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Wangari Maathai PRESENTE!!

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Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, 1940-2011

We have lost one of the most important voices of our time.  The loss is great at this critical moment in history. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist was the first East and Central African to receive a doctorate.  Her degrees are in biology and anatomy. 


Two of Maathai's books I've read, Unbowed:  A Memoir (2007) and Repleneshing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010) describe a passionate, brilliant woman who disobeyed the law in order to make significant changes in the environment and significant changes in society for women. And she gives us such innovative and powerful suggestions to replenish the earth, to heal ourselves. In 2010, she was in Mexico for the UN Climate Summit and said the following:

"[G]overnments must do what they have promised: take concrete action to reduce their emissions; deliver finance and work together to make low-carbon development a reality; and protect those least able to cope with the impact of climate change . . . 
If we truly want to tackle climate change, poverty, and conflict, we need to think holistically.  We need to, as Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the UN global sustainability panel, "think big, connecting the dots between poverty, energy, food, water, environmental pressure and climate change."  

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During the UN''s 3rd global women's conference in Nairobi in 1985, Maathai introduced her organization, The Green Belt Movement and this connection greatly aided her efforts in setting up countless programs in various countries (including Mexico) to combat deforestation, water crises, rural hunger.  May her efforts continue even though she is no longer with us!  Que Viva The Green Belt Movimiento!!  Que Viva la Profesora Wangari Maathai!

There is a wonderful award-winning documentary about Professor Maathai's life and environmental work.  It is entitled, Taking Root:  The Vision of Wangari Maathai.  I strongly recommend seeing it!  And you can order it from The Green Belt Movement website (just click on the title above).  

Gracias Profesora Maathai, for your courage, your tireless work, your constant smile in the face of adversity, your willingness to stand up and question, to stand up and disobey. Dissent!  Gracias.  Your efforts will not be forgotten.  Wangari Maathai:  PRESENTE!

The Power of PFLAG

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"In 1972, Jeanne Manford started an international movement when she marched with her son Mortie in New York's Gay Pride Parade.  Enraged that her son had been beaten at a gay rights protest two months before while police did nothing, she carried a sign at the Pride march: 'Parents of Gays:  Unite in Support of Our Children'. 30 years later, PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is 500 chapters strong with over 250,000 members, supporters, and affiliates worldwide." (PFLAG History)

Here in Lincoln, Nebraska, the PFLAG chapter is going strong.  Last night PFLAG held its biggest fundraiser of the year:  Jack Saltzman's Chocolate Party.  Jack hosts an amazing gathering in celebration of diversity.  His home is a lovely tour of beautiful antiques, a myriad of Christmas trees and lovely chocolate delights.  

All money raised goes directly to offering support, education and advocacy for our LGBTQ young people.  LGBTQ teens are three times as likely to attempt suicide (Soulforce).  "Of all hate crimes reported in 2007, the proportion committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals rose 16.6 percent, also the highest level in five years" (  It is so important to advocate for our LGBTQ young people. 

I wish for a society that recognizes the gifts that each individual can bring to a community--that every one of us has unique gifts to offer. As soon as someone is left out, as soon as someone is disrespected or violated, we are all left out, we are all disrespected, we are all violated.  

Thanks to you Jack and to all those who attended last night's fundraiser.  If you weren't there but would like to contribute to PFLAG's efforts, here is their website:  PFLAG Lincoln.  Check out the pictures below of our lovely evening:  

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Jack Saltzman and Amelia:  Jack Saltzman's lovely holiday
decorations behind us.  

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John Raible, Amelia Montes, and Randy Messman after tasting the lovely 
chocolate hor d'oeuvres

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Lois Hansen and Pat Tetreault.  Lois and Pat are longtime 
supporters of PFLAG.  Yay for Lois and Pat!!  And below are
the lovely chocolates!

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Academic Freedom in Nebraska

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On Saturday, November 14, I had the privilege of listening to Bill Ayers in Omaha at the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska (AFCON) Banquet.  He spoke eloquently about the importance of Academic Freedom, about the freedom to express and exchange ideas.  

