The Convention on the Rights of the Child – 20 years!

17 07 2009

The 20th of November 1989 the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention assembles all the rights found in different international instruments, and provides guiding principles that inevitably form the way we view children.

 children-jump

UNICEF chooses to put it this way: “[the convention] celebrates childhood and codifies in international law the rights due every child”. To cite UNICEF some more: “The articles of the Convention call for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. The articles also require the creation of means to protect children from neglect, exploitation and abuse.”

There are two optional protocols to the Convention: The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
I want to learn more about the optional protocols.

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Here are some very interesting photo essays from UNICEF. 
These will guide you through the convention in a more visual way:
UNICEF Photo Essay I
UNICEF Photo Essay II

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How is the fulfilment of States obligations monitored?
– The Committee on the Rights of the Child follows up the state’s actions (or neglections). Every state submits a report to the committee within 2 years of ratification, and every 5 years thereafter.
NGOs (non-governmental organizations) play a significant role in raising public awareness about the Convention and its goals.
UNICEF has a legal obligation to promote and protect child rights by supporting the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. In addition to contributing advice and assistance to the Committee, UNICEF facilitates broad consultations within States to maximize the accuracy and impact of reports to the Committee.

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Read more:

Rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Human Rights Provisions
What you can do to help

Old school (=real books you might find interesting):

Children’s Rights in Education
Stuart N. Hart, Cynthia Price Cohen. 2001.
Empowering Children
Robert Brian Howe, Katherine Covell. 2005.





Green Living

7 04 2009

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about green living, and I’m getting more and more inspired to green my own ways of living. I wanted to share some of what I’ve read with all of you.

recycle

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8 Easy Ways to Start Being Green – Earth911

1) Reduce – use less stuff!
2) Reuse
3) Recycle
4) Power Down – reduce your use of electricity
5) Don’t be a Drip – reduce your use of water
6) Shop Smart – look for environmental friendly, locally produced alternatives, minimal packaging etc.
7) Don’t Tire Down – tires at the proper pressures reduce gas mileage and are more durable
8) Be a Show-Off – ask for environmental friendly alternatives at your local shops

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Steps towards a more sustainable life of less – ZenHabits

simple-and-sustainable-life

Article about whether we could (and/or should) start living in a more sustainable fashion – a life of less! We should buy less stuff, use less electricity (by, among other things, ditching the car and start walking/cycling places again) – and start enjoying the simple things in life – the nature, the food, the people we love… This article makes you question your own living – do you really need all that stuff you have? Do you need to use your car all the time, or are you just lazy? Do you need that big house that is not only less friendly towards the environment (considering the amount of electricity etc. needed) but also costs more to build, maintain..?

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Are e-books an environmental choice?

This article is for all of you book lovers out there!

So, to sum up the article – e-books are more environmental friendly than printed books – but only if you compare them to new books.

“As usual, the greenest way to go is reuse—buying used books online won’t do your favourite author any favours, but Mother Earth will smile on you for the estimated 3 kg of carbon emissions you’ve averted by not buying a new book. (Seventy percent of those emissions are released in the course of simply producing the paper it’s printed on.)”

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Green Your Home Through Low-Impact Living

Find green products, calculate your impact and learn how you can reduce your environmental impact.

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Sustainable Living Guide

A big guide with links to sites about ANYTHING you might want to know about sustainable living!

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Tips for Green Living – Greenpeace

My favorite! Here you can find tips on how to green your home (concrete tips, which makes it good reading), and what to avoid the next time you shop etc… Really interesting reading!

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green-living

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The Green Guide – For Everyday Living

Also a good site, with a lot of tips about green living, health and safety… They have buying guides for most things (refrigerators, washing machines etc.) where they compare the environmental impact of the different appliances, tell you what to think about and other useful things… Really interesting reading!

Examples of articles:

Which flatscreen TV is greener? Plasmas vs. LCDs

Plastic Containers Buying Guide

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One Million Acts of Green

Canadian project to activate people and to make them more environmentally conscious.

“CBC and The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos want to mobilize Canadians to do One Million Acts of Green. In partnership with Cisco, the idea behind the campaign is that one small act can make a big difference.”

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Lastly, some tips on how to green your office:

8 ways to green your office – Earth911
How to make a recycled notebook
Green office supplies and products





What are we feeding our kids – and ourselves??!

