This newsletter is for both June and July. Representatives of Humanist Societies from around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, are looking forward to the 2014 IHEU World Congress and General Assembly that will take place at Oxford, England, from Thursday 7 August until Monday 11 August. This congress will provide an excellent opportunity for Humanists from different countries to meet and discuss ideas. The IHEU helps with sponsoring delegates from the 3rd World and members from SOCH, Nepal will also be in attendance. This newsletter is a little longer than usual and includes Tom Flynn’s Editorial and an article on American Secular Identity, 21st Century Style: Secular College Students in 2013 from the June/July 2014 Free Inquiry. Meetings for July and August are detailed below. Where complete details are not given, please check back to this website www.humanist.org.nz and Facebook page as details will be posted as arrangements are finalised.
Monthly Meeting: Monday 23 June 2014
Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend
Dying in Vain? The Death of Savita Halappanavar
When Savita Halappanavar died from septicaemia, at University Hospital Galway after doctors refused to abort her miscarrying foetus, there were protests from Berlin to New Delhi. Those in the political establishment were quick to promise reforms of Ireland’s draconian abortion laws. But, following the introduction of recent legislation, has anything really changed? With an estimated 5,000 Irish women still travelling to the UK every year to access safe and legal abortion, Cormac Maguire explores the complexities of the issues and laws involved.
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place on bus routes 1 & 3.
Meetings this year will be on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.
Regular monthly meetings for 2014 will be on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.
Mid Winter Solstice Gathering Friday 20 June, The Old Bailey, corner of Lambton Quay & Ballance St, Wellington, from 7pm.
Everyone welcome to celebrate this traditional time, as the days begin to lengthen. June 21 is also World Humanist Day. This day is a way of spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life-stance and means to effect change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism. The holiday developed during the 1980s as several chapters of the American Humanist Association (AHA) began to celebrate it. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the AHA and IHEU (International and Humanist Ethical Union) passed resolutions declaring World Humanist Day to be on the summer solstice, or for us down under, on our winter solstice. World Humanist Day has not yet become a fully celebrated holiday in all Humanist organizations, although many of them are beginning to recognize it and plan events and activities around the holiday. The IHEU lists several different ways that Humanist groups celebrate World Humanist Day. For example, the Dutch Humanist Association broadcast short films about World Humanist Day on Dutch TV in 2012. In 2013, the first National Humanist Day was organized by The Netherlands. The Humanist Society of Ireland has held poetry readings ‘In the Park’ and the Humanists of Florida have recommended groups hold Introduction to Humanism classes. In NZ we like to associate this day with Matariki, the Maori New Year, when the star cluster Matariki (Pleiades) rises over the horizon. Matariki is a time to pause for reflection, to learn from the past and to plan for the future.
Cafe Scientifique – The limits to growth:
Thursday 26th June 2014 6.00pm – 7.30pm Wholly Bagels Lower Hutt.
The most important scientific question of our time is the overpopulation of the earth, and the damage done, which suggests an uncertain future. This awareness started to grow in the 1960s and 1970s. The Commission for the Future was formed in 1978 but lasted just 4 years. Dr John Robinson started work on futures research in. 1973 with studies of The. limits to growth and went on to work with many European groups, building on more complex models and scenarios (giving sets of possible futures) until /he realised that it was preferable to apply the scientific method to develop a forecast that could be tested.
Now more than 40 years later, the forecasts of The limits to growth and many additional forecasts are proving robust. The oil peak has passed, climate change is experienced, there has been no change in behaviour and population continues along the forecast trend, species extinction continues, the economic crisis and the influence of Excess capital came, water and food supplies are inadequate, and the response has been international conflict, competitive growth and not a reasonable move towards reduction.
While- the understanding around population growth and long term trend forecasts has increased, this subject remains highly controversial. The world is following these trends, yet there is no effort to move to any-different path, and a crash (around 2030) is increasingly likely. This presentation will review the effort and summarise the forecast for a “perfect storm” around 2030.
Dr John Robinson holds a BSc, MSc (mathematics). Dip Hons (physics) from Auckland University and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His career has extended more than 40 years as a scientist and futures scholar.
Monthly Meeting: Monday 28 July
Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend
We will discuss a topical issue.
Nearer the date see this web site www.humanist.org.nz and our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HumanistNZ for further details.
