Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Plan to stop “blood diamonds” failing – BBC (6/24/09)
”The Kimberley Process certification scheme, which aims to stop the use of diamonds to fund conflict, is failing, according to a campaign group. Global Witness pointed to the smuggling of diamonds from Ivory Coast and an alleged massacre of diamond diggers by the military in Zimbabwe last year. “
Supreme Court rules that mining wastes can be dumped in waters – New York Times (6/23/09)
”In a 6-to-3 decision that drew fierce criticism from environmentalists, the court said the Corps of Engineers had the authority to grant Coeur Alaska Inc., a gold mining company, permission to dump the waste known as slurry into Lower Slate Lake, north of Juneau.”
“The death of macho” – Foreign Policy (6/22/09)
”The era of male dominance is coming to an end. Seriously. For years, the world has been witnessing a quiet but monumental shift of power from men to women. Today, the Great Recession has turned what was an evolutionary shift into a revolutionary one. The consequence will be not only a mortal blow to the macho men’s club called finance capitalism that got the world into the current economic catastrophe; it will be a collective crisis for millions and millions of working men around the globe.”
Inmates at Washington state prisons learning green skills - MNN.com (6/22/09)
“At Stafford Creek the goal is to reduce the amount of garbage the prison sends to landfills each year from 1200 tons down to just 200. But the Sustainable Prison Project also has a loftier and harder to measure goal: to prepare inmates for the green economy once they're released from prison.”
Thanks, Lime.com, for the heads up.
Fireworks of the future may be “green” – Physorg.com (6/22/09)
”Some of these fireworks have already been used at circuses, rock concerts and other events, but none have been used at large outdoor displays. The problem: cost. The big challenge in launching these "eco-friendly" pyrotechnics into the sky is making them cost-competitive with conventional fireworks while maintaining their dazzle and glow….Fireworks manufacturers have little incentive to further develop the new green fireworks because no federal regulations currently limit releases of perchlorate from pyrotechnics.”
Thanks, Lime.com, for the heads up.
Plastic “soup” found in Atlantic, other ocean bodies - Christian Science Monitor (6/18/09)
”Because the plastic has broken down into tiny pieces, it is virtually impossible to recover, meaning that it has essentially become a permanent part of the ecosystem. The full impact of its presence there – what happens if fish and other marine animals eat the plastic, which attracts toxins that could enter the food chain – is still unclear.”
Monday, June 29, 2009
From the recent article, “Sustainable Success”:
"But here’s a lesson many executives have yet to learn: A commitment to improving social and environmental conditions in the developing countries where a company operates is the key to maximizing the profits and growth of those operations. That’s the conclusion we drew after studying more than 200 companies. As a group, the companies most engaged in social and environmental sustainability are also the most profitable."You can read the whole article here.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I later clarified the policy at our co-op and researched the Maine laws on carding, and while it’s within the rights of an employee to card people who are with someone who’s purchasing alcohol (let’s say you have a bunch of young looking people hanging around the beer cooler handing the buyer six packs – you can ask to see everyone’s ID in the group), it’s not a law that you must card people who are with the purchaser. You can exercise your judgment.
Which leads me to common sense. Rob Shetterly’s commencement speech was a clarion call for common sense. It is common sense not to despoil the ecosystems that support your own life (or it should be). It is common sense to seek nonviolent resolutions to conflict before going to war (or it should be). It is common sense not to use up limited resources (or it should be). It is common sense not to spend money you don’t have and can’t be confident you’ll acquire (or it should be).
I think that our common sense, while innate, is curiously diminished in school. We are asked to memorize names and dates of battles and fill in circles on standardized tests to demonstrate that we’ve followed these rules, yet commonsense might suggest that such learning and acquisition of facts isn’t really useful and that our time could be better spent. It is common sense to finish a thought, a paragraph, a sentence or a discussion, but when the bell rings in school, students are taught to respond like robots rather than learners and immediately get up and move to the next class. It is common sense to eat healthy, tasty and nutritious foods, but our school cafeterias by and large serve foods that are anything but. It is commonsense to allow children to move their energetic bodies, but our schools confine them in hard chairs the vast majority of their days and are taking away or lessening the time for recess.
After years of learning to suppress their common sense, is it any wonder that we have learned not to trust ourselves and our good minds? Common sense tells us we should foster our children’s common sense as they grow up, and cultivate their capacity to think clearly and act wisely (or it should be).
Thursday, June 25, 2009
If we can focus on paying attention when we brush our teeth and wash our hair and drink and eat and clean the counters and scrub the dishes, and take only what we need to successfully complete the job, it might surprise us to notice how much extra we’ve been taking. We can use fewer resources and save money. And, when we put food on our plates, if we’re paying attention, we might eat less, and thus lessen our chances of gaining weight, as well as of wasting food.
I like to remember Gandhi’s statement that "The world has enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed." It serves as a good reminder to me to pay attention to how much of the world’s resources I’m consuming.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sometimes our critiques are important, as in the case with the well thought-out commentary on cause marketing I mentioned in a previous post. They help us make wiser, more efficacious choices about how to make a difference. But too often they are just mean-spirited, as in these few comments about David Ashby. One of the criticisms of David is that he could do more for homeless children by getting a summer job and donating his earnings directly to them. But I don’t believe this is true. Were he to work all summer and donate his earnings to the homeless he would do something good, certainly, but the contribution would be minor compared to what might ensue from his walk. Gaining media attention for the travesty of child homelessness in the richest nation on earth has the potential to do so much more than a summer job ever could. It has the potential to influence changes in systems that perpetuate homelessness among children. Thank goodness for kids like David. Thank goodness that they think of creative ways to draw attention to pervasive problems so that we can solve them at their roots.
