HumanistsMN members and friends celebrated the Winter Solstice in secular style on Dec. 14, 2019. We honored the “reason for the season” with dinner, entertainment, and singing at the festively decorated First Unitarian Society. Big Oil (Marcy Woodruff Hillerson), Big Food (Suzy Bancroft), and Big Auto (Meline Juarez) abducted Father Winter (David Guell) in a “mummers play” written by Audrey Kingstrom. Other cast members included Sonia Aaroe, Suellen Carroll, Heather Hegi, Mary McLeod, Christine Retkwa, Summer Sasarita, Jeff Spencer, and Mitchell Thompson. Erica Klein and David Guell performed solo acts.
Category: Humanist Community Gatherings
Cognitive decline in not inevitable, asserted Dr. Lisa James at the beginning of her presentation at our November community gathering. James, Kunin Professor in Women’s Healthy Brain Aging, is part of a research team that is assessing brain status across the lifespan to uncover the conditions and attributes that contribute to brain health and resiliency. …
Advanced economies are headed toward “The Great Simplification,” asserted Nate Hagens at our October Humanist Community Gathering. With our insatiable consumption of energy, we are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet and a significant reduction in GDP is now likely.
Bias is everywhere in our society – so began biological anthropologist Greg Laden, providing numerous examples from recent news at our September Community Gathering. And humanists aren’t immune from exhibiting bias because we all are products of our environment. Our biology, our genetic makeup, Laden argued, is not the culprit as much as is our culture.
The HumanistsMN membership elected a new board at the May annual meeting, including a new president, Harlan Garbell, and vice president, Suzanne Perry. Nick Haylund and David Guell were re-elected treasurer and secretary. Two new at-large members, Jerry Smith and Mitch Thompson, joined the board, and Ellie Haylund was re-elected.
Two climate change activists at our April 2019 chapter meeting promoted electric cars as a key weapon in the fight against climate change. They said that transportation produces by far the biggest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.
Elizer Darris, who experienced the dehumanization of prison as a juvenile offender, spoke to our March chapter meeting about strategies to “Disrupt, Dismantle, and Destroy” mass incarceration. Darris, now a field organizer for ACLU of Minnesota, was sentenced to life in prison at age 15 but worked to educate himself and successfully fought to get his sentence reversed on appeal. But his experience as an inmate, where “every day you have to fight to preserve your humanity,” continues to inform his work.
The explosive growth in genetic research and testing is creating a host of ethical and practical concerns, Bonnie LeRoy, professor and director of the Graduate Program of Study in Genetic Counseling at the University of Minnesota, told our February chapter meeting. Things are moving so fast, much of it driven by commercial testing companies, that the medical community is having a hard time keeping up, she said.
Speakers at our January chapter meeting discussed the evolution of medical cannabis, which is legal in Minnesota, and efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Stephen Dahmer, chief medical officer of Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of four medical cannabis dispensaries in the state, noted that the medicinal properties of cannabis have been recognized for thousands of years, especially to treat pain.
A panel at our December 2018 chapter meeting discussed the challenges that people with mental illness face and offered tips for supporting them. Larry Ellis and Humanists of Minnesota member Mick Anderson discussed their experiences with Guild Incorporated, a nonprofit that offers community services to people with mental illness—Larry as a client and Mick as an employee. HofMN member Mary McLeod, whose son has schizophrenia and who volunteers for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, gave suggestions on how to interact with people with mental illness.
A panel at our November chapter meeting discussed the challenges of long-term urban and regional planning in our area as the population grows and issues like racial disparities and climate change loom. Moderated by HofMN president Audrey Kingstrom, the panel included LisaBeth Barajas, community development director, Metropolitan Council; Heather Worthington, director of long-range planning, Minneapolis Office of Community Planning and Economic Development; and Lucy Thompson, principal planner, St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development.
Atheism, humanism, and naturalism are related but different ways of expressing nonbelief in gods and the supernatural, Bill Hart, professor of religious studies at Macalester College, told our October chapter meeting. But Hart has a clear preference for one of them: naturalism. Hart, who described his own evolution from devout Christian to nontheist, is impatient with atheists, saying he wants to know what people are for, not just what they oppose.
A panel of experts discussed ways to curtail the influence of big money in politics at our September chapter meeting, kicking off a new program year. They included Vicki Barnes, Minnesota state coordinator for both American Promise and Take Back our Republic; State Senator John Marty; and Kathryn Pearson, associate professor of political science at the University of MInnesota.
The speaker at our April chapter meeting and Earth Day program was Leslie Mackenzie, a community organizer with Transition Twin Cities and a founding member of Transition Longfellow. Transition is a grassroots movement of people around the world who are shifting their lifestyles away from dependence on fossil fuels toward a lower-carbon, more sustainable and resilient future.