Battling Weight Bias at School

We know that prejudice and bias continue to pervade our society, and prejudice against people who are overweight or obese is widespread and often considered acceptable. Recently I happened upon the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which works to "improve the world's diet, prevent obesity and reduce weight stigma." I was glad to see that they address weight bias in school classrooms and offer recommendations and resources for addressing and reducing weight bias at school. (They also address weight bias in other arenas.)

One of the tools I especially like is a 17 minute video that the Rudd Center has created: "Weight Prejudice: Myths and Facts." The video is a dramatization of a teen who has created a video for her high school biology class about the weight bias that she's been experiencing from her fellow students and her teacher. It's a powerful and visceral tool that can help introduce the topic to classrooms.

If you can't view the above, go here.

~ Marsha
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Richer, But Not Happier

The Worldwatch Institute has produced a short film which asks whether consuming things really makes us happy. Turns out it doesn’t. Beyond a certain point, money and things don’t bring us joy. I imagine most readers of this blog already assumed (or knew) as much, but this short video is worth watching and sharing with others.

If you can't view the above, go here to watch it.

~ Zoe
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Life Can Be Fair If We Make It That Way

Something I remember my mom telling me quite often as a child is “Life isn’t fair.” I would always argue with her, because I didn’t believe it had to be unfair. If everyone just treated everyone nicely, then life would be fair, darn it!

I’ve heard people use the “Life isn’t fair” refrain to excuse all manner of atrocities and injustices. People are homeless? That sucks, but life isn’t fair. Your corporation just cut 5,000 jobs, including yours? Dang, that’s rough; but that’s the breaks, dude. As an adult, I’ve come to respond to that “Life isn’t fair” statement — which too often gets tossed out as an easy, blithe way to absolve us all of any personal responsibility – with the following: “But it can be.”

The other day, when reading a book by fantasy author Mercedes Lackey, I came across this passage of dialogue between two characters:

“Life isn’t fair.”
“Why not?”
“Because it isn’t.”
“And the more people that say that, the more people there are who use that as their excuse to be cruel, mean and ugly. ‘Life isn’t fair’ is nothing but an excuse people make to justify bad things they do. But why shouldn’t life be fair? What’s keeping it from being fair? Those same cruel, mean and evil people….And the more people there are who try to make life fair, the more likely it is that it will become fair.” (Foundation, p. 51)

I wouldn’t judge others quite so harshly as to widely proclaim that all roads to injustice point to “cruel, mean and evil people.” There are plenty of ways that we all condone and cultivate injustice without meaning to. But what especially resonated with me was the last sentence: “And the more people there are who try to make life fair, the more likely it is that it will become fair.”

If we want a world that’s compassionate, sustainable, kind, just and fair, then it’s up to us to make choices in our daily lives that nurture and support such a world (and to help create systems that do the same).

So, the next time someone gives you the old “Life isn’t fair” platitude, show them differently. Make life fair.

~ Marsha

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Down With Cul-de-Sacs! Sparking Solutions to Urban Sprawl

What's the greatest threat to our planet? Cul-de-sacs! At least, that's part of the message introduced in the short, 3-minute video, "Built to Last," which looks at the impact of sprawl on people and the planet and advocates for a "new urbanism," which emphasizes sustainable, walkable, local development.

The video was created as part of a contest for a conference for the Congress for New Urbanism, but it's a great tool for sparking discussion with people about issues of sprawl, ecological footprints, what makes sustainable and healthy communities and neighborhoods, and so on. How about challenging students (or your salon group) to develop ideas for transforming their own neighborhoods and communities into something more sustainable, walkable and healthy for people, animals and the earth? What might that look like? What would be needed to make it possible? What can be done now to take steps toward that new vision?

~ Marsha
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The Story of Stuff Helps Us Envision New & Better Systems

The New York Times recently had an article about the growing use of the video The Story of Stuff in schools, and the controversy that sometimes surrounds it. The short, animated film provides an introduction to the impact of our stuff on the environment, and it’s a great way to introduce the effects of consumer products and consumer culture on ecosystems and climate. I’m delighted that The New York Times has written an article about the film and its creator, Annie Leonard, because both deserve widespread attention.

It’s not surprising that there is some controversy associated with the film being shown in schools. Just as the economic historian I mentioned in my previous post countered a call to non-consumerist living with the statement that our economic system is based on consumerism, some are calling The Story of Stuff anti-capitalist (and hence anti-American).

Name calling. It doesn’t achieve much. It doesn’t solve our problems or imagine new ideas that could create greater happiness, prosperity, healthy, and peace. We need The Story of Stuff and so many other alternative views in our schools. Without them, we trudge on the status quo path that threatens all of us – even if we personally fail to see the likely consequences of our actions. But when we introduce new ideas to the next generation, pose questions that invite curiosity, critical thinking, and creative ideas, we can get beyond the name calling and “the controversy” and build new systems that work for all.

~ Zoe
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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

New wildlife reserve shows benefit, importance of empowering locals Mongabay (5/25/09)
”…the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is worth attention for another reason: every step of its creation—from biological surveys to reserve management—has been run by the local Congolese NGO and villages of Kokolopori.”

Magazine advocates for prisoners, human rights - AP (5/24/09)
"’PLN is not fighting for cable TV or air conditioning for prisoners,’ said Rhonda Brownstein, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Ala. ‘What they're fighting for is basic human rights, and the basic human rights we're talking about are the right to be free from violence by other prisoners or guards, the right to adequate medical care, adequate mental health care and the right — to an extent — to freedom of expression.’"

More students turning to internships on small farms - New York Times (5/24/09)
”A few hope to run their own farms. Others plan to work on changing government food policy. Some are just looking for a break from the rigors of academia. But whatever the reason, the interest in summer farm work among college students has never been as high, according to dozens of farmers, university professors and people who coordinate agricultural apprenticeships.”

Oil companies on trial for human rights, environmental abuses - New York Times (5/22/09)
”But the trial is the latest in a series of cases aimed at some of the world’s biggest oil companies, asserting misdeeds in developing countries where they were once seen as unassailable. Oil companies are being sued on charges of environmental damage, collusion with repressive governments and contributing to human rights abuses, among others.”
Thanks, Global Ethics Newsline, for the heads up.

Study shows too much fast food = lower test scores for kidsGuardian (UK) (5/22/09)
”Dr Kerri Tobin, who carried out the study, said it found ‘statistically significant relationships between higher than average consumption of fast food and lowered test scores’. ‘It is possible that the types of food served at fast food restaurants cause cognitive difficulties that result in lower test scores,’ she said.”
Thanks, Eco Child’s Play, for the heads up.