How much easier to criticize others than to plunge into good work ourselves. If ever you find yourself ready to criticize a good deed, go do a good deed instead. Take that energy and make a positive difference.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Corporate-owned newspapers near U.S. southern border more likely to run negative news, opinions about immigrants – Alternet (6/22/09)
”After crunching the numbers, Branton and Dunaway estimate a statistical model that gives a hypothetical corporate-owned newspaper right on the border a 76 percent probability of a news article being negative and an 85 percent probability of an opinion piece being negative.”
Costa Rican students combine learning English with social justice - Tico Times (6/22/09)
”Over the course of four months, students visited crumbling schools, needy animal shelters and other nonprofit agencies and filmed scenes of problems they saw. They collaborated on a project to help alleviate existing situations, meanwhile collecting scenes they would use in a video of their efforts. ‘We wanted to figure out how to use language to do good,’ said Solano, who explained that while ‘social responsibility’ has entered into the curricula of other schools like public relations or business, it is still a relatively new concept to the language department.”
Companies that improve social, environmental conditions in developing countries make more money – Wall Street Journal (6/22/09)
”The most successful companies not only enforce safety standards strictly but also improve them over time. And they support local communities with initiatives in education, health care, environmental protection and agricultural development. Finally, the most successful companies set high social and environmental standards in the selection of their suppliers, monitor the suppliers to ensure compliance, and work with them to continually improve their performance in these areas.”
World’s hungry will top 1 billion this year – UN News Centre (6/19/09)
”Mr. Diouf said that poorer nations ‘must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity. Investment in agriculture must be increased because for the majority of poor countries a healthy agricultural sector is essential to overcome poverty and hunger and is a pre-requisite for overall economic growth.’”
HSUS to offer undergrad degrees in animal protection – Inside Higher Ed (6/19/09)
”The Humane Society University, newly licensed as a degree-granting institution by the District of Columbia, will begin offering undergraduate degrees this fall in animal studies, animal policy and advocacy, and humane leadership, as well as graduate certificates in those three areas. The university, which is a program of the Humane Society of the United States, will offer degree programs online and on site in D.C.”
Brazilian priest fights for rights of people, planet against “big ag” – The Ecologist (6/19)
”The Amazon rainforest is being torn down by agribusinesses which use the land to farm soya and export to European livestock farmers, feeding the growing demand for cheap meat. For ten years Father Edilberto has stood at the heart of Santarem’s campaign against the world’s leader in this trade, Cargill.”
Thanks, Common Dreams, for the heads up.
South Africa, “rape capital” of the world? - BBC (6/17/09)
"We know that we have a higher prevalence of rape in South Africa than there is in other countries. And it's partly rooted in our incredibly disturbed past and the way that South African men over the centuries have been socialised into forms of masculinity that are predicated on the idea of being strong and tough and the use of force to assert dominance and control over women, as well as other men."
Government report shows U.S. already feeling effects of global warming - New York Times (6/16/09)
”Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health.”
Kids choosing a bit healthier in fast food restaurants, when given a choice – New York Times (6/16/09)
”’The food industry is always saying, ‘We’re giving people want they want; that’s why we’re giving you chicken nuggets, burgers and fries for your kids,’ ” said Leann L. Birch, director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State. 'That’s not really true. If kids are given different options and if parents make them available and let them choose some of those things, I think quite often we see you do get shifts in eating.'”
Thanks, Corporate Babysitter, for the heads up.
Florida’s educational system policies hampering migrant students - Tallahassee.com (6/12/09)
”After years working in different school districts throughout the state, Rodriguez said she believes the biggest hurdle preventing migrant students from receiving a quality education is communication. There has to be more outreach in the community to stress the need for a quality education, she said.”
Thanks, PEN Weekly News Blast, for the heads up.
The July/August 2009 issue of VegNews was just published, and they include a great review of Zoe's newest book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life. Here's an excerpt:
"Most Good, Least Harm is a self-reflective read, one that will leave you empowered, educated, and hopeful. It conveys a wealth of information, and excellent resource list, and is a welcome complement to the growing library of books that offer hope of healing the world -- one individual, and one decision, at a time."
~ VegNews, July/August 2009, p. 76.
And, Beth H., from the blog Smart Family Tips just posted a great review of Zoe's Book Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times. Here are a couple of excerpts:
"Chapter 3 encourages parents to focus on their own lives for a bit and the extent to which we teach by example. One of the most resounding ideas from this book, for me, comes from this chapter. Weil mentions that a reporter once asked Mahatma Gandhi what his message was and he responded, 'My life is my message,' which is the title of this chapter. I find myself thinking over and over about the extent to which my life is (or is not) reflective of the message I wish to convey."
"I came away from reading Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times feeling like I had useful tools to help my children (and myself) become people who think about the consequences of their actions and who are more fully aware of the world around us. There’s no question that we live in 'challenging times,' but Zoe Weil makes that journey a little easier."
- Be Picky Purchasers (Is it really new and better, or just a couple minute tweaks and some spit and polish?)
- Resurrect Repair Skills (Learn how to keep it going for as long as you can.)
- Forecast the Future of Gadgets and Our Needs (Figure out what we really do need and influence product manufacturers to create only those.)
- Change the Source of the Cool Factor (Redefine the cool paradigm; make green and thrifty cool.)
