People We Love
Eco-Activist for Human Rights
As global climate change escalates, so do fears that it will disproportionately impact indigenous peoples in the Arctic, whose entire way of life depends on cold, ice, and snow. Inuit-born Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier wants the world to see climate change as a human rights issue.
In March, she took an important step toward realizing that goal: after initially being turned down, she was allowed to argue her case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. For her, the opportunity itself was the victory.
“Asserting our human rights in this public way gives us a vehicle to educate and inform,” says Watt-Cloutier. Whatever the commission decides, she believes that getting the message out will inspire people to see climate change as a moral issue facing all of humanity and requiring urgent action.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time that will ultimately impact all of us. The Inuit are giving the world the gift of an early warning.”
Helping Pregnant Women Behind Bars
Over the years, Zimryah Barnes had driven past the Washington Correction Center for Women many times, wondering what life was like for the women there.
Last year, this certified doula and aspiring midwife got to find out. Inspired to help incarcerated pregnant women, she joined the Birth Attendants, a collective of doulas who offer free services to prisoners in Washington state.
Inside, she found women struggling with lack of adequate education and prenatal care, poor nutrition, limited access to exercise, and isolation from supportive family and friends. Through education, emotional support, and constructive collaboration within the prison system, she hopes to reduce these barriers.
In addition to providing education and labor support to pregnant prisoners, Barnes also brings her experience back out into the world. “I want to educate the community about prison as a form of violence against women.”
Dr. Casey KirkHart
Standing Up to Big Pharma
Why aren't you eating? It was a typical question Casey KirkHart heard from fellow medical students as they headed for another free buffet lunch.
KirkHart's problem: those post-lecture lunches were catered by drug company representatives, who often served up a plug for their latest drugs along with the salad. “We should be learning from experienced physicians, researchers, and professors—not marketing reps from drug companies,” Casey said.
After medical school, Dr. KirkHart went to work for the American Medical Student Association, talking to medical students and encouraging the removal of drug representatives from medical schools.
Several large medical schools are now crafting policies to do just that. Dr. KirkHart, now in his second year of residency, continues to advocate for limiting drug representatives' access to doctors. “There really is no free lunch,” he says.
Troubadour Takes on Climate Change
Known as the children's troubadour, Raffi has been delighting children for decades with songs such as “Baby Beluga” and “Bananaphone.” A rare celebrity who has consistently campaigned against consumerism, Raffi has now turned his talents to envisioning a “child-honoring world” and writing songs about the possibilities for transforming the world.
His recent album, “Resisto Dancing: Songs of a Compassionate Revolution,” encourages people of all ages to “sing and dance a new paradigm into being.” Among its 14 songs are “Where We All Belong,” celebrating the principles of the Earth Charter, and “Turn this World Around,” dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
Raffi's latest song, “Cool It,” is a rousing tune on global warming that's being used by activists to encourage people everywhere to take action to “cool this planet down.”
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