Middle schoolers win contest with idea for getting the lead (5/22/09)
”Basically, teammates Jathan Kron, Justin Roth and Brennan Nelson at West Branch Middle School, led by their teacher Hector Ibarra put together a presentation to the City Council, Community School District, and other civic organizations and convinced them to phase out the use of lead wheel weights in vehicles owned by the city and school districts. They also teamed up with local legislators to develop three bills proposing to phase out the harmful metal beyond their immediate community.”

The high cost of being poor - Washington Post (5/17/09)
”You have to be rich to be poor. That's what some people who have never lived below the poverty line don't understand. Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don't often explain.”
Thanks, Feministe, for the heads up.
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WebSpotlight: Kids Are Heroes

We've already introduced you to the New Heroes video series featuring 14 world changemakers, and to The Heroes Workshop, which profiles current and historical heroes and offers programs to teach kids to tap into their inner-hero. Sometimes learning about "old" heroes -- adults who have made positive change -- is inspiring but a little distant and unreal for some kids. Kids may sometimes find it difficult to imagine that they can accomplish great things on the level that an adult can. But, kids are doing it all the time, and that's why a website like Kids Are Heroes is such a great resource.

Kids Are Heroes features the stories of children who have seen a problem or need in the world and have taken positive action to make the world a more just, sustainable, compassionate place. Many of these kids began their crusades when they were in elementary school. You can also nominate a kid hero you know who's been working to make the world a better place.

~ Marsha
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Must Our Vision of the World Be Based on Consumption?

I’ve been encountering a number of people who are ambivalent about this recession we’re in. On the one hand, they’re struggling personally because of economic hardship, but on the other hand they recognize that consumption needs to decline for the sake of biodiversity, climate stabilization, and restored ecosystems. I was listening to an economic historian on the radio yesterday, who pointed out to a caller (who believed we need to reduce our consumption) that this was simply not how our economy worked. I’ve written about this topic in previous blog posts (such as this one), imagining a more service-based economy to replace our thing-based economy, but I know that this solution is incomplete.

Recently, on my book tours for Most Good, Least Harm, I’ve met people who want to read my book, but don’t want to buy it because they don’t want to consume more (more paper, more trees, more ink, more fossil fuels – all of which go into the production of my book). And I agree with them! I want my book to be a bestseller that millions read, and I want each of us to consume less and use our resources with more care. When asked about this dilemma, I often suggest they get a copy of the book and donate it to their local library when they’re done. Since the last page in the book provides a place for people to write down their names and email addresses so that they can connect with others who want to explore the issues involved in MOGO living, the perfect home for Most Good, Least Harm is a library. But the quandary remains.

What kind of society and world do we envision? Is it consumption-based or something else? What else?

In some of my future posts I’ll explore these issues of consumption further.

~ Zoe
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Two Movies That Offer Food for Thought

After the riots in South Central L.A. in 1992, the community needed healing. Some of them turned to an unlikely place: gardening. Residents created a 14-acre garden smack in the midst of the city, which allowed them to grow their own food and rebuild their sense of community. Something magical occurred in the midst of tragedy.

And then, the urban farmers who had created this oasis were told that the land had been sold to developers and the garden they had nourished and sweated over for 12 years would be destroyed. The Garden tells the story of the largest urban farm in the U.S. and how a community came together to try to stop the destruction of the garden...and of their community.

Find out more.

Food, Inc. looks at the U.S. food industry and how it has become so highly processed, mechanized and political, giving citizens a detailed picture of what we're eating and how (and why) it's produced that way. The film also offers insights from advocates working toward changing our relationship with food and creating a simpler, more sustainable and healthier way of eating.

Find out more.

~ Marsha
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How Are You Spending the Days of Your One Precious Life?

Time only seems to matter when it’s running out.” ~ Peter Strup

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” ~ Steve Jobs

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ~ Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

“At some point in your life, you’ll only have thirty-seven days to live. Maybe that day is today.” ~ Patti Digh, author of Life is a Verb

I’ve been re-reading a book called Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. The book came about because, 37 days after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, the author’s step-father died. That experience led her to think long and hard about how she would spend her time if she only had 37 days to live; she discovered that what was most important to her was “living each individual, glorious day with more intention.”

Part of what I really like about this book is that it makes me think hard about how I’m spending the days of my life. Am I making choices that truly reflect my deepest values? Am I really positively contributing to the world? Am I living joyfully and fully?

None of us knows how many days we have, which is all the more reason to make sure that our time is spent in ways that are truly meaningful to us and nurturing to the world.

Ask yourself: if you were at the end of your life, would you be satisfied with what you’ve contributed? With how you’ve lived? What would you want to be able to say about how you’ve helped create a just, compassionate, sustainable world? If you don’t like your answers, there’s still time to transform your life so that it more deeply reflects your values.

~ Marsha

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Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest

The EPA, Rachel Carson Council, Inc., Generations United and the Dance Exchange are all sponsoring the 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest. This is a multi-generational contest seeking poetry, essays, photos or dance that "that best expresses the Sense of Wonder that you feel for the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes."

Contestants are asked to "work across generations to share through one of these distinct mediums their own interactions with and reflections on the wonders of nature."

The deadline is June 10, 2009.

Find out more.
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Creating Community for Positive Change

I’ve written about our M.Ed. graduate, Kim Korona, in my book Most Good, Least Harm. Kim doesn’t usually like to make waves. She’s so kind and caring and avoids conflict with people assiduously. But she’s also a changemaker and a humane educator. This fall she moved to Brooklyn, New York, to be a humane educator for HEART, offering humane education programs to schools throughout the city. She moved into an apartment that had a host of problems, from smoke and a build up of soot from an improperly functioning boiler, to lack of fire and carbon monoxide alarms. She brought up the problems with her landlord, to no avail. Kim had some concerns about her own health, but when she also began to learn about the problems her neighbors were having, which included severe symptoms ranging from headaches and migraines, to nose burns, excessive coughing, black mucus, and sore throats, Kim took action. She contacted her neighbors, co-wrote a stern but honest petition to the management for them to sign, and launched change. The problems have been fixed.

MOGO often means facing problems head on with clarity, conviction and tenacity. It means joining with others, creating community, and making systems change. This is often the kindest approach, even though it can be challenging to those inclined to avoid conflict.

Kim has demonstrated to me that even the kindest person, most averse to interpersonal conflict, can embrace the MOGO principle so fully that she models her message for kindness, creates community, takes responsibility, and works for change simultaneously.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of grngobstpr.
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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

Pakistani youth start with trash as social justice tool - New York Times (5/19/09)
“’Everybody keeps blaming the government, but no one actually does anything,’ said Shoaib Ahmed, 21, one of the organizers. ‘So we thought, why don’t we?’ So they got on Facebook and invited all their friends to a Sunday trash picking. Trash, Mr. Ahmed said, ‘is this most basic thing. It’s not controversial, and you can easily do it.’”

