped in the DRC each day. Jackson’s documentary recently debuted on HBO and is part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. You can see the trailer on the film’s website, and see an interview with the filmmaker here.

Filmmaker Michaelene Christini Risley is working on a documentary, Tapestries of Hope, about Betty Makoni and her Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe. As the film notes, Zimbabwe is in the midst of political crisis, and one of the favored forms of punishment is rape. Additionally, we discover through the trailer, a popular myth endures that men can rid themselves of AIDS or HIV by raping a child or virgin. Risley’s film has not yet been released (as of June 2008).

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

Image courtesy of Greatest Silence.
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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.

Green educators growing, flourishing - Edible Portland (Summer 2008)
“The program addresses the emerging field of sustainability education and focuses on teaching in the community through projects like the Learning Gardens Laboratory, a student-faculty run garden in southeast Portland that works with elementary schools to teach youth everything from the biology of worms to helping the hungry.”

A whiter shade of pale - (6/08)
“Today the current prime-time lineup, including fall's 14 new scripted shows, is looking alarmingly pale. According to an Entertainment Weekly study of scripted-programming casts for the upcoming fall 2008 season, each of the five major broadcast networks is whiter than the Caucasian percentage (66.2 percent) of the United States population, as per the 2007 census estimate.”

Florida to buy sugar company to help restore Everglades - New York Times (6/24/08)
“The intention is to restore the Everglades by restoring the water flow from Lake Okeechobee, in the heart of the state, south to Florida Bay. That flow had been interrupted by commercial farming and the Everglades have suffered as a result.”

Shun the bottle: more mayors calling for return to “home-grown” water - AlterNet (6/24/08)
"Cities are sending the wrong message about the quality of public water when we spend taxpayer dollars on water in disposable containers from a private corporation….Our public water systems are among the best in the world and demand significant and ongoing investment."

Recycle your old CFLs at Home Depot
- (6/24/08)
“The Home Depot has expanded the recycling program for compact fluorescent light bulbs begun last November in its Canadian stores to in 1900-odd stores in the United States. Customers can bring in any expired, unbroken CFL bulb the store’s returns desk. ‘The bulbs will then be managed responsibly by an environmental management company who will coordinate CFL packaging, transportation and recycling to maximize safety and ensure environmental compliance.’”

Climatologist who first sounded global warming alarm renews his efforts - New York Times (6/23/08)
“If we don’t begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next several years, and really on a very different course, then we are in trouble….Then the ice sheets are in trouble. Many species on the planet are in trouble.”

Nature-loving teen honored for her eco-friendly workJournal Register (6/23/08)
“It’s something that I really feel strongly about. I don’t want to see [the earth] destroyed because of something I’m doing. I’ve been so involved with being outside ... I want my children to have that same joy.”

First Nation uses peaceful, direct action to stop illegal logging - AlterNet (6/23/08)
“The clear-cutting of the land and the destruction of the forest is an attack on our people. The land is the basis of who we are. Our culture is a land-based culture, and the destruction of the land is the destruction of our culture. And we know that is in the plans. The logging companies don't want us on the land; they want us out of the way so they can take the resources. We can't allow them to carry on with this cultural genocide.”

Can we stop using the oceans as a garbage dump? - New York Times (6/22/08)
“Plastic gets into the ocean when people throw it from ships or leave it in the path of an incoming tide, but also when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow.”

Todders taught human rights - Telegraph (UK) (6/21/08)
“The Unicef scheme is designed to promote the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children everywhere have the right to survival, freedom to develop, protection from abuse and the opportunity to participate in society.”

Hungry planet: how do we feed everyone? - Common Dreams (6/20/08)
“The problem is a global one, in which a breakdown anywhere in the food chain sets dire consequences in motion and in which the root causes range from rising consumption in Asia to growing biofuel production in the United States and Europe to dwindling supplies of water in the Middle East.”

California cars to get new label
- (6/20/08
"This label will arm consumers with the information they need to choose a vehicle that saves gas, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps fight smog all at once."

Attempts to quash human rights growing - The Chosun Ilbo (6/20/08)
”A new international report is warning that human rights defenders around the world are facing increasing efforts to stifle their actions….It says that while the number of human rights defenders is growing - such as lawyers, judges or woman's rights activists - so are government efforts to curb their actions.”

Argentina swaps child labor for child education - China View (6/19/08)
”The Argentine government has decided to fund nearly 14,000 working children in order that they can continue their studies, local press said Wednesday….About 13,759 scholarships will be given to employed children.”

College takes “holistic” view on environmental studies - College News (6/19/08)
”Nearly a dozen academic departments are represented in this group of denim-clad undergraduate faculty who are participating in Proctor's environmental studies workshop. Their purpose is to learn how to infuse the concepts of the emerging new environmentalism into their teaching and research.”