29 03 2009

I watched this video on youtube the other day and I was shocked. It’s about a woman who has saved a hamburger from McDonald’s for 4 years and travels around showing what has happened to it over the years – or rather, what has NOT happened to it. It looks totally fine! I was unbelievably shocked, and realized how many different chemicals they must put in there for it to be able not to have any mold or other signs of aging after that many years! Watch the video:

When talking about obesity, which unfortunately is becoming more and more common in today’s world, I always wonder how people can actually let themselves go like that. I’ve had my own ups and downs with my weight, but I’ve never been really overweight, and certainly not obese, so I wouldn’t know exactly how that feels. But I do know how easy it can be to just give up. I know what it feels like to struggle not to eat too much, or certain things. But over the past few years I’ve become aware that diets are not the way to go. Sure – anyone who has ever opened a sports magazine, or an internet page for that matter, has read all that talk about “a diet is no good, you have to change your habits in a way that will last in the long run”. But I too had read all that for years and years before I was actually able to transform knowledge into action.

I’ve finally realized that I’m actually able to lead a healthy life, feel good and still enjoy the occasional chocolate cake :) I think I know how I’m supposed to make it last! The solution for me was simply to follow the golden rule “everything in moderation”. And to actually get moving. It finally kicked in. Before, I knew all that I needed to know about exercising, healthy eating and I’ve even tried out some diets. But I was never able to stick to any “life style” more than a few weeks or months, before giving up. It’s like my brain suddenly got tired of worrying about my weight, and about going or not going to aerobics classes. I noticed a difference in my body when I ate different things – I just feel sick if I eat fast food or excessive amounts of chocolate or white bread… So I just stopped eating foods that make me sick. And I cut down on those foods that I still like but that aren’t the healthiest of choices – this way I also enjoy them more once I eat them :)

I also concentrated on getting an exercise routing going. Took me a few months, but then I never ever wanted to skip any work outs, cause I immediately noticed a difference in my state of mind, in my body – and, after a longer break, in my weight. Plus, exercising makes your body feel great, and it also makes you lose weight (or keep your weight stable) and become healthier and fitter. It gives you good body conscience and makes you more confident over all, so exercising is a good deal no matter how you look at it! I have to admit though, I still have ups and downs when it comes to this. And if I’m very busy exercising is one of the first things that I cut out of my life – which is an area I still need to work on!

Changing your habits doesn’t have to be a big deal, or take a long time – nor be expensive. Just follow some basic ideas and principles, and take it one step at a time, and you’ll do great! These are just a FEW ideas on what you can do – believe me, I could write about this topic for hours, so right now I’ve really narrowed it down! Readers – feel free to contribute with your own tips and ideas!

  • Learn to cook. I think learning to cook might just be the best tip ever. It’s healthier, cheaper, tastes better – and it’s probably one of the best leisure activities you can have! Don’t look at it as something that takes a long time – make it fun! Involve family, friends, dates etc! Learn to enjoy it! Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Just get moving! Stop being lazy. Take a walk. Get off the subway/bus one stop earlier and walk a little bit. Don’t just lie in the couch while watching TV – do squats, push-ups, sit-ups, or – if you have the money – buy a cross-trainer! Walk or take your bike to school, work etc. Play outside with your kids if you have them. Don’t just call a friend and talk to them for an hour – take a walk with them instead. Physical Activity Guides.
  • Avoid fad diets. Although some may help you lose weight quickly, they usually involve avoiding certain types of food and the effects don’t last once you return to a normal diet.
  • Stop eating fast food. You don’t have to be super super healthy from the beginning. Just give up one bad habit at a time. And giving up fast food should probably be the first one.
  • Eat smaller portions. Just eat less! It’s that simple.
  • Consume what you eat. If you don’t consume it you store it. That’s the deal. In other words – be active!
  • Get a support network. Surround you with people that support you, inspire you and make you feel good about what you’re doing.
  • Find an exercise buddy. Having someone to exercise with, even if it’s just once a week for example, is an extra motivator. You won’t give up very easy if you know someone else is expecting you. If you don’t have a friend to exercise with just sign up for some work out class – which you have to pay for. When you’ve paid a lot of money for something it actually makes you want to go.
  • Variation is the key! Try out different sports, activities and work outs until you find something that you LOVE!
  • Read, learn and get inspired! Find inspiration from magazines, the internet etc! Read everything about food, exercising and healthy living that you can find! Learning to read nutrition labels is also a very good tip for finding out what foods are healthy and which are not.

