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I’ve noticed an undertaking recently, back towards civility.

ci·vil·i·ty/səˈvilitē/ Noun

1. Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
2. Polite remarks used in formal conversation

China launched campaigns to discourage spitting and and littering in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics – this has now been upscaled to nationwide classes to instill table manners and courtesy in the young, emphasizing a return to the traditional ‘Chinese roots’. I thought it was interesting and good – and then I noticed that Baghdad also ran similar classes, except through a private school, the Academy for Peace through Art. Not only is it a respite from the war and violence around people living there, good manners goes a long way, especially when they involve conversational respect.

But they are not the only ones; The City Academy, Hackney, in East London, is slowly making waves through raising standards for people interaction through the way they run their school. Children are encouraged to interact by serving each other food at the dinner table, and taught to practise social etiquette and more. See, classes on civility need not be run – just inculcate it into the system of the school, enforce it, and it will automate itself.

Which brings me back to the main point I am writing about this. Subscribing to Twitter has made me more connected to what’s going on in the world out there, through following certain subscribers. TED’s Chris Anderson posted a link to Civility Please, a new website set up to remind people about the unnecessary rudeness we go through every day in every area of life – and that we can choose, to go back to encouraging civility. With letters from the public exclaiming that “Civilization can only exist when its members are civil to each other.”, I thought, wow, this is really starting to add to the trend – because I’m sure there’s more groups about civility out there for every group I discover. Watch their clever video:

Civility Please Launch from Civility Please on Vimeo.

Elizabeth Lesser in TED goes one step further in her bid to get us to speak civily with “The Other”. Who exactly is the other? For all you environmentalists, biologists or conservationists out there, The Other is that person we all label negatively to be ignorant about climate change, the person who denies evolution, that fellow across the street who only believes in economic power. Get the picture?

She’s disturbed by how in every culture we live in, there is a tendency to demonize The Other. She draws examples from popular book titles today that demonstrate this, and then illustrates clearly that in human history, this tendency has morphed, and resulted in The Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and more. And it can happen again.

So she’s launching an initiative.

For every Other we label negatively, Lesser encourages, and even challenges us to have real sharing sessions with these people. “Start local”, she says – with your neighbour, classmate, hawker. Why do this? The goal can be: To get to know one person from a group you have negatively stereotyped. Recognising the business that infiltrates our lives, she says, bring The Other to lunch.

She shares her own bring-The-Other-to-lunch story.

Before you get together, agree on some groundrules. For her and her tea party-mate, it was “Don’t persuade, defend, or interrupt. Be curious, be conversational, be real – and listen.”

Then, use 3 guidelines to ensure a discussion of learning:

* Share some of your life experiences
* What are the issues that deeply concern you?
* What have you always wanted to ask someone from “the other side”?

If we put aside our ideas of us being know-it-alls, and brought forth our childlike curiosity, with no intention to harm, imagine what we would learn! Mother Theresa once said: “The problem of the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small”. Imagine if we widened this circle, if more people were real to each other, if people cared about each other, and the environment around them?

With a brilliant quote to end off, I echo Lesser’s words:

Here’s how the great Persian poet Rumi put it: “Out beyond the ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

So, who’s The Other you’ll bring to lunch?

PS: What’s this doing on a nature blog, you ask? Well, think of the big picture. Our blatant repetitive behaviour in harming the environment stems from attitude and thought – if we can systemically change this by starting in this area, and sharing our ideas, the world would be a better place – at home, at work, and overseas.


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So I’m bouncing back from a hectic schedule involving various deadlines and due dates with travel trips in between. Will try to keep you updated with stuff I’ve picked up from class that I think is interesting (: For now though, here’s an interesting and entertaining video!

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If you know me, I’m not usually one to ask for people to sign petitions. So I hope this will have you stop and take a look – and then take action.

If I could sign only one petition, this would be it. It is much more than just a signature.


Click the link, and it will explain the situation much more clearly and concisely than I can.

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Courtesy of YJ. Informationisbeautiful does audiences worldwide a huge favour by visualising information in clear, concise ways. Here is one of the visualisations, that is applicable to science. Click here for more.

What’s best about this ‘map’, is that this is what the author managed to get ONLINE, using websites publicly available, without actually talking to climate scientists. It’s what would happen to me, or you, or anyone else who isn’t a climate scientist and is trying to find out what is happening. And it was “a mammoth task” – so please, climate change scientists, this what I’m talking about when I say scientists should learn to communicate, otherwise their research loses meaning.

This blog, realclimate.org, linked from informationisbeautiful, is done up by climate scientists, and even so is claimed to be too technical for the author. Still, I think it’s a good source at least.

It’s pretty sad nowadays to watch climate scientists get shot down by people who don’t know their facts – most of these people who hear about stuff from others, are influenced by politicians, and are not actually suffering the wrath of climate change themselves.

That said, I am in no way endorsing what the author of informationisbeautiful has placed on the map. It is simply a tool to look at things. I myself am not educated enough about climate change to claim any of these details as truths in research.

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Finally a post!

I’m sorry to have been gone for so long, but this is what I have been up to:

May to Bali for a few days on holiday.

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June to July 7 weeks travelling the road and seas in Borneo (Sabah & Sarawak) in Harvard Summer School’s Biodiversity of Borneo field course. Check out my homepage here.

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August to present in Toronto, Ontario, Canada having classes in Environmental Biology.

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So it’s been really hectic preparing for everything, and also doing projects on the side, taking classes and hiking as well. I’ve actually set up a travelblog now at minstreet.wordpress.com (or click here) and you are most welcome to visit the site if you want. (: Mostly it consists of posts about Toronto now, but in between when I have the time I will update on Borneo’s adventures and pictures too. Have been using Windows Live Writer that NWQ recommended, and I must say this (to give credit to them) because it HAS made writing to different blogs so much easier now.

Take care, and wait for my update. It’ll come. (:

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Meanwhile, keep thinking, questioning, challenging, and proposing. (:

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