Middle schoolers tackle climate change - Wicked Local Weston (6/19/08)
”…the eighth-graders took part in a new interdisciplinary program that focused on the issues of climate change. The program allowed the students to greatly expand their knowledge and understanding of what has become an essential issue to the world as a whole….Throughout the year, teachers from every branch of the school included the subject of climate change in their classroom.”

Maryland students strive for “green” certification - Gazette.Net (6/18/08)
“Mommy, think of the carbon footprint….The [Green Schools] program requires schools to incorporate environmental lessons and make efforts to reduce energy use.”

First interracial prom in Mississippi school held - NPR (6/11/08)
"It was just magnificent….that night, when we stepped in that door, everybody just had a good time. We proved ourselves wrong. We proved the community wrong, because they didn't think that it was going to happen."

Group intent on pushing education to the fore - Washington Post (6/11/08)
“The Education Equity Project…will challenge the presumptive presidential nominees… to treat the failure of schools to educate black and Latino children as the overriding civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

Time to oust No Child Left Behind?
- Time (6/8/08)
“…many early critics insisted that No Child Left Behind was nothing more than a cynical plan to destroy American faith in public education and open the way to vouchers and school choice.”

Dirty, Pretty Things - Time (6/5/08)
“Which is why people are so intrigued by the 100 Thing Challenge, a grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items.”
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What William Kristol Missed

Conservative columnist, William Kristol, has an opinion piece in the New York Times today criticizing the new ad about the Iraq war. You can view the ad here.

In the ad a young mother, holding her baby boy, says the following: “Hi, John McCain. This is Alex. And he’s my first. So far his talents include trying any new food and chasing after our dog. That, and making my heart pound every time I look at him. And so, John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because if you were, you can’t have him.”

William Kristol makes some valid points about this ad. John McCain’s comment about staying in Iraq for 100 years (or even longer) has been taken out of context. The U.S. currently has a volunteer military, so John McCain can’t take this woman’s son. But then he quotes a woman who’s son has been serving in Iraq; she says about the ad: “Does that mean that she wants other people’s sons to keep the wolves at bay so that her son can live a life of complete narcissism? What is it she thinks happens in the world? ... Someone has to stand between our society and danger. If not my son, then who? If not little Alex then someone else will have to stand and deliver. Someone’s son, somewhere.”

And Mr. Kristol responds to this statement with the following: “This is the sober truth. Unless we enter a world without enemies and without war, we will need young men and women willing to risk their lives for our nation. And we’re not entering any such world.”

I’m not so na├»ve as to think we live in a world without enemies or war, but I found myself surprised by Mr. Kristol’s choice of words. “Unless we enter...” he writes before deciding in the next sentence that we’re not “entering” such a world.

Should this really be the question we ask, and the conclusion we draw? I agree with Mr. Kristol that we won’t enter any such world, but we can create a world in which we no longer kill one another in wars. We have the capacity to solve conflicts peaceably. The great majority of individuals do this, and many societies have learned to do so as well. Can’t we work to create a world in which we all solve conflicts without violence, individuals and nations alike?

William Kristol’s perspective is not simply pessimistic, it is essentially passive. That is, passive about the necessity to work for a better world, one in which we have healthy, sustainable, and peaceful systems and societies. Passive about our responsibility to create a safe and humane world so that our children need not “stand and deliver” in war, but rather stand and deliver on viable solutions to war and environmental degradation and poverty and cruelty and a host of other problems.

Mr. Kristol would likely be surprised that I’m calling him passive. After all, he advocates active engagement with our enemies in the form of a strong military and sons going to war. But he is silent on the most important challenge of our time – the challenge to raise a generation that has learned how to create peace. That is the challenge that humane education seeks to meet. It won’t be selfish narcissists who take up this challenge, but rather a generation that has been taught and motivated to be wise, committed, generous changemakers.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Now is the Time for Humane Education

According to a new Harris Poll, about 72% of U.S. adults believe that their personal actions have a significant impact on the environment and more than 50% have made positive changes to try to help preserve the environment. However, more than half had never heard of “environmental sustainability” and of those who haven’t changed their lifestyle, more than a third said they didn’t know what to do, and almost a third said they didn’t think their actions would make a difference.

A new book out, called The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life, by Stanford University psychologist William Damon, reports that his extensive research surveying and interviewing groups of young people over several years reveals that many young people are feeling adrift and without purpose. In addition to the “rudderless” kids, Damon reports that “there’s a majority of kids who are looking for something but haven’t found it. They’ve either tried something that doesn’t work, or they have some big dream but they haven’t pursued it in a practical sort of way.”

Damon says, of helping young people find their way, “Imagine what we could do if we were intentional about this.”