- Switch From Consuming Products to Consuming Services (Pretty self-explanatory).
- Find a Way to Do Without - Can you borrow, share, get off Freecycle, get from the library, etc.? There are plenty of creative opportunities out there.
- Learn the True Price - When we pay for a product, we're not paying for all the external costs that affect us, other people, animals and the environment. Electronics contain toxins; they're often tossed in the trash or recycled by sweatshop and/or child labor; some of the minerals mined for the components are directly involved in wars and the destruction of endangered species. Consider issues such as these before you buy, so that you can make an informed choice.
- Help Create New Systems - You can flex the power of your personal choices by what you buy (and don't) from companies, and by communicating with them about what you need. But, it's also essential (as Jaymi alludes to) to work for systems that are sustainable, just and humane, rather than destructive. You can help create these new systems by educating others, lobbying manufacturers and legislators, and more.
My computer is creaky enough that I'm going to have to replace it, but in doing so I'll be ensuring that I pay attention to the impacts of the different models and brands. I'll also be buying with the intention that my old one will be recycled responsibly, and my new one will last a long, long time -- making repairs and upgrades for as long as possible. Additionally, I plan to continue working toward creating positive systems surrounding electronics production and disposal and to educate others about all the issues involved so that they can make informed choices, too.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Image courtesy of stevendamron via Creative Commons.
A new "carbon counter" has been installed near New York City's Pennsylvania Station, and displays in real-time the amount of greenhouse gases currently present in the atmosphere. People outside New York City can view the counter (and get more information and the nifty numbers widget) at the Deutsche Bank Group Climate Change Advisors website. The base source used for the counter numbers came from the Fourth Assessment Report (2007) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; data also came from MIT and other sources.
A big display of constantly-increasing numbers can generate a bit of ennui in some, so you can also turn interested students and citizens to the website called Breathing Earth. This site offers an animated world map which displays the rate of births, deaths, population growth and emissions of CO2. Circles and colors that pop up and fade in a constant cascade represent the different data categories. Mousing over a country gives the specific stats for that country. Data for this simulation came from sources such as the CIA Factbook and the United Nations Statistics Division.
Both tools can serve as springboards for discussing global climate issues, such as the distribution of populations versus global warming gas production, how countries are reacting to climate change and global warming data, and so on.
Friday, June 19, 2009
When you can’t go totally organic, you can still make a point to avoid fruits and vegetables with the heaviest pesticide use and residues. The Environmental Working Group has a downloadable guide to the “dirty dozen” and “cleanest 12″ produce items.
The top fruits and veggies to avoid include peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines and lettuce. If money’s especially tight, onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples and mangoes are some of the produce lowest in pesticides (of course, fruits like mangoes and pineapples are shipped a long way, so that’s another reason to reduce your consumption of such items).
You can also find a list of 43 fruits and vegetables, with their pesticide rankings.
The next time you hear someone say they can’t afford to buy any organic produce, share this guide with them, and point out that, while organics can bit a bit more at the checkout stand, they’re also paying for richer soil, cleaner air and water, healthier bodies, safer wildlife and other benefits.
Next time you hear any name-calling, challenge it. Ask the name-callers questions. Challenge them to think more deeply and to come up with better answers to the actions they’re criticizing. Do it without judgment or hostility. Do it as a humane educator eliciting critical and creative thinking.
Image courtesy of purpleslog via Creative Commons.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
This is an excellent resource for humane educators to use in engaging students and adults with these issues, as well as a useful tool for concerned citizens interested in learning more about the global challenges others are facing.
Image courtesy of Arts Engine, Inc.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Fashion Faux Pas: New Greenpeace Report Details Connection Between Consumer Leather Products and Global Warming, Rainforest Destruction
As part of their three-year investigation, Greenpeace explored the supply chain of meat and leather from the Brazilian cattle to the companies who sell products made from them. They discovered that companies as far ranging as Adidas, BMW, Ford, Honda, Gucci, IKEA, Kraft, Nike, Toyota and Wal-mart all are supplied by companies who handle these Brazilian cattle products.
Other interesting tidbits from the report include:
- Brazil is the world's 4th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which come from clearing/burning the rainforest in order to raise cattle for export.
- Brazil owns the largest commercial cattle herd and is the world's largest beef exporter (it ties with China for top leather goods exporter).
- The Amazon is estimated to store around 80-120 billion tons of carbon. If the Amazon is destroyed, about 50 times the greenhouse gases currently released by the U.S. would be released by the destruction of the forest.
- While the Brazilian government has called itself a leader in decreasing deforestation (mainly by going after illegal operations), according to the report, the Brazilian government "is a funder and shareholder in the major players in the cattle sector in the Amazon -- the single largest driver of global deforestation."
Find out more about Slaughtering the Amazon.
Here’s a powerful, beautiful and important speech on compassion fatigue. It inspires, enlightens, and plumbs the depths of human kindness, even as it reveals human evil; and, it offers ideas for those caregivers -- and I would include activists -- who face the challenges of compassion fatigue in their work.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Teen to walk 1,100 miles, stay in shelters to bring attention to plight of homeless children - Orlando Sentinel (6/15/09)
”The idea for the walk took form late last year at Lee Middle when David learned that nearly 70 of his classmates were homeless. He began researching the national picture, and what he discovered made him want to make a difference.”
Corporations take Pennsylvania town to court for trying to ban coal mining rights – Common Dreams (6/15/09)
”The township has gone further than any of the 120 U.S. municipalities -- most of them in Pennsylvania -- that have passed ordinances to curb corporate activity such as factory farming or spreading sewage sludge, said its lawyer, Tom Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.”
