Angling Toward Solutions in Climate Change Education

Our global community is confronting a significant opportunity to change.  We understand that protecting what matters to our families: our health and security, special places we care about, and living creatures with whom we share this planet (people and non-human species alike) depends on our collective efforts.  Specifically, we need to change our systems that rely on burning fuels.

Many of us understand the basics of global climate change, but it’s worth reminding ourselves because evidence suggests that most Americans (and many people from other parts of the world) don’t readily call to mind the underlying mechanisms which cause it.  Essentially it all starts with the process of burning fossil fuels.  Since the 1700s, humanity has developed immense systems that depend upon burning coal, oil and natural gas for energy.  Our global transportation, including ocean shipping, automobiles, railways and air travel rely almost entirely on burning oil or gas. Manufacturing is similar, as are the systems which support agriculture, in endeavoring to distribute food to 7 billion people around the globe.  These systems all depend on energy from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Thus, collectively, our human systems are causing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.   That vast amount of carbon dioxide acts like a blanket around the Earth, trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space.  The trapped heat is slowly accumulating, warming the lower atmosphere (where we live) and the ocean.  Negative consequences emerging from all that heat include that oceans are slowly expanding as they get warmer.  That’s one of the primary causes of sea level rise which threatens coastal cities and habitats in many places around the world. The problem is one of systems. So too then must be our thinking about how to go about coming up with solutions.

Change is needed. And this change presents in two concrete forms of action.  One is to dramatically increase efficiency, so our systems can provide their services with much less energy and therefore require much less fuel.  The second involves switching from fossil energy to other sources of energy that don’t require burning anything.  Innovations to solar energy, wind, geothermal, small hydropower, tidal power and wave power are all currently being developed.  Changes are as feasible as they are necessary. We know that when it comes to changing systems many players are necessary, we also know that everyone has their role to play.

As Educators, we have a role to play in helping people understand that it’s possible and that every person can find ways to participate.  Specifically, we are called upon to share what we know about what science is telling us about the issues and how best to address them. One of the most important changes we need to continue to make is to help shift attention exclusively toward systemic change.  And as educators, we are well-equipped to do that!

It’s important to keep talking about systemic changes we can all help to facilitate. These ideas are explained more thoroughly in the article attached to this post, “Angling Toward Solutions in Climate Change Education,” please read it and share and discuss it with other Educators.

* Thanks to the Informal Learning Review, a publication of Informal Learning Experiences, for permission to share the article which originally appeared in issue No. 136 Jan/Feb. 2016.

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