What louder call could there be for humane education than examples like these? Only about half the respondents in the Harris poll are familiar with environmental sustainability? Humane education is about providing people with accurate information. Many of the respondents who haven’t made changes in their lives either don’t know what to do or don’t feel hopeful about the impact of their choices? Humane education is about offering people positive choices, so that people feel empowered to help create a more humane world. Damon’s young people feel a lack of purpose and drive? Humane education fosters curiosity, creativity and critical thinking, so that people can solve problems. Humane education instills reverence, respect and responsibility, so that people are motivated to make a positive difference. Imagine where all these “rudderless” kids would be if they had been exposed to humane education throughout their lives!

The signs are everywhere that the world is hungry for humane education: in schools, in the work place, in government and industry. In our homes and places of worship. In the choices that we make every day. When most of us talk about the kind of world we want, words like poverty, violence, suffering, injustice, cruelty, devastation or hunger rarely enter the conversation …unless it follows “an end to….” Most of us speak longingly of peace, compassion, justice, simplicity, connection, harmony, as if they are nostalgic, fuzzy remembrances from a distant past, or lovely, sparkly gems that will always be just out of reach. We speak as if we’re hopeful of something different, but are resigned to the path of destruction and emptiness our civilization continues to wend.

That’s why humane education is so powerful.

Humane education encourages living with compassion and respect for everyone, and provides tools for doing so. It brings awareness to important issues that affect us all and emphasizes our interconnectedness; it fosters critical thinking and creativity; it offers positive alternatives for living with integrity and compassion; it empowers us to clarify our values and to make choices that are more in line with them, as well as to join our voices together with others to speak out and act for a more sustainable, compassionate world. Humane education also respects the journey of transformation that everyone undergoes; encouraging people to rejoice in the small positive changes and to make the journey at their own pace.

Humane education helps people with divergent views find common ground. It fosters and celebrates connection and diversity. It emphasizes the importance of engaging different strengths and strategies to build a better world. It instills a desire to interact with others with an open and loving heart, with patience, with sincere listening and a desire to understand, and with a recognition that we are all more than just the pieces of us with which people might disagree.

Humane education reveals to us the enormity of our power: the power of our choices. As Frances Moore Lappe' says, “Every choice we make can be a celebration of the world we want.” Every choice says Yes! to something and No! to something else. We, individually and collectively, decide with our choices, what kind of world we’re going to nurture and support. As Robert Kennedy said,
“It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an idea, or strikes against an injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression.”
Journalist and peace activist Colman McCarthy said, “Think about the kind of world you want to live and work in. What do you need to build that world? Demand that your teachers teach you that.” Most of us want the same kind of world: happy, healthy families, a meaningful life & work, connection to something larger than ourselves, a healthy, sustainable planet, to know that we’ve made a positive difference. We can learn to achieve that, and we can help others; humane education is the catalyst and the conduit that leads the way.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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The Struggle of Stuff: Our Relationship with Our Goodies

Today I came across an article about a man who has created a 100 Thing Challenge for himself. The goal? "By November 12, 2008 I will only have 100 personal things. I will live with only 100 personal things for one full year, until November 12, 2009." Dave Bruno is keeping the blogosophere apprised of his progress (and sharing about other issues related to consumerism) through his blog, guynameddave. Dave's efforts are catching a lot of attention; recently his efforts were noted in Time magazine.

I was saddened to see that one columnist's response to Dave's campaign was basically, "We all should probably have less stuff, but reducing one's possessions to such a small number is unrealistic, and I'm perfectly happy with all the stuff I have, like my 9 watches. Such things are not for me." One element this columnist is ignoring, is the impact of all our stuff, from its beginning in whatever form it existed before, to what happens to it after we're done with it. Each thing that comes into our possession, no matter how briefly, has an impact on people, animals and the planet; depending on the thing and how it was made (and how it is disposed of), that impact can be positive, or quite destructive. And, as Annie Leonard mentions in The Story of Stuff, "99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, trashed within 6 months." So, all that stuff in our houses and u-store-it units, is the 1%.

Even those people who are trying to come into balance with their stuff struggle to develop a true healthy relationship with things -- to really understand wants versus needs. Several months ago I read a book called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. Although my husband and I have been following a voluntary simplicity philosophy for many years now (thanks to books such as Voluntary Simplicity, Your Money or Your Life, and The Simple Living Guide), I love reading up on how other people are making positive changes in their lives, and hopefully getting a new tip or two. Although I applaud Ms Levine for her efforts, I was disappointed that her definition of "not buying" included $50 haircuts, $350 glasses and similar purchases. Likewise, the author of Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less, seemed to approach her temporary experiment (giving up one "vice" for each month, for a month) as an exercise in self-denial, lack, and deprivation. There doesn't seem to be much critical thinking, introspection, or focus on making choices through a lens of joy and authenticity, and at the end of each month she pretty much returns to her regular habits.