Human rights activists protest outside NBA games, other venues, to bring attention to Russell-gear/products sweatshop link - Huffington Post (6/14/09)
”The NBA is only one of several targets of USAS’ campaign to draw attention to Russell’s human rights abuses. The campaign has heated up in recent months, with activists bringing their crusade to universities that do business with Russell, retail stores that sell Russell clothing, Berkshire Hathaway stockholders, and even the U.S. Congress.”
Baking the way to a better world – Frederick NewsPost.com (6/13/09)
”While these boys have worked hard to ensure the success of Share Our Strength's ‘No Kid Hungry’ program, they reminded that everyone can do their part to save lives. ‘It's not just our job,’ Damon said. ‘The whole U.S. has to help out. You can't just count on three little boys to save the world.’"
Some cities look at reducing size, returning “burbs” to nature – Alternet (6/13/09)
"’The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way,’ said Mr Kildee. ‘Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity.’"
Is increased unemployment increasing people’s empathy? – Chicago Tribune (6/12/09)
”Most of us, he agreed, don't have empathy until we go through the experience.’People walk around talking about these people, those people and they're lazy and all of a sudden it's, “Oops, I am unemployed and I am not lazy, so it must be something else that causes people to fall on hard times.”’ "
Thanks, Ode Magazine, for the heads up.
Eco-consultants on the rise – New York Times (6/10/09)
”Environmental savings can be elusive, and the benefits and costs confusing. To help households wade through the information, consultants armed with stepladders and gadgets are selling advice on energy efficiency, indoor air quality and even methods for creating an eco-conscious wardrobe.”
One man’s trek to follow his trash (and recyclables) – Mother Jones (6/10/09)
”To find out whether my city's phenomenal recycling success was actually real, I asked San Francisco's waste contractor, Sunset Scavenger, if I could track one week's worth of my own trash in real time. It agreed, and so began my odyssey into a world of waste.”
Thanks, Lime.com, for the heads up.
Shell settles Nigerian human rights case for $15.5 million - New York Times (6/9/09)
”In a statement, the company said the agreement ‘will provide funding for the trust and a compassionate payment to the plaintiffs and the estates they represent in recognition of the tragic turn of events in Ogoni land, even though Shell had no part in the violence that took place.’”
LA high school goes bright green – MNN.com (6/9/09)
”When education issues make headlines in Los Angeles, the subject’s often bad nutrition and obesity at best and deleterious budget cuts at worst. So visiting Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Calif., is like stepping into an unexpectedly healthy green oasis — with organic fruit trees, compost bins for food waste and a healthier vending machine with lots of organic options!”
Life, health insurance companies investing in tobacco – The Province.com (6/5/09)
”Major U.S., Canadian and British life and health insurance companies have billions of dollars invested in tobacco companies, says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.Wesley Boyd, the study's lead author, found that at least $4.4 billion US in insurance company funds are invested in companies whose affiliates produce cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.”
Thanks, PR Watch, for the heads up.
Forest certifications battle over “nature-friendly” title; which is greenwashing? - The Tyee.ca (6/3/09)
”What both certification programs have in common is that their respective logos -- appearing on books and 2x4s and everything between -- carry a promise of 'sustainability;' both indicate that eco-conscious buyers can relax and know they are buying a product that they can feel good about. What the rivals do not share, is a common vision of what sustainability looks like on the forest floor, and whether the differences between certification standards matter at all.”
Industry strategizing to block ban of toxic BPA chemical – Washington Post (5/31/09)
”According to internal notes of a private meeting, obtained by The Washington Post, frustrated industry executives huddled for hours Thursday trying to figure out how to tamp down public concerns over the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA. The notes said the executives are particularly concerned about the views of young mothers, who often make purchasing decisions for households and who are most likely to be focused on health concerns.”
Activist turns tide for turtles in Trinidad - CNN.com (5/28/09)
”Gradually, her message of conservation turned the tide of public opinion, and after nearly two decades under Baptiste's leadership, Nature Seekers has largely won its battle. Today, the leatherbacks' survival rate on Matura Beach is virtually 100 percent.”
Thanks, Good News Network, for the heads up.
New book says many animals possess “sense of morality” - Telegraph (UK) (5/23/09)
”But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are ‘hard-wired’ into the brains of all mammals and provide the ‘social glue’ that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups. He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress.”
Here are some excerpts:
“We want our children well educated not for success as it is usually defined in terms of jobs and money but because the success of our communities and our democracy depends on well educated, critical thinking, creative, fun loving people, people who seek truth and see through propaganda and advertising, people who understand that personal success is only meaningful in the context of the common good. Today your community celebrates with you and makes two seemingly contradictory offerings: a new sense of personal freedom and a new awareness of personal responsibility....”
“What I ask from all of us is an awareness of our fundamental reality, and then the necessary citizenship --- for our communities and the world --- to live our lives in accordance with that reality. This is not a chore or a punishment. It’s a privilege and a joy. It’s a life of meaning rather than consumption. It’s a life in harmony with reality. I suspect that all of you appreciate commonsense, but the habits of our lives, our consumptive desires, and the forces that profit from those habits and desires are not based in commonsense. But they can be. Commonsense is closely related to the common good and the common welfare and simply to protecting the idea of the commons. But to live by commonsense will take a great quantity of common courage from all of us. It will take courage because our status quo is the enemy of commonsense. But everything good takes courage.