Animal lovers want protections for rats and miceWall Street Journal (5/16/09)
"Animal advocates say rats and mice make up 90% of animal testing conducted in university laboratories and other research facilities in the U.S. In 2002, the Animal Welfare Act was amended to exclude rodents from protections offered to bigger lab animals including dogs, monkeys and even guinea pigs. ‘Rats and mice tend to get a bad rap’ that influences people from the time they are children, says Ms. Ernst. ‘We just have these biases built in that are not really representative of who they are.’"

The true price of organic food - AlterNet (5/14/09)
"’Because farms are organic, people assume that it's an enlightened labor standard,’ says Michael Meuter, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance. ‘But that's not accurate. There are definitely labor violations on organic farms.’"

Study shows monkeys exhibit abstract thought, can learn from (5/14/09)
”Monkeys are able to learn from their mistakes and will take risks to potentially win better rewards when playing games, according to a new study. ‘This is the first evidence that monkeys, like people, have 'would-have, could-have, should-have' thoughts,’ said Ben Hayden, a researcher at the Duke University Medical Center and lead author of the study published in the journal Science.”

10 things you can do to fight world hungerThe Nation (5/13/09)
”Our planet produces enough food to feed its more than 960 million undernourished people. The basic cause of global hunger is not underproduction; it is a production and distribution system that treats food as a commodity rather than a human right.”
Thanks, Ode Magazine, for the heads up.

New study indicates nature can “benefit your brain”Greater Good Blog (5/12/09)
”The results showed that participants performed significantly better on the attention and memory task after they walked through the arboretum. Participants also rated their walk through the park as more refreshing than the downtown walk. A second experiment in the study found that people even considered pictures of nature more refreshing and enjoyable than pictures of urban settings.”

Students use art, activism for social change - (5/12/09)
”The students are part of the Mestizo Arts & Activism program. They are west-side high school students committed to social change who have dedicated the past academic year to conducting research, producing a blog to assist undocumented students who want to go to college and filming a docudrama titled ‘Dreaming of No Judgments,’ which explores issues of stereotyping and discrimination, among other projects.”

Indonesian activist uses power of web to help womenJakarta Post (5/12/09)
”According to Nani, the Internet has a lot of potential that women can exploit – rather than being merely exploited by it as a target market. ‘The blogging culture has had an impact on women in terms of self-expression,’ she says, adding that being able to write about one’s feelings and opinions is a step toward empowering women.”

Belgian city announces weekly “veggie day” - BBC (5/12/09)
”Starting this week there will be a regular weekly meatless day, in which civil servants and elected councillors will opt for vegetarian meals. Ghent means to recognise the impact of livestock on the environment.”
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You Can't Smoke Just One: Exploring the Impact of Tobacco and Tobacco Advertising

(Note: This is a revised version of a post from 5/08.)

My first memory of smoking is when I was hanging out with my much older brother and his friends, who found a pack of cigarettes and decided to give the forbidden sticks of mystery a try. To make sure I wouldn’t “tattle,” my brother backed me up against a wall and made me take a puff or two, thus, in his eyes, making me as “guilty” as the rest of them. I was about 8. (I wouldn’t have told anyway, Bob. But thanks for the early exposure to lung cancer.) Maybe I should thank my brother; I've never "smoked" since.

Back then, smoking wasn’t considered a big deal. Celebs did it. Parents did it in front of their kids. Respectable business owners and church-goers did it. Now that the jury has finally returned from an interminably-long coffee break and rendered a “guilty” verdict to the link between smoking and health hazards, you’d think that smokers everywhere would lay down their "cancer sticks" and refuse even one more puff. Some people have. And some of those who haven’t are at least more aware of issues like the impact of secondhand smoke. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):
  • There are more than 1 billion smokers in the world.
  • Almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
  • Tobacco kills about 1 person every 6 seconds.
  • Most people start smoking before the age of 18; a quarter of those start before the age of 10.

And where is most of this smoking happening? In developing countries. Tobacco use is finally decreasing in “high-income” countries, like the U.S. But, globally, use is increasing. The WHO says that “more than 80% of the world’s smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.” Why is smoking increasing when information about the negative effects of tobacco use is more widely available (and known) than ever? Say it with me: advertising.

The fact that people start smoking when they're still kids provides a great platform for exploring the influence of media and advertising on youth. There are plenty of news reports to analyze -- such as this recent one about tobacco companies targeting youth in Asia -- as well as websites with information about the tobacco industry, such as the Center for Media and Democracy's TobaccoWiki. There are also numerous websites that offer tobacco ads and spoofs of ads. Just do an online search for “tobacco ads.” Two examples: Tobacco Free Kids has a gallery of tobacco ads from around the world, including from magazines, billboards, displays, etc. Ads can be searched by country, company, brand or ad type. If you want to compare those to earlier ads, Truth in Advertising has a collection of cigarette ads from the 1940s and 50s.

By exploring and thinking critically about such ads, young people can unravel the messages, tactics and strategies used to encourage people to adopt a lifelong, potentially-fatal habit.

In addition to thinking critically about the ads they’re exposed to, young people can explore how tobacco companies and their public relations divisions work. For example:

  • How much do tobacco companies spend on advertising/marketing each year? How has that changed over the years?
  • What countries do they target most heavily?
  • What age groups?
  • Who would a company whose product can cause death and disease for its consumers look to to find new customers?
  • What means do they use to attract youth to smoking?
  • Why is a company that markets products known to be harmful (even fatal) so successful at recruiting more customers?

And, tobacco use isn't just a health and human rights issue. In addition to all the animals in laboratories who are still subjected to testing to prove/disprove the benefits/harmfulness of tobacco, and in addition to all the animals in close proximity to humans who are exposed to secondhand smoke, plenty of wildlife inadvertently take up the smoking habit (and sometimes die) by eating butts (and the toxic chemicals in them) that they mistake for food. And, in addition to being a giant eyesore, butts contain toxins that can wash into our waterways. Then there's the whole fire hazard thing. These are also important issues that students can explore.

On May 31, the World Health Organization is sponsoring World No Tobacco Day. Cities around the world are participating, bringing awareness to issues about tobacco and smoking. World No Tobacco Day provides a great chance to help young people adopt a healthy habit: thinking critically and creatively.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of said&done via Creative Commons.
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Be the Change: Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai is one of the world's changemakers whom I greatly admire. She's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, founder of the Green Belt Movement, a groundbreaking environmental and women's activist, the first woman in her country to earn a Ph.D., and was elected to Kenya's parliament, among other accomplishments.

Worldchanging recently posted an interview with her about her work and the new book she's just published, The Challenge for Africa.