In a world where most of the population is struggling to live on less than $2 a day and has very little (often not nearly enough), what is a healthy, compassionate, sustainable relationship with stuff? How much is enough? 100 things? 9 watches? $50 haircuts?

We can develop a healthy relationship of enough by tuning out the siren song of "Buy this and you'll be happy/manly/sexy/rich/desirable/loved/successful/worthy" and focusing on what we truly need and what brings us deep, authentic fulfillment, as well as paying attention to the impact of each "thing" on people, animals, and the planet, and choosing creative, clever, sustainable, humane ways to meet our needs...and have that little bit of extra just for fun.

~ Marsha
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"Things Never to Say": Respecting Diversity

Last year Don Imus made big headlines for his racist comments about the Rutgers University women's b-ball team. Last month, Fox News took criticism for referring to Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama" and for calling the famous "fist bump" between the husband and wife as a "terrorist fist jab." And it's not uncommon for teen boys to call each other "fag" or say something along the lines of "That's so gay."

Plenty of people have found themselves in the unwelcome spotlight for exhibiting severe foot-in-mouth disease (or just plain racism); some have lost jobs. There are too many people who still think that discrimination and bigotry are their in-born right; others are just oblivious, insensitive, or just plain rude.

Recently, I discovered a section on DiversityInc magazine's site called Things Not to Say.

The brief articles outline "things never to say" -- primarily in an office setting -- to one's coworkers. List topics include LGBT, American Indian, Asian American, African American, and Latino coworkers, as well as people with disabilities (whether visible or not). There's even a list called "9 Things Never to Say to White Colleagues."

The lists provide a great source for discussion of issues such as diversity, language, perception, perspective, stereotypes, myths, and communication. And, they're a great reminder to all of us to pay attention to the power of words and to be sure that we're practicing compassionate communication.

~ Marsha
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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.

Gay marriages begin in California - New York Times (6/18/08)
“With a quiet pride and a sense of history, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across California wed on Tuesday, giving a human face to a landmark court decision and a powerful opening salvo in what is expected to be a bruising fall campaign here over the issue of same-sex marriage.”

Climate change conflicts sparking refugee crisis - Guardian (UK) (6/17/08)
“Climate change is fuelling conflicts around the world and helping to drive the number of people forced out of their homes to new highs, the head of the UN's refugee agency said yesterday.”

Hunter + vegan + 30 days = interesting TV - News Observer (6/17/08)
“George Snedeker, a 43-year-old handyman and former Marine who hunts deer for meat, spent 30 days in September with 29-year-old vegan Melissa Karpel and her family for an episode of Morgan Spurlock's reality series ‘30 Days.’”

Lakes condemned to become mining dumping grounds - CBC (6/16/08)
“CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly ‘reclassified’ as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.”

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Exxon-Mobil appealBusiness Week (6/16/08)
“The suit, which did not seek a specific amount of damages, alleged that members of the Indonesian military committed rampant human rights abuses against the villagers while under Exxon's employ to guard a natural gas facility.”

Laughter is the best medicine for social changeAl-Ahram (6/15/08)
“A novel way of tackling women's issues in Egyptian society has been undertaken by Coiffeur Ashwaq, a sitcom series launched last week…[which] addresses various social and gender-related issues, such as equal opportunities, violence against women, girls' right to education, early marriages, divorce cases and sexual harassment.”

New regulations may make polar habitat un-bearableCommon Dreams (6/15/08)
“The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations last week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if small numbers of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.”

Olympic Australian athletes learn about China’s human rights issues through FacebookThe Age (6/14/08)
”The site provides cultural information about China but also features information, supplied by Amnesty International, about the occupation of Tibet, China's role in supporting the Sudanese regime in Darfur, internet censorship in China, capital punishment and the treatment of political prisoners.”

Using (carrot)mobs for positive social changeWorld Changing (6/13/08)
“Schulkin started by asking nearly two dozen local shops whether they would agree to dedicate a chunk of one afternoon's sales to making energy-efficient changes to their business. In exchange, he promised to bring in enough customers to make it worthwhile.”

DU, phosphorous weapons causing deaths, deformities in Iraqi children - Common Dreams (6/12/08)
“Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say.”

Gay youth fight for right to partner up at prom - Alternet (6/11/08)
"It's incredible that some young people have what it takes to endure sometimes brutal harassment from peers and from the community."

One fish, two fish, red fish, no fish - Alternet (6/11/08)
“Worldwide, one-quarter of fish stocks are overfished, says the FAO. Another 50 percent are fished to full capacity; they can sustain no more. According to one somewhat controversial analysis, if current fishing trends continue, all the world's fisheries will have collapsed by mid-century.”

