2015 Challenge

Hello, my name is Camilla and I have recently started setting myself a personal challenge each year.

Last year my challenge was to do (at least) 100 altruistic/pro-active actions (https://camilla4peace.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/my-idea/ for the main page, or the ‘2014’ category for individual posts) and this year’s seemed to evolve naturally from that.

This year my challenge is to educate myself about a different topic each week, and either raise awareness about the topic to others or else contribute positively towards it.

I am not an experienced blogger; using my blog mainly as a diary to keep track of actions towards my challenges (rather that as a platform for literary masterpieces). However, I do value feedback and ideas, and if there is a cause, issue or topic you’d like me to raise awareness about, please do tell me! <3

Aroha nui – Camilla x

Topics so far

Week 1 – World Peace

Week 2 – Ingrained racism and microaggression

Week 3 – Overfishing

Week 4 – Holocaust and other genocides (Holocaust Memorial Day)

Week 5 – Cycling (Bike Month)

Week 6 – Epilepsy

Week 7 – Climate change refugees

Week 8 – Bullying (Anti-Bullying Day)

Week 9 – Endangered animals (World Wildlife Day)

Week 10 – Moneyless economies

Week 11 – ‘Lest we forget’

Week 12 – Research for Environmental Education

Week 13 – Autism and employment (Autism Awareness Day)

Week 14 – Criticisms of democracy

Week 15 – Solar roadways

Week 15 – Solar (freakin’) roadways

A couple of days ago I saw a video clip on the internet about solar roadways and decided this was definitely something worth learning about!

SOLAR FREAKIN’ ROADWAYS video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

What I discovered

Watching the Solar Freakin’ Roadways video really impressed me. I had heard of solar roads before (or at least the idea) but not in the way that Solar Roadways imagines it. Their vision is to have roadways covered with photovoltaic cells that harvest solar energy, melt snow (increasing driving safety), and contain LED lights that can be used for a number of different purposes. Further reading leads me to understand that there are still some issues associated with the Solar Roadways technology, but I am confident these technical issues can be overcome in time. And if these (or a similar product) really did take off… wow!

Action

I shared the video on my Facebook page to help spread the word about this really cool idea, and made a donation to the Solar Roadways organisation so they can continue their research and work.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

Solar Roadways website: www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml

To donate to Solar Roadways: www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways

Week 14 – Criticism of democracy

I have been interested in (some) politics for a long time, including different political theories and models of government. In the past I have casually researched different forms of government, and while I see democracy as one of the more favourable options (compared to, say, dictatorships or ogliarchies), I have always felt it was not a flawless model of government. For this week’s action I decided to read about some of the criticisms of democracy – not necessarily because I would prefer an alternative form of government, but rather so I can better understand its weaknesses and -possibly- work to reduce them (in my minor capacity as an individual).

What I discovered

I read about many, many different criticisms of and concerns with democracy. I actually found the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_democracy) to be a very well structured introduction to the criticisms of democracy.

Some of the criticisms I found most thought-provoking were:

1) That many people do not have the education and/or knowledge to make informed decisions about different political issues, and so may not vote with rationality. I agree with this, because even though I am interested in politics, different issues and current affairs, there are certain things that I just feel I am not informed enough about to make a decision.

2) That it can lead to marginalisation. Because democracy works in the favour of the majority, there are whole groups which can become marginalised: the will of the majority is not necessarily what will work best for all citizens.

3) That democracy leads to short-termism and possibly political instability. Because the government must be elected frequently to remain democratic, politicians and parties plan mainly for the short term, as a) they are unlikely to still be in charge in the long-term, and b) they need quick success to ensure re-election. This may not necessarily be most beneficial to the population in the long-term.

Action

I do feel very fortunate to live in a democratic society, and today I feel I exercised my democratic rights in a positive way: I made a submission to the Long Term Plan of the Regional Council, which looks at how our taxes will be used over the next 10 years. I am glad I partook in this because I think active engagement is very important for democracy: to me it should be more than just voting on election day and then sitting back for the next 4-5 years. I am also happy because the Regional Council is the authority concerned with environmental issues and resource management in the region, and I feel my opinions were informed and potentially useful.

Week 13 – Autism and employment (Autism Awareness Day)

The 2nd of April is Autism Awareness Day. I chose to specifically learn more about autism and employment for a couple of reasons: firstly, autistic spectrum disorders are not a completely new subject to me (I have quite a few ASD friends, and was in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome for a couple of years); and secondly, because I would like to learn how to make the workplace more supportive for someone on the autistic spectrum.

What I discovered

I learned that 80% of adults with autism are unemployed. That is huge, especially as many people on the autistic spectrum have a lot of abilities. I read about the different discrimination some people with autism face, as well as a lack of support in helping them realise their potential.

Action

I went to Autism NZ and spoke to the Outreach Coordinator (who happens to be my sister-in-law). She gave me information for employers to help support autistic employees (in case I am in a position in the future where I might employ or work alongside someone on the autistic spectrum).

I asked her whether there are any befriending programmes for neurotypical people to spend time with people with autism. She said not yet but she would look into whether this could be set up.

I also gave her information about the Achievement Trust who employs people with intellectual disabilities, as she said that might be interesting for some of her clients.