You can also enjoy a new documentary about her: Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, which chronicles the story of Wangari and how her efforts to help the women of Kenya by encouraging them to plant trees led to a national movement to protect the environment, human rights and democracy.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of ActionPixs via Creative Commons.
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Be Creative: Become Happy

There’s been a spate of happiness books published lately. I’ve enjoyed them and learned from them, whether Stumbling on Happiness or The Geography of Bliss, and it’s no surprise that these books sell well. People want to be happy, and in the U.S. the pursuit of happiness is etched into our guiding principles. But so much evidence points to a truth missing in some of these books and in our relentless pursuit of happiness.

My last quote from Joshua Ramo’s The Age of the Unthinkable is this:
"As we've seen, our future is a race between good innovation and bad innovation. That's a sprint that will be decided purely by our ability to create. It's a shift so profound that it evokes the ideas of the American philosopher John David Garcia, who once said that we should reject the notion that increasing human happiness is the most important goal for society. Far better, he said, to increase human creativity. Happiness will follow."
In my book, Most Good, Least Harm, one of the keys to MOGO is to pursue joy through service. There’s much evidence that engaged service brings people joy, but I think that John David Garcia is right in pointing out the happiness that comes through exercising one’s creativity. The key is to point one’s creativity toward good. When creativity is directed toward solving problems, the resulting happiness is nothing short of grand: grand because it is not only personal, but communal, with the good one has achieved bringing happiness to so many others.

We need creativity – good innovation – directed towards so many endeavors: education, governance, health systems, environmental restoration, production of goods, transportation, energy, food systems, law and penal systems, and so much more. Choose your system. Get creative. Become happy.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of GiniMiniGi.
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Take Back Your Power

Here’s another quote from Joshua Ramo’s The Age of the Unthinkable:
"The moment you hand power over to other people, you get an explosion of curiosity, innovation, and effort."
Humane education seeks to hand power over to you: Power to think critically and carefully and create positive change. Power to determine what is most important to you and commit to living your life according to your deepest values. Power to educate the next generation so that they can be conscious of the effects of their choices on themselves and others and committed to changing systems so that they are just and healthy. Power to lead a MOGO life however you come to define it. Power to take responsibility for yourself and your world so that you truly find and create freedom.

Take back your power. And try using the 3 Is from Most Good, Least Harm (Inquire, Introspect, and live with Integrity) to help you.

~ Zoe
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Humane Education in Action: Bringing Humane Living Door-to-Door

Kathleen Beck has been passionate about helping people, animals and the planet since she was a child. A chance encounter with a magazine article led her to the philosophy of comprehensive humane education, and now Kathleen is using her skills as a businesswoman, community organizer and outdoor educator to bring humane living concepts to people of all ages.

(In the above pic, Kathleen's on the left. Photo courtesy of Brian Kramer.)

Quick Facts About Kathleen:

Hometown: Julian, California (under 2,000 residents!)
IHE fan since: 2005 -- graduated with my Masters in Humane Ed. in 2007
Current Job: Outdoor Education specialist with San Diego County of Education and full- time activist for sustainability in food and energy in Julian.
Your heroes: Granny D and Julia Butterfly Hill. They put their feet where their ideals live.
Movie that changed your life: Gandhi
Guilty pleasure: non-local fair trade, organic, shade-grown coffee
Inspired by: Music of all kinds and hiking in all ecosystems of San Diego and beyond!
Love about yourself: My commitment to the environment and the community that I live in. I help to raise consciousness in my own neck of the woods as well as in myself, for the greater good.
One of my strengths: I can sing and create theme music for the ideals that I support. For instance, I have just finished a song called, “Road to Consciousness,” co-written with my friend Jim Bell who is a life-systems ecological designer.
Desired epitaph: "She followed her intuition even at great sacrifice at times; always true to what the truth of the situation was telling her. This could only be accomplished by being a good listener."

IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?

KB: Even as a child I had compassion for animals and people. I thought that I was going to be a veterinarian through my primary and secondary education. I became a vegetarian in high school in the mid-70’s. In the 8th grade, I also wrote a story about prejudice called “Leroy and Bill”; it was prompted by the books Raisin in the Sun and To Kill a Mockingbird. These early inklings led me down the crooked path of psychology, philosophy and environmental education. Eventually I read in the Utne Reader an article about Zoe Weil. Her life was completely inspiring to me, and I enrolled in IHE's Master of Education in Humane Education program.

IHE: How are you currently manifesting humane education?

KB: I started an organization called, People’s Powerlink, in response to the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line project that professed to bring renewable energy from afar into San Diego, blighting the beautiful backcountry of our county. I have used humane education in all my interactions by using the 3 R’s (reverence, respect, responsibility), 3 I’s (inquiry, introspection, integrity) and 3 C’s (curiosity, creativity, critical thinking) at all times and have networked within many communities and environmental organizations to knit together solutions that will decentralize energy and empower the people. It is a move away from big corporate power companies -- yet I remain open to helping them understand as well.

More recently I have moved my decentralized approach to food production and have for the last year created a food web called People’s Foodlink. I collect and deliver the eggs of humanely-treated chickens, organic fruits, vegetables and grains, and freshly-baked organic breads to my community, door-to-door. I waste nothing (except gas!) and everything is locally-grown within a 100-mile radius.

In the last few months I have expanded the project to include “Victory Gardens.” We are now in the process of collecting recycled and organic materials; building compost piles; and promoting gardens in our area. We hope to have a community garden area soon and are working with a local two-room schoolhouse to promote food sustainability.

My challenges are few and my successes are many. The local library has hosted three events so far through their Arts and Letters program. They have been filled to capacity! The local newspaper has covered all three of these events. I work within a very enlightened community network who seem to me to be well-seasoned progressive problem solvers -- many of whom are educators.

I guess the challenges might have to be the elements of time. We often wish for sustainability to happen overnight, yet time for incubation can sometimes be slower. I think of it as a slow-germinating seed planted early in the season. Sometimes that plant can be your strongest survivor due to its hardships. In this respect, there are no failures. Even if the plant dies, we can plant again! And again and again! Since I love to plant seeds and am a process person, there really is no discouragement.

Kathleen & her outdoor education crewIHE: What are your thoughts about the power of humane education to positively transform the world?

KB: It is certainly currently part of the positive current running through our country today. Due to organizations like and others, we live in a pretty sweet climate for humane change. I believe that humane treatment for animals has a way to go, though. This is where IHE comes in. I have no problems convincing my community that cultural sensitivity, humanely-produced purchases (excluding animal products), environmentally-sound decisions and the like, are a good idea. When it comes to animal consumption however, it is a hard row to hoe!

At outdoor school I tell the kids, “Look, in nature, it only works if there are relatively few carnivores compared to the herbivores. Therefore, people can only sustain themselves if there are many more vegetarians than there are omnivore diets.” They listen well and understand the energy flow cycles necessary in nature, yet they are so conditioned to eat meat and dairy products! Thank the Universe that there are many vegetarians and vegans on our staff who are active examples of health and fun for the kids to interact with. I often use Zoe’s lesson plans to bring the messages home.