Finger lickin’ lies - MSNBC (6/3/08)
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that Tyson Foods Inc. routinely gave chickens an antibiotic that can be used in humans, even though the company had defended its "raised without antibiotics" claim by saying it only used an antibiotic not used in people.”
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What Does a Humane Education School Look Like?

When my son was just a toddler, and my husband and I, tired of city living, were trying to decide where we were going to move, we spent our long weekends and vacations visiting communities, from the mountains of North Carolina to the coast of Maine. With strong opinions about education and schooling (generated over my years as a humane educator presenting in many schools), finding a place to live also meant finding a school for our son.

We ended up on the Blue Hill peninsula in Maine and sent our son, Forest, to the Bay School, a small, Waldorf-inspired elementary school.

Last week my 14-year-old graduated from the Bay School in the most spectacular ceremony that epitomized what humane education – not just Waldorf education – can achieve. Each child introduced a classmate, sharing words that brought forth the very best qualities of their friends, and then each child spoke about their experience, voiced their gratitude, and were offered wise words from their teachers.

By the time they graduated they knew more about our political system than I knew when I graduated with a master’s degree from college, because their teacher had taken the time during this exciting primary season to engage them in the political process. They’d visited the candidates’ websites, written about policies and debated them, listened to Barack Obama’s speech on race, and followed each primary or caucus avidly. They’d studied the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements and analyzed sexist and racist jokes. They’d learned about the efforts to protect children during the industrial revolution, and they’d had 1st grade partners all year with whom they played every day at recess, cultivating care, kindness, and love in full measure.

In other words, they’d received a humane education. And it shows. These graduates are so ready and eager to embark upon the next stage of their lives, so capable and prepared to be not just students, but citizens, so motivated to make a positive difference, with excellent critical and creative thinking skills to help solve their challenges, large and small.

We need all schools to offer our children no less than this.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Tell Me a Story...

One day in my work as a teen librarian, I was helping a young man edit one of his final papers before he graduated from high school. This young man had frequented the teen room, often using its resources, getting homework help or stopping to say hello to me, so I knew him as a friendly, warm person. His paper was about his experiences in a refugee camp (he was from Somalia). What he had endured was shocking and horrifying, and I admired him for sharing his story, and for persevering. I haven't ever forgotten that encounter.

Ode Magazine recently posted an article called "Who Would Want to Be a Refugee?" It shares stories from four of the nine million children around the world reported to be refugees. It's easy to see a number like 9 million, or 33 million (the estimated total number of refugees) and feel bad and then go on about our day. Witnessing someone's personal story is much more arresting; it has the power to halt our attention, to connect with us, to nurture our empathy, to spark us to act. The story of millions of cows sent to slaughter? Whatever. The story of one cow, escaping that slaughterhouse line and struggling to survive makes national headlines and inspires widespread support.

Whenever you're sharing information with others, whenever you're wanting to inspire and empower, whenever you need nurturing of your own, remember the power of stories.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager

P.S. You can read the stories of some of IHE's students and graduates on our website.
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Suffer the Children: World Day Against Child Labor

“Children are cheaper to run than tractors and smarter than oxen.”
~ Landowner in Pakistan who uses child labor in his fields

Miriam works in a brick factory. Ratha scavenges in a trash dump. Josimene is a domestic servant. Mario works in farm fields. Mujah weaves rugs. Their commonality? They’re children. It’s estimated that at least more than 200 million children around the world are engaged in child labor, and almost half of those (ages 5-17) are involved in some sort of hazardous or dangerous work. Child labor has existed in some form for thousands of years. But, as our population has grown, as poverty has risen, as economic globalization has spread, the exploitation, oppression and violation of children has increased. As the editors of Child Labor: A Global Perspective mention, “Poverty is the major precipitating factor, but education, rigid social and cultural roles, economic greed, family size, geography, and global economics all contribute.” (1)

Today is World Day Against Child Labor, an annual campaign sponsored by the International Labor Organization. For our June Humane Edge E-news, we feature two articles about child labor issues. One provides resources for adults and kids to learn more about child labor issues, and the other offers 10 Tips for Helping End Child Labor.

Stopping such insidious practices isn’t easy, but there are choices that all of us can make to improve conditions for children, to reduce our contribution to child labor, and to facilitate an end to the oppression and exploitation of children.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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TV Worth Watching - It's All Green

Looking for ways to get your green on 24/7? Just last week the Discovery Channel launched a brand new television channel called Planet Green. Billing itself as the “first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network,” PG offers shows mostly on building and living green, with, of course, the ever-present celebrity-focused shows, as well as reality tv-type formats (such as Wa$ted, in which 10 households are put through a “green boot camp” for cash prizes). Since I’m originally from Kansas, the show Greensburg: A Story of a Community Rebuilding intrigues me. Too bad I don’t own a television. But even if you’re sans TV, like me, the site still offers blog posts, articles and discussions about green topics.