Week 12 – Research for environmental education

Environmental education is my passion and at university I was engaged and involved with research in the field. I have still kept reasonably up to date with research, so that I am familiar with new methods and models for effective teaching, though it is a while since I have contributed to academic discussions.

This week, the opportunity to peer-review an article for potential publication was offered to me, and so I decided to count it as this weeks education and action.

What I discovered

The article I read was about how emotional engagement and values development are related, and looked at how pupil-led learning resulted in children becoming interested in and the advocates for different issues relating to sustainability. The research involved pupils developing their own sustainability-related research projects and then presenting it to their class mates, and the study found that as children became emotionally engaged with issues, their values developed, and their sense of responsibility and advocacy increased.

To me, this article was interesting because I have believed for a long time that values development is an essential part of becoming more environmentally-considerate citizens (rather than just changing behaviours or increasing knowledge of different issues). Learning the importance of emotional engagement in values development will be useful in my future environmental education work.

Action

I peer-reviewed an article prepared for publication. I gave positive and constructive feedback to the author which will hopefully help the article be published and many more people learning about the research and findings of the study.

Week 11 – ‘Lest we forget’

I have often heard the phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ around Remembrance Day and know it is about not forgetting soldiers who died in armed conflict (originally in the First World War, but now it is generally seen as a day to remember all soldiers), but I am not familiar with its deeper meaning.

I know it is about honouring soldiers for their bravery, which I think is important. However, I also feel some conflict about that because by making soldiers heroes, are we not putting being a soldier in a positive light, which in turn makes people want to become soldiers, which in turn enables wars to carry on occurring? Because if there were no soldiers, there could be no more wars.

So this week my task has been to understand the meaning of ‘Lest We Forget’, and attempt to resolve my internal conflict between appreciating the great sacrifice soldiers give to countries or causes, and wishing people would stop becoming soldiers, so that wars could cease to happen as there would be no-one to fight them.

What I discovered

The phrase ‘lest we forget’ from the refrain of the poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling was about remembering the sacrifice of Jesus. When used at Remembrance Day services, it is so the sacrifices of fallen soldiers are not forgotten.

I learnt that there are 21 countries without armed forces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_without_armed_forces).

I learnt about the different reasons people joined the military. The reasons are varying, with many being undoubtedly honourable (to be able to look after their family, to protect their country, to protect others, to protect values they hold dearly, and many others). So now there is no doubt in my mind that many soldiers are ‘heroic’, as they are willing to put themselves in danger or even die for a cause they believe in.

And it is perhaps the people in charge of decision-making that are more at fault, as they have failed to find peaceful resolutions to issues and/or are not treating people with respect and compassion, leading to the situations of conflict rising in the first place.

Action

I joined a group of volunteers making 5000 ‘Peace Poppies’. The poppies will line the route for the ANZAC Day parade on the 25th of April.

Week 10 – Moneyless economies

This week I decided to learn more about moneyless economies. The concept has interested me since my early teenage years but until now I had little more than a vague, idealistic idea about what this would look like.

What I discovered

I have read about different models of moneyless economies.

The idea of a resource-based economy is interesting, particularly from a sustainability perspective, as it is about basing society on the resources that are available and having what can be sustained, rather than everything we want (www.thevenusproject.com). However, it does seem to be an all-or-nothing approach requiring global involvement, because otherwise it seems the global unequal distribution of resources would still result in gross inequalities and conflict.

I also read about gift economies, and the idea of there not being any formal exchange between transactions. Instead, resources are given and received freely within the community. To work, it seems essential that people contribute (i.e. they do not just expect endless hand outs), but while it sounds idealistic, it has been shown to work time and time again – on small and larger scales. http://www.servicespace.org/join/?pg=gift – Defining gift economies.

Action

I am involved with my local TimeBank, which is a system of trade based on mutual volunteering – http://waikato.timebanks.org/. The idea is that everyone has useful skills and can contribute in the community, and each hour you volunteer for someone you earn 1 time credit, which can then be exchanged for someone volunteering one hour for you.

My action was to induct a new member in to our TimeBanking community, and get her involved in spreading awareness of the community to others (by handing out leaflets in her suburb).

Week 9 – Endangered animals (World Wildlife Day)

I am a bit behind with writing up my actions, but on the 3rd of March it was World Wildlife Day.

What I discovered

For World Wildlife Day I read about different endangered species. I learnt about several species native to New Zealand that are on the brink of extinction, as well as others around the world that are in the same position. Some were well-known or charismatic animals, and others I had never heard of and would not traditionally appeal to people (often these are the hardest to protect, even when they are vital to ecosystems).

I also familiarised myself more with the different conservation status’ of species, and how the vulnerability of species is evaluated (e.g. critically endangered, vulnerable, etc).

Action

To contribute towards World Wildlife Day and engage my friends and acquaintances I posted the following on my Facebook page:

Hi friends! A couple of days ago was World Wildlife Day and our family is raising money for WWF. For every ‘like’ this post gets we’ll donate $1, and here is the link to their website where you can check out the cool work they are doing: http://www.worldwildlife.org/
Thanks!

29 people ‘liked’ the post, and I hope at least some of them also took a few minutes to read up about some of the issues wildlife around the world faces.