Themes in The Secret Under My Skin

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
--Margaret Mead

 When you first learn about global problems, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  What can one person do the change the world? It seems easier just to pretend these problems don't exist, which is, in fact, what most adults in North America do. You certainly can't change everything, and you shouldn't try. But pick one issue that really matters to you and see what you can do. Educate yourself and think about how you can involve others around you to the make a positive change.  There are already lots of people trying to make the world a better place. This page will help you find some of them.

Social Issues

Canada is a country where no child should live in poverty, but one in every five children now does. What will happen if we continue to neglect needy children? I try to answer this question in my book.

Even now, children around the world starve to death every day. If you are concerned, you can visit the Hunger Site and make a free donation to help feed people around the world. I visit the Hunger Site every day. Visiting the Hunger Site will not cause you to get spam.

To find out more about child poverty, look at my page on Street Kids and Homeless Children.  This page has links to organizations that are working to gets kids off the streets and provide them with shelter and schooling.

Use Your Wallet to Change the World

When you  buy things, ask questions. If the people selling the products don't know, ask for contact information for the suppliers and write to them. Search the Internet for information. Read labels. Companies that sell and produce goods respond to demands from consumers. You have the power to change the way they behave.  

In Canada, we have laws to protect workers, but many companies buy from third world nations like Mexico and Pakistan, where people are not given the same protection. If you are interested in finding out more about the clothes you wear and how you can influence companies to provide safe working conditions, reasonable hours and a living wage, visit the Maquila Solidarity Network home page

No Sweat

If you want to help make sure that people around the world have more humane working conditions, you can get involved in the No Sweat campaign which encourages us to think about where the clothes we buy come from, and who makes them. Many schools around North America are now changing policies so they know uniforms for sports teams and other products bearing the schools' names are made under humane conditions. You can get involved by joining United Students Against Sweatshops. There are annual conferences in the United States and Canada. 

No Sweat campaigns oppose employers who use child labour, forced labour, who do not pay reasonable wages, provide safe working conditions or limit hours of work. To find out more,  visit the Maquila Solidarity Network's No Sweat Page

Fair Trade

"Before you've finished your breakfast this morning, you'll have relied on half the world"
- Martin Luther King

 Where does the food you buy come from? Are the people who grow it being paid enough to survive? These are questions we are just beginning to ask. Fair Trade has mainly been about coffee growers and craft workers in third world countries, but it is slowly growing to include other products.  Find out about fair trade in Canada by visiting Equita.

 TransfairUSA provides information on fair trade and where you can find fairly traded food products in the United States.  This website has excellent resources, including a Fair Trade Overview and Basic FAQs.

For a good overview on fair trade, look at the International Oxfam Fair Trade website.

You can also learn about fair trade by watching Transfair USA's Youtube video.

Environmental Issues

When I wrote The Secret Under My Skin, in the late 1990s, many people were still debating whether global warming was real or not.

When I was researching this book, I read Al Gore's book Earth in Balance. Today, teachers who use Secret Under My Skin in the classroom have told me they find Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," very useful in helping to understand many of the issues raised in my book.  

Concern for the environment is an issue of increasing importance in the daily lives of ordinary people. This is encouraging in itself. Global environmental issues seem huge, but changes can only happen if you make them.  One slogan environmentalist  like is "think globally, act locally." You can start at home by turning off electrical appliances not in use. Don't leave the lights on or the TV going if no one is in the room. Switching to low wattage florescent bulbs makes a huge difference. It's estimated very light bulb you change will save a ton of carbon emissions over your lifetime.  Don't idle your car if you stop. Auto emissions cause cancer and release green house gasses, and fuel is increasingly expensive. It makes sense to turn off your truck or car whenever you can. Don't use a car when you can walk or ride a bike. If you live in a place with public transit, take the bus or subway whenever you can.

For ideas about protecting the environment, go to  We Project. This website will update you on issues and actions related to climate change and is part of Al Gore's foundation, the Alliance for Climate Protection. Click on the links on the right hand side of the Alliance home page for ideas you can use to help protect the environment.

Do you recycle at home? Is there a recycling program at your school?  If not, can you start one?  
To find out more, you can visit Environment Canada's Take Action on the Environment page and the What Can You Do? page.

Severn Suzuki is a young Canadian who thinks about environmental issues and is determined to change the world. In 1992, when she was 12, she addressed the Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil. To read her speech, visit "A Plea for Our Planet"

To see what kids in Australia are doing about global environmental issues, visit the Schools for a Sustainable Future Home Page.

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