Fauna Extreme publishes a coloring book targeted to young girls. But it doesn’t have a princess theme or a cute kitty or an adorable pony in it. This is a coloring book about power and strength and athleticism. And I’m going to tell you about it — as well as about a contest to win one. But first, I want to go back into time and talk a bit about the world I grew up in. Please bear with me.
A Different Era
When I was a little girl (oh, about a million years ago), boys got to do all the cool things. They played with trucks. They played Army. They were daredevils. They even occasionally swore (swear words weren’t as commonplace among kids as they are today). I didn’t want to be a “girly-girl.” I wanted to be tough, too. I had opinions. I liked being physical and running and jumping. But I was frequently told, “You can’t do that; you’re a girl.” It didn’t always stop me, but sometimes it did.
Where I grew up, in Los Angeles, California; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Dallas, Texas, among others, girls didn’t play competitive sports in high school. Oh, we had one girl on the tennis team at my high school in Dallas. And there was a drill team, where the girls wore tight satin shorts matching tops, boots — and gloves. (Yeah, it was a long time ago.) And the year before that, when I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, there was a synchronized swim team. But we girls were offered nothing else even remotely athletic besides cheer leading. Both of my high schools had co-ed cheer leading squads.
I loved to run, and probably would have been a sprinter, but we didn’t have that as an option. In fact, running track didn’t enter my consciousness as a possibility until I was an adult living in rural Iowa. The smaller cities in Iowa had had girls’ basketball for decades. It was six-on-six basketball back then, a modified version from what the boys played, but at least it was a competitive high school sport. When I learned that small-town high school girls had been playing sports for years, though I hadn’t even been able to conceive of it, I felt cheated. Why should the boys have all the fun?
This is a very different era, and Title 9 funding has created a space for girls to participate in competitive sports. But let’s get real here. Even today, girls and women don’t always see athleticism as a positive thing. Though it’s a far cry from the “a woman’s place is in the home” world of Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver (two shows my family watched religiously), it is still a sexist world. Girls and women are valued for how we look — often at least as much, and sometimes more than — how we perform in sports or school or on the job. Sadly, that hasn’t changed so much from the ’60s. Don’t believe me? Look at just about any magazine cover targeted to women or to men.
Athletes may admire each other, and parents are typically very happy to see their daughters, as well as their sons, striving for physical strength and prowess. But once high school is over, many of those same girls who played basketball, soccer, or volleyball are strutting their stuff, trying to look sexy and cool instead of competent.
We live in a university town, and we see it all too often. It makes me sad to watch young women with brains and talent choose the sleaziest clothes they can find to get attention, rather than awing the guys with their smarts, their sense of humor, or their grace on the basketball court. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Or is it really just my old-fashioned perception of the world?
Celebrate Being a Girl
So how does all this relate to a coloring book?
Sarah Broyles, the publisher of the Fauna Extreme coloring book, has two daughters. The younger one likes “girly” stuff. The older girl, Parker, considers herself a “tomboy.” (That’s a term I used to describe myself from time to time when I was her age.) And that troubles Sarah. One day, Parker, declared to Sarah that she was a tomboy. Sarah tried to convince her it was a sexist term that limits the things girls are “supposed to” like. Parker replied,
Sarah, a marathon athlete who didn’t start running until after she’d had two children, admires animal athletes and was inspired to create beautiful running tees, necklaces, and now a coloring book that celebrates them. She calls her business Fauna Extreme.
Fauna Extreme is about ladies embracing animal athletes — feeling inspired by their speed, strength, stamina and tenacity — inspiring us to persevere and overcome. Simply put — Fauna Extreme is about girl power via the wonders of wildlife …
Beautiful Images, Fascinating Facts
The coloring book is filled with the same detailed images of the animals that grace the Fauna Extreme tees and necklaces. But there’s more to the Fauna Extreme coloring book than just images of beautiful animals. Sarah has written a profile of each animal, featuring fascinating facts such as these paragraphs about the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus):
The “greyhound” of cats is built for rapid results. Her long legs, powerful heart, and strong arteries add up to some serious speed. She can accelerate from 0 to 40 mph in three strides and reach 70 mph in seconds. She’s the only cat with specialized, semi-retractable claws, gripping the ground like spikes on a track. She can maintain a high-speed chase for 400 to 600 yards, but then she’s totally exhausted and stops for a much needed rest. Upon winning her trophies, she must quickly hide them from stronger bullies who will steal her precious prizes.
