14 November 2009

22 Days - Teaching as if the Future Matters

I offered a workshop yesterday on Transformative Sustainability Education at a wonderful independent girls school in a large city. I offer that workshop to school staffs knowing full well that the issue is no longer one of sustainability, but of survivability.

For that reason, I started yesterday's workshop with a participatory activity showing all the connections between melting Arctic summer sea ice, the livestock industry, doomed coral reefs, our driving habit, killer droughts/floods/famines in Africa, our addiction to economic growth.

I was glad to see that the teachers attending this workshop were open-minded and got it. We talked about the climate emergency, and how our job as educators must now include sounding the alarm on this crisis.

One of the teachers then politely and thoughtfully offered to play devil's advocate, saying that he could imagine some parents balking at this, accusing teachers of being political and "poisoning their child's mind."

As you can imagine, I suggested several possible (and rather irreverent) responses. "Can we assume that we both want what's in your child's best interests?" is always a good way to start this conversation. But then I moved on to "Well, if we don't take emergency action on climate change, then we're poisoning your child's entire future."

We can no longer afford to be afraid to sound the alarm, as educators, as parents, as concerned citizens. If we love our students, if we love our children, if we love anything (besides money), then we must screw up the courage to sound the alarm — and risk whatever derision from deniers/skeptics/ignorers/delayers that comes our way.

If teachers believe their role is to help their students create the best possible future (and why would we want anything less for them?), then we must start taking their future seriously.

And while we're sounding the alarm and educating parents about the crisis (through their children), we ought to be teaching environmental solutions. The school I visited yesterday was having solar panels installed — what a wonderful way to help students make the shift from the Burning Age (like the Stone Age or Bronze Age) to the Perpetual/Renewable Energy Age.

We talked a lot about the importance of reducing meat consumption and getting as many people as possible to go veg, in order to drop our anthropogenic methane and other greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to buy time to implement other solutions. (Please, no complaints from English teachers on that run-on sentence!) This school has already implemented Meatless Mondays, which is fantastic!

And then we all said goodbye and went to the diningroom for a roast beef lunch. Ah well, at least they had a yummy climate-change-fighting vegetarian option.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?