Tuesday, March 31, 2009
“Top 10 Myths About Sustainability” - Scientific American (3/09)
”Despite its simplicity…sustainability is a concept people have a hard time wrapping their minds around….The result is this take on the top 10 myths about sustainability.”
Scientists looking for ways to reduce experiments using animals - Boston.com (3/30/09)
”The feud between animal rights activists and researchers is among the bitterest in science. But many researchers - although adamant that animal research remains critical to finding cures and expanding medical knowledge - have come to concede that using creatures as human stand-ins is unnecessary for many procedures. Indeed, it often isn't even the best science: New drugs that show great promise in mice, for example, often confer zero benefit to humans, or even prove harmful. Plus, animals are messy, require feeding and constant care, draw protests, and, yes, can be a bit smelly.”
Washington D.C. students using natural world as classroom – Washington Post (3/30/09)
”Students measure worms in math classes and plant peanuts when learning about Virginia history. Reading time happens in an outdoor courtyard where the walls are painted like library shelves. Cinnamon basil plants are growing hydroponically in the science lab from seeds that astronauts flew into space. The children are growing seedlings to sell on Earth Day, an early lesson in entrepreneurship.”
Study shows crabs feel and remember pain – Daily Mail (3/28/09)
”Crabs feel pain when they are boiled and would remember it if only they could escape the pot, scientists believe. Research has shown that when hermit crabs are given small electric shocks, they try to avoid being zapped again. The finding could have important implications for the food industry, where many chefs boil crabs, lobsters and prawns alive in the belief that they are impervious to pain.”
Thanks, Vegan.com, for the heads up.
Can loggers become green? – New York Times (3/28/09)
”Restrictions on logging have prompted entrepreneurial thinking about the forest for years, but efforts have increased as states like Oregon and Washington have emphasized renewable energy and jobs that support it. In turn, the plummeting housing market has forced some timber companies to try to diversify — and even collaborate with environmentalists to protect forests from wildfires, disease and development.”
Missouri uses alternative model for handling juvenile offenders - New York Times (3/26/09)
”The brothers say they benefited from confinement in the Missouri juvenile system, which emphasizes rehabilitation in small groups, constant therapeutic interventions and minimal force.”
“EcoCops” in NYC enforce environmental laws – New York Times (3/26/09)
”Created in 1880, when they were known as 'game protectors' and watched over game and fish, these eco-police officers are now part of the State Department of Environmental Conservation and have become more prominent in recent years as public consciousness about the role of pollution in global warming has grown. They now answer complaints and respond to dispatchers’ calls in addition to carrying out spot inspections and longer investigations.”
Thanks, New Dream Blog, for the heads up.
Report shows racial inequalities still alive and well - CNN (3/25/09)
”Blacks remain twice as likely to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be imprisoned compared with whites, according to the group's annual State of Black America report issued Wednesday. The report urges Obama to tackle the critical challenges of the times, including unemployment, home foreclosures, education and an overhaul of health care.”
Chicago Freedom School helps students spark social change – Chi Town Daily News (3/25/09)
”In its third year, the CFS curriculum involves identifying social issues in the community and developing an action plan to address an issue the student wants to change along with a mission statement to do it.”
Pilot study shows fish across U.S. contaminated with pharmaceutical residues – Common Dreams (3/25/09)
”Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported Wednesday.”
“Green” chemistry becoming more mainstream - New York Times (3/25/09)
"’Industry really sees the value of 'green chemistry,'' said Julie Haack, assistant head of the University of Oregon's chemistry department. ‘If you want to recruit the best chemists, wouldn't it make sense to promote the opportunity to work in an environment where they can align their interest in the environment with their passion, which is chemistry?’"
EPA delays mountaintop mining permits - Common Dreams (3/23/09)
”The decision, announced by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, targets a controversial practice that allows coal mining companies to dump waste from mountaintop mining into streams and wetlands. It could delay 150-250 permits being sought by companies wanting to begin blasting mountaintops to access coal.”
Yesterday I came across an interesting interview on the blog Big Green Purse with the founder of the blog Fake Plastic Fish. The FPF blog focuses on encouraging people to pay attention to their plastics use and to use and buy less. FPF's founder, Beth Terry, also blogs about her own experiences with plastic (including keeping a plastics use tally and a list of plastic-free changes that she's made), and last year she led a "Take Back the Filter" campaign to convince Clorox (which owns Brita in the U.S.) to recycle some of its water filter cartridges.
The interview offers all sorts of tidbits about plastics and about Terry's blog. One of the nice elements of Terry's blog is that she addresses the negative impacts of plastics not just on people or the planet, but on animals as well. She also emphasizes education as an important element of making positive change.
Check out the interview and the Fake Plastic Fish blog if you want some tips for reducing your plastics use or ideas for educating others.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Lobster fishing is a major industry in our county, and over the past decade wire traps, coated in plastic, have replaced the traditional wood traps. Traps periodically break free of their lines and wash ashore. Wood traps quickly fall apart, but the metal and plastic traps do not. Although these new traps haven’t been used for very long, there were many hundreds tangled together and lining the sea walls along the shores of Petit Manan (see photos).
There was plenty of other trash (lots of water bottles, plastic rope, and plastic containers), but the lobster trap refuse dwarfed everything. One can only wonder what another decade will bring.
Lobster trapping is a major source of income in coastal Maine towns where there are few job opportunities. These people need jobs, but our seas and our shores need protection, too. As we look toward a future with dwindling sea life and an end to abundant, cheap fossil fuels, we will need to create healthy new economies and jobs that meet human needs while also protecting fragile ecosystems.
