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Posts Tagged ‘community’

Do good lives have to cost the earth?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

windOn the face of it, it would seem we must make impossible sacrifices if we want to do our bit for the environment and lead more sustainable, less damaging lives. This book shows that isn’t the case at all. It brings together household names who share a conviction that, on the contrary, living well needn’t cost the earth - and will tell you why and how.

Their collective vision, covering areas from architecture and politics to food and happiness, will completely reframe the way you think about climate change and what you’re willing to do about it. Far from the usual doom and gloom, many here argue that climate change presents a once-in-a-century opportunity to address a whole basket of problems with energy and imagination.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Free Hugs Campaign

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

‘Free hugs’ is a real life controversial story of Juan Mann,  a man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives.  In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal.

Freehugs troops are now mobilising all over the globe. From Sydney to Helsinki. From LA to Tokyo, from London and Paris. To find out when a free hug event is organised in your area, check out the campaign website here.


Wednesday, January 14th, 2009


What do they do? is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions. members act for a more just and peaceful world and a globalisation with a human face.

How can I get involved?

Sign up! – Avaaz’s online community has grown to over 3.2 million members in just over one year. It represents people from all nations, backgrounds, and ages. The core of their model of organizing is their email list, operated in 13 languages. By signing up to receive their alerts, you are rapidly alerted to urgent global issues and opportunities to achieve change. Avaaz members respond by rapidly combining the small amounts of time or money they can give into a powerful collective force. In just hours they can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change , hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma.

Feast or Famine?

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Food for thought… burger Food is an integral part of human existence — we need it to survive. It is part burgerof a global system linked to issues like trade, genetic modification famine, slavery, health, food miles and sustainability. Sounds complicated huh? It gets even more complicated when you consider the huge number of media messages and images we are bombarded with every day, telling us what to eat, how to look and what is beautiful. Basically, food corporations want us to eat cheaply produced food lacking in nutrition and stuffed with chemicals, harvested by poorly-paid labour and flown half way across the world, while advertisers and the media place unrealistic expectations on us to be thin and beautiful. An exaggeration? You decide.

Stuffed or starved? child with foodThere are 800 million people in the world who go hungry every day and there are over a BILLION people who are obese. There is enough food in the world for everyone, but the systems in place mean that some people don’t get enough food and others have access to lots of unnutritious food. Fast food outlets and supermarkets have made food convenient and easy… you don’t have to think, just eat! Un-conscious eating is making us unhealthy and a lot of us obese. But as we keep over-consuming in the developed world, many people in the developing work — including those who pick our cocoa beans, coffee beans, bananas and tomatoes — are struggling because they don’t have access to affordable food. More info: Killing us softly mannequinsFiji, a country that traditionally valued the fuller figure’, was affected by an outbreak of eating disorders three year after television arrived in 1995. A study by Harvard Medical School found that 74% if teenage girls surveyed felt they were “too big or fat” and 15% of the girls reported they had vomited to control weight. The introduction of western values and (unrealistic) images of beauty was seen as the likely cause of the increase in eating disorders. More info: Borrow the movie Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising Images of Women (DVD) from the Global Education Centre library Freeganomics dumpsterIn the US it is estimated that half of the food produced each year is thrown away. You probably know about vegans but have you heard about Freegans? Freegans are a group of people who live solely off the waste of others and distance themselves from big corporations and consumerism. They go through dumpsters outside supermarkets and other shops (known as dumpster diving’) and pick out the unspoiled food that has been thrown away. They also grow their own food or contribute to community gardens. They are not poor or homeless, they do this in an attempt to minimise their impact on the planet. More info: When cows lay eggs?! cowNot sure where your food comes from? You’re not the only one. A recent survey of 1,000 British kids aged eight to fifteen revealed some strange ideas. In answer to the question: If cows ate grass, what colour would their milk be?’, eight percent answered brown, green or not sure. Ten percent of the city kids in the survey (the country kids did a little better) didn’t know where yoghurt came from and eight percent were unable to say which animal beef comes from. Of the same group, two percent thought that bacon might be from cows or sheep, and that eggs come from cows. More info: Are biofuels worth it? cropAlthough recently highlighted as a key solution to another pressing global issue — climate change — the production of biofuels may actually be causing more harm than good, particularly when it comes to food. Biofuels need a large amount of water and fertile land — land often found in developing countries which could otherwise be used to grow food crops. The UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser recently described the global rush to grow biofuels as “profoundly stupid”, pointing out that a global food crisis is going to hit before some of the more serious impacts of climate change. More info here. LEARN MORE: Find out about food production and distribution at Food First or Global Issues TAKE ACTION! It can seem too big and complicated to do anything about, but taking action is the ONLY way things change, so here are a few suggestions to get you started. Get reconnected with your food by growing your own veggies. Check out the action section on for some great tips on organic gardening. Watch these DVDs, all available to hire FOR FREE at the Global Education Centre: Media that Matters — Good Food A Selection of Short Films on Food and Sustainability What’s Really In Our Food? InsideNew Zealand SuperSizeMe The Future of Food This article originally appeared in Tearaway magazine as part of the Global Focus project.