Before PG launched their eco-lite channel, the Sundance Channel unveiled The Green, a “programming destination devoted entirely to the environment.” The Green offers several mini-series on green issues (some of which are available for viewing online), as well as mini-videos, podcasts, documentaries and more. The Sundance Channel also offers The Good Fight, a series focused on environmental justice. The series offers interviews and information, either in webisodes or interview formats. Topics include Wangari Maathai’s work in the Greenbelt Movement, how environmental issues impact different communities, green jobs and economy, food security and justice, and energy independence.

For the kids, keep your eye on Green Gorilla, an animated web show that focuses on teaching kids about environmental issues and inspiring them to action. The main character is, you guessed it, a green gorilla named Kijani (KJ). KJ and his totally fab young foursome “use their imagination, their network and their music to tackle the environmental challenges facing their generation.” So far there’s only one episode, which focused on plastic bags. More are planned around issues such as mountaintop removal, global warming, sustainable food and energy.

It's too bad that TV shows haven't yet picked up on the interconnectedness of all the humane issues and aren't focusing on the larger picture, but at least shows like these provide a bit of satiation for those of us hungry for programming on sustainable issues.

Know of other great green/humane media? Let us know about it!

~ 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.

San Francisco becomes seventh “fair trade town” in the U.S. - Plenty (6/08)
SF is joining a small but growing group of cities and towns in the U.S. who are seeking to become “fair trade towns” by meeting specific goals.

Students become “agents of change” - Courier Post Online (6/10/08)
“From lead poisoning to steroids to genocide, fifth-graders tackled issues that are changing the world adversely, and suggested ways to channel those negatives into positives.”

Immigration crackdown means U.S. citizens being deported - Alternet (6/10/08)
“Thanks to a recent Bush Administration crackdown, the net cast by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) is wide--so wide, it turns out, that some of those being deported are US citizens.”

Bermuda schools to teach sustainable development - Royal Gazette (6/9/08)
“Children will receive lessons in sustainable development in a bid to raise awareness of the Island's need to become more self-sufficient.”

Study reports “stay away from cows” for climate-healthy diet
Worldchanging (6/8/08)
A study examining the environmental impacts of different types of foods shows that animal products – especially cows – aren’t climate-friendly.

Cost of oil causing companies to rethink their businesses
- New York Times (6/8/08)
With continuing increases in oil prices, those companies who manufacture products made with petroleum are having to rethink how they do business.

In midst of food shortage, biotech firms in patent frenzy - (6/8/08)
“Giant biotech companies are privatising the world's protection against climate change by filing hundreds of monopoly patents on genes that help crops resist it, a new investigation has concluded.”

HSUS leading campaign to end shark fishing tournaments - New York Daily News (6/8/08)
The Humane Society of the U.S. is leading a campaign to end shark fishing tournaments for cash, citing the drastic decline in numbers of shark species, and the inhumane ways in which the animals are caught and killed. At least one food bank in Long Island has decided to no longer accept donations of shark meat, citing health and welfare concerns.

UN critical of U.S. treatment of detained juveniles - Common (6/7/08)
A recent United Nations report criticized the U.S. for its treatment of youth detained at Guantanamo, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called for the recruitment of young people under 18 into the military to cease.

Citizens clamor for bottled water – but at what cost? - USA Today (6/7/08)
Reports that demand for bottled water has skyrocketed, but there are numerous costs.

Sudanese child refugees being sold as soldiers - (6/6/08)
“Thousands of child refugees from Darfur, some as young as nine, are being abducted and sold to warring militias as child soldiers, a British human rights group reports today.”

Interview with Adrienne Maree Brown
- Democracy Now (6/6/08)
Amy Goodman interviews Ruckus Society’s executive director about media justice and the upcoming elections.

“Indiana Jones” speaks out against illegal wildlife trade - ABC News (6/5/08)
Actor Harrison Ford has created three PSAs, speaking out against illegal animal trafficking. Some of his PSAs are being played before the new Indiana Jones movie in theaters.

Plan to save the whales stalled - CNN (6/5/08)
“Whaling fleets nearly wiped out North Atlantic right whales last century. Now these huge mammals are threatened by other human behavior: big ships, fishing gear and entanglement in federal bureaucracy.”

Development due to forced labor - CNN (6/4/08)
A U.S. State Department "Trafficking in Persons Report," reveals that those countries currently experiencing higher levels of economic growth, are doing so due in part to forced and slave labor.

Water wars and woesAlternet (6/4/08)
Interviews Eliabeth Royte, author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and How We Bought It, about water issues in the U.S.