I hope Petit Manan will remain a national wildlife refuge and not a place for wildlife refuse. But that won’t happen unless we think ahead and commit to creative solutions for a rapidly changing world.
Images courtesy of and copyright Edwin Barkdoll.
Friday, March 27, 2009
When she raised this issue, I was struck by how much has changed in the U.S. in the 20+ years that I’ve been a humane educator. Green is all the rage now; we see the link between protecting our planet and the economy in books like Van Jones’ recent Green Collar Economy; vegans like me don’t have to struggle to find fabulous options at restaurants, and organic food is everywhere; sweatshop-free clothes are available, too; and I can even sign up for electricity through my electric company that is entirely wind- and hydro-generated. Quite a difference from even 10 years ago.
We have so far to go, I realize, but so much has been changing, and it’s important to recognize what we activists and changemakers have done. These options and ideas are available because of our hard work and commitment. So let’s pause for a bit of gratitude (but without even a moment of complacency). Our student in the UAE needs options, too. We have important work to achieve.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I became a humane educator largely because it is such an energizing and heartening form of changemaking. Usually, students are eager for information about the challenges we face and the effects of their choices in meeting those challenges. But talking to friends and family is different, and I generally avoid bringing up issues that might lead to defensiveness or discomfort.
But I don’t think this is a good solution. I think I can do better. And I think the answer lies in recognizing the subtle impact of my comments and words; listening more than I speak; asking questions because I want to learn from the other person; and letting go of any agenda to change someone else. This, I think, would represent MOGO communication.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
You'll find plenty of media coverage about the issue. Nature has written an article about the spill, reflecting on the disaster and examining the impact that lingers today. The Daily Green has a post about the "4 Dirty Secrets" of the spill. If you want some major details about restoration efforts, you can read the latest report (pdf) from the trustee council set up to monitor the clean up.
People, animals and the planet are still feeling the impact of that spill. What a great reminder that our actions can have enormous and long-lasting consequences. What a great time to pay attention to all the choices we make that involve the use of oil — not just for transportation, but for our food, the products we buy, our recreation, and so on.
Image courtesy of USGS.
Is sustainable, organic food ready for mainstream? – New York Times (3/22/09)
”At the heart of the sustainable-food movement is a belief that America has become efficient at producing cheap, abundant food that profits corporations and agribusiness, but is unhealthy and bad for the environment.”
“The ethics of cutting household help” - Los Angeles Times (3/21/09)
”We have built an economy that allows us to lie to ourselves about how much we exploit human beings who don't show up on the radar screen. This situation forces that front and center, and that's why we feel ethically confused.”
Thanks, Ethics Newsline, for the heads up.
The battle for the hearts of children: marketers vs. parents - Financial Post (3/20/09)
”The notion that marketers are starting to target children even before they are born terrifies Mr. Lasn, who insists it is up to parents to change the way their offspring think about consumerism.”
“Is access to clean water a basic human right?” – Christian Science Monitor (3/19/09)
”Experts in water issues say that providing citizens of a country with a legal right to what is deemed to be a minimally adequate amount of safe water would be an important way of mitigating the effect of any looming water crises. ‘This is not a semantic issue. If we can determine that water is a right, it gives citizens a tool they can use against their governments,’ says Maude Barlow, a senior adviser on water issues to the president of the UN General Assembly.”
White House to have vegetable garden - New York Times (3/19/09)
”While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.”
Alaska to kill more than 75% of wolf population – PlanetSave blog (3/18/09)
"Alaska abruptly resumed shooting wolves from helicopters this weekend in hopes that shooting the wolves will increase the population of caribou for hunters to kill. The state plans to kill up to 328 wolves, sparing under 100 in the Yukon area."
Russia bans killing of harp seals under a year old – MSNBC (3/18/09)
"’The bloody seal slaughter, the killing of the defenseless animals, which can't be even called a 'hunt,' is now prohibited in Russia as it is in most developed countries. It is a serious step towards the conservation of biodiversity in Russia,’ stated Minister Trutnev.”
Why people are helping the toad cross the road – LDNews (3/17/09)
"’Everything is connected,’ Burton said. ‘Take out part, including any of the critters, and you're going to have a change.’ Levinson got permission from the city's Streets Department to temporarily detour traffic during the toads' trek. She said volunteers will man barricades, count migrating toads and hand out informational brochures to passers-by. There will be detour signs posted, along with posters made by children at the local elementary school urging drivers to be kind to the toads, Levinson said.”
This is a great tool to use for humane education activities focused on water use and/or the hidden impacts of our choices.
There's also a great little online water footprint calculator from H20 Conserve that helps you estimate your water footprint and gives suggestions for reducing your water use. A friend told me about this tool, and she says that her college students are "fascinated with it."
(Thanks, Cool People Care, for the heads up about the chart.)
Monday, March 23, 2009
I believe great teachers ought to receive great salaries, but I don’t measure a great teacher by how well her students do on standardized tests. I measure a great teacher by the passionate engagement and enthusiasm of students and by their independent learning and achievement of goals that matter. I think some schools are grossly underfunded, but money won’t begin to solve the inherent problems with current schooling.
I want to see a tidal wave of school options so that the traditional public school paradigm disappears as the standard form of schooling, replaced by a multitude of choices that foster eager learning and doing and relevant knowledge for the world we live in. Many charter, alternative, and private schools are doing this. We need much more.
Do read this book and think hard about it. Then decide what role you want to play in transforming schooling and contributing to truly great education.
