It is clear to me every day — we need more humanity — everywhere. In our nation’s schools, in politics, our homes, and in our media. As a teacher, I strive to show my students humanity and kindness through building community, service learning, by reading quality literature, and discussing world events.
I’ve followed the work of Zoe Weil, founder of The Institute of Humane Education, for a while, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with her about her work:
MCAF: Zoe, you say, “…humane education covers human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, and cultural issues such as globalization and systemic changemaking.” Please tell us about how you think humane education ties in with caring for the environment:
Zoe Weil: Humane education provides the knowledge, tools and motivation for people to embody the best qualities of human beings and be solutionaries for a just, healthy, and peaceful world for humans, other species, and the environment which sustains all of us.
What do you think about plans to address climate change? What are your thoughts about leadership and action on this issue?
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face as a global community, and solving it is going to take collaboration, cooperation, innovation, and a very different approach to short-term politics that is currently the norm. Nations will have to work together, and constituencies within nations will have to find common ground. I actually think that the solutions are less difficult to come up with than the means for implementing them. Humane education invites us all to be solutionaries rather than debaters and side-takers, which is why I advocate it as the fundamental root approach for all problem-solving including solving the problems associated with climate change.
As an advocate for kindness, caring, and compassion in education and in public life, what are your feelings about our national politics? How can we move forward on the many important challenges facing America (and the world) today?
I think we need to get corporate money out of politics. Real campaign finance reform is essential for democracy. One of the big problems with out political system is that it reinforces short-term thinking. Politicians work within the time frame of election cycles. Problems like human overpopulation, climate change, resource depletion, factory farming, high rates of species extinction, poverty, etc. are long-term challenges that require long-term thinking. I do not personally know how to solve these challenges, but I know that solutions are possible. Again, this is why humane education is so important. It provides people with the knowledge, will and skills to be those problem-solvers and to work together. Solutionaries can create better political systems just as they can tackle global warming effectively.
What role do you think activism should play in our daily lives, as parents, community members, and engaged citizens?
To me, activism simply means being active in working for positive change. For some the image of an activist is a sign-carrying protester. That’s just one form of activism. Any efforts to tackle systemic problems and come up with solutions constitute activism. I think that working for positive change should be part of everyone’s life, and that the key to success is finding the right ways to combine our passions and skills are the healthiest ways to be an activist.
What concerns you about chemicals in our food, products, and communities?
By chemicals I assume you mean toxic chemicals, and we should all be concerned about toxins in our food, water, products, soil, and air. This concern will hopefully motivate us to learn about manufacturing systems that produce toxins and those that do not. We can divest to the greatest degree possible in the former and support the latter while working – as activists – to change those systems that result in toxins in our communities. Again, humane education is the key to this.
What advice do you have for busy parents out there who want to protect their kids, make the world a better place, but don’t know what to do or where to start?
Ask yourself, and your kids, these four questions:
What issues am I most concerned about?
What am I good at?
What do I love to do?
What do I need to learn to effectively address my concerns?
Put the answers to these four questions together and you have your answer about where to start.
Thanks so much to Zoe for providing this interview and her great work in bringing more humanity to the world. We certainly need it.
Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) which offers the only M.Ed. and M.A. programs in comprehensive Humane Education linking human rights, environmental preservation and animal protection. IHE also offers online programs and workshops for teachers, parents, and change agents, as well as an award-winning free resource center. She has given several TEDx talks including her acclaimed TEDx talk “The World Becomes What You Teach,” and is the author of Nautilus silver medal winner Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life; Above All, Be Kind; The Power and Promise of Humane Education , and Moonbeam gold medal winner Claude and Medea about 7th graders who become clandestine activists in New York City. Zoe is the recipient of the Unity College Women in Environmental Leadership award and was a subject of the Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
Photo via Institute for Humane Education