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A FEW REASONS TO GET MOVING:

If you are overweight or obese, you may be at risk for a wide range of serious diseases and conditions including:

  • hypertension or high blood pressure;
  • coronary heart disease;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • stroke;
  • gallbladder disease;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • sleep apnea and other breathing problems;
  • some cancers such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer; and
  • mental health problems, such as low self-esteem and depression.

Obesity is one of the leading factors in heart disease and stroke, as well as in Type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, you are at high risk of becoming obese, which can more seriously affect your health.

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And just to inspire you some more (not to eat fast food!) – watch the pictures on this webpage: This Is Why You’re Fat

I included some of those pictures here in this entry – just to give you an example of what is to be found on that webpage.

Egg n’ Ham Sammich

egg-n-ham-sammich

A regular ham and cheese sandwich but topped with 11 sunny-side up egg yolks.

Bacon Poutine

bacon-poutine

French fries topped with cheese curds, egg, bacon and covered in brown gravy. Since Poutine is the national dish of Québec, where I’m living right now, I just had to include this one ;)

The Thunderdome

thunderdome

Three stacks of bacon, sausage, elk meat, onions and cheese between tortillas all topped with sour cream, two fried eggs and scallions.

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LINKS TO USEFUL SITES:

Healthy Eating and Living – More than Medication

Health Canada

Healthy Eating – Tips for a healthy diet

Health and Fitness Tips – long list of good articles

gyminee.com – Workout programs, Exercise Routines, Food Diary

Rommel’s Flow – Blog written by a personal trainer

The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health

KidsHealth

diet.com





What if you could do it all over again?

22 03 2009

Are you happy with the choices you’ve made in your life?

The thought hit me the other day. What would I change if I could live my life all over again? Would I do anything different?

I’ve always believed that you should live your life to the fullest and never regret any choices you’ve made, be they good or bad. Because it’s always easy to second-guess, but I do believe that, at the time, you made the choices you made for a reason. I don’t think anyone consciously would make a choice that they KNOW is the “wrong” one.

And speaking of wrong choices. Do they really exist? One could claim that there is no right or wrong answer – at the moment when the choice is to be made one could actually claim that there are only right choices. If you knew beforehand that one choice was the wrong one you wouldn’t even seriously consider it as a choice – so all the choices are “right” – in some way at least…

sunset

I’ve taken a liking to the saying that you should never regret things that you did do, but only things that you didn’t do. I try to live by that principle. No matter how “wrong” a choice may seem afterwards I refuse to regret it – since at the time it felt like the right thing to do. And since I don’t want to miss out on anything I always strive to do the most that I can. Remember – “…just regret the things you didn’t do”. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 50 realizing that there was so much I could have done, but I didn’t.

Most people always find some excuse not to do something that they might want to but that seems a bit dangerous, wild or simply “out of the norm”. They’re either too busy, do not have enough money, don’t want to risk the stabile and secure life they’re leading at the moment, or they’re simply too afraid. I say – don’t let logic rule your life! You’ve got to LIVE! You’ve got to dare do things you’ve only dreamed about doing! And don’t be afraid to change direction in life if you one day wake up and realize you’re not perfectly happy with your current living situation!

Let’s take a for instance – you’re studying to become a doctor, which most likely would lead to a respected career and a well-paid job. But what if you all of a sudden, when you’ve graduated, realize that this isn’t at all what you want to do the rest of your life? Maybe you chose that career because of your parents, because of the good pay, or maybe you just simply changed your mind after those years of studying. It really doesn’t matter why you all of a sudden don’t want to work as a doctor anymore, the only thing that matters is that then you have a choice. You could keep on pursuing a career as a doctor, and maybe you could be perfectly fine with that – but would you be truly happy?

Ever since I’ve started to consciously do more things that scare and tempt me at the same time I’ve become a much happier person. Of course, there are times when I wonder why I wasn’t satisfied with a calm, secure life with everything worked out for me – with a plan. But that thought passes really quickly. I usually realize really quickly why exactly I’m happier this way – leading a life where I don’t actually know where I’m going to be in a year. When I’m sad I’m more sad than I ever was before, but when I’m happy, I’m truly happy. Then it’s no longer about having this feeling of satisfaction. It’s about feeling a strong sense of being truly and honestly happy – and you feel all throughout your whole body! And that feeling makes you feel so alive. Then I know. I know why I chose this lifestyle. I know why I’ve given up all that security. I know that I will not wake up when I’m 50 (or 60, or 70 for that matter), wondering where my life went!