What there hasn’t been is in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding domestic violence, or critical thinking about what kinds of language the media has been using, or how they’ve been framing the incident. Fortunately, I came across an essay in Newsweek by Raina Kelley in which she talks about domestic violence myths and the “five mistakes we make when we talk about Rihanna and Chris Brown’s relationship.” She says:
“We've all heard that this should be a ‘teachable moment’—a chance to talk about domestic violence with our kids. But children and teens aren't just listening to your lectures, they're listening to the way you speculate about the case with other adults; they're absorbing how the media describes it; they're reading gossip Web sites.”Kelley’s essay serves as a useful tool in helping youth think critically about the way the media portrays and frames news and how well they deal with important issues. This sort of media literacy is especially important when you consider that a recent informal poll of 200 teens in Boston showed that about half believe Rihanna was responsible for the beating she allegedly received from Brown. In the poll, 44% of teens said that fighting is a “routine occurrence” in a relationship.
This news, on top of the results of a recent UK survey revealing that 1 in 7 Brits believe that it’s acceptable to hit a woman under certain circumstances (and that women wearing revealing or sexy clothing who are raped or sexually assaulted are partly to blame), shows just how normalized violence against women has become.
All the more reason it's important for humane educators to help others think critically about these issues.
UPDATE: I just came across this excellent blog post using the Chris Brown/Rihanna issue as a springboard for analyzing issues surrounding domestic violence. Be sure to check it out.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I have grown deeply attached to the natural world. I didn’t used to feel this way. I grew up in a dry, desolate part of the Midwest, where nature is often something to be overcome, dispatched and/or used. But over the years I have developed a deep reverence and respect for (almost) all aspects of the natural world, and I am grateful for the connection I now have. It helps keep me grounded, sane, and aware of the impact of my choices.
What we love, we tend to protect with all our might. Our reverence inspires our sense of responsibility. Today is the first day of Spring, and thus a terrific day for connecting with the natural world. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, find time to go outdoors to a natural area nearby and simply observe the plants and animals; notice the natural world through all your senses. Try to make a commitment to do so every day.
A decade later, my future in-laws were coming over for dinner, and we took down our rarely-used wine glasses. You guessed it. Spots. I looked at them and wondered what his parents would think of me. Although I personally didn’t care about spotty glasses, I was uncertain about whether those spots really did reflect poorly on me. Would my boyfriend’s parents think their son was with a lousy housekeeper? I re-washed the glasses, and actually wondered whether Cascade would have prevented what I now perceived was a problem.
Never again have I doubted the power of advertising.
Take some time to notice commercials and advertising. Beyond the product or service, what are you being sold? What are the insidious effects on your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings? Then notice what is hidden from you: what effects do these products have on other people, the environment, animals? How can you resist, or (as the Borg in Star Trek say) is resistance futile? Should ads for unhealthy, unsustainable, destructive, or cruel products be illegal? Have restrictions? What do you think?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In order for projects to be eligible, they must meet the following criteria:
1. All requested resources must be used by students or directly provide a student experience.
2. The proposal cannot foster discrimination or proselytize a religious or political viewpoint.
Consider using this source to seek funding for your humane education project.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I pride myself on avoiding sexist, specieisist and biased language. I use humanity not mankind, and she or he, not it, when referring to animals. I say that I’ll feed two birds with one hand rather than kill two birds with one stone, but Kamp’s short essay illuminated a whole new lens with which to view language.
Kamp points out that an apple grown without chemicals is just an apple. As he writes, “If any kind of apple needs a modifier, it’s the kind that isn’t grown organically. Those we should call ‘chemical apples.’” Instead, when we read a modifier for non-organic food and clothing, it’s usually the word “conventional.” In fact, I just used that term in an essay I wrote last week to distinguish organic T-shirts from their “conventional” counterparts. The word chemical is more descriptive and honest, although conventional is true enough. But perhaps as we change our words and stop hiding ugly realities through language, chemical foods and clothing won’t be "conventional" anymore and we won’t need modifiers to distinguish our apples.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
March 22 is World Water Day, a campaign sponsored by the United Nations to bring attention to the importance of clean, fresh water for all, and for the need of sustainable management of freshwater resources. Organizations around the world have planned activities throughout next week to bring attention to water issues.
This focus on water is a great opportunity to explore water issues with your children and/or students. Here are a few ideas:
- Brainstorm a list of what needs water to survive (people, animals, plants).
- Have kids/students list everything they can think of that contains or uses water (soda, nuclear power plants, agriculture, canned food, etc.). Which of these uses are vital to our sustainability and survival and which are not?
- Have kids/students list all the ways they use water every day, calculating how much water they use each day, and then comparing their use with how much water people in other countries use.
- Have kids/students carry around a gallon jug full of water and seeing how long it takes them to use it all up (drinking, hand washing, teeth brushing, etc.). Then repeat the exercise, seeing if they can reduce the amount they use (while still maintaining proper hygiene).
- Brainstorm all the ways that people can conserve water.
- Learn about people taking positive action to help those who need clean water, such as Ryan Hreljac, who learned about the water crisis and, at age seven, raised money so that a well could be build in a Ugandan village. Now Ryan’s Well Foundation works in 14 countries around the world.
And, there are plenty of ways to get involved in your community, from learning more about where your water comes from, to helping set policy about the use of bottled water, to ensuring that everyone in your community has access to clean, safe water, to supporting clean water projects worldwide.
Here are just a couple websites focused on water issues. Water for the Ages also lists a bunch of suggested books and movies, so be sure to check out those resources, too.
“Puppy mill” pet store closed down, adoption store opening up - Chronicle-Telegram (3/14/09)
”A Midway Mall storefront that was the target of animal rights activists before shutting down earlier this year will reopen soon under new ownership — as a pet supply store that also adopts out rescued dogs and cats.”
”Probable carcinogens found in baby toiletries” – Washington Post (3/13/09)
”The chemicals, which the Environmental Protection Agency has characterized as probable carcinogens, are not intentionally added to the products and are not listed among ingredients on labels. Instead, they appear to be byproducts of the manufacturing process. Formaldehyde is created when other chemicals in the product break down over time, while 1,4-dioxane is formed when foaming agents are combined with ethylene oxide or similar petrochemicals.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.
Most of Amazonian rainforest at risk of destruction due to global warming – Times (UK) (3/12/09)
”The Amazonian rainforest is likely to suffer catastrophic damage, even with the lowest temperature rises forecast under climate change, researchers have decided. The damage will be so severe that it will cause irreversible changes to the world’s weather patterns, which is expected to bring more storms, floods and heat waves to Britain.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.
South Africa seeing tide of “corrective rape” against lesbians – The Guardian (UK) (3/12/09)
"’When asking why lesbian women are being targeted you have to look at why all women are being raped and murdered in such high numbers in South Africa,’ said Carrie Shelver, of women's rights group Powa, a South African NGO. ‘So you have to look at the increasingly macho culture, which seeks to oppress women and sees them as merely sexual beings. So when there is a lesbian woman she is an absolute affront to this kind of masculinity.’"
Thanks, Feministing, for the heads up.
More Americans think threat of global warming is “exaggerated” - Gallup (3/11/09)
”Notably, all of the past year's uptick in cynicism about the seriousness of global warming coverage occurred among Americans 30 and older. The views of 18- to 29-year-olds, the age group generally most concerned about global warming and most likely to say the problem is underestimated, didn't change.”
UK Survey reveals 1 in 7 condone violence against women in some circumstances – Times (UK) (3/9/09)
”One in seven people believe it is acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit his wife or girlfriend if she is dressed in ‘sexy or revealing clothes in public,’ according to the findings of a survey released today. A similar number believed that it was all right for a man to slap his wife or girlfriend if she is ‘nagging or constantly moaning at him.’ The findings of the poll, conducted for the Home Office, also disclosed about a quarter of people believe that wearing sexy or revealing clothing should lead to a woman being held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.”
U.S. public transit use hits 52 year high in ’08 – Bloomberg (3/9/09)
”U.S. public transit ridership was the highest in 52 years in 2008 as Americans flocked to buses, subways and trains because of surging gasoline prices, a trade group said. Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation last year, a 4 percent increase over 2007 and the highest level since 1956, the American Public Transportation Association said.”
Number of homeless kids on the rise – MSNBC (3/2/09)
“’Homeless children are confronted daily by extremely stressful and traumatic experiences that have profound effects on their cognitive development and ability to learn,’ said Ellen Bassuk, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor and president of the nonprofit National Center on Family Homelessness. ‘They tend to have high rates of developmental delays, learning difficulties and emotional problems as a product of precarious living situations and extreme poverty.’”
Monday, March 16, 2009
And, a quote from Most Good, Least Harm was recently published in the April 2009 issue (pdf) of Body & Soul magazine.
“Don’t tell me because I don’t want to live without integrity, and if I learn something that is contrary to my values, and if I don’t change because my desires eclipse those values, I’ll have to confront my lack of integrity, and I don’t want that.”
In our MOGO Online course, participants do an exercise examining three items, one from their pantry, one from their bathroom, and one their closet, to assess their effects on other people, the environment, animals, and themselves. It’s often a sobering exercise. And it takes commitment and perseverance to gain anything but cursory knowledge. Then, when they do learn, they are often called upon to make different, and sometimes difficult choices. At first glance this might seem unpleasant, enervating, and even overwhelming. But it’s good to reframe it. The more we know, the greater our opportunities to take back our freedom and live the life we want for ourselves. It doesn’t mean we’ll always make MOGO choices. That’s impossible to do. But it does mean we have a choice.
Image courtesy of VirtualErn via Creative Commons.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Without people like this man profiled in Time, those of us trying to make MOGO choices and create MOGO systems would lack the information we must have.
To this unsung hero: Thank you for what you are doing.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
How can you nurture your teenagers’ compassion and reverence for good and instill their respect for others? How can you help them become more responsible? You will most likely be unsuccessful if you say to your daughter, “Can’t you think about anyone other than yourself?” or demand that your son volunteer at the local nursing home, but if you pay attention to your teenagers’ interests and concerns, stay alert for opportunities to inspire reverence, respect, and responsibility, and encourage them to act upon their concerns, you may be able to guide them toward the fulfillment of the three Rs: Reverence, Respect, and Responsibility.
Compassion in action is the realization of the three Rs, and the hearts of most teens are often crying out for more opportunities to contribute and be responsible citizens. The world also needs young people. They have energy, passion, and vitality to offer to those who welcome their gifts. When young people care, when their compassion is engaged, they become a force that is extraordinarily powerful. Here are some tips for instilling the 3 Rs in your teenager:
- Make a point of bringing the suffering of others, whether humans or animals, into your teenager’s sphere of awareness. You can do this by sharing stories at the dinner table, watching videos of changemakers, or joining a social justice organization and reading its literature.
- Establish your family’s commitment to spending time together outside, and model time alone in natural settings or parks so that your teenager knows she can find solitude and renewal in the natural world. Find opportunities to nurture your own wonder and compassion so that you can be a role model for reverent appreciation.