IHE: Any future plans, dreams, projects?

KB: After we get the solar panels on ‘main street’ (it really could happen soon), food sustainability in schools and backyards, and convince people that eating meat is not necessary for optimal health, I would like to work on a water conservation project. My dream is for consciousness to rise to the occasion of sustainable lifestyles for us all on planet earth. I plan on manifesting this as soon as time allows!

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9 More Toxic Chemicals Added to World Banned List

Recently the United Nations Environment Program added nine new chemicals to it's original "dirty dozen" list of toxic chemicals that have been banned or restricted. The chemicals on this list are known as POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants, which not only accumulate in the tissues of living beings and can cause significant health and environmental problems, but they also tend to stick around for...oh, about forever, once released into the environment.

The UNEP first banned/restricted what became known as the "dirty dozen" POPs in 1995; the list includes chemicals such as aldrin, chlordane, DDT, hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated biphenols.

Although DDT has been in use in some countries, for battling malaria, enough alternative methods have been created that the UNEP has decided to phase out the use of DDT by 2020.

Dan Shapley at The Daily Green did a great job of outlining the list, so I'm just going to post his:

  1. Pentabromodiphenyl ether
    This PBDE congener, sometimes referred to as "penta," was used as a flame-retardant in foam upholstery and furnishing. It was first banned in Germany, Norway and Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, then in the Europe Union in 2003. The last U.S. manufacturer stopped producing the chemical in 2005, and the Environmental Protection Agency subsequently banned its production in the U.S. It is still manufactured elsewhere, primarily in China, and can be imported to the U.S. Maine and Washington have banned it and nine other states have proposed bans.

    The chemical may cause a range of health problems, including liver disease and reproductive and developmental problems. It has been found in human breast milk.

  2. Octabromodiphenyl ether
    Like its sister "penta" this polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE, has been linked to health issues and has largely been phased out in developed nations.

  3. Chlordecone
    This insecticide, also known as Kepone, was used until 1978 in the United States on tobacco, ornamental shrubs, bananas and citrus trees, and in ant and roach traps. It is chemically almost identical to Mirex, which was one of the original "Dirty Dozen" banned by the treaty.

    Workers using chlordecone suffered damage to the nervous system, skin, liver and male reproductive system. It may still be in use in developing nations, despite its being banned in the industrialized world.

  4. Lindane
    An agricultural insecticide also used to treat head lice and scabies in people, lindane has been banned in 50 nations because the organochlorine pesticide can attack the nervous system. In the United States, it was used until 2007 on farms, and it is still used as a "second-line" treatment for head lice when other treatments fail.

    Additionally, because Lindane is the only useful product in a family of chemicals generated to produce the pesticide, there is persistent chemical waste created by the process. For every ton of Lindane produced, six to 10 tons of waste are produced.

  5. Alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane
    One of the persistent chemical waste products produced by making Lindane, alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane may cause cancer and liver or kidney problems.

  6. Beta-hexachlorocyclohexane
    Another of the persistent chemical waste products produced by making Lindane, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane may cause cancer and reproductive problems.

  7. PFOS
    The company 3M used PFOS to make Scotchgard fabric and other stain-resistant products until 2002. The chemical is also used in a number of industrial processes. It is found in the bodies of people around the world, and in relatively high concentrations in Arctic wildlife — reflecting the global transport of persistent chemicals like these. Unlike the other chemicals on the "nasty nine" list, PFOS will have its use restricted, not banned.

  8. Hexabromobiphenyl
    A polybrominated biphenyl, or PBB, hexabromobiphenyl is a flame retardant that has been linked to a range of health problems, including weight loss, skin disorders, nervous and immune systems effects, and effects on the liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland. While it is no longer used in developed nations, it may still be in use in developing nations.

  9. Pentachlorobenzene
    Used in the manufacture of an insecticide, and as a flame retardant, Pentachlorobenzene may damage the nervous and reproductive systems, as well as the liver and kidneys. It is also used as a head lice treatment and can be found in the waste streams of some paper mills, petroleum refineries, sewage treatment plants and incinerators.

~ Marsha
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Creating Change/Changing Minds

Here’s another quote from Joshua Ramo’s The Age of the Unthinkable:
"There is nothing more horrible than to walk that faulty line between new and old, seeing what the future holds, screaming about it in your art or your writing, and finding only mute incomprehension or dismissal in your audience."
When I read this line, I put a bunch of exclamations next to it. This is how I often feel when I speak about humane education and the need for a paradigm shift about the very purpose of schooling. For many years I’ve been “screaming” about the need to change the way we think about education and about the necessity for humane education (which gives people the knowledge, tools, and inspiration to become conscious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a peaceful, sustainable, and humane world) to not only solve our gravest challenges, but to prevent future problems from arising.

And while I’ve been “screaming,” No Child Left Behind was passed -- a worthy vision so terribly misguided, that now we have even less time for relevant education for a changing world, and even more standardized tests that don’t promote critical or creative thinking.

I believe that Barack Obama understands this, but the fault line between new and old in terms of education is huge, and too many in Congress and our schools still do not really see what the future holds. So speak out. Let Barack Obama and Arne Duncan and your own senators and representatives and school boards and principals know what you think. If we “scream” together, if you join your school board, or change education from within as a teacher, we may soon find that mute incomprehension and dismissal change to full embrace of educational change.

~ Zoe
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Humane Educator's Toolbox: The Story of Lilly and Lou

Two dogs. Abandoned. Starving. Freezing. In the middle of New York City. Most dogs in this situation probably wouldn’t find a happy ending, but Lilly and Lou do. In The Story of Lilly & Lou, which is based on a true story, teenage Alicia is walking her adopted dog, Bella, in a park when she glimpses two scraggly, frightened dogs running loose. Her efforts to find out with whom the dogs belong lead Alicia on a journey that changes her life. Through her experiences working with friends and neighbors to try to rescue the abandoned, terrified dogs, Alicia learns more about compassion and responsibility for others, as well as the joys of helping those in need. Readers will be inspired by Alicia’s passion and perseverance and will be encouraged by the positive difference that one person can make…especially when that person has a support system. There are also elements of other humane concepts sprinkled throughout, such as not making assumptions about others and showing kindness to people in need.

Although the book is targeted to kids, ages 9-15, the narrator reads a little younger than her 16 years, so kids a bit younger will find the story accessible, too. Since the book is succinct, only 46 pages, it would also make an appropriate read-aloud.

The Story of Lilly & Lou is written by Doriane Lucia, an IHE M.Ed. graduate and the founder of the Humane Nation Foundation, which offers humane education presentations and resources. Doriane (and three other humane educators) have also created a “humane education enrichment curriculum” to accompany the book. The curriculum includes 17 lessons, for grades 4-8, divided by “Human Aspect” and “Animal Aspect.” Activities include raps, puzzles, creative writing, discussions, special projects, etc., and include the national educational standards they address. The “Human Aspect” lessons focus on objectives such as exploring judging others, thinking critically, and learning to make a difference, while the “Animal Aspect” activities focus on companion animal issues and treating animals with compassion and respect.