There are approximately 10,000 cheetahs left on Earth today, placing her on the list of Endangered Species. To learn more about protecting this animal athlete, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund at www.cheetah.org.
Beyond the 12 beautiful images and profiles, Broyles has included seven pages of review questions and activities. She donates a portion of all sales to wildlife conservation funds.
There are other good things about the book, too. The pages are made from 50% post-consumer waste and the cover is 100% post-consumer waste. The paper is processed free of chlorine, and all print is made with wax-based inks. To top it off, the coloring book was “created with 100% wind power.”
So, if you know and love a little girl, and you want her to identify with the strength and grace of some of the world’s most amazing animals, get her a Fauna Extreme coloring book. Help her to understand that it’s both cool and beautiful to be athletic, to have her own power, and to be exactly who she is. (Boys may like it, too, but the text and messaging is directed to girls.)
Win a Fauna Extreme Coloring Book
Broyles is giving away one copy of the Fauna Extreme coloring book to a Blue Planet Green Living reader. Though the coloring book is targeted to girls, boys are welcome to enter. Here are the guidelines:
- Entrants must be younger than 18 and live in the U.S.
- Choose an animal they admire for its “speed, strength, stamina, strategy, or spunk.”
- Either draw a picture of the animal illustrating how it exhibits the above characteristices OR write no more than one page describing how the animal fits those criteria.
- Send an email to Sarah Broyles with your scanned drawing attached and/or your ext typed into the email.
- Your parents must sign your work to verify that you have permission to participate.
- Include your name, age, and complete mailing address.
Sarah Broyles and her daughters will determine the winner based on how well the entries describe or illustrate the characteristics of an animal’s “speed, strength, stamina, strategy, or spunk.” The winner will be announced on both Blue Planet Green Living and the Fauna Extreme website. Selected entrants will have their artwork or written work posted on both sites. A parent must sign to indicate that they give their child permission to have original work posted on the websites. No work will be returned.
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On October 13, 2006, Professor Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh stepped to the podium in Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The work for which Yunus was being honored had started a financial revolution of sorts in 1976, when he turned the banking industry on its head by giving micro-loans to poor people.
With the success of his initial loans, Yunus founded the Grameen Bank. (The definition of Grameen is rural or village in the Bangla language.)
“We were happy that the world has given recognition, through this prize, that poverty is a threat to peace,” Yunus writes on the Grameen Bank’s website.
“Grameen Bank, and the concept and methodology of micro-credit that it has elaborated through its 30 years of work, have contributed to enhancing the chances of peace by reducing poverty. Bangladesh is happy that it could contribute to the world a concept and an institution which can help bring peace to the world.”
Innovation in Lending
I remember reading about the Grameen Bank (GB) more than two decades ago. I was evaluating various charities that I might consider supporting. I didn’t have much to share, and I wanted my small gift to have the greatest possible impact. Grameen’s innovative idea of making microloans to impoverished people excited me.
The Grameen Bank left the central field of my vision for a number of years, and I hadn’t revisited their work until writing this post. What I’ve learned about Grameen Bank since has continued to inspire me. GB no longer accepts donations. By loaning money to enterprising poor people over three decades, the bank has amassed enough money to finance projects on its own.
What’s more, it supports 23,689 staff, who visit 84,237 villages across Bangladesh each week. This is a labor-intensive process, but necessary, so that the bank can fulfill its first purpose: “The clients should not go to the bank, it is the bank which should go to the people.”
Other principles of Grameen Bank illustrate the group’s dedication to serving the under-served poor of Bangladesh, especially women. Here are a few of Grameen Bank’s other unique practices that make it different from traditional banks:
- There are no contracts between the borrower and Grameen Bank, and the bank never sues if a borrower has difficulty repaying her loan.