- Stay aware of local events so that together you and your teenager can discuss what is happening in your neighborhood and community.
- Invite your teenager to inspire you. If he knows that his concerns and thoughts matter to you, he will be more likely to share them, and his reverence will be reinforced by your appreciation and involvement.
- Invite your teen to choose some of the ways in which your family will give to others, whether through volunteering, raising money, or donating services.
- Be ever more respectful of your teenagers and model respect for others. Gently point out ways in which they can be more respectful, and help them consider other people’s points of view.
- Invite your teenager to teach and lead you toward more respectful lifestyles.
- Let your teenager know that his dollar is his vote. Even though he can’t vote in elections until he’s 18, you can teach him that he votes every time he spends his money. Teaching our adolescents that they have enormous “voting” power through their spending choices will help them learn to take responsibility for their voting dollars.
- Make explicit the expectations of every family member so that your teenagers understand that each person in the family has certain responsibilities for which they must be accountable.
- Share and celebrate the successes and achievements of your efforts and those of others so that your adolescents will see that people can make a difference.
- Express your appreciation for your teenager’s efforts to be responsible. Your thanks and recognition will go a long way toward helping your adolescent feel positive about being responsible.
(Excerpted from Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times by Zoe Weil. New Society Publishers, 2003.)
Image courtesy of laura.oimette via Creative Commons.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
When we decided to offer such a course, and when I created the curriculum for it, I wondered if people would come, and if they did register, if they would remain enthusiastic participants in a course that could easily feel overwhelming. It’s only Day 10 in the course, but I find myself laughing and tearing up each day as I read participants’ accounts of their experiences, and I feel so excited and hopeful about the ways in which we’re collectively creating better lives and helping create a better world.
The people I’m “meeting” are amazing. I had no idea when this course started on March 1st, that I would personally get so much out of it as an advisor. Another reinforcement of the power of humane education.
We’ll be offering 3 more online courses this year:
May 1-30 and November 1-30: Sowing Seeds Online (for classroom teachers)
September 1-30: MOGO Online
Right now we're running a special limited offer for our Sowing Seeds Online. Register for the May course by April 15 and get the special limited offer price of only $69 per person.
And, educators who register two or more from their school (same course) will get the special price of $50 per person.
“Humane children are nourished by deeply held values that help them resist peer pressure and cultural messages that are shallow or dangerous. They believe in themselves and their ability to make a positive contribution with their lives….they are empowered to follow their dreams without harming others in the process.”
We have many IHE students and graduates who, as parents, celebrate the successes and struggle with the challenges of raising kind children who demonstrate reverence, respect and responsibility toward the world and its inhabitants and who think creatively and critically about how to live a life that does the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the earth. We wanted to share a few of our students’ and graduates’ successes and challenges as parents, and what better way than through their own voices.
On Humane Parenting:
M.Ed. student Tracey DuEst:
“One of many definitions of humane is ‘pertaining to kindness, humanity and compassion.’ I feel the best thing I can do to teach my kids this is to model that behavior. It is important for me to try to be as transparent as possible in my interactions with people so they can understand the importance of kindness, honesty and integrity. I get compliments all the time on how well-mannered my kids are, as I think being grateful is also part of humane parenting. If they have an appreciation in their early years of ‘non-material items’ -- family, friends, animals, the outdoors, ‘downtime’, etc. -- it will allow them to make more informed choices about taking care of the planet and about their treatment of ALL sentient beings.
”It is also important to me that they understand that love and compassion are shown in actions, not words or material gifts. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes summarizes this thought the best; ‘You can use most any measure when you are speaking of success, you can measure it in a fancy home, expensive car or dress, but the measure of your real success is one you cannot spend; it is the way your child describes you when talking to a friend.’”
HECP graduate Roberto Giannicola:
“My daughter is now ten years old. In the earlier years, it was much easier to 'control,' so to speak, what came into our house: the toys she played with, the food she ate, as well as all external influences like commercials, advertisements, and the trends and ideas in general that permeate our society. However, the older she has gotten, the more difficult it has become for me to filter what could be negatively impacting her. She spends about eight hours a day outside of our home, mostly in school and after school programs, but also at movie theaters, shows, friends’ sleepovers, etc., where she’ll be exposed to numerous ideas from her friends or other sources that sometimes I don’t agree with and can’t control.
”Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider my home a convent where I keep her locked inside, but rather a sanctuary where we can discuss the impact of her choices and lifestyle. For instance, when she wants to eat animal flesh, I explain, without the gruesome details, about factory farming. She knows about sweatshop and child labor and accepts the need to avoid certain stores, or to refrain from buying needless items. I‘ve also talked to her about the messages of commercials on TV, and thanks to TIVO, she doesn’t even watch them any longer.
”However, I’m not around all the time, and she won’t think twice about accepting a present from a relative or friend, regardless of its provenance and impact, or watching some degrading TV show where they portray young girls as being stupid, with no power but to follow the will of the 'smarter' ones on the set.
”I believe that there is only so much we can do, but what is important is to instill a sense of awareness and help them understand that everything we do has consequences. It is up to us to make these consequences be as positive as possible.”