I want your success --- but no more or no less than I want the success of every other species on earth. Because for you to truly succeed, all the others must, too.”
You can read the whole speech at Rob’s website.
"We know a good human when we see one. An act of heroism? Good human. Donated a kidney to a stranger? Good human. Launched a non-profit to end human slavery? Good human. Dalai Lama? Good human. Adolf Hitler? Evil human.
"But it’s not so simple. Most of us are neither the Dalai Lama nor Hitler. We try to be good, but we are ignorant of many of the effects of our choices on others, and sometimes we get lazy and greedy. Often our desires and perceived needs compete with our values, leading us to buy products that cause harm to the environment (e.g. electronics), or were made in sweatshops (e.g. most clothes produced overseas), or may have been tainted with human slavery (e.g. much chocolate) or animal suffering and cruelty (e.g. almost all meat, dairy, eggs, fur, leather).
"So how can we be consistently good humans? We can do so by endeavoring to the greatest degree possible to bring what I call the 3 I’s of inquiry, introspection, and integrity to our life choices, whether these are daily decisions about what products, foods, or clothing to buy, or larger decisions about our work, activism, volunteerism, and involvement in change-making."Read the full post here.
(Posted by IHE staff.)
Monday, June 15, 2009
Then you can read the post “Defending Cause Marketing” at the blog, Selfish Giving, because this post is thought-provoking as well; and, by the end, you may think that Eikenberry has a good point, but the world being the way it is, you might as well use your credit card to support your favorite non-profit.
As the president of a non-profit, the Institute for Humane Education, we would probably do well to hook up with cause marketing and get some of those tens of millions of dollars that are generated by chocolate bars and cans of soup, but we haven’t done this. Many people urge us to get ourselves some fair trade, organic cotton T-shirts to sell with our awesome logo and great tag line (The World Becomes What You Teach), but we haven’t done that either. Once we got organic cotton and hemp tote bags with our logo, and they sold out pretty fast, but we didn’t get more. Something about it didn’t seem right.
Why? Because we want people to question consumption. We want people to learn how to create better, healthier, more humane, and sustainable systems. Cans of chicken soup and chocolate bars are not the path to a humane, sustainable, and healthy world. Stuff is part of the problem; it can never be the solution. Until we’ve created systems of mining, production, transportation, energy, and disposal that are truly restorative, we’re largely participating in greenwashing if we suggest that buying a product will help the world.
Yet, our organization need funds as much as every cause, and our e-appeals (far greener than our print ones) bring in virtually nothing. Maybe many people believe they’ve already done their part by buying their donates-five-percent-of-profits yogurt, as Eikenberry suggests, so that they’re less likely to support non-profits directly. How much better it would be if they made their soup from scratch and didn’t buy a single-use, disposable yogurt container, and used all the money they would save from eating a non-processed food diet to generously support those organizations, like ours, that go to the root cause of all our grave challenges and try to solve them.
Hey, prove that this is possible! Feel free to donate to the Institute for Humane Education here :)
Image courtesy of JoeG2007 via Creative Commons.
Friday, June 12, 2009
It’s worth analyzing Baldwin’s arguments because recently the concepts that humane education covers and its general approach have come under fire, even if the authors of the critiques are not specifically using the term humane education. Baldwin calls the preparation of students for global citizenship a “political mission.” In its broadest sense, all education is political, but I do not think Baldwin is talking about a broad definition of the word. He believes that those educational efforts to promote sustainability represent anti-American, anti-human, and hate-based politics that have no place in our schools, and that global citizenship is meant to undermine our nation. As someone who has promoted education for global citizenship, I know this assertion to be false.
Like it or not, all of us in industrial countries -- and most in emerging nations -- participate in global economic, food, disposal, production, and other systems. My dictionary contains two definitions of citizenship.
1. the legal status of being a citizen of a country
2. the duties and responsibilities that come with being a member of a community
It is awareness of and appreciation for this second definition that humane educators seek to inculcate in their students. We are members of a global community. The choices we make affect people, the environment, and other species across the globe. If we buy bottled water from Fiji or a toy or a new sweater, we are participating in global economics, and we have a duty and responsibility to be conscious of the effects of our decisions on others as members of an interconnected community and to make choices based on our values and on accurate information. There are systems in place that foster child labor and slavery, the destruction of ecosystems and habitats for other species, and so on. We can choose to reject global citizenship, but that doesn’t mean that we are not influencing the lives of others. So, too, can we reject national citizenship and fail to accept the responsibilities and duties that come with being a contributing member of our country, but I don’t think that Baldwin would advise this. And I suspect he would like schools to promote the value of engaged national citizenship even as he rails against students learning about their duties and responsibilities as members of communities.
Baldwin writes: “Statist canon like ‘social justice,’ ‘global citizenship,’ environmental ‘sustainability’ and ‘multicultural education’ are now pervasive in American schools, but are not sustaining captive young minds.” I had to laugh at this comment. If only such humane education concepts were pervasive in schools! If only the purpose of schooling were to prepare students for their profound roles as engaged citizens who create healthy, just, sustainable and humane systems in which all benefit. As a humane educator who has introduced some of the pressing challenges of our time to students, fostered their critical and creative thinking, and encouraged their active engagement in creating positive changes, I can assert categorically that young people who receive such education are more than “sustained.” They come alive, are delighted to have relevance, are thrilled that their ideas and thoughts matter, and are desirous of a chance to use their minds, hearts, and hands to contribute.
