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Blog: Humanist Voices

Killing Journalists for God and Country

Reporters Without Borders has issued its first quarter 2012 report, which found that, on average, a journalist is killed every 5 days.  It has also updated its list of 'predators'--groups or individuals, inside government or out, that target journalists for punishment or murder.  RSF makes several recommendations, two of which are below:

Humanists and progressive should be fighting for a world in which information flows are as free and open as possible.  We can't help but note the correlation between the rise of the world's most effective information sharing system, the internet, and the rapid spread of atheist, skeptic and humanist awareness. 

International Arts Education Week

The week of May 21-27 is UNESCO's International Arts Education Week, the purpose of which is to "...increase the international community's awareness on the importance of arts education by showcasing concrete arts education projects and practices; and to reinforce cooperation with principal stakeholders in the area of arts education by promoting cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and social cohesion."

In this time of economic distress, we should resist the call to treat the arts as luxuries or unnecessary, and recognize their centrality to the life of the imagination, including moral imagination, and their role in fostering creativity.

May 21 - International Day for Biological Diversity

Yesterday, May 22, was the International Day for Biological Diversity, with 2012 emphasizing marine and coastal biodiversity.  The 2012 report, can be had for free by clicking on the following link: One Ocean, Many Worlds of Life.

Biodiversity and sustainability, two of the most familiar terms in the environmental lexicon, are much more than the conceptual stock-in-trade of a special interest. They are part of a vital vocabulary to anyone who believes that we should using the best scientific tools we have to solve human problems.

When a report like the above is published, not only should we take heed of its knowledge and recommendations, we might also express gratitude for the achievements of human intelligence and moral commitment it represents, and for the breath of hope they give us to sustain our efforts in creating a more liveable world.

The United States, along with the Vatican, are almost alone in not having ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.  The US could play a much more beneficial global role along a wide range of environmental issues, but catalyzing this will likely take breakthrough ideas and actions on the part of environmentalists, progressives and humanists.

Living Planet Report 2012

The World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report for 2012 is out.  The Report is a compilation of scientific research on humanity's footprint on various natural systems as well as on the planet's biodiversity.  For anyone who follows this research the results are not unexpected, but they still make hard reading.  A few examples include:

  • At our current rate of resource use we will need two earths by 2030 to meet our demands.
  • Global biodiversity has declined by 30% between 1970 and 2008.
  • Vertebrate populations are on average a third smaller than in 1970.
  • Tiger numbers are at an all time low, with estimates of the total number of adult tigers remaining in the wild to be between 3,200 and 3,500. [1]
  • With the exception of the Indus dolphin, freshwater cetaceans are in precipitous decline.

If ever, dear reader, you had the impulse to get involved in environmental work, now would be the time to do so.

State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity

The Worldwatch Institute's excellent annual State of the World reports are required reading for anyone wanting to keep abreast of some of the best thinking on global sustainability.  This past March Worldwatch published State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity.  From the Worldwatch website: "Chapters written by international experts present a comprehensive look at current trends in global economics and sustinability, a policy toolbox of clear solutions to some of our most pressing environmental and human challenges, and a path for reforming economic institutions to promote both ecological healthy and prosperity."

The atheist, skeptic and humanist movement has done good work with regard to a familiar suite of concerns, including religious criticism, secular civil liberties, the defense of science and reason, and arguing for the outlook of atheistic humanism, among other things.  However, it's yet to be seen whether mass movement secularism will develop into a movement that deals with the world at an adequate level of complexity.  Incorporating thought from works like the annual State of the World reports is a key step along that path.

[1] Tiger habitats are often under threat for the most irresponsible and mindless of reasons.  For example, KFC (and they are not the only company at fault) is using Indonesian rainforest trees to make their chicken buckets, thus threatening the survival of the Sumatran Tiger.

-Eric Snyder

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