~ Marsha
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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

Food crises could “cause government collapse” and threaten stability worldwideScientific American (5/09)
”States fail when national governments can no longer provide personal security, food security and basic social services such as education and health care. They often lose control of part or all of their territory. When governments lose their monopoly on power, law and order begin to disintegrate….Failing states are of international concern because they are a source of terrorists, drugs, weapons and refugees, threatening political stability everywhere.”
Thanks, AlterNet, for the heads up.

Human rights program teaches students about Holocaust, importance of (5/11/09)
"’What's happening in places like Darfur, with civilians being murdered and raped — it's a lot like what happened during the Holocaust.’ Erin Wadsworth, a 14-year-old ninth grader from Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, said she has learned to ‘become less judgmental’ because of her study of human-rights issues and abuses.”

Study reveals many animals do some things “just for fun” (5/11/09)
”The findings, published in the latest Applied Animal Behavior Science, hold moral significance, argues author Jonathan Balcombe. He believes scientists, conservationists and other animal rights activists should not overlook animal joy. ‘The capacity for pleasure means that an animal's life has intrinsic value, that is, value to the individual independent of his or her value to anyone else, including humans.’"

Story of Stuff video becoming favored teaching toolNew York Times (5/11/09)
”So far, six million people have viewed the film at its site,, and millions more have seen it on YouTube. More than 7,000 schools, churches and others have ordered a DVD version, and hundreds of teachers have written Ms. Leonard to say they have assigned students to view it on the Web.”

Mexican residents point to pig factory farms for many illsWashington Post (5/10/09)
”The overpowering stench gave them headaches and drove them from their homes. Packs of wild dogs feasted on discarded pig carcasses and occasionally turned on their children and pets. There were fears that vast lagoons of excrement from more than 1 million hogs might seep into their groundwater….The [swine flu] crisis, which appears to be abating, has inflamed tensions between the world's largest hog producer and the poor neighboring communities here that have long warned that the farms are a danger to their health.”
Thanks,, for the heads up.

Sierra Leone diamonds mined by children caught in “legacy of conflict”IPS News (5/7/09)
"’The children and youth are faced with abysmal working conditions which put them at risk of accidents and diseases and expose them to collapsing mine pits,’ remarks Matthew Wells, who is co-author of the report titled ‘Digging in the Dirt: Child Miners in Sierra Leone’s Diamond Industry.’ The report paints a horrific picture of slave labour, where children - some as young as 10 - transport bags of gravel weighing between 30 and 60 kilogrammes, on their heads, working from sunrise to sunset, often without proper food or medical care.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.

Wolf controversy continuesChristian Science Monitor (5/7/09)
”Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council say that the wolves are going unprotected too soon. ‘Last time the [Fish & Wildlife] Service removed legal protections, there was an all out war on wolves in the weeks that followed,’ said Louisa Willcox, director of the NRDC’s office in Livingston, Mont. ‘We are so incredibly close to fulfilling the conditions necessary to declare the wolves’ comeback as complete, but this move threatens to undo what should be an incredible conservation success story.’”

EU votes to update rules on animal experimentationEconomist (5/7/09)
”All experiments will be classified according to the degree of pain and distress they cause. If mild or moderate, animals can be used again. Those that experience severe pain will be killed. The legislation would allow mild procedures to be approved by an employer. But those causing moderate or severe pain would need the permission of a national authority.”

Media playing role in increased in persecution of Latinos, immigrantsFAIR (5/09)
”When the FBI reported that hate crimes against Hispanics had increased by an astonishing 40 percent between 2003 and 2007, professor Chon Noriega began to ask ‘whether the media plays a role in the persistence of hate speech and hate crimes.’ In a pilot study that attempts to quantify hate speech in commercial radio, Noriega tracked language on the Lou Dobbs Show, Savage Nation and the John & Ken Show. On these programs he found ‘systematic and extensive use of false facts, flawed argumentation, divisive language, and dehumanizing metaphors that are directed toward specific vulnerable groups’ —which results, Noriega argued, in marginalized populations being ‘characterized as a direct threat to the listeners’ way of life.’”

EU Votes to Ban Most Seal ProductsNew York Times (5/6/09)
”The ban would mainly affect Canada, where the government has allowed several hundred thousand young harp seals to be killed each year by commercial and traditional hunters on sea ice cloaking eastern and Arctic waters.... The European ban would not cover products from seals killed in subsistence hunts by the Inuit and other indigenous northern communities.”

Racism harmful to kids’ mental healthUSA Today (5/5/09)
”The link between perceived racism and mental disorders is strong, he adds. For example, Hispanics who report racism are more than three times as likely as other children to have symptoms of depression; blacks are more than twice as likely; and those of ‘other’ minority races have almost quadruple the odds. Rates are also higher for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.”

Social media becoming essential activism toolUSA Today (5/5/09)
”The proof is in the numbers: 81% of members of online communities use the Internet to participate in social causes, up from 75% in 2007, finds a survey by the Center for the Digital Future at University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.”

Afghani girls determined to learn, despite violence, restrictionsNPR (5/1/09)
”Public education is among the many casualties of the growing war in Afghanistan, and the threat of violence is especially acute for Afghan girls. Parents, who in the past did not allow their daughters to go to school because of societal taboos, are once again keeping them at home because of the threat of attacks by militants wielding acid or worse.”

“Rights Versus Rights” - American Prospect (4/28/09)
”All the same, for Ahmadu circumcision was a choice, one she made as an adult. For the overwhelming majority of girls who undergo it that is not the case. Most only have such options when a cluster of deeply rooted values, beliefs, and hierarchies begin to deteriorate, a process that causes anguish and panic for some and offers the promise of liberation to others. The fact remains that, in general, the more alternatives girls have and the more exposure to the outside world, the less likely they are to opt for these old ways.”
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Humane Educator's Toolbox: Films for the Feminist Classroom

Looking for films dealing with women's issues, gender studies, and/or the feminist perspective that might be useful as teaching resources? Check out Films for the Feminist Classroom, an online journal that publishes interviews and film reviews that "provide a critical assessment of the value of films as pedagogical tools in the feminist classroom."

This first edition includes reviews of 21 films (including Slumdog Millionaire) that address issues from rape to women in armed conflict to child brides to race, misogyny and media. As you would expect, not all the reviews are equally useful or revealing, but most offer a helpful perspective in finding and evaluating such resources, and some even include suggestions for discussion.

Of course, be sure to verify the age-appropriateness of any film before showing it to your students.

~ Marsha

Thanks to Feministing for the heads up about this resource.