On Generosity and Helpfulness:
M.Ed. student Mark Heimann:
“As my children get older (Olivia is 6 1/2 and Jonah is almost 4), their circle of friends and hence the birthday invite list continue to grow. While we enjoy throwing the parties, we have never enjoyed the pile of unneeded toys that my children get. The gifts represent all of the materialism of which we have tried to steer clear. Two years ago that stress was removed when my daughter decided that, instead of presents, she wanted to collect money to sponsor a needy child! She knew that I sponsored a child through Plan USA and wanted her own child to sponsor. We sent out a note with her birthday invitation asking people to consider donating money to Plan USA in lieu of bringing a gift for Olivia. With all of the money collected, Olivia started sponsoring and writing to Ada, a young girl from an impoverished region of Paraguay. Each year we send out the same note with the birthday invitation, so Olivia can continue to sponsor Ada. Having direct contact with someone from a very different background who struggles for the bare necessities helps keep Olivia grounded. Ada is a reference point to keep all of us from getting too caught up in the materialism that surrounds us.
“Now Jonah wants to start sponsoring a child for his birthdays too! It is never too early to learn the lessons of caring and sharing. Just as we have modeled these ideals for our children, so they are becoming models with their choices for how to celebrate their birthdays. It seems to be catching on!”
M.Ed. student Tracey DuEst:
“The kids and I were in Provincetown last summer and my son Trey got out of his seat. I said, ‘Trey, where are you going? You need to finish eating.' I looked to my right, and he had gotten up because he saw someone in a wheel chair coming to the door. He was at the door and already had it wide open before the man even got to the top of the ramp!!
”At summer camp my daughter Tera was the only one who would play with a little girl who had trouble with one of her eyes. One eye was almost fully closed, and the kids teased her a lot. Tera not only played with her but closed one of her eyes, too, so that her friend would not feel so bad. I’m so proud of them both!”
On Accepting and Connecting With Others:
M.Ed. graduate Cari Micala:
“One experience I had with my son; I think he might have been three (he is four now). We were at a larger family dinner (a holiday of some sort - or perhaps a birthday?). My immediate family is pretty good about making something that we can eat -- even if it is a separate dish from what the others are eating. The other folks were having some meat dish, and as my brother-in-law was being handed his plate, my son turned to me and said ‘Mama, he eats stuff that we don't!’ My brother-in-law, also an avid hunter, can be kind of quiet anyway. I immediately said to my son ‘Yes, he does, but that's okay; we can still like him.’ Everybody kind of chuckled, but it has helped my son in other situations (where he might have been the only child in the group to not eat meat or whatever the issue is). He just kind of puts it out there -- you eat meat and I don't -- but we can still be friends.
”As he gets older, he may deal with things in another way as he learns more; but for now, I think it's important for him to not start dividing up people into categories.”
M.Ed. graduate Gina Diamond:
“I had an interesting experience yesterday. I sat next to a woman during the MLK Day celebration. While the presenters spoke of compassion and love, I watched this exhausted mother yell at and spank her child on several occasions. I get tears in my eyes just by writing this. It was an incredibly difficult situation, as I knew that judging her would not help. I tried to the best of my ability to offer her help in hopes that she would get a bit of a reprieve and ease up on the kid. I remembered a passage I read in a John Robbins’ book that spoke about helping people become humane parents by not judging the parent and instead recognizing the needs of theirs that aren't getting met.
I gave the woman my phone number at the end of the presentation and told her that she appeared overwhelmed and that she could call me if she needed help. I don't know what I will do if she does call, but I couldn't walk away without doing something. This was my gift to MLK: respecting the diversity in people on all levels and seeing her as an extension of me. Even though I am not always a humane parent (I do try my best), I at least have the tools to continue to strive for this goal. How can we help children if their parents believe that what they are doing is humane?”
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Environmental groups making efforts to become more racially inclusive – New York Times (3/9/09)
“’If you go to a Sierra Club meeting, the people are mostly white, largely over 40, almost all college-educated, whose style is to argue with each other,’ Mr. Pope said. ‘That may not be a welcoming environment.’”
Zoo chimpanzee shows future planning in collecting rocks to throw at gawkers - BBC (3/9/09)
"Crucial to the current study is the fact that Santino, a chimpanzee at the zoo in the city north of Stockholm, collected the stones in a calm state, prior to the zoo opening in the morning. The launching of the stones occurred hours later - during dominance displays to zoo visitors - with Santino in an 'agitated' state."
The business of sharing cars (but don’t call it sharing) - New York Times (3/8/09)
”Zipcar’s predicate is that sharing is to ownership what the iPod is to the eight-track, what the solar panel is to the coal mine. Sharing is clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern; owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward. In Zipcar’s view, sharing is big business too — bigger, potentially, than anyone can fathom. Its claim is that the winners in the new economy will be those who crack the puzzle posed by scarce resources.”
Gray Wolf removed from federal protection in several states - New York Times (3/7/09)
”The delisting allows Montana and Idaho to assume complete management of the animal, which will include a hunting season in both states. The move also delists wolves in the western Great Lakes and parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington.”
Tests show Bisphenol A in sodas, energy drinks - Globe and Mail (3/5/09)
"’We are constantly getting exposed to this chemical,’ said Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri and an authority on BPA. ‘People drink a lot of soda and this needs to be looked at as one of a very large number of sources of exposure to this chemical.’ BPA is also used in dental sealants, plastic water pipes and even carbonless cash-register receipts.”
Former employees claim terrible treatment of primates in lab - ABC News (3/4/09)
”The New Iberia Research Center is a public facility, and its research includes contract work for pharmaceutical companies and hepatitis studies. The lab receives millions in public funding but limited public scrutiny. ‘Facilities are very secretive in general,’ said the investigator, who asked to remain anonymous because of the investigation. ‘It's hard to get a lot of good information out of what really goes on. You rarely see images other than what is kind of posted on the Web sites. Going undercover in a place is the only way you'll see what's the truth.’”