Baldwin goes on to say:
“Parents, not educators, have the right to decide values, articles of faith and creeds for their children. Of course, children are free to make up their own minds whether to accept them over time. But it is not the job of public servant educators to undermine or contradict parents. That would be hostile.”Does Baldwin not realize that values and bias are embedded in the standard curricula as well? Students ought to be free to make up their own minds, but they are rarely provided with enough or varied information to do so. This is why I begin many of my humane education programs with the request that the students not believe a word I say. Humane educators want their students to question the information they receive, whether from themselves or from people like Baldwin. It is the blind faith that everything American is good and right, just and healthy that is undermining critical and creative thinking, as well as system-changes in food production, energy, transportation, etc., that would, if encouraged, be of great benefit to all -- especially the students themselves. It is as silly to love everything American as it is hostile and extreme to hate everything American. Such polarization should be the very opposite of education. I can only imagine our founding fathers rolling in their graves at the thought of school children disengaged from the act of critical thinking for a better America or a better world. They created a political system that enabled our country to continually forge wiser and more humane choices. It is their system that enabled us to abolish the American slave trade, give women the right to vote, establish civil rights and to elect Barack Obama as President.
Baldwin does have a suggestion that I wholeheartedly support. He writes: “Lodge formal complaints where appropriate.... Unless of course you feel that America’s students - our Posterity - should not be burdened with varying viewpoints in public school....” I agree. We need people to eagerly debate the purpose of education and the need for varying viewpoints in public schools. We need people who will lodge complaints about schooling that does not prepare students to be critical and creative thinkers who can solve problems, large and small, and contribute to a more peaceful, sustainable, and humane world.
Like many other countries, the U.S. measures its economic health primarily by the GDP.
The GDP (gross domestic product) is “the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.” It doesn’t include income earned abroad. Source: InvestorWords.com
The GNP (gross national product) is the GDP plus “the income accruing to domestic residents as a result of investments abroad, minus the income earned in domestic markets accruing to foreigners abroad.” Source: InvestorWords.com
The primary impetus with the GDP and GNP are growth, growth, growth. Most people believe that economic growth is good, and healthy, and desirable.
But, what counts as economic growth?
A 1995 article from the magazine The Atlantic, “If the GDP is Up, Why is America Down?” (old, but still very relevant) explores the impact of the GDP on U.S. society and offers suggested alternatives for measuring its health and well-being. As the article says,
"The GDP is simply a gross measure of market activity, of money changing hands. It makes no distinction whatsoever between the desirable and the undesirable, or costs and gain. On top of that, it looks only at the portion of reality that economists choose to acknowledge -- the part involved in monetary transactions. The crucial economic functions performed in the household and volunteer sectors go entirely unreckoned. As a result the GDP not only masks the breakdown of the social structure and the natural habitat upon which the economy -- and life itself -- ultimately depends; worse, it actually portrays such breakdown as economic gain."
Divorce? Up goes the GDP. Oil spill? Up it goes. Cancer? War? Crime? Layoffs? Environmental destruction? Up it goes.
Certainly some type and amount of economic growth is necessary, but there are some people who believe that there need to be different, better ways to measure the health and well-being of our society. They advocate using “alternative progress indicators,” focusing on the value of things like volunteering, good health, happiness, sustainability, safety, etc. Two examples include the highly-lauded Genuine Progress Indicator created by Redefining Progress and the widely-reproduced regional indicators used by Sustainable Seattle.
Much attention has also been given to the concept of “Gross National Happiness” promulgated by the country of Bhutan, which focuses on happiness and well-being as essential indicators of the country’s health and wealth.
Two video resources that can help spark discussion about the GDP include a brief video PSA produced by Adbusters, and a video featuring Robert Kennedy’s speech 40+ years ago challenging the way Americans measure wealth and progress, created by the Glaser Progress Foundation. (You can also find several suggested articles about the GDP and alternative economic indicators on Glaser’s website.)
IHE offers a free downloadable activity about the GDP: Is What's Good for the GDP Good for Me? (PDF) that increases student awareness about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and what it measures, introduces them to alternative indicators and encourages critical thinking about what factors contribute to a healthy, sustainable, stable economy. (It's recommended for grades 8 and up and takes about 60-90 minutes.)
In this time of economic uncertainty, it's important that we think critically (and help students to do the same) about how our money is being used and how "growth" is determined, and that we search for tools that accurately reflect, reveal and support the kind of healthy, humane, sustainable world we want.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
“Animal-rights advocates have made a big deal about the way the ducks are force-fed to produce the enormously swollen livers from which the foie gras is made. But I’ve been looking at the plight of the underpaid, overworked and often gruesomely exploited farmworkers who feed and otherwise care for the ducks. Their lives are hard.”I’m very glad that Herbert chose to write about the exploited and abused workers in a factory farm. Their plight needs attention, and good for Herbert in bringing awareness to the ways in which we oppress people in agribusiness. But the quote above diminishes the plight of the ducks and geese who are treated with such extraordinary cruelty it defies most of our imaginations. Why suggest that “a big deal” has been made of it? Herbert could so easily have written that in addition to the cruelty perpetrated on ducks, these operations perpetrate cruelty upon their workers.
But he didn’t.
Exploitation and oppression of others is all connected. It’s another “state of shame” that Herbert doesn’t acknowledge and expose this.
Image courtesy of Farm Sanctuary via Creative Commons.