Image courtesy of michale via Creative Commons.
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Generosity and Decency in the Face of Fear

In several of my next blog posts I’m going to refer to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s excellent new book, The Age of the Unthinkable, and use quotes from his book to jump-start my own thinking about current issues. The first quote is this:
"There will be many moments in the future where we will be surprised, confused, or terrified. Our usual reaction -- to hit back or cower -- needs to be augmented with an instinct for generosity and decency."
Ramo is speaking of national conflicts that lead to violent responses, and his call for generosity and decency is a huge request in the face of people’s fear of genocide and attack, of physical safety in a dangerous world; but I think that this quote is even more far-reaching.

In the face of a rapidly-changing world, including economic instability, climate destabilization, energy upheavals, and potential pandemics, many of us wake up preparing for the worst, wondering if the morning’s news will bring catastrophe. Our adrenaline is flowing, and we’re prepared to fight for our and our family’s survival. Yet this reaction -– hit back or cower, ready to protect ourselves –- often prevents us from consciously choosing generosity and decency, from cultivating our solutionary selves in favor of only our reactionary selves. Much of the media just fans the flames of our reactivity, rather than encouraging our far-sighted, engaged efforts at system changing.

Those of us who are parents learn early on to “count to ten” before reacting to our tantrum-throwing, back-talking children. We know that wisdom isn’t always our first response. So, too, do we need to count to ten before cowering or hitting back in the face of the myriad problems and the concomitant media blitz that has us ever ready to fight or flee, instead of digging deep into our bag of values for those qualities that will actually better serve us and our world.

Whether it’s peak oil, swine flu, global warming, or some egregious form of cruelty, count to ten, dig deep, and bring your generosity and decency to the task of solving the challenge.

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Replacing Red Meat With White?

With the Swine Flu (H1N1) scaring people away from eating pigs, articles like “Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat” in the New York Times, and environmentalists’ success at drawing connections between beef and global warming, more and more people are eschewing red meat. Unfortunately, many are replacing red meat with "white" -- that is, with chickens, turkeys, and sea animals. The problem with this, from an animal protection standpoint, is that the animal cruelty inherent in today’s poultry farming is so extensive that a switch from beef to chicken is a switch from contributing to some animal abuse to contributing to massive animal abuse.

When someone eats a burger, they’re eating a small portion of a large animal; but when someone eats chicken they may be eating a fourth, a half, or (in the case of small hens) a whole animal who was – most likely – confined under horrendous conditions, debeaked (when conscious and without anesthesia), and slaughtered without benefit of any humane standards. When someone eats a steak, the cow was at least supposed to be rendered unconscious before being killed; but when someone eats chicken, chances are good that the chickens who were killed for it hung upside down, fully conscious, as they moved along a conveyor before having their throats slit, since there are no requirements that poultry be unconscious when killed. They may even have been conscious when dropped into the scalding tanks to loosen their feathers. As for sea animals, we’re decimating fish stocks, dragging conscious fishes for miles with hooks in their sensitive mouths, destroying millions of non-target sea life, and suffocating billions of fishes (surely not a humane killing method). Many people who are influenced by health and environmental concerns to switch from red to white meat may not be considering the animal welfare issues involved.

So if you’re thinking of reducing your consumption of red meat, consider what’s MOGO: white meat or plant-based options? And if you do choose “white meat,” consider obtaining it only from small scale farmers, fisheries, and slaughterhouses that have a commitment to standards of animal welfare that you can support.

~ Zoe
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15 Tips for Cultivating a More Humane Life

There are a ton of tips out there for making green and responsible choices — choose compact fluorescents, drive less, buy organic and fair-trade, use cloth bags, etc. These are all terrific, simple things that most of us can do; but, it’s also important for us to examine the bigger picture — to have a vision and connection and purpose in helping create the world we want for all. Here are 15 tips for cultivating a more humane life:

  1. Seek out inspiration, knowledge and support. Read, view and explore widely and deeply. Find role models whose bits of wisdom resonate with you. Find inspiring and meaningful quotes, visuals and other tidbits. Surround yourself with empowering and supportive people. The humane journey can feel lonely, but there are a lot of people out there working for a humane world; we need to connect with and learn from each other.
  2. Go plant-based, local, organic, unprocessed, seasonal, fair trade as much as you can. Our daily food choices have such an enormous impact on ourselves, other people, animals and the earth that they deserve special consideration.
  3. Build community in your neighborhood. This could mean something as complex as developing and living in a co-housing community, or something as simple as getting to know your neighbors, holding a neighborhood potluck, or sharing tools and other resources. We love and respect what we know. When we know each other, we have a better chance of treating each other with kindness and respect and of being more concerned about the impacts of our actions on others.
  4. Love your "enemy". Finding compassion for those whose actions we abhor is one of the most challenging tasks we can ask of ourselves. But it is so essential to explore others’ points of view, and to develop tolerance and understanding for those who don’t share our views. We are all more than just the pieces of ourselves. Learn to find and love the positive pieces of others.
  5. Learn skills for communicating compassionately. We can’t build a humane community if we can’t listen, and if we're making judgments and assumptions about others. Cooperate. Build bridges. Communicate to understand and connect, rather than to convince.
  6. Teach others & share the joys and power of what you’ve discovered, without proselytizing. If you can show people that they can live humanely while still meeting all their needs and finding happiness and fulfillment, you have the potential to influence their future choices and the lenses through which they view the world.
  7. Extend your circle of compassion to all beings and the earth. See non-human animals not just as biodiverse species to be respected, but as individual beings, each deserving respect and equal consideration. Immerse yourself in the natural world so that your reverence and respect can grow and flourish.
  8. Reduce your footprint. We can make conscious and careful choices and still have a huge ecological footprint. Hybrid cars, giant eco-houses and green travel to faraway countries are all greener ways of living, but they all still have a significant impact on the earth. Find ways to reduce your impact and live a meaningful, joyful life.
  9. Pay attention to the influence of media and advertising. A lot of our need for stuff comes from people telling us we’re not healthy-whole-sexy-successful-worthy-intelligent-interesting-normal unless we buy a bunch of products or choose a certain lifestyle. Make your choices with awareness and intention, rather than because you’re feeling inadequate or fearful or lonely or bored, and learn to know when someone is trying to manipulate you.
  10. Expand your global awareness and connection. Make room for everyone. We North Americans pat ourselves on the back for our eco-friendly choices, but we still consume the earth at an alarming rate, leaving much less for our brothers and sisters around the world. We also need to be aware of the choices our corporations and governments make in regard to other countries, and to speak out when those choices are poor ones.
  11. Examine your lenses. As activist Laura Moretti says, “That’s the nice thing about beliefs. Just because you’ve put your faith in them doesn’t make them true.” Learn to view the world through a humane lens: see the impact of your choices, the influence of your words and interactions with others, the example you set for children. Ask yourself if the choices you make every day (and the influences of those choices) reflect the kind of world you want for yourself and for future generations.
  12. Do some small something every day to make the world a better place. Celebrate the small victories and habits.
  13. Pause every day to count your blessings. Remember the journeys of your neighbors, especially those around the world who have much less. If we pause to reflect on all that we have and to feel gratitude for that, we’re much less likely to feel deprived and thus feel the desire to have more.
  14. Exercise your own power and responsibility. It’s not up to the government or scientists or industry or technology to fix things. We each need to step up and create the world we want. We can recognize the power each of us has -- in our daily choices and in supporting (or refusing to support) certain systems -- and use that power wisely.
  15. Expand your creativity. There are so many ways to solve problems and to fulfill our needs without depriving or destroying others. Take advantage of your creativity to explore them. Look for "third side" and "both/and" solutions that benefit all.
~ Marsha
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Freeman Dyson's Big Error