- When a person can’t repay a Grameen Bank loan in the time they agreed to, GB renegotiates the payments to give them more time. There are no late fees or penalties, as in a traditional bank.
- If a borrower experiences trouble that prevents her from paying her loan on time, GB works with her to help find a solution including. Employees may even work with her to recover her health. The bank never takes away collateral in lieu of repayment.
- GB never charges interest in excess of the value of the principal. In a conventional loan, a borrower may repay the principal many times over.
- GB charges simple interest, rather than compounding interest quarterly.
- Grameen Bank concerns itself with the welfare of the borrower’s family, not just the welfare of the loan principal. The bank often provides scholarships to the borrowers’ children, helps with housing and sanitation, works with them to establish pension funds, and assists in emergencies.
- If a borrower dies, the loan and interest are considered paid in full. There is no additional insurance fee for this service, and the borrower’s family does not assume the debt.
- Bank ownership is held by the borrowers, not by a few wealthy people.
- 97% of the borrowers and owners are women.
- If a borrower builds a house with Grameen Bank funds, the bank insists that the ownership remain in the name of the woman. By owning property, a woman gains new status and a more equal foothold on power in the family and the community.
Serving the Poorest of the Poor
To me, the most significant difference between Grameen Bank and conventional banks is this: Conventional banks only loan t people who have money. The more one has, the more one can borrow.
But Grameen Bank puts the priority on loaning to those who have nothing. The less a person has, the more likely she is to get a GB loan. As the GB website puts it, “Conventional banks look at what has already been acquired by a person. Grameen looks at the potential that is waiting to be unleashed in a person.”
Grameen Bank actively seeks out beggars to offer them loans. The goal is to give each person dignity through work and to end her begging. If a woman begs on a street corner, for example, the GB persuades her to carry some small merchandise to sell. Or, she can sell door to door. Imagine a bank in a developed country offering loans to the poorest of the poor — especially with such favorable, humanitarian terms.
For borrowers affiliated with Grameen Bank, the experience is life changing. That is partly true because the majority of borrowers have never been extended credit.
But it’s also reflective of the “Sixteen Decisions,” which GB encourages all borrowers to make. These include:
- paying no dowry upon a child’s marriage
- educating all of the borrower’s children
- installing and using a sanitary latrine system
- planting trees
- eating vegetables
- getting clean drinking water
- and more
How It Works
Grameen Bank groups are formed of five people, who support each other. Initially, two of the five may borrow money. The others enter into a morally binding contract with each other and with Grameen, to support the borrowers and help them repay if they should have difficulty meeting their obligations. As the first two women show responsibility in repaying their loans, two more may request funding. If all goes well, the fifth and final person then gets funded.
By forming this moral bond, the groups become reliant on each other, yet self sufficient at the same time. They move out of poverty together, helping each other along the way.
“Bicycle bankers” move among the villages, supervising and providing discipline to the borrowers. This highly effective model has resulted in 97% loan repayment.
The benefits are multiple and have powerful effects on the women’s lives. According to the Grameen Bank website, “Women… proved not only reliable borrowers but astute entrepreneurs. As a result, they have raised their status, lessened their dependency on their husbands and improved their homes and the nutritional standards of their children.”
But what about their families? Does Grameen only benefit the women? Take a look at what the Grameen Bank website says:
It is estimated that the average household income of Grameen Bank members is about 50 percent higher than the target group in the control village, and 25 percent higher than the target group non-members in Grameen Bank villages. The landless have benefited most, followed by marginal landowners. This has resulted in a sharp reduction in the number of Grameen Bank members living below the poverty line, 20 percent compared to 56 percent for comparable non-Grameen Bank members…. What started as an innovative local initiative, “a small bubble of hope”, has thus grown to the point where it has made an impact on poverty alleviation at the national level .
And that is as good a definition of success as any.
