One of the key tenets of humane education that IHE strives to help others understand is how interconnected issues are. Whether it’s poverty, climate change, wildlife trafficking, or plastic waste, most global ethical issues are connected to people, nonhuman animals, and the earth.

Our friend Norma Kramer, co-founder and director of YEA Camp, has a favorite activity, Planetary Problem Puzzle, that she uses with her teen campers to  help them gain a more sophisticated understanding of the interconnectedness of global issues and see how issues they may not have realized were important to them actually have a significant impact on an issue they care about.

Here’s how Nora describes Planetary Problem Puzzle:

“We start by asking participants to share some of the problems they see in our society that they are most concerned about. They typically say things like racism, homophobia, war, animal cruelty, climate change, homelessness, poverty….

We then say that while these issues may seem unrelated, there are many connections between them that might surprise people.

We choose 8-10 of these issues and write each one spread out around a large piece of easel paper, and draw a circle around that word or phrase. (The title is a bit of a pun because while these are problems affecting the planet, the display also kind of looks like planets in the sky.)

We then ask if anyone can see any ways that any one of these problems contributes to or is related to another, and how.

The comments are fascinating and quite intelligent among our campers, who are operating at a pretty knowledgeable level.

They recognize some of the more obvious things, like that environmental problems are bad for animals too, but also much more sophisticated things, like that a high number of homeless people are veterans, or that war contributes to climate change — not just because war results in burning carbon that contributes to climate change, but because we are spending billions on war and then use the excuse that there is no money to protect the environment.

Some see connections between racism and poverty, between people who are low income not having access to more sustainable or humane items (food or products), which harms animals and the environment.

There are just so many connections to be made.

Each time someone makes a connection, we validate it and ask any clarifying questions regarding how those items connect, and draw a line between the items.

Critical to this activity is a facilitator/educator who is knowledgeable about many different social issues and can help direct the conversation if participants are struggling.”

This activity is a great tool for helping spark discussion about more deeply understanding our global challenges and how they affect other beings and the earth.

Find more useful activities in our Resource Center. (Filter by age, type, and/or subject.)

Be sure to forward this to at least ONE person who would benefit from this resource.


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