So if you’ve ever thought about “taking the leap” – just give it another serious thought. It might just be worth the sacrifice ;)





To recycle pizza boxes

16 03 2009

When people talk about green living in general, and more specifically what they do for the environment, they usually start by saying that they recycle. They are proud of that they don’t throw all of their garbage in the same bin. Well, sure, recycling is a good way to live green – but it shouldn’t be the starting point. Living green should begin on a totally different level.

Firstly, we should stop buying stuff that we don’t need. In order to lead more environmental friendly lives we have to stop overconsuming. Source reduction is therefore the first thing you should try do achieve. On the plus side, by doing this you will also save money, since you will only be buying things you really need, or want. This is also really zen – cleaning out your house, and then resist the urge to fill it with new stuff, will give you a clean, spacious home – and you will have done something really good for the environment (provided that the old stuff you throw out is reused in some way).

The second step is to reuse. So instead of throwing out and buying new, you should try to find a new way to use the stuff in. Be creative ;)

Recycling is found on third place in the “waste hierarchy” (see picture below). This means that you can significantly reduce the amount of things you recycle, just by following steps 1 and 2.

waste-management-hierarchy1Image from Fairfax County Solid Waste Management

So, how to recycle? There are some things that I know people don’t think about. Did you know that you shouldn’t throw cardboard with grease/oil/food stains on it in the bin for paper/cardboard? That is: any paper product stained with grease or food is not recyclable (unless you remove the stained portion)! This effectively means that you shouldn’t recycle pizza boxes that have grease on them – which I know many people do. Remove the stained portion and throw it away before recycling the rest of the box.

Why is this? Because paper products that are recycled are mixed with water and turned into a slurry, and any grease on the cardboard causes oil to form on top of the slurry (since oil and water don’t mix *duh*) – which causes the entire batch to be ruined. For the same reason used napkins, used paper plates, used paper towels etc are not recyclable. So if you’re one of the many people that recycle they pizza boxes, thinking they’re doing a good thing – think again! By recycling that one pizza box you might actually be destroying a whole batch of recycled paper and cardboard! According to some estimations, the cost of irresponsible recycling is $700 million per year!

So – go find out the recycling rules for where you live so that you know how to recycle correctly :)

Sources:

The Pizza box mystery, Earth911

Waste Hierarchy: Who’s on Top in the Game of Trash? Earth911

For more tips on cleaning out your house to make it more “zen”, see:

15 Great Decluttering Tips, ZenHabits

How to Declutter, ZenHabits

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess, ZenHabits





The lifelong search for happiness

13 03 2009

Are you one of those people who are constantly pursuing a goal – thinking that you’ll be happy once you get there? Then you need to read the following blog post:

The Single Secret to Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever

As Leo correctly points out – stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now.

dunes
I’ve been working on learning to “enjoy the journey” – as opposed to just waiting for the goal – for quite some time already, and it’s not always easy. Actually, in the beginning it was pretty hard. But it’s definitely worth the effort! I feel so much more aware, so much more present, than I used to. I’ve learned to enjoy a beautiful view, the sky, a painting, a song – and I didn’t need Leo to tell me that ;) When I say “enjoy” I don’t just mean to see the sky, think it’s beautiful and then move on. No. I mean I’ve learned to really embrace it. A beautiful day I can look at the sky for a long time. I’ve had days when I’ve actually laid down in the grass next to the path on my way home from the grocery store and just looked at the sky for half an hour. To really give in to the feeling is amazing! To just let the happiness spread inside your body until you’re totally filled with that feeling – it’s unbelievable! Everyone should try this out until they master it – and I feel sorry for those who are “too busy” – and therefore miss out on this wonderful experience!

But, even though I know how to enjoy the sky and a lot of other every day things, I still have some things I need to work on. While reading that blog post I realized that I might be good at enjoying myself, but what about (school) work? I mean, sure, there are certain areas within my field that I absolutely love, but what about the rest of them? I have to study hard for them as well. While reading his “list” I realized that I need to learn how to enjoy the process of completing a task or writing an assignment – and not just keep waiting for it to be done, with the deadline in mind. I’m sure there’s a way to learn how to enjoy working on projects that might not seem all that interesting from the beginning – and I’m gonna learn how to learn that!