Monthly Meeting: Monday 25 August
Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend
The Erotic Temples of Khajuraho
Between 950 and 1150, the Chandela monarchs built these temples when the Tantric tradition may have been accepted. In the days before the Mughal conquests, boys lived in hermitages, following brahmachaeya until they became men. This way of life followed strict celibacy, and so they learnt about the world and prepared themselves to become householders through examining these sculptures and the worldly desires they depicted.
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.
We meet from 7:30 pm until 9.00 or 9.30 pm approximately
*** Please note the day and venue***
Venue for Humanist meeting: Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place on trolley bus routes 1 & 3.
Regular monthly meetings for 2014 are on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.
Student Sponsorship for Ambience International School, Kathmandu, Nepal:
Humanist Society members are contributing five scholarships for students at this Humanist School in Kathmandu. The school originally founded in 2004, was purchased by SOCH Nepal and associates in February 2012. There are 189 students and 23 staff members with many teachers part-time. SOCH Nepal was founded in 2005 and is a Humanist Organization devoted to promoting the ideals of Humanism according to the Amsterdam Declaration 2002. SOCH’s working areas are promotion of Secularism, Humanism, Secular Education, Critical Thinking and fighting against Kuriti – Kuriti are bad cultural practices, including Witch Hunting, Dowry, Temple girls, Child Debt Slavery, Caste, and Gender Discrimination. SOCH have identified 57 Kuriti practices which they want abandoned. Establishing a school seemed an avenue through which to educate children, at an affordable cost, with high-quality Humanistic, Ethical, and Scientific Education, that will lead the students to re-evaluate these many practices which are woven into the warp and weft of Nepalese society. The school faces many challenges. It is difficult to recruit high quality teachers, some teachers are working without pay, there are infrastructural problems, and to retain students the staff need to teach what parents want. Nepal was a Hindu Theocracy until 2006 and introducing Humanist principles will be a slow and careful process.
The school year begins in April in Nepal and Kuldip Aryal, a school manager, is at present selecting students for whom sponsorship will be most helpful. Student selection will be based on financial need, participation in school life and academic achievement. The cost of sponsorship is NZ$280 per year. The Scholarship will include Tuition Fees, Examination Fees and Field Trip Costs. Members sponsoring a student will receive a student profile, updates on their student’s academic progress, a letter from their student and there is the possibility of a Skype meeting. Families attending the school come from the lower middle class and parent occupations include domestic workers, street vendors, small shop owners, and tailors. The monthly income of families is about NZ$55.00 – NZ$71.00. This is 5000-6000 Nepali rupees per month. Families have a yearly income of about NZ$600 – NZ$850. An illustration of monthly expenses is: Rent 3000 rupees, Food 2000 rupees, Water 1000 rupees, Gas 1500 rupees. This has already reached a total of 7500 rupees without including school tuition fees. As already indicated a family’s total monthly income will only be up to 6000 rupees! Tuition fees are between 1000 rupees and 2400 rupees per month depending on the age of the child.
Although there is a public school system in Nepal, in Kathmandu, the public schools have very high student/teacher ratios and they do not teach English. Private schools are very popular because they teach English and student/teacher ratios are lower. Ambience International School teachers a wide age range of students. There are preschool classes up to Senior classes where teenage students sit their Senior Leaving Certificate,(SLC). In 2013, 100% of Ambience International School senior students received their SLC. In the school year, just beginning, students will be able to enjoy a school library which was set up in early 2014. The Library which started with 142 books contributed by The Humanist Society of New Zealand in January now has 300 books with other books contributed by teachers and pupils. Our Society has also helped with school infrastructure. Kuldip has told us that maintenance work on staff facilities, for which our Society contributed funds is underway and nearing completion.
More sponsorship opportunities for Ambience International School students would be very welcomed and greatly appreciated by SOCH and the school management team. Humanist Society members are now providing five scholarships for the new school year.
If other members would like to contribute to this sponsorship programme please contact us. We are planning to put up an Ambience International School page on our website, where we can post new information and news of school activities.
Last Month’s Meeting
The 1918 Flu Pandemic. In the last year of the Great War a new danger emerged. A strain of influenza, likely originally from the pig farms of Kansas but greatly changed from its time in the maelstrom of the Western Front, emerged in September and October to begin its grim work. This flu was the single greatest mortality event in human history, now thought to have claimed at least 100 million lives out of a global population of 1.8 billion. An equivalent outbreak today would claim 400 million lives in 18 months.