Poll shows more teens volunteering that working part-time - MSNBC (2/24/09)
”[The poll] found that more teens volunteer to support a charitable cause — 56 percent — than have a part-time job — 39 percent. Parents and guardians said 82 percent of the teens in their lives do something to support charitable causes, including volunteering, recruiting others to a cause, wearing a button or T-shirt or donating money.”
Thanks, Ode, for the heads up.
Monday, March 9, 2009
by Kelly Coyle DiNorcia
Embodying the ideals of humane education can be challenging. It can be lonely to be making different lifestyle choices from those of your friends and family. We can get discouraged when things seem to be getting worse in the world, even as we struggle to make the best choices we can. When we become parents, this difficult task can suddenly seem overwhelming. Aside from the stress and exhaustion that is a part of parenting, we suddenly have a whole new set of choices to make. How should we diaper our child? What should she wear? What should he eat? What about school? Add to this the fact that we are now responsible for a whole other person -– one who is watching and learning from everything we do –- and humane parenting can be downright intimidating. Here are 7 tips for making it seem a bit more manageable when your children are young:
- Educate yourself, not necessarily your children. Use extreme caution when introducing humane issues to children under age 12. Young children rarely have the emotional and intellectual sophistication to deal with these issues, and introducing them too soon could backfire. For example, a friend of mine took her five-year-old son to a soup kitchen where she had been volunteering for years, thinking it would help him to appreciate the luxuries and privileges he has. Instead, he came away terrified that his family might someday end up homeless and hungry.
- But remember – the real world is out there! While we don’t want to overwhelm our children with too much information, we also need to prepare them for situations they may encounter. We may not watch television in our homes, but we may still want to educate our children about what commercials are and what their purpose is. We may not use offensive language in our homes, but there may be circumstances where it is important that our children are aware of certain terms or stereotypes in case they hear them when you are not around to help them. Talk about race, not necessarily racism; talk about the environment, not necessarily environmental destruction; talk about kindness to animals, not necessarily animal abuse.
- Start local. Young children are egocentric. They are unable to really understand the size and diversity of the world. Therefore, when trying to teach them about important issues, it is best to focus on their immediate surroundings when they are young and gradually expand from there. Talk about the trees in your yard or local park, not the rainforest. Watch your companion animals or the wildlife outside your window rather than trying to introduce your preschooler to polar bears and whales. Get to know your neighbors and your community instead of talking about the lives of children in faraway lands.
- Make sure there is time for reverence in your day. If we want our children to develop a deep feeling of kinship with the world, we need to make time for that to happen. Unfortunately, in today’s busy world it is often difficult to find the time to stop and smell the flowers, if you’ll excuse the cliché. Especially when children are young, it is a good idea to keep scheduled activities to a minimum and leave a lot of open-ended time in your days that can be spent watching the sun rise, listening to the crickets at dusk, examining a worm after a rainstorm, or dropping everything to help a friend in need. I have a quote from Patricia Clafford hanging in my office over my computer: “The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.”
- Give children tools, not answers. Part of developing a child’s critical thinking skills is resisting the urge to answer all their questions. Instead, we can give them tips and ideas for solving problems themselves. Your young child wonders what kind of bird is outside on your feeder? Ask what name she would give the bird. Ask if the bird reminds her of any other birds she has seen. Ask her to draw it in her nature journal. Ask her to describe the bird -– his color, what he’s doing, where he is, what sounds he’s making, what he’s eating, what his feet and beak look like, and then look it up together (even if you already know the answer).
- Practice positive parenting. If we want our children to be kind we need to treat them kindly. However, any parent knows that this is more easily said than done. Not only can it be exhausting, both physically and mentally, to care for young children, but many of us were not parented in a way which was particularly kind. It can therefore be difficult for us to know how to raise our children with respect and compassion. There are a number of positive parenting philosophies and books out there, but a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Would I treat another adult this way?” If the answer is “No”, then it may not be the most respectful and constructive way to treat your child.
- Find support. It really, truly does take a village to raise a child. It is vital that like-minded parents come together so that they, as well as their children, have friendship and community in their lives. If you don’t know any parents who share similar values, find them. Join a parent support group. Attend events or classes in your community, such as parent and tot hikes or yoga classes. Post a flier at your food co-op, health food store or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and try to form a playgroup. Don’t try to go it alone – there is strength in numbers.
Kelly Coyle DiNorcia is an IHE M.Ed. graduate and focuses her energies on educating others about humane parenting. Kelly has a website, Beautiful Friendships, and blog, and frequently gives presentations and leads workshops about humane parenting. She has also published articles on the topic, including an article scheduled for the May/June 2009 issue of Natural Life.
The sirens didn’t just do their normal blaring as they passed by; they continued and continued, more and more relentless, and apparently, not moving, but blaring just outside the building. I could barely sit still. I missed the final soliloquy, focused as I was on trying to decide whether to get up and leave to see if there was something I could or should do (even though leaving at that moment, from my front row seat, would have been quite disruptive to the play), or whether to wait it out. I thought of the Milgram experiments where people willingly administered (fake, but they didn’t know it) electric shocks to others, simply following the orders of a scientist, and found myself wondering how I could just stay put for etiquette’s sake in the face of what seemed to be a terrible disaster. Someone’s house could be burning down right outside!
The play ended minutes later, and I quickly found out the reason for the sirens. The girls varsity basketball team had just won the Eastern Maine championships, meaning they’d play in the state finals. I was stunned. I was appalled. It was after 10 p.m. Children were sleeping. Those who were ill were trying to rest. And everyone who associates sirens with emergencies found their hearts racing. For a basketball game.
