As I move along in my Humane Education classes, I’ve begun thinking about some issues in more detail than I used to, and sometimes it can get a bit depressing, I won’t lie. When it gets to me, I try to remember a few essays we read in the beginning of the semester on keeping hope alive in the face of what looks to be insurmountable problems, such as the warming of the planet and what appears to be the unwillingness of many to acknowledge what is going on, and that we have to take some actions now to preserve the planet for our kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and so on. All too often, it is to easy to just say “oh, I’m only one person, what can I do?” and throw your hands up in despair without having at least tried to make a difference or a change.
To me, that is almost as bad a strategy to have about climate change as the one undertaken by many to deny it exists whatsoever. Such is the case with the Heartland Institute having mailed books to science teachers all across the country this past March. Have you heard about the Heartland Institute? They’re the same organization that used to argue that second hand smoke didn’t cause cancer. I think we all know how (un)truthful that statement is now.
One of those times that it seemed a bit depressing to me is when I talked to my sister in Michigan, who has three kids, ages 15, 12 and 9. I asked her what they were learning about climate change in the schools, if anything. Turns out, they haven’t touched on the topic at all. Not even as part of a unit on something related to climate change like the hurricanes of this past summer, or the fact that what was once-in-a-century storms seem to be happening with much more frequency lately. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because it might be considered “controversial” and therefore they should stay away from it? Is it because it’s not on a standardized test and therefore the school can’t show how proficient their teaching methods are? If so, that’s just ….. sad.
So if you’re reading this and you’re a parent, I would ask you to ask your kids if they are talking about any of the following in their science classes: climate change, the weather (such as hurricanes, droughts in California, forest fires), rising ocean temperatures, coral reefs dying near Australia, how the ice is melting at the poles and in Greenland, how our glaciers keep shrinking every year. You don’t have to ask them all of this at once – that’s way too overwhelming. Just broach one topic at a time.
If you’re a parent, maybe you can attend a PTA meeting or school board of education meeting at your school to discuss the curriculum. If there are any climate deniers on the board of education, you can point out some of the facts and studies that debunk the ideas espoused by the likes of Heartland Institute, on the Skeptical Science website. Call your school’s principal and find out if the teachers are using or mentioning Heartland Institute’s book. If so, provide them with a copy of this flyer, explaining five reasons why the book shouldn’t be used in the classroom.
if your kids have questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, maybe showing them one of the three flyers linked here, created by the NCSE (National Center for Science Education). And take them to their local science museum – in Albuquerque, we have one that is very hands on, called Explora. (Check out your local library to see if there is a pass you can use so you can attend it at a discounted price or possibly even for free!!!) The point is to get them thinking and getting excited about science and the human effect on the world around them.
If you’re interested in reading further about this, or how to talk to your kids about climate change and the environment, please check out the following resources, as well as those mentioned on my Helpful Books page. (It’s been revised and republished!)
- How to Raise and Environmentalist, from the Greater Good Science Center/UC Berkeley;
- Nature is Speaking video series (they’re all less than 2 minutes long, and you might like some of the familiar voices you will hear);
- Earth Breathing (1 minute in length)
Or, even better, if there are woods or a lake nearby, take your kids there for a short field trip. Encourage their love of the outdoors and ask them questions about the trees or the water, or any of the living creatures that might cross their path (age-appropriate questions, of course.) You might want to talk about experiences you had as a kid with different animals or species we don’t see so much of anymore, such as fireflies. (If you’re in the US, around my age, think back – when was the last time you saw one?? Didn’t they seem to be everywhere when you were a kid?!) Ask your kids why they think that might be, that some species seem to be disappearing from our planet.
Finally, if your kids are learning about climate change or any of its related issues in school, I’d love for you to drop me a comment and let me know where you live (just a state is fine if in the US, or a country if not in the US), and how they are discussing it so that we can help spread the word. And if they’re not discussing it, but you think they should, then let’s get a conversation started and maybe we can brainstorm ideas on how you can approach your local school or community and raise its consciousness on the issue of climate change. It’s here. Let’s not close our eyes to what is happening right before us.
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