- Make sure it’s right for you. Do you like and understand kids? Can you handle the chaos of a classroom atmosphere? Are you friendly and approachable, with a sense of humor? Are you ready for the uncertainty and bustle of giving six presentations in one day and none at all the next week? Do you feel comfortable guiding students through explorations of a variety of issues? Can you compassionately cope with strong emotions and conflict? Does the thought of being teacher, counselor, marketer, sociologist, philosopher, networker and office manager appeal to you? These are all essential elements of a humane educator who’s going to be working with youth.
- Learn your way around the education world. There are a whole slew of standards, policies, political hoops and teacher skills that it can really benefit you to know. If your only experience with education is your own schooling, consider visiting several schools, talking to teachers and principles, and taking some time to learn the ropes. You may want to take more formal courses, such as our Sowing Seeds Online course or even our Certificate program to help you gain knowledge, skills and confidence in speaking and working with students, parents, teachers and administrators.
- Educate yourself about the issues. You wouldn’t teach a foreign language without knowing it well. Be sure that you’re reading a variety of authors and perspectives, learning about the connections among humane issues, and keeping updated on news and changes in these areas. You could also volunteer for one or more non-profit groups to help increase your knowledge and experience.
- Choose your audience and format. What grades/ages will you focus on? Public school programs? After school programs? Churches? Will you be creating a special summer camp? Teaching home schoolers? Will you offer one-shot presentations or a series on certain topics, or both?
- Create an age-appropriate core curriculum. Decide what few topics would best fit both your own strengths, expertise and interests and the interests of your audience (and their teachers) and then choose or create a core set of presentations. Be sure that your presentations offer the 4 elements of humane education, and that they’re lively, interactive, respectful and positive. There are plenty of activities available to use or adapt (such as IHE’s humane education activities), and a variety of relevant resources that can enhance your teaching, such as videos (be sure they’re appropriate). Once you’re confident, comfortable and successful with your handful of programs, you can then consider adding a few new ones, based on current events or the interests of students/teachers. If you look at the presentations that the regional programs offer, you’ll see that they stick to a solid core that covers a variety of topics.
- Determine the details. What are you going to call your program? (something that’s clear, inviting, positive and marketable –- and make sure that it’s not already taken) How often do you want to give presentations and to what age groups? What kinds of promotional items are you going to create to market yourself (brochures, business cards, website, etc.)? Are you going to charge money? Are you going to connect your programs to state standards? Are you willing to offer additional post-presentation resources, such as lists of suggested books and websites or extension lesson plans? How will you evaluate the success of your program? Be sure to address all those little details that can make or break your program.
- Practice practice practice. Practice your public speaking. Have friends and colleagues help you role-play addressing conflict or challenging questions. Hold mock conversations with “teachers” and “administrators” to woo them into inviting you to their school. Give your presentations/lesson plans to a safe audience of supporters and have them give feedback. Videotape yourself and watch for ways to improve. Just like you’re now a pro at tying your shoes and driving your car, you’ll become a pro humane educator by practicing frequently.
- Make connections. Whom do you already know who might be able to help you connect with schools? Also think about which schools and teachers are more likely to be open to humane education presentations: Alternative or magnet schools? Home school groups? Social studies, health & science instructors? Language arts? Speech and communications? Librarians? Consider not just an email or letter to the selected teachers and principle at a school; make an appointment to visit in-person, so that they can get to know you, and so that you can let them know why your program is such a plus for them. (Developing some talking points about the benefits really helps.) Once you’ve given presentations for some teachers, you can ask them to recommend you to others.
- Focus on flexibility. Are your programs age-adaptable? What if your audience of 20 becomes an audience of 80? You’re speaking to elementary kids as well as college students? You were promised 60 minutes but they’ve only given you 30? Flexibility is an essential element of a successful humane education program. Work to be well-prepared and organized, so that you can handle any situation with calm, confidence and compassion.
- Get support. There are already many humane educators teaching in their schools and communities. Connect with them for tips, suggestions and advice. Also focus on getting support from people in your own community, to help you practice, to provide you with leads, to share their skills in helping your program become a success.
- Go for it! It can be scary and intimidating to launch a humane education program, but once you’ve done the preparation, don’t let your concern over not being good or ready enough stop you. The only way you’re really going to get good at this is to do it. So, take a deep breath and begin!
For more in-depth information about starting your own humane education program:
- Download The Seedling: A Primer for Creating and Sustaining a Successful Humane Education Program or Humane Education Initiative in Your Community (PDF) by IHE M.Ed. graduate Dani Dennenberg.
- Download A Humane Education Frequently Asked Questions Document (PDF) by IHE M.Ed. graduate Bob Schwalb
- Check out humane education regional programs.
- Check out IHE’s Resource Center.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Every once in awhile, a speech is so true and right that there is nothing to do but spread the word about it. I’ve been writing a lot recently on the question “What is education for?” In a sentence, I believe that the overarching purpose of education should be to provide students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a peaceful, sustainable, and humane world. Right now, this isn’t what the vast majority of youth are being prepared for at school. Nonetheless, ready or not, we need their commitment to being solutionaries for a better world. We cannot endure another generation that perpetuates destructive systems and stays mired in narrow, limited thinking and the status quo. Or should I say that the planet, its myriad species, its ecosystems, cannot endure it. And Paul Hawken found the perfect balance between invitation to embark on a grand journey and a direct order to do so.
What I loved so much about Paul Hawken’s speech is that he charged the graduates he spoke to with the task of bringing their brilliance to the great task ahead of them, and great it is, in at least two meanings of the word: in size and scope and in its ultimate, unabashed goodness.