The New York Times March 29 magazine cover article was a profile of renowned physicist Freeman Dyson. Freeman Dyson does not believe that global warming is a problem. While he admits that he cannot know this for certain, it’s his contention that concerns about climate change are overblown and misguided, that other issues (e.g. poverty) are more pressing, and that we will be able to address high levels of carbon in the atmosphere through innovative means that don’t focus on limiting the production of carbon dioxide.

Dyson may be right. I hope so, since carbon in the atmosphere continues to rise. But what if he’s wrong? Dyson is 85. He will not see the future effects of his and my generation’s choices, but his grandchildren will. What will they say about their brilliant grandfather’s efforts to divert attention from limiting carbon? What if Dyson is wrong, as the great majority of climate scientists believe? Dyson’s big error, in my opinion, is misdirected optimism. Let’s focus on poverty, yes, but not by burning more coal. Let’s expend our energies toward clean and green technologies and solve two problems at once. Let’s not be overly optimistic about our capacity to produce super carbon-sucking plants, and instead embrace the precautionary principle to ensure that our grandchildren have a viable future. If Dyson is right, hallelujah. If he’s wrong, too much is at stake.

~ Zoe
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Humane Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about humane education & humane living, and items connected to humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media, consumerism and culture.

Seeking a zero-waste life - Mother Jones (5/09)
"Frustrated by government inaction and a culture of waste, the hardcore embark upon zero-waste challenges. Some, like Borst, try to send nothing to a landfill or an incinerator. Others take plastic-free vows, or weigh and photograph the plastic that does sneak into their lives. In Los Angeles, one father of two saved a year's worth of his family's waste (except for food, which he composted) in his basement."

Debt slavery increases in Brazil - AP (4/30/09)
”At least 5,266 people were freed by authorities last year — 48 percent of whom were working on sugarcane farms, according to the Catholic Land Pastoral. Brazil's association of sugar and ethanol producers, declined to comment on the report. Brazil's Agriculture Ministry had no immediate comment.”

Eating meat has a priceNew York Times (4/28/09)
”The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods.”

Some young adults unplugging from technology & plugging into a different lifeBoston Globe (4/25/09)
"’A small group of people are reacting to what is overload,’ Whybrow says. ‘They are fascinated by this initially . . . but after a while, they find it erodes time as opposed to saving time, and time is the only thing we've really got that is our own. If you become consumed by new technology and forget you are fundamentally creatures of the natural world, you do end up diminishing your life.’"
Thanks, Treehugger, for the heads up.

Students raise money to build schools in KenyaMiami Herald (4/24/09)
”They tossed pies, served spaghetti and walked miles to raise nickels, dimes and quarters. It added up to $93,450.14 -- enough to build 11 schools in Kenya.”
Thanks, Good News Network, for the heads up.

Study links high achievement and active engagement with media in African American childrenMediaEducationLab (4/21/09)
”Temple professor Renee Hobbs, who co-authored the study, notes that active reasoning is especially important given the significant amount of time African-American children spend with electronic and digital media, something that is unlikely to change in the future. She and other researchers believe that if media consumption can become a more cognitively demanding activity, students' language, literacy and critical thinking skills can be increased.”
Thanks, SLJ, for the heads up.

Study shows link between childhood obesity and chemicals in plasticsNew York Times (4/17/09)
”The findings may presage a new approach to thinking about obesity — drawing environmental factors into a central part of the equation. ‘Most people think childhood obesity is an imbalance between how much they eat and how much they play,’ Dr. Landrigan said. But he thinks the impact of endocrine disruptors on obesity could be more significant than many people believe.”
Thanks, EcoChild’s Play, for the heads up.
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A Swine Flu By Any Other Name (Like H1N1)

Swine flu has been renamed. Why? Largely because pork producers are worried that people won’t eat pig flesh from fear that they will get swine flu from bacon. And this could negatively impact the industry, which, during a recession, nobody but animal and environmental protection advocates seem to want. It’s true that you can’t get swine flu from eating pigs, but there’s much evidence that swine flu originated in an industrialized, confinement pig “farm.” It's also true that there is every reason to reject this form of agriculture, which is not only potentially dangerous to human health, but which is cruel to pigs and a source of significant pollution. Personally, I think it’s important to call Swine Flu, Swine Flu, and Avian Flu, Avian Flu, so that we understand the source of potential pandemics and, both as individuals and societies, oppose industrialized animal farming.

~ Zoe
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Fear and the MOGO Principle

My husband and I were hiking up a mountain in Acadia National Park this morning. The last half mile to the peak was very icy. I slipped numerous times, whereas my husband slipped only once. Initially, I found this perplexing. I was much more fearful of the ice, and therefore more cautious, slower. We’re equally coordinated and fit, and our eyesight is equally bad without corrective lenses, so I couldn’t chalk up my instability to greater clumsiness or poorer vision.

Then suddenly I understood. My fear actually interfered with my clear judgment and ability to accurately perceive the ice. It made me less steady and balanced. It made me fall. I realized that a bit of realistic caution (enough to avoid recklessness) is helpful; too much becomes irrational, debilitating, and counterproductive.

What does this have to do with MOGO living? Fear may inhibit many of us from making MOGO choices. We may fear we won’t have enough if we’re too generous. We may fear ostracism if we make choices that depart from the mainstream. We may fear inconvenience. But because the MOGO principle asks us to make choices that do the most good for ourselves, other people, animals, and the environment, it requires that we maintain a healthy, realistic awareness, so that we balance the MOGO principle in the most positive manner for all. MOGO need never be frightening, but rather exciting and inviting because it opens us up to the good we can achieve in our own lives and for all those whose lives we affect. With MOGO as a guiding principle, we won’t slip or fall, but instead will take more conscious and deliberate steps on our path.

~ Zoe

(Since I'm currently on tour: a repost from 11/29/07.)

Photo courtesy of mad paul.
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