Reasons kids develop eating disorders varies by gender - U.S. News & World Report (6/3/08)
A new report reveals that girls are most likely to start binging and/or purging in order to look more like images in the media, and boys are most likely to start due to negative comments from their fathers.

Fantastic plastic voyage - NPR (6/2/08)
Reports on two marine scientists sailing a boat made out of plastic bottles to raise awareness about plastic debris in oceans.

Skyrocketing food prices mean less savory school lunches - Miami Herald (6/2/08)
Reports on the impact that increased food prices have had on school lunches, causing cafeterias to give up fresh fruit and whole grains for less healthy, cheaper fare.

No place like Utah - Washington Post (6/1/08)
Reports on the unusual, awkward state of race relations in Utah.

Interest in virtual dissection growing - AP (5/31/08)
With concerns about animal welfare, and increasing availability of alternatives, more schools are turning to virtual dissection options.
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Take the Heroism Attitudes Survey

What’s heroism? What’s altruism? What’s the difference? Can there be “everyday” heroes?

Researchers from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology and Stanford University are seeking participants to complete a survey about “public opinions of selfless actions that people take.” The Heroism Attitudes Survey is part of a study being conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Kathy Blau and Zeno Franco, doctoral students at Pacific, and Matt Langdon, Director of the Janus Center, about heroes, heroism and heroic behavior.

The survey is open to anyone 18 years or older who speaks English, and it takes about 15-30 minutes to complete.

Take the survey.
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Humane Education Part of the National Discussion?

During Senator Hillary Clinton's speech Tuesday night, she mentioned education in the U.S. and said that during the campaign she had met “students passionately engaged in the issues of our time, from ending the genocide in Darfur to once again making the environment a central issue of our day.” For a moment I wondered if I really had heard what I thought I had heard. Why, this was an implied call for humane education! She spoke of these students in the most positive way, and the crowd at Baruch College in Manhattan where she was speaking roared their support.

The goal of humane education is to engage students in the issues of our time so that they are passionately committed, knowledgeable, creative changemakers. If Hillary Clinton has been meeting such students in her campaign, in enough numbers to earn their mention in this important speech at the end of the primaries, this means that humane education is reaching young people – whether through teachers, media, books, the Internet, and/or YouTube. And it means that humane education – although not named as such – has reached a threshold I’ve been working toward for over two decades.

Teaching a generation to be aware of the great challenges we face, motivated to make a difference, and with the tools to make healthy choices that create positive change for all is now part of our national awareness, if not our national agenda.

Making humane education part of every young person’s education has new wings. Let’s all take flight and watch this movement grow.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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Man, Woman, or Human? Exploring Gender Issues

“He’s a real man.” “Be a man.” “Man up!” What does it mean to be a man? How do women define a man? How do men? How does society? Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas – Austin, recently wrote an article for, detailing a guest lecture given to a college class about masculinity. In the lecture, he asks students to “imagine themselves as parents whose 12-year-old son asks, ‘Mommy/Daddy, what does it mean to be a man?’” The list of descriptors, Jensen says, is predictable: strong, responsible, loving, caring, persistent, etc.

Then, Jensen asks the men in the class to answer another question: “When you are in all-male spaces, such as the locker room or a night out with the guys, what do you say to each other about what it means to be a man? How do you define masculinity when there are no women present?” As you can image, the responses are quite different. Jensen reports that the responses are centered around control, domination, sex, power, and not being “a woman or gay.”

Jensen guides the class to realize that the desired descriptors of loving, caring, strong, responsible, etc., aren’t specific to masculine or feminine, but are desired characteristics of humanity. Jensen says,
“If the positive definitions of masculinity are not really about being a man but simply about being a person, and if the definitions of masculinity within which men routinely operate are negative, why are we holding onto the concept so tightly? Why are we so committed to the notion that there are intellectual, emotional, and moral differences that are inherent, that come as a result of biological sex differences?”
Jensen’s lecture is a fascinating exploration of how men and women see themselves, and how gender is defined by culture and media. Gender, sex roles, sexism and other similar issues are so important for young people to explore, and there are a variety of great resources and ideas available, from exploring gender roles in children's literature and fairy tales, to browsing the media (movies, news stories, video games, television, music), to exploring use of language and slang, to investigating just about any aspect of culture. One great resource for exploring media and gender is the Media Education Foundation, which has several terrific videos about media, gender & diversity (borrow them from your library or buy/rent them from MEF).

~ 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.

Can we save our endangered species? - Newsweek (6/9/08)
A in-depth look at the controversy over the Endangered Species Act, and some of the animals who have made the cut.

Campaign netting good results for fighting malariaNew York Times (6/2/08)
Interest in donating $10 for a mosquito net to help reduce malaria in countries in Africa is increasing – especially among young people – with campaigns such as “Nothing But Net.”

