Here’s a place to post stories of Global Renaissance happenings that catch our attention. Join in and send a story to Thanks for keeping a lookout for pockets of hope.

March 22, 2012.  Healthy Food Makes for a Healthy Planet A friend lent me a book called Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi.  The two words, “food” and “justice” peeked my curiosity.  Simply defined, food justice means raising healthy food with healthy methods in healthy soil.

It turns out that junior high students have been key players in putting food justice on the map.  How so?   In the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans, schools needed to be rebuilt.   In the summer of 2006, a bunch of kids, fed up with awful before-Katrina schools they had attended, brainstormed what better schools would look like.   Dubbing themselves the Rethinkers, they were convened by Jane Wholey, a media consultant experienced in training young people to voice their ideas to the public. One thing led to another.   From brainstorming, they compiled recommendations, held a press conference, sought commitments from officials to make changes, and monitored progress.

In the summer of 2008, the Rethinkers focused on school food.  They chronicled the wrongs, got experts to help them think of alternatives, and recommended bringing local fresh foods into the cafeteria.  During their food press conference, the superintendant promised to include local food in school menus.   When the school nutritionist asked if the Rethinkers could provide proof that kids would eat healthy food, the kids conducted blind taste tests showing that local, fresh, and healthy food was indeed the food of choice for the students.

Now just a few years later, what the Rethinkers were doing has gone national through a group called The National Farm to School Network that connects schools and farms to:

  • Serve healthy meals in school cafeterias
  • Improve student nutrition
  • Provide agriculture, health, and nutrition educational opportunities to students
  • Support local and regional farms

Fifty states have operational programs involving over 9,000 schools.  Eight regional agencies coordinate the work in their areas.   Vermont FEED (Vermont Food Education Every Day), based in Shelburne Farms, near where I live, has achieved remarkable results:  Farm to School legislation was passed in 2007, creating a small grant program for schools; 60 % of Vermont schools have a Farm to School program.  The Burlington School Food Project encompasses the entire school district and employs seven chefs with culinary training who put scrumptious fresh local food on the table every day.

Who says positive change can’t happen?   The Rethinkers envisioned a better way.  Now each day thousands of farmers, chefs, school officials, and students are creating a healthy planet one bite at a time. 

March 29, 2011 A Journalism of Hope in Afghanistan
The latest Harvard Magazine reports on alum Masood Farivar ’94, the general manager of Salam Watandar, often called “the National Public Radio of Afghanistan”. A born optimist, Farivar says of his native country, “one of the few bright spots is the media. The long-term role that media outlets play in terms of public education, unifying the country, offering people an outlet to air their differences rather than resorting to violence – these things are extremely important.” Shortly after returning to
Afghanistan, a news anchor confided in Farivar, “I can’t do this any more – everything I read is violence, bombs, explosions, suicide attacks. I’ve become numb.” After sympathizing, Farivar told him, “There’s more to news than bombs and war. There is
another aspect that’s not being reported – let’s also cover stories that give people hope. I have come to call it ‘the journalism of hope.’ In a country at war, journalists have a moral obligation to report on things that give people hope.” Click here to learn more about the dramatic media revolution in Afghanistan and Farivar’s thoughts on the future. 

March 7, 2011 Actress Sarah Jones’ Crazy Characters Offer a Global Renaissance Pep Talk
In this TED video actress Sarah Jones asks, “Can we invent ourselves?” and more … ”Can we be anyone at any time?” Clearly her answer is, “Of course!” She then brings to this TED talk Lorraine Levine who congratulates the audience for being “architects building our brighter future” and a host of other characters, an Arab, Indian, Dominican Republican, French woman who reflect on what it is to be a global citizen today. Good for a bunch of laughs. Click here see it yourself on YouTube.

February 11, 2011 Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Spearheads Tree Planting
Sonya Dyer sent in this story about Maathai, whose Billion Tree Campaign has resulted in planting 11 billion trees worldwide. Not one to rest on laurels, she’s beginning work on the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environment Studies at the University of Nairobi and also has produced her third book, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World. There’s always something each one of us can do to make the world a better place, believes Maathai, who gets this inspiration from the story of a hummingbird.

Click here for the article by Gregory M. Lamb, Staff writer CS Monitor, January 24, 2011, New York

December 15, 2010 The National Peace Academy
Laurie came across the website of the National Peace Academy and sent it along – This coincided with a chance to hear its President, Dot Maver, speak about this exciting new effort which has its hub right here in Shelburne. Its purpose is to develop the peacebuilder (inner and outer), to create peace education opportunities, and to build peace systems. It will help us move from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. Other countries, like Costa Rica, have done much more than we to build a culture of peace. It is great that a new organization will help us focus on that.

December 11, 2010 “With Peels and Pig Innards, a Swedish City Foregoes Coal and Oil”
This is the title of an article in the NY Times that Sonya Dyer sent. Kristianstad, a city of 80,000 in Sweden essentially uses “no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters.” Twenty years ago all their heat came from fossil fuels. Surprisingly, Kristianstad has not generally substituted solar panels or wind turbines for the traditional fuels. Rather, it generates energy from an assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines. Now that’s being creative!!! The whole article is fascinating. Click here to read it yourself:

December 10, 2010 The Pittsburg Promise
 Babs Conant told us about the Pittsburge Promise. This is a commitment to the young people of Pittsburg who graduate from high school that they will have the money to attend a college, university, or trade school after graduation. Sounds almost unbelieveable, doesn’t it? But it’s been happening for two years and is achieving many great results. Teachers are energized, students are motivated, and the community is invigorated.

The super news is that the idea is spreading. Kalamazoo has a similar program. Buffalo is starting one.  

Which city is next? Who’s behind this? Largely community members who have been mobilized to work together and fund their young people’s future. Check it out at

November 21, 2010 Green Property: The Power of Community Spirit
Laurie Valentine sent in the story of Llangattock, which is on track to become Britain’s first “carbon-negative community” by 2015. What strikes me about stories like this is how much fun everyone has when they pull up their socks and do the right thing … together.

October 22, 2010 Laurie Valentine of Shelburne VT links us to this great story:
With great community input, Burlington crafted in the year 2000 a mission to realize a sustainable Burlington by 2030. The whole effort was recognized as a “bright idea” by Harvard’s Kennedy School. Here it is:

The Legacy program, unlike other plans, that define “sustainability” with an eye just to environmental concerns, includes economic strength and vitality, social equality, and quality educational opportunities for everyone.”

Sounds like something that might fit in with Global Renaissance!  For more information, here is their site:
August 29, 2010 Megan Camp: Sustainability-themed Magnet School in VT
It is said that we have the resources we need to create an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable world. What we lack is political will.

Megan Camp of Shelburne Farms has, with others, come up with a way to build political will in the next generation: create schools where sustainability is built into every subject taught AND … get kids involved in civic engagement projects that put their new found knowledge to work in improving their own community. Megan described the genesis of this idea and details on the Sustainability Academy in Burlington, VT, the first sustainability-themed magnet school in the U.S. Here is the Burlington Free Press article

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: