Already heard two people suggest that the cold weather could be an indication that global warming might net be an issue after all. I think I need to start carrying around a pocket version of the data that shows the evidence to the contrary.
We are just starting work on climate change in Environmental Science, having finished studying the carbon cycle and the greenhouse effect. On impulse I took pages from a set of slide presentations I found from a conference of Effects of Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest, distributed them one to each student, and told them to decipher their page–What was it about, and why was it in a presentation of that topic? Some had a list of figures, some had graphs, some a series of maps, and all had only basic titles, and a few details. The type of slides you need a human being to animate and clarify. They had to dig, and I hope that it will kick start a conversation about the many impacts of climate change in our own area.
I’m the only Environmental Science teacher in the district, and the course is still, in the districts I know about, an elective. How can that be? Yes, biology is important, but if you use the traditional text and don’t rush, you barely touch on ecology, which is usually located at the end of the text. Small to big picture just doesn’t give justice to an understanding of climate’s effects on the ecosystems and physical processes that protect and sustain us. And so students learn about cells and genetics and the food chain, and pass the End of Course or AP exam, take some classes in chem or physics or tech or ag. science, but never really learn that everything is made out of air, soil, water, and sunlight, and that our only hope lies in learning how to do things just like the rest of nature does.
One of the most discouraging things I heard was when a teacher said no, he never did any waste reduction projects because he had to teach to the AP Environmental Science test, and there was no time. Important, yes, but Environmental Science should never be AP. Better to teach one aspect deeply so the principles of systems and interdependence sink in, and students are moved to action on one thing about which they can really make a difference.
Next to evolution and the unit on reproduction, I’m sure teaching that climate change is real and a threat will the the most likely topic on which I’ll get some parental complaints. No, I’d put it second after reproduction, since I don’t have to teach about choices, only about biology. I ask myself whether I am likely to emphasize the importance of climate change even more, teaching in a mostly Republican community, and I’d have to say, yes.