My indignation wasn’t shared. In fact, many knew already that some team must have won a big game, because they’d heard this many times before. They found my shock amusing and surprising. After all, those girls worked hard to win the semi-finals.
But sirens don’t blare when a child wins a national essay contest or a math tournament, and I ask myself why we deify sports? Many would tell me that there is community building inherent in this support of our teams. Others would tell me that this represents pride in our children and their accomplishments. Social psychologists would deconstruct our biology and culture and explain our behavior by pointing to our tribal and competitive natures. But I want to ask, what is MOGO? Is it MOGO to grant such power and esteem to sports over other human capabilities, commitments, and accomplishments? Is it MOGO to use sirens this way? Is there a better way to honor our athletes and show our support and pride in our children who choose other venues for achievement?
I welcome your thoughts,
Friday, March 6, 2009
As someone who’s constantly writing about consumerism and the effects of our choices (to those of you who regularly come to my blog, which by the way, I’m so grateful for, and do feel free to tell others about this blog :), here’s a bit of consumer humor for you.
Image courtesy of Orin Optiglot via Creative Commons.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The first is from MTV Switch, which is MTV's site for their "international climate change campaign." The video is a little animated song about greenwashing, and how "you don't have to be green to be green." I was going to link to the video on the site itself, but it took so long to load that I nearly poked out my own eyes in frustration (not a very MOGO thing, I know). So, here's it is from YouTube:
(Note: If you can't view the above, go here to watch it.)
(Thanks, Good Human, for the heads up.)
The other video is a greenwashing parody from Reality by the Coen brothers about "clean coal." "Clean coal harnesses the awesome power of the word clean."
(Note: If you can't view the above, go here to watch it.)
Feel free to share other examples of greenwashing (or anti-greenwashing) that you've come across.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
I am the survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they were to make our children more humane.
We are in the midst of concerted educational analysis and reform in the U.S. The Boston Globe editorial I wrote about in my last post pointed in one direction. Humane education points in a different direction, insisting that education must have as its goals more than high test scores on standardized tests. The letter above says it perfectly. Education loses its greatest value if it fails to inspire people to be humane.
Please make your opinions heard. Write to your representatives, to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, to President Obama, to your local school superintendents and principals, and in letters to the editor of your local paper and online publications – let them know your opinion on how to approach education reform.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The true price of tomatoes - Gourmet (3/09)
”Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is ‘ground zero for modern slavery.’”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.
New study shows prison spending “outpaces all but Medicaid” - New York Times (3/3/09)
”States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.
Study shows being in nature helps kids appreciate nature – Deseret News (3/2/09)
"’As far as an environmental education goes, people do things based on their attitudes about them,’ she said. Giving the young learners an experience with nature provides them with something they can relate to down the road.”
Military junta bringing back practice of force-feeding girls for marriage - Guardian (UK) (3/1/09)
”Fears are growing for the fate of thousands of young girls in rural Mauritania, where campaigners say the cruel practice of force-feeding young girls for marriage is making a significant comeback since a military junta took over the West African country. Aminetou Mint Ely, a women's rights campaigner, said girls as young as five were still being subjected to the tradition of leblouh every year. The practice sees them tortured into swallowing gargantuan amounts of food and liquid - and consuming their vomit if they reject it.”
Are the economic slowdown & forced furloughs actually good for us? - New York Times (2/28/09)
”Yet if these times were less freighted with economic anxiety, might not many workers starved for personal time jump at the deal Atlanta’s nearly 5,000 employees have been given? They work one hour longer Monday through Thursday, and then they get a three-day weekend, reducing their work time, and pay, by 10 percent. Time is, after all, a form of wealth — but this country of workaholics accustomed to unbridled consumption has generally chosen money over time. Furloughs might work as a kind of recalibration — a market correction, if you will — of that age-old imbalance. Those who can afford them might actually come to like them.”
Obama, economy cited as reasons for jump in number of hate groups – CNN.com (2/26/09)
”The [Southern Poverty Law] center's report, ‘The Year in Hate,’ found the number of hate groups grew by 54 percent since 2000. The study identified 926 hate groups -- defined as groups with beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people -- active in 2008. That's a 4 percent jump, adding 38 more than the year before.”
Teachers helping students increase their environmental IQ – Bakersfield Californian (2/26/09)
”After Michael Joseph Martinez joined the club this year, he installed low-flow water gauges and a water meter at home, and persuaded his parents to buy energy-efficient CFL light bulbs. ‘If you think about it, in 20 years it’s going to be left on the kids’ shoulders to clean up this mess,’ Martinez said with an eloquence beyond his 12 years, adding that if he has kids, someday he’d like them to see polar bears.”
American preference for soft toilet paper ‘worse than driving Hummers’ - Guardian (UK) (2/26/09)
"’This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,’ said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council. ‘Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.’ Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.”
Thanks, Global Sociology Blog, for the heads up.
Study shows kids allowed to watch R-rated movies more likely to smoke – U.S. News & World Report (2/23/09)
”According to Doubeni, the study shows that parental permission to watch R-rated movies is one of the strongest predictors of children's belief that cigarettes are easily available, about as strong as having friends that smoke.’We do know that kids who believe it is easy to get a cigarette are at risk of smoking,’ Doubeni said. ‘Our prior research has already shown that kids who perceive cigarettes as readily accessible are more likely to end up as regular smokers.’"
Thanks, PR Watch, for the heads up.