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I am admittedly more sensitive than many people about the lack of attention paid to the contributions of women in science. Since I was a young girl, I have bristled at stories about women who did the same work as men — better, often enough — but whose names never were put forth for prizes, awards, or any kind of recognition. The simple fact is, more talented women have been overlooked by history than celebrated in it. Certainly, this is also true in cases of racial and ethnic inequities, and I ache to hear these stories, too. Though I do not wish to denigrate the work of talented, deserving men of any race or religion, my own hot button, quite honestly, is about women. So, I was gratified to find in my inbox today a press release about an award honoring the contributions of six outstanding women conservationists.
You may know the Audubon Society as the protector of birds, as well as other wildlife and their habitats. The Society’s dedication is legendary. This 200-year-old organization supports a national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, as well as educational and scientific programs. Significantly, it also awards women environmentalists for their important — and often overlooked — contributions toward conservation.
Since 2004, the Audubon Society has been honoring “visionary women whose dedication, talent and energy have advanced conservation and environmental education locally and on a global scale.” The award is named for Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, who revealed to the world the environmental tragedy of DDT and other pesticides. Carson is often said to have started the environmental movement, and the award is fittingly named in her honor.
The 2009 award ceremony, which took place on May 19 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, honored recipients Dr. Sylvia Earle; Sally Jewell; Elizabeth C. Titus Putnam; and Elizabeth Colleton, Jane Evans, and Susan Haspel.
Dr. Sylvia Earle
Dr. Earle is described by the Audubon Society as “a leading oceanographer, author, lecturer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence whose work has expanded awareness and conservation of the fragile marine environment.” Previously, she served as the chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She founded, and is currently president of, Deep Search International.
In 1970, she led the first expedition comprised solely of women aquanauts. The leader of more than 60 deep sea expeditions, Earle is also known for solo diving to a record depth of 3,300 feet. Her research is centered on deep-sea ecosystems and remote environments. You might recognize Dr. Earle as a 2009 recipient of the TED Prize. At the end of her TED Prize speech, she declared her wish that we all would work to protect the “blue heart” of our planet, the oceans — something she has been doing for decades.
As president and CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Ms. Jewell was acknowledged for her role in environmental preservation and for her work to get children outside to play in a natural environment. REI, which markets outdoor gear and apparel, does its best to inspire, educate — and outfit — people who love the outdoors and want to protect it. Jewell currently serves on the National Parks Second Century Commission and The National Forum on Children and Nature Advisory Board. She is a member of the board of directors of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, the University of Washington, the Initiative for Global Development, and the National Parks Conservation Association. She also serves on The National Forum on Children and Nature Advisory Board and the National Parks Second Century Commission.
Elizabeth C. Titus Putnam
Ms. Putnam is the president and founder of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the nation’s largest youth conservation leadership organization. The SCA grew out of Ms. Putnam’s vision and activism while a student at Vassar College in the 1950s. Today, as a result of her efforts, some 4,000 SCA students volunteer at U.S. parks and recreation areas, giving more than 2 million hours of their time and talents.
Elizabeth Colleton, Jane Evans and Susan Haspel
Environmentalism doesn’t always happen outdoors, as evidenced by the recognition of three executives responsible for NBC Universal’s “Green is Universal” Initiative. Susan Haspel, Jane Evans, and Beth Colleton are implementing a variety of green programs, including a pilot program that will serve to green NBC’s operations, reduce carbon emissions, and provide green grants totaling more than $300,000 to under-served public education programs. The purpose of Green Is Universal is to heighten awareness of environmental issues and encourage people to take positive action.
Whenever an environmentalist is singled out for his or her accomplishments, I feel deep gratitude. The road is difficult for anyone who fights to protect the planet against the financial, political, and industrial forces that seem to be hell-bent on destroying it. And when the fighter is a woman, I am even more impressed, because, in most cases, the odds she has battled have been much greater than those of her male peers. Kudos to Dr. Earle, Ms. Jewell, Ms. Putnam, and Ms. Colleton, Ms. Evans, and Ms. Haspel. I applaud you and thank you for your contributions to the collective welfare of all the travelers on this planet.
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