Cluster munition survivor turned campaigner

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

An interview with Soraj Ghulam Habib
By Mava Moayyed

It’s difficult to envision the turmoil that Soraj Ghulam Habib experienced six years ago. To lose both legs is terrifying in itself, but the lasting implications of such an injury are far greater than the initial blow. Imagine absolute dependence on a hunk of metal with wheels. Imagine realising that this did not have to happen to you. At the tender age of ten years, Soraj experienced more grief than an average New Zealander would experience over their lifetime, but he has emerged strong and positive, “I never thought I face this kind of problem, but it happened and only God knows why. I am angry, but it is done and I’m always happy that I am alive,” he says.
Soraj Ghulam Habib
Now a sixteen-year-old teenager, Soraj radiates joy and passion. His presence at this conference is twofold—he serves as a reminder of the devastating effects of cluster munitions but even more importantly he is an ardent lobbyist and campaigner against the weapon. Dubbed a “wheelchair warrior” by the Wellington newspaper, Soraj says, “I feel I have a big role to play here because of the countries that are asking for transition periods and interoperability—I will lobby against them.”

Soraj’s desire to have cluster munitions banned with no leeway or margin for compromise comes from his firsthand experience of the social and economic effects of the weapon on his family and community. “I have bad feelings towards cluster munitions. In those areas where cluster munitions have been used, the community is affected greatly. There are people that have lost their lives forever. People who were injured have become disabled, but they have also lost all the dreams they had before,” he explains.

As a child, Soraj anticipated he would grow up to serve his community and work towards peace in Afghanistan. After surviving a cluster submunition explosion, Soraj felt that he had lost the ability to fulfil his dreams, “When I was lying in the bed in the hospital I thought I won’t be alive in the future because I lost a lot of blood from my legs and finger. I was so close to dying.” With his family faced with the challenge of a son in a wheel chair, Soraj felt guilty and angry that he could not do anything for them.

Soraj is, however, fulfilling his dreams. He is a key figure in the campaign against cluster munitions and has no intention of slowing down, “I have a lot of big plans for the next ten years. In Wellington, I am trying to lobby with the bad guys to convince them to ban cluster bombs When I go back to Afghanistan, I will campaign to convince my government and my country to dispose of these and other weapons.”

Soraj directs his last piece of advice to the leaders and government attending the conference, “I call on all to see my reality and ban the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions. It really harms the civilians and the communities that just want a peaceful life.
Do not destroy your child’s future. Do not destroy your communities’ future. Take a moment and really find the opportunity to stop the devastation.”

This article (and the photo) originally appeared in Cluster Ban News, Vol 1 Issue 3, 20 February 2008


Oxfam campaigns against Cluster Bombs
Aotearoa New Zealand Stop Cluster Munition Coalition site
Wikipedia entry on Cluster bombs
Human Right Watch collection of documents on Cluster bombs

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.


You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from

What we can do for peace

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Compiled by Youth at the Disarmament and Security Centre, Otautahi, Christchurch, NZ

lotus flowerDespite all the negative issues there are also increasingly positive steps that people the world over that are beginning to take to make changes for Peace, to live in harmony with the Earth and amongst all peoples.

  • Believe in your power to create change.
  • We are all vital links in the interconnected web of life, what we do today can make a positive difference.
  • Understand that dominant worldviews don’t always enable other people’s voices and stories to be heard. History books may be biased according to whoever wrote them.
  • Challenge yourself and others to support peace and justice and to hold these concepts at the centre of all local, national and international decision—making processes.
  • Think about the sort of world you would like your children’s children’s children to live in and work towards that!
  • Brainstorm ideas for positive change. Just as all destructive acts are acts of war, all creative acts are acts of peace.
  • Take time out to enjoy yourself, your community and your environment.