Will you spread the word? Will you be a humane educator who provides the inspiration, information, and call to integrity so that no one need take up this great task unprepared?
Image courtesy of Paul Hawken.
Two terrific resources for making use of images in exploring humane issues are Sociological Images and Gender Ads.com.
Sociological Images posts (primarily) images, videos and graphs, along with frequent commentary, “for use in sociology (and related) classes.” The site focuses on numerous topics related to culture, from the way men, women and people from different ethnic groups are portrayed, to body image issues to violence to consumerism to politics. Many of the images and videos are from ads, and examples from a variety of decades and countries are represented. Recent posts that have caught my eye include one about "in" and "out" groups and one about the hyper-consumerism surrounding babies, children and tweens.
Posts are organized by topic (look for the “select tag” drop down menu), so that browsers can see all the posts related to issues of interest — everything from objectification to race and ethnicity to health to animals/nature to children/youth. Some of the images are pretty explicit, so don’t browse this at work or when younger kids are around.
There are some really amazing and horrifying examples here — great conversation starters, eye openers and arrgghhh! inducers. A useful tool for sparking discussion on a variety of humane topics.
Another helpful resource, which deals strictly with advertising images related to gender is Gender Ads.com. The site (which is no longer updated) has organized ads by general concept (females in ads, males in ads, objectification, etc.) and also by dozens of specific themes (nagging, dehumanizing, violence, parts, power, etc.). The site uses ads from a variety of countries and time periods, and many of the images are only appropriate for an older audience. The site could be more user-friendly, and some of the ads are difficult to see (especially older ones that have been scanned), but there is still a lot here worth exploring, especially when you tie it in with other resources.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
New record for worldwide spending on weapons – The Guardian (UK) (6/8/09)
”Global military expenditure has risen by 45% over the past decade to $1.46tn, according to the latest annual Yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). Though the US accounts for more than half the total increase, China and Russia nearly tripled their military expenditure over the decade, with China now second only to the US in the military expenditure league table.”
Chimps remember where to find their favorite fruit trees – BBC (6/8/09)
”Remarkably, as well as remembering the location of their favourite trees, the chimps also recalled when each tree would be in season, producing the most fruit. They would then often walk further to reach these more bountiful trees rather than make a shorter journey to a less productive one.”
Some scientists see end to animal experimentation “within a generation” – Times Online (UK) (6/5/09)
“’In our granddaughter’s world, precise drug targeting, made possible by tests on microtissue cultures and virtual computer models of individuals, means that animal testing is no longer necessary,’ [Paul McAuley] said.”
Students teach others about human rights abuses - Pacifica Tribune (6/4/09)
”Following a great deal of research, each sophomore created a tool box - essentially an art piece/vessel which examined and explained through objects, writing and artwork placed inside and out, the student's studied abuse. As event attendees randomly stopped at various toolbox stations, the students discussed why they chose their specific human rights abuse, what they had learned about it and what was being done about it.”
Teen girls in Vietnam victims of sexual slavery - MercuryNews.com (6/4/09)
“It is a misfortune that falls on many young women in Southeast Asia with the twin vulnerabilities of being pretty and poor. Like their parents, they often are illiterate and profoundly uninformed about the dangers of international sex trafficking and how strangers drug or lure unsuspecting teens into a life of satisfying the cravings of foreign men.”
Organization teaches kids about kindness, charity - Naples News (6/3/09)
”Conley said the organization’s mission is to teach children about good citizenship and make charity a way of life. ‘We are building an investment in the community by getting the students invested in the community,’ she said.”
Index ranks New Zealand as most peaceful country – Bloomberg (6/2/09)
”The index, compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney, ranks 144 countries on 23 areas, from military spending and support for United Nations peacekeepers to economic indicators, murder rates and human rights protection. Iraq is ranked as the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia and Israel.”
Monday, June 8, 2009
She began by telling the story of a 3-day-old puppy, abandoned in a woodshed one winter in Maine. She captivated the audience with the sad tale, and then shared true or false questions, such as “True or False: I’m only going to let my cat have one litter, so that’s not contributing to the problem.” and “True or False: Puppy mills are places where puppies mill around like at a play date.” After educating her audience, she then showed a film she’d put together of photos of sad, abandoned dogs and cats that segued to the most inspiring (and tear-inducing) calls for youth to make different, peaceful, caring choices, followed by other photos of rescued and happy dogs and cats with their human companions.
At the end, Claire returned to her story about the puppy left in the woodshed. This puppy was found, brought to a shelter, and adopted four years ago by Claire and her family. At that point, this puppy, now a big dog named Sierra, ran across the stage to Claire’s waiting arms. The audience roared.
Following a great Q & A, during which one person asked whether Claire would bring her presentation to a church religious education program, Claire received other requests for appearances. For example, she’ll be speaking next month at the Bar Harbor, Maine, pet fair.
I’ve been a humane educator for a long time, and I’ve seen lots of other humane educators speak about pet overpopulation, but I’ve never seen an audience respond so positively and enthusiastically, and it was all in Claire’s delivery. She gave the facts, but didn’t judge. She inspired. She provided alternatives. She modeled her message. And when a 14-year-old speaks her truth and has the courage to teach others, it’s a powerful thing to watch.
I, of course, am reveling in my own proximity to glory. Being her mentor, and watching her shine as she did and help in such a concrete way, just inspires me more. We need more humane educators like Claire in the world, so I’ll keep doing my work training people to be humane educators and hope that more will find this work as meaningful and empowering as Claire has.