The new ABCs: ammonia, benzene, chlorine… - (6/1/08)
Reports that some schools Carrolton, Texas (U.S.), are located next to plants or factories with extremely hazardous chemicals.

Art reflecting life - (6/1/08)
College students partner up with recovering drug addicts to break down stereotypes and use their art for social change.

The values of education - American Association of School Administrators (5/08)
A sociology professor calls for consciously teaching basic and essential values through curriculum, since all curricula teach values of some sort (i.e., there is no neutral content).

Bee serious - (5/31/08)
Honeybees are disappearing. Why? What will happen if they continue to disappear? What will happen to the overstressed bees who are left? An in-depth look at the role bees play in pollinating crops, and what’s going wrong.

“Uninhabitable swampland” on fire - Alternet (5/30/08)
Reports on how the watery Everglades have become dry enough to catch fire.

Water: human right or market commodity?Alternet (5/29/08)
As clean water becomes more scarce, people are becoming divided about how to handle the shortages..and whether or not water should be a product for profit.

Ban on cluster bombs passed, despite objections of primary usersCommon Dreams (5/29/08)
Diplomats from 109 countries met in Dublin, Ireland, recently and developed a treaty that would “outlaw the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.” The six countries who are the world’s leading users and producers of such munitions – the U.S., China, Russian, Israel, India and Pakistan – didn’t attend the conference and have said they won’t sign any such treaty.

Death of teen farm worker sparks call for action - Sacramento Bee (5/29/08)
The death of a 17 year old farm worker in California has brought attention to the conditions agricultural workers endure and has sparked a call for changes.

A chimp is a chimp, of course of course – unless he’s declared a person - (5/29/08)
A chimpanzee is headed to a European court in efforts to have him declared a person, so that a teacher and animal advocate can become his guardian.

Amnesty International report calls for “immediate action” - New York Times (5/29/08)
AI’s annual report has called for the U.S. to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and for world leaders to take action against human rights problems.

The kind of sea change you don’t want - Common Dreams (5/28/08)
Climate change is affecting the world’s oceans so significantly, that scientists can’t keep track of all the changes, nor make accurate predictions about the future.

Goodall urges Nobel for alternatives to animal (5/28/08)
Primatologist Jane Goodall is encouraging the Nobel Foundation to create an award for scientists who advance medical knowledge without experimenting on animals.

What’s fair trade, anyway? - (5/27/08)
Outlines how fair trade works, the benefits and drawbacks, and the potential future of fair trade.

Terror & violence invading Zimbabwe elections - Huffington Post (5/27/08)
A column about the violent tactics being used to affect the election run-off in Zimbabwe.

Jena 6 still awaiting justiceAlternet (5/27/08)
Provides an update on the cases involving the “Jena 6,” an incident which has put a spotlight on racial justice issues and has revealed the capriciousness of the justice system.

“Locavore” becoming mainstream - Business Week (5/20/08)
Looks at the rise in interest for locally-grown food and the impact such a demand is having.
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Humane Educator's Paradox

It's painful to learn about the terrible injustices and cruelties in the world. Sometimes, the more we know, the more hopeless we become. Even when we also learn about the great courage, generosity, wisdom, and dedication of countless changemakers, even when we see success in their efforts to create new systems that solve the great challenges of our time, we can still become despondent in the face of persistent exploitation, destruction, and oppression.

The question “How can we choose to know and still maintain hope in the face of ghastly atrocities?” is a seminal one for humane educators and reflects a paradox that is difficult to resolve. We must know in order to create positive change. Knowing leads to what Buddhists call “right action” and Jews call “tikkun olam” (repairing the world), but it can also to lead to rage, depression, fear, and violence, and even, paradoxically, to apathy when we simply cannot absorb or care about so much.

Most of us know angry activists who turn off more people than they turn on, whose actions are counter productive, who fail to model the peace and compassion they seek to create in the world. These people “know” but their “knowing” actually inhibits their successful changemaking.

And most of us also know activists who tirelessly create healthy change while inspiring others. What is the key to their success? How do they both know and radiate kindness, acceptance, patience, and openness? I believe that most such changemakers find a practice that grounds them, as well as outlets for experiencing joy and inner peace. They may spend time in the natural world, or meditate, or read inspiring works, or find strength from their religious beliefs, or gather with friends to laugh and play. They self reflect, they revel in all that is good, they acknowledge their own sadness and frustration as worthy emotions, and they persevere in cultivating their own best qualities.

Humane educators must not only cultivate all this within themselves, but also in the students we teach. If we create a generation full of despair, rather than a generation enthusiastic to play their part in creating change, we will have failed. If, however, we honor our students’ sorrow, fear, and anger and help them transform these emotions into “right action” we will have created a generation that can embrace the humane educator’s paradox and move toward the unfolding of a better world.

~ Zoe, IHE President
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