Choose MOGO is Going on Hiatus – Thanks for Your Support!

Hello, Everyone,

After much long, hard thought and soul searching, I’ve decided to put Choose MOGO on hiatus for the time being. Between my current responsibilities and the new humane education/MOGO projects I have recently started, I just don’t have the time right now to give Choose MOGO the time and attention it needs to be a really good resource for others.

I’m sincerely appreciative and grateful for all of you who read and share the blog posts and other resources and for your kind and supportive comments.

Choose MOGO may be back; I’ll have to see how I can best manifest helping create a humane world for all people, animals and the planet. Check back here from time to time – you may find something new 🙂

For now, you can keep up with the blog posts I write about humane education and MOGO living for Humane Connection, the blog for the Institute for Humane Education (the terrific organization I work for).

And, if you’re feeling passionate about helping create a humane world and would like to connect with others working toward the same, feel free to contact me.




Upcoming Oregon Legislation to Help Animals

cageddogAfter almost 4 years of being dogless (we lost our two within 5 months of each other), we’re now starting to think about adopting again, and even though we’re months away from doing so, of course I’ve been scanning the adoptable dogs and puppies from sites like the Pixie Project and the Oregon Humane Society almost daily.

Recently on OHS’s site I discovered a blurb about some upcoming legislation in Oregon, designed to better protect animals.

According to OHS, there are 4 upcoming relevant bills:

SB 304, backed by Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton and introduced at the request of the OHS, would for the first time establish a clear process for placing animals abandoned because of foreclosure in loving, caring homes. Mortgagors, for example, would be required to provide minimum care for an abandoned animal and to contact the appropriate agency or animal shelter to take custody of the animal.

SB 299 would authorize courts to remove any domestic animal from the household of someone who is prohibited from owning animals because of past abuse or neglect. While current law already prohibits offenders from owning domestic animals for five years, a loophole permits the offender to live in the same house with a spouse or friend who owns an animal–perhaps even the animal who was victimized by the offender. This exposes the animal to daily contact with the offender and the possibility of future abuse.

SB 297 would allow courts to impose a fine of up to $6,500 and one year in jail for unlawful possession of a domestic animal, a substantial increase over the current $1,000 maximum fine and no threat of jail time. This bill puts teeth in the current law that bars abusers from possessing animals for five years. SB 297 also prohibits people who sexually abuse animals from owning animals for five years, closing a loophole in the law.

SB 298 strengthens prohibitions against placing victimized animals back in the household of a convicted offender. The bill specifically bars courts and animal agencies caring for forfeited animals from returning those animals to the household of the offender. In addition, new owners of these animals must sign a contract stating that the pets won’t be in contact with their abusers.”

If the passage of these bills resonates with you, then please be sure to contact your state legislators (find them here) and urge them to vote yes.

~ Marsha

Get Clear on the Inside with Help From the Outside: Try a Clearness Committee

magnifyingglassYou have a really challenging problem, or potentially life-changing decision to make, and you don’t know what to do. You can always talk to friends or family, but they may try to give you advice you don’t want or share an opinion that doesn’t feel helpful. You know the answer is inside you somewhere, but you haven’t figured out how to tap into it and/or you can feel yourself getting in your own way. You may want to try a Clearness Committee.

The Clearness Committee is a strategy used by the Quakers to allow people with a dilemma to draw on their wisdom, as well as on the support and resources of the community. Parker J. Palmer has written an essay outlining how a Clearness Committee works; he says:

“Behind the Clearness Committee is a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference. The function of the Clearness Committee is not to give advice or “fix” people from the outside in but rather to help people remove the interference so that they can discover their own wisdom from the inside out.”

I recently had the honor of being part of a Clearness Committee for a friend. He’s going through some challenging transitions in his life and needed some clarity, wisdom and vision to help him find his path. My friend sent out a statement a few days ahead of the gathering, so that those of us on the committee (4 of us plus my friend) could get a clear sense of what he was seeking.

The night of the gathering, we sat in a circle in his home, he restated his intention, and then, we began to ask him open-ended questions, meant to help him remove the blocks and “junk” in his way. There was no giving advice, no suggesting great self-help books, no psychoanalyzing. Just slow, insightful questions, giving him plenty of time to think and respond, and the option to choose not to answer. One of us took notes to help him capture themes in his responses and topics or ideas he wanted to explore/think about later. I went with a whole list of possible questions to ask him (based on the statement he had emailed previously about what he wanted to get out of the session), but I didn’t end up asking any of them. The questions came from the flow of the moment.

The gathering was an amazing experience, and I wish that I had know about it as a method for dealing with dilemmas, problems and challenges. I’m sure that I’ll use it at some point in my life.

All of us have problems and dilemmas, and so many of us are afraid or hesitant to ask for help — or when we’ve asked for help in the past, we haven’t gotten what we needed. This strategy allows for exploration and focus in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It’s a great tool, and I encourage you to read Palmer’s essay and give it a try, if it resonates with you.

