Kid Eco-Agents to Our (and Their) Rescue

Grist recently Twittered about a new campaign in Norway by the organization MiljΓΈagentene, which works to educate kids about the environment and to encourage them to become advocates. They’ve created commercials (3 as of this posting) which designate kids as Eco-Agents who are “licensed to speak up, because they are responsible for their own future.”

The commercials are funny and silly, posing the kids as stern eco-authority figures who aren’t angry, “just very, very disappointed” when their parents don’t take appropriate environmental actions. But, they also have a good point; kids have to protect and speak out for their own futures.

Check out the videos (these have English subtitles) and share them:

If they won’t play properly above, go to here, here, and here to see them.

~ Marsha

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Their Future in Our Hands: Great Apes are in Danger

Recently the Beaverton-Valley Times featured the work of Dr. Sherri Speede, who works through In Defense of Animals – Africa and the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, Africa, to help protect great apes, to educate people about them, and to change people’s perceptions of them.

As Speede says, “All the great apes are in danger.” A recent study revealed that nearly half of all primate species are at risk of extinction. And, in addition to all the habitat loss, great apes also have to struggle against the bushmeat trade (which, according to Speede, is an even greater threat than habitat destruction), and with other atrocities, such as being kidnapped and sold as pets (or killed for trophies), or sold to labs for decades of experimentation. And that’s not the end of the list.

Fortunately, there are people and organizations working on behalf of apes and primates. The Jane Goodall Institute is probably the best known (see JGI’s list of links for a slew of other organizations). The Great Ape Project has been working for the basic legal rights of non-human great apes, and Spain may become the first country to extend basic legal rights to great apes.

There are also a number of ape conservation and education organizations in the Pacific Northwest, such as the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, Chimps, Inc. and Oregon Primate Rescue; the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute of Central Washington University offers intern and apprenticeship programs, as well as “chimposiums” to help educate the public. Of course, unfortunately, Oregon is also home to the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Anyone bothering to look can easily see that primates are our cousins, if not our brothers and sisters. Helping to protect them, and educating others about the positive choices they can make, is definitely a MOGO choice.

~ Marsha

Let Them Eat Sandwiches (Instead of Animal Products)

For those not yet ready to go cold Tofurky with veganism, there’s a great little campaign out there in cyberland called The PB&J Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to take a pledge to eat a certain number of non-animal meals each week. As they say:

“Each time you have a PB&J you shrink your carbon footprint, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, you cut back on habitat destruction, and you conserve water.”

Although they mention health and animal welfare in itheir resources section, the PB&J campaign focus on encouraging plant-based meals primarily for environmental reasons. In fact PB&J carefully and clearly separate their intention from that of vegans (while complimenting them), citing that, as they say in a recent blog post, “the environmental movement is afraid of being associated with the radical-fringe reputation of the animal rights movement.”

In addition to explanations of how eating PB&Js (and other plant-based foods) reduces our agricultural impact, the website offers stats about conserving water and land while reducing global warming contributions. They also have little videos of their “spokes-sandwiches,” PB&J Boy and PB&J Girl. (Honestly, I find them a little creepy.)

Most of us have fond memories of PB&J sandwiches as kids (I still have them for lunch most days), so this campaign has a great hook that may help tempt even your most carnivorous friends and family into choosing the occasional meatless meal. Forward this site to your eco-friends and colleagues who have thusfar covered their ears at any mention of the V word, or sign the pledge yourself if you’re still on the omni side of the continuum.

~ Marsha

Lessons Down on the Farm (Sanctuary)

I've admired cows from afar; now I get to show some love up close!

Some of you may have been wondering where the heck all the posts have gone. I’ve been traveling in the Northeast since July 3 (combination of work and visiting family), and have had brief and infrequent Internet access, so my ability to post has been nearly non-existent. But, my time has been well spent. Among other adventures, John (my husband) and I made a pilgrimage to the vegan vatican, Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York (near one of the lovely finger lakes).

We’ve been long-time supporters, but have never had the opportunity to actually visit either of the sanctuaries (the other is in Orland, California). So, when our plans took us out east, we knew we had to visit.

This guy loved me because I knew where to find his scritchy "sweet spot."

As you can imagine, it’s an amazing place. Cows, pigs, sheep and goats, chickens, ducks and geese, rabbits and turkeys all have their own luscious spaces to roam, to feed, to snooze, to hang with their friends. Farm Sanctuary makes it clear to visitors that we’re guests in the animals’ homes.

The whole time I was there among the animals, I felt like a giddy kid. I petted cows and scritched goats (their favorite spot is right between their horns, where they can never reach). I gently stroked a turkey’s feathers and got to hug pigs and give them belly rubs. I coaxed kids into feeling the softness of the pigs’ bellies and giving the goats a little scratch. It was heaven!

Not every woman realizes her dream of getting to hug a pig!

While we were there, we went on two of the tours (as I didn’t get in enough cow petting during the first one). And, I’m really glad that we did. During the first tour, our guide (a young intern in her late teens/early twenties) was rather perfunctory in leading us through the different barns to meet the various animals. We spent only a few minutes in each of the barns, and the information she shared was general and given distractedly. Most of the visitors weren’t paying attention; some were talking loudly over what she was saying. It seemed that she was either really unsure of herself, or completely bored with the repetition of doing the tour a gazillion times — just another thing to do as quickly and painlessly as possible. Since I’d never been to a Farm Sanctuary before, I didn’t really have many expectations (other than the hopes of getting to hug animals). But, I was pretty disappointed. The ennui of the tour guide had diminished my enthusiasm for the experience.

A "heritage" breed rescued from an organic farm enjoys his mud bath, and posting for his fans.

Fortunately, we decided to go on a second tour, which happened to have a different tour guide. We were only going to stay long enough to see the cows again (the first stop). We ended up staying for the entire tour. It was a completely different — and amazing — experience. This guide connected with us from the beginning. He was friendly and personable, and took the time to share important information with us. One of the biggest differences in his approach was that, at each barn, he introduced us to several of the animals there and told their stories, thus interweaving the personal life histories of these beings in front of us with the horrors that are unleashed on farmed animals in the U.S. Then, just as importantly, he gave us time to just be with the animals. Both approaches made the tour more meaningful and powerful.

The experience reminded me how important our daily interactions with others are, especially when we’re serving in our roles as advocates. Are we answering people’s questions (you know, those ones we’ve been asked a million times before) distractedly, with a little eye-rolling, or with sincerity and a genuine desire to connect with them? Are we repeating facts about the cruelties and injustices of the world (or going into details graphic enough to make horror director plug his ears), or are we making an effort to share compelling stories and to help people see the issues from a more personal perspective? Are we rushing through, to hurry up and get to the end of the interaction? Or, are we taking time to just be with the people around us and give them time and space to think and explore and inquire?

Every interaction we have with someone can mean a positive experience that brings them closer to making more humane choices, or a negative experience that drives them farther away. We each have the power to help decide which it will be.

~ Marsha