  • Find out more information on peace issues. Knowledge is power!
  • Share what you learn with friends and family.
  • Respect differences, honour diversity, learn more about another culture in your community.
  • Storytelling. Our world is made up of stories- not just atoms! Learn other people’s stories and those of your family.
  • Use the media. Write an article for a community or school newspaper. Get TV or radio interviews.
  • Find out angles that may be missing from mainstream media by consulting alternative media sources.
  • Learn more about the South Pacific Nuclear-Free zone. Push for a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
  • Start your own group.
  • Consume less. Support conservation campaigns. Recycle, reuse and repair.
  • Practice solving conflict peacefully in your own life.
  • Avoid buying products from multinational companies.
  • Get involved in your local community. Become a volunteer.
  • Hold a stall or information display at a festival or in a public place.
  • Screen-print information or posters and distribute around friends, the community and the city.
  • Print patches or T- shirts, or wear ones others have made.
  • Write letters to decision makers.
  • Design and paint posters, banners or placards.
  • Take part in a Non-violent Direct Action (it is important to know your rights and take precaution to ensure your safety and the safety of others, remember that you are promoting peace so act PEACEFULLY)
  • Create and/or participate in Street Theatre.

people peace sign

  • Check out current events online at: or
  • Find out about local groups who work for peace and justice. Support groups that campaign for Peace nationally and internationally.
  • Check out Greenpeace and Amnesty International
  • Check out This site contains all you need to know about setting up and managing your own social or environmental campaigns.
  • Go to the Disarmament and Security Centre . It has heaps of good resources for learning about the history of NZ’s peace movement, and its anti-nuclear movement.
  • Use your consumer power to make wise decisions when buying things (buy products made in your own country, products that have minimal or no packaging, think about who made it and how they were treated, think about the impacts to communities and the environment that may incur from making the product, using the product and discarding the product). Check out adbusters
  • Grow food, help out at a local community garden. Find out what foods in Genetically Modified and what are healthier options.
  • Understand economic globalisation and its impact on people and the environment.
  • Visit the Peace Foundation Aotearoa NZ. The Peace Foundation is a 30-year old NGO that works through on Education, Action and Research.

Change doesn’t lie in the hands of governments but in ours.

Beautiful pain in Haiti

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Geoff Cooper

geoff cooper with a haitian boy

  • World’s poorest western country
  • 9,000 UN troops
  • 10 kidnappings everyday
  • Life expectancy at birth = 49 years

It was a full on trip to a country that few of my family wanted me to visit! The current political situation is “highly unstable” - to put it nicely. A two-week trip to a town called Petit-trou, a mere 7 hours (90km) from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, on roads that few of us would recognize as such.

The first question that I was asked on my arrival back in NZ was “were you surprised at the level of poverty?”

Now for those who are not aware, the poverty in Haiti is among the worst in the world (it is, in fact, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere). The poverty is BAD, of that there is no doubt. But having worked in the area of poverty reduction and education, this was one of the few areas that surprised me very little. In short I knew what to expect. And I was so glad that I did not get caught up in the poverty of Haiti, because it would have been easy to miss what is so very rich about Haiti . . . Community!

I have always believed that is more than a word . . . it is a concept, a way of life, a process of connectedness between the people whom you live beside.

The way the Haitians made each one of us feel like family was the heart of Haiti. Connecting with people in spite of the barrier of language and culture. Connecting because you see hope in one another, connecting because you understand that this is what humanity is about! This is what Haiti is so very rich in. If anything, it should make us question the word ‘poverty’ and why we associate it with a financial situation, rather than a communal one (who would be the third world if community was our measurement of development?)
view of buildings in haiti
My one fear from my trip to Haiti is that I got more out of it than the very people who I was suppose to be there to help. It is sad to see such vibrant people melting away in the face of our global world. Effectively being lost among our headlines of celebrity. The truth is they have so much to teach us about fulfillment, about what life is all about. This country makes me question the values that I hold so highly in my life, yet unconsciously refuse to extend to other parts of the world. The country and these people ask heavy questions of my convictions.

There is one last point I wish to make, surrounding the currently sexy topic of International Development. Haiti has taught me the important lesson of what international development is actually about. Let me first say what it is not.

International development is not about turning Lusaka into New York and Petit-trou will never be Taranaki . . . nor should it be! Our goal cannot be to reform these countries into our cultures so that they become bustling centers of economic activity. Our goal is to give these people options! Where they can make choices that agree with their values and their culture; and I imagine that would be one hell of a place to live in. They have the community, and the hope and the stamina . . . all we need to give them is a fair system in which to work. Jefferson called it justice.

The following poem was written by my good friend Leah Millis, an up and coming photographer (as you can tell) who was part of the medical team to Haiti- her words are much more real than anything I could convey about this situation.

woman in haiti with poem