~ Marsha

Holiday Hiatus

The next couple of weeks are going to be especially crazy and stressful for me, so I’ve decided to do the MOGO thing for myself (which includes striving for balance) and take a holiday hiatus from blogging.  Please check back starting January 2, 2009 for new posts.

In the meantime, please feel free to check out Humane Connection, the blog for the Institute for Humane Education (my employer). In addition to my occasional posts, IHE’s President, Zoe Weil, is doing a series of posts connected to the 7 Keys to MOGO and the holidays, in anticipation of the release of her new book: Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and a Meaningful Life.

For you Portlanders, Zoe is coming to Portland February 4 for an appearance at Powell’s. She’s also leading a MOGO Workshop on February 7.

Have a peaceful, compassionate and joyous holiday!

~ Marsha

Life Can Be Fair If We Make It That Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Marsha

Enough of This Either/Or Nonsense: Let’s Have Some Win/Win Thinking!

blackwhite1Why, oh why, do we continue to insist on handling difficult issues and challenges in black and white, either/or terms? Why do we approach problems as jobs vs. environment? People vs. animals? Species vs. individuals? Rich vs. poor? You vs. me? Us vs. them?

I’ve seen a lot of either/or thinking lately. The recent issue of E Magazine has a commentary raising the issue of the “greenie wars,” pitting environmentalists against animal protection advocates. (Though there is a blurb at the very end suggesting both/and solutions may be possible….sometimes..maybe.)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted against whales and for the Navy, refusing to consider restrictions that would have “required the Navy to reduce or halt underwater sonar pulses when marine mammals might be nearby.” Another either/or approach.

And, a big brouhaha has come from the passage of Prop 2 AND Prop 8 in California. Prop 2 will now require the phase-out of gestation crates (for pregnant sows), veal crates (for male calves) and battery cages (for egg-laying hens), meaning animals raised in factory farms in California will endure just a little bit less suffering. The passage of Prop 8, however, has overturned the California law which allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Some gay and lesbian activists, and their supporters, have been incredibly outraged that voters chose “animal rights” over “human rights.” Bloggers and news outlets have been running headlines like “Chickens 1, Gays 0” and “Californians Like Chickens More Than Gay People.” Of course, it’s incredibly upsetting that Prop 8 passed, and while issues of human and animal oppression are deeply connected, the fact that rights for gay and lesbian folks were thwarted this time doesn’t mean that protections for animals should be also.

Author and President of the Institute for Humane Education (and my boss), Zoe Weil, recently wrote a post about this either/or perspective.She says:

“But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.”

“…we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.”

Author Mark Hawthorne shares similar sentiments in his essay for the American Chronicle. Hawthorne notes:

“Abusing animals is always wrong, just as discriminating against humans is always wrong. Why should one oppressed group express their anger by targeting another oppressed group? (I don´t believe there are any beings on this planet more oppressed than farmed animals, who are bred, raised, confined, mutilated and slaughtered at a rate of 55 billion per year worldwide.)”

He continues:

“Moreover, the very fact that people are picking on Prop 2 rather than one of the many other measures on the California ballot underscores the low regard many people have for the animals they eat. After all, no one is complaining that voters care more about veterans than gays because Prop 12, the Veterans Bond Act, passed, or that people care more about children than gays because Prop 3, the Children´s Hospital Bond Act, passed….While gay people have a voice, animals inside factory farms do not: they rely on compassionate individuals to speak out for them. I can only hope that the same people who are disparaging the passage of Prop 2 will see that demeaning animals does not further gay rights … that human liberation and animal liberation are inextricably linked.”

It’s important that we use our creativity, critical thinking skills and ability to connect, cooperate and compromise to find solutions that work for everyone. It usually takes a bit longer, but it helps bring us closer to that compassionate, sustainable, peaceful world that we’re seeking.

~ Marsha

Get Smart About Biking in Portland

Portland has become one of the biking meccas of the U.S., and as the economy continues to plunge its way to the bottom, and as more people choose to take positive action regarding their impact on the planet, even more people are getting into biking. But, if you’re a biking newbie (like I am), then placing yourself on a little bike frame amidst tons of fast-moving metal can seem like an invitation for death or dismemberment. Veteran bikers know that biking can be extremely safe, fun, healthy and planet-friendly, which is why the two cyclists who founded BikeSmart Portland here in the Rose City have started offering classes. According to founders Jim Anderson and Russell Cree, their goal is for riders to “have the confidence, skills and knowledge to head out on the road. Our mission is to help people learn to ride bicycles safely and develop skills to ride with confidence and strength using logical classroom presentation and practical skill instruction.”

Their first class, Road Cycling 101, is an intro class that covers all the basics, from equipment, etiquette and performance, to safe biking, riding in groups, and avoiding common mistakes. Road Cycling 201 and Mountain Biking 101classes are in the works.

According to BikeSmart’s website, classes take place at Therapeutic Associates, Inc., 4829 Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 101 (between NE Alberta and NE Wygant on NE MLK Boulevard). Pre-registration is required and the 90 minute classes cost $15.00.

Find out more.

~ Marsha

Thanks, Treehugger, for the tip.

Image courtesy of BikeSmart.