This pandemic is little remembered today despite the destruction in its wake. Compared to the war in Europe it was not seen to be as heroic. Or perhaps it was simply too frightening to remember. In a time when medicine was confident in its advances the influenza was killing the young and healthy in their tens of millions. The War was explicable, if terrible. The Flu was a mystery in an era where viruses were undetectable and virtually unknown. Doctors postulated many causes but no pharmaceutical interventions showed much benefit. Entire societies shut down as public buildings became huge hospitals and police cars helped with delivery of soup from ad-hoc soup kitchens.
In New Zealand the virus struck hard, as described by Geoffrey Rice in his great work Black November which chronicles the path of the virus through Aotearoa. The overall death rate approached 1%, but as in so many places the indigenous population suffered horribly, with Maori death rates at least five times that figure. Just as devastatingly, New Zealand exported the virus to her near Pacific neighbours.
Travelling on her monthly supply run the Union Steamship, Talune visited Fiji, Western Samoa, and Tonga. Despite many similarities, the differing political, economic, and cultural conditions in these territories produced radically differing outcomes. Fiji saw a loss of 7% of her population. Tonga suffered a loss of 9%. And New Zealand-controlled Western Samoa, seized from the German Empire in 1914, felt the impact of the highest known mortality rate on the globe. The influenza took 26% of Western Samoa’s population in eight short weeks, nearly all of whom were between the ages of 18 and 50. Western Samoa never fully accepted foreign rule after this point, especially after noting the successful quarantine in American Samoa which allowed the Samoans there to escape unscathed. The pandemic impact was a direct driver for Samoa’s eventual independence from New Zealand, and American Samoa’s retention as a US territory.
More information on all of the above is available from many sources, but a good general history is John Barry’s The Great Influenza. ( contributed by Ryan McLane )
From IHEYO Youthspeak April 2014 edited by Uttam Niraula ‘Becoming a Humanist Volunteer’ by Eleanor Middleton:
Voluntourism is travel, which involves volunteering for a charitable cause. Over the past decade the voluntourism industry has become increasingly popular. The Travel Industry Association of America has reported that more than 55 million Americans have participated in volunteer based travel and that an estimated 100 million more individuals are considering undertaking voluntourism. The majority of voluntourists are high school and college students. Volunteering abroad can be an enlightening experience, it allows youth to experience new cultures, learn new skills, gain life experience and build their CV.
However, perhaps most importantly, voluntourism provides the opportunity for productive travel. I first became a voluntourist in late 2011. I had just finished my undergraduate studies and was ready to see the world. Like many other young people around the world I was desperate to travel; however, I also wanted to give something back. Therefore, I decided that volunteering was the way for me to go. After a google search or two I signed up to become a volunteer English tutor in Northern India. As with most volunteer abroad programmes I had to pay a fee that would cover my accommodation, food, internal travel in India and aid the organization’s charitable projects. During my 12 weeks in India as I watched countless volunteers come and go, many only spending two weeks volunteering, I started to wonder exactly where my money was going and if I was really doing much good.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding voluntourism. Do these holidays cater more for the volunteer than they do for the volunteer project? Is this industry sustainable? Is your money really going towards helping people in need? How does voluntourism affect the local economy of a nation? Is voluntourism in reality, exploiting those that volunteers intend to help? These are perhaps some of the questions that go through people’s minds when they are deciding if they want to under-take volunteer work abroad. Of course reliable, trust worthy and genuine voluntourism does exist.
However, another question has to be answered by a prospective volunteer. Does the ideology of the charitable organization reflect your own beliefs? I wanted volunteer work that I undertook to promote an ideology and ethic that I personally support.
I decided to become a Humanist volunteer. Throughout 2013 and early 2014 I undertook a volunteer project for the Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal. As a volunteer I worked for SOCH as a writer and taught science in a school (Ambience International School) run by the Society. By volunteering for an organization associated with the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization (IHEYO) and the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU), I was able to ensure that I undertook volunteer work that supported my personal ethics and values.
I also discovered that working for a Humanist organization provided me with greater scope and personalization of my experience in a foreign country. Many voluntourism programmes have prescribed work that may not utilize the skills possessed by the volunteer. However, SOCH Nepal was able to create a volunteer programme that suited my skills and allowed me to work productively.
The biggest advantage of becoming a Humanist volunteer was that working with a local Humanist society gave me the opportunity to meet, work with, live with and befriend locals from a vastly different culture who share a similar outlook on Humanism promoting Respect and Human Dignity. I believe that there is no greater way to be a Humanist than to work internationally with like-minded individuals.