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 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.

Week 8 – Bullying (Anti-Bullying Day)

I picked the topic of bullying because this Wednesday (25th of February) was Anti-Bullying Day.

What I discovered

The problem of bullying is often associated with young school-aged children (and I learnt that actually most people that bully or are bullied experience it around that time) but it can affect people of all ages. I decided to learn more about the effects on the adult that was a bully or was bullied as a child.

For many adults who were bullied, the associated feelings of unhappiness decrease with time, though people who remember the experience of being bullied as extremely painful, it can affect all parts of their adult life and lead to low self-esteem and mental illness. Often by the age of 23, bullying behaviour or experiencing bullying lessens, and victims of bullying are not as socially isolated.

Regarding experiences of bullying and being bullied during childhood, I learnt that research has found that when people are bullies or bullied, that role tends to stay with them even if they change schools. There are also bully-victims, who both bully and experience bullying. People in this category are more likely to suffer from depression that either bullies or victims.

Action

I have always aimed to teach my daughter acceptance of and compassion towards all people, regardless of their backgrounds, circumstances or characteristics. However since reading about bullying I have been more conscious about what I am teaching her (especially unintentionally, through how I talk and act). My action for this week is to continue being more conscious of the intentional and unintentional lessons I am teaching her, so that she grows up to be a loving and compassionate person.

I also made a donation to the ‘Pink Shirt Day’ anti-bullying appeal, which is part of the Mental Health Foundation. http://www.pinkshirtday.org.nz

Week 7 – Climate change refugees

‘Climate change refugees’ refers to people who must migrate to avoid severe livelihood disruption caused long-term changes to their environment due to climate change. Unless drastic changes happen with regard to mitigating and adapting to climate change, it is almost certain the number of climate change refugees will continue to grow. I chose this topic because although I am familiar with the phrase and concept, I had only a theoretical and ‘objective’ understanding of what it means to be a climate change refugee, and I wanted a more ‘human’ understanding.

What I discovered

I read a lot about different communities threatened by climate change and in particular followed the stories of the 3000 Carteret Islanders who must all leave their home islands as soon as possible, but have not received any government support to do this (they are mainly relocating to a larger island 86 km away, but there is no land or infrastructure ready for them).

I found out about a lady, Ursula, who created a charitable organisation to help the Carteret Islanders relocate and establish themselves in their new homes. She is an incredibly inspirational person who is working so hard for her community, and her story is so touching – http://www.tulele-peisa.org/#&panel1-1 (short video clip about her and the charity she set up).

Action

For several months now I have been volunteering with Oxfam New Zealand, creating environmental education materials for schools. For my action this week I created a series of lesson plans and activities about ‘Climate Change and the Pacific’, using Ursula’s story as a key example. The materials are aimed at engaging pupils with climate change, and promoting action and responsible citizenship. I will post a link here when they go online (in a week or so).

Week 6 – Epilepsy

I picked epilepsy for this week as last weekend my employer and friend (Julia) passed away. She experienced SUDEP – Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. She was incredibly hard working and generous. She cared about the environment and people, and had ideas and plans that would change the world. She was only 32 and I feel a great loss: personally, and for the world.

What I discovered

Over the last week I have researched the condition and feel I have come to understand it better. I read about the symptoms, possible causes and other ‘medical information’, but also personal accounts and experiences.

I learned about the isolation that many sufferers experience, for example by being overwhelmed in certain group settings (due to multiple conversations being difficult to follow), or losing their jobs because employers have not taken the time to listen to their work environment needs (e.g. flexible hours, to allow for recovery from seizures). I also learned that up to 55% of people with epilepsy suffer from depression.

Coming to better understand what Julia and other people with epilepsy experience has made me more aware of their differing needs. I better understand the importance of listening to their experience of the condition and what they require to manage it effectively. I feel I’d be able to offer better support to someone with epilepsy, should I work or befriend someone with the condition in the future.

Action

I gave a donation to the Epilepsy Society www.epilepsy.org.nz.