Bill Ayers is a Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Illinois at Chicago.  But maybe you remember that last year as the presidential election heated up, Sarah Palin called him out as one of Obama's "terrorist friends." This sudden media attention (and revisiting of Ayers' former days of involvement opposing the Vietnam War, namely his connection to the Weather Underground) caused an uproar right here at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).   UNL had booked Ayers the previous year to come and speak to the faculty and students on the topic of education.  But because of the media hype, suddenly Dr. Ayers became "Professor Non Grata" and he was disinvited.  

Faculty and students protested.  Professors Chris Gallagher, Julia Schleck, Steve Ramsay, myself and graduate students Mike Kelly and many many others helped to organize a teach-in regarding Academic Freedom and also wrote a letter explaining how Ayers' disinvitation was a breach of Academic Freedom.  

We still hope that Professor Ayers will return to UNL to give that talk on education.  

Photograph below:  Amelia Montes, Bill Ayers, Julia Schleck, Mike Kelly, Steve Ramsay


Forget 2012--let's look at 2025

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If you're worried about a coming apocalypse in 2012, you might want to look instead at what you ate today.  Media hype about the Mayan Long Count Calendar pointing to a global cataclysm and propagandist films like Roland Emmerich's 2012 can easily distract us from focusing on what is truly an encroaching global disaster: our diet.  The foods we choose to consume are slowly contributing to a global epidemic that will not come with a cataclysmic bang but a slow debilitating disease:  Diabetes.  

A diabetic individual may (type 1) not be able to produce insulin at all or (type 2) produces insulin in amounts that are inefficient (either too much or too little).  Insulin is the key hormone/protein which assists in transforming glucose into energy. When glucose/sugar continually remains in the bloodstream without getting processed, the kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes can become damaged.  People die not from "diabetes" but from "complications from diabetes."  It is a complex disease that affects various areas of the body making it a serious and crippling disease.

An article in the journal Diabetes Care explains that "The number of adults with diabetes in the world is estimated to increase by 122 percent, from 135 million in 1995 to 300 million in 2025 . . . Without sustained and cooperative education and government outreach, the prevalence of diabetes will reach epidemic proportions by 2025."  

This serious increase in diabetes is due (1) to the global corporatization of pre-processed foods (very high in sucrose and fats) and (2) a sedentary lifestyle.  Easy to fix you may say--just eat organic local foods and move your body.  Easy for those who can afford organic, locally grown food.  When McDonalds or KFC is offering dollar meals while a pound of organic green beans is $3.50 and you've got a family of 2, 3, or 4 and you're working two jobs and don't have time to cook--which are you going to choose?  

I think about this and wonder--how did we get to this point in our global society?  The media and Hollywood may advertise the coming of 2012 but I fear what we have become right now in 2009.  There IS hope!!  I don't want to sound so dire.  There ARE many many people/organizations who are questioning AND doing something about our pre-processed and sedentary world.  And when I say "sedentary" I do not mean laziness.  I am thinking of people in factory jobs who are sitting or standing and doing the same "action" over and over (wrapping, cutting, stuffing, inspecting) but not working/exercising their whole body. I am also thinking of our children--the next generations who are already so addicted to their computers, video games, i-phones, i-pods, wii---that they are loathe to take a walk, to eat a home-cooked meal.  

Sooo--I am including here, a number of books on this subject if you want to join me in working toward a non-preprocessed, active world!  Forget 2012.  Let's prevent a diabetic epidemic in 2025!

4.  Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
5.  My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

If you have a favorite book that is not on this short list, please share!  
Happy healthy eating and exercising to you all!!

If you click on the book Eating Animals, check out author Jonathan Safran
Foer's two-minute description of his book--picture below--on Amazon, you can 
hear it. 
Also--click here for more on Barbara Kingsolver (her new book and latest news regarding Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)!

Click to watch this video