By Bernice Elizabeth Green
From September 21-28, New York will be home to folks from around the world in business, government and society talking about the earth, global warming and climate change at numerous venues, from the United Nations to churches and schools.
And, yes, this Seventh Annual Climate Week NYC does have something to do with you, your child’s future and, for that matter, all the tea in China.
Among other events and activities, a United Nations Summit to adopt a post-2015 agenda centered on establishing a low-carbon economy will happen on September 25 – 27. It is being convened as a high-level plenary of the General Assembly. During which world leaders will commit to 17 Global Goals “to achieve three extraordinary things in the next 15 years.” Ending extreme poverty. Fighting inequality and injustice and fixing climate change.
There’s a great push to get the word of this effort to everyone. Climate Week officials admit that “If the goals are going to work, everyone needs to know about them. You can’t fight for your rights if you don’t know what they are. You can’t convince world leaders to do what needs to be done if you don’t know what you’re convincing them to do. If the goals are famous, they won’t be forgotten”.
President Barack Obama sent the message through the media during his recent trip to Alaska. Photographs of the president on a boat treading waters at the top of North America – where no other chief executive has tread–revealed vanishing ecosystems. In renaming the highest mountain to its traditional Alaskan tribal given name, Denali, his action also signaled the importance of respecting vanishing cultures.
Some media denounced Obama and also, most recently, former California Governor Jerry Brown’s efforts as politics-influenced grandstanding. Some major oil companies feel threatened by the ongoing publicity around it.
However, the president’s three-day journey to Alaska and the Arctic Circle reached billions of people in a way that no other man-programmed action could. Massive advertising and lobbying campaigns failed to derail his attempts to expand the knowledge of sustainability beyond the acts of recycling and selecting fruit and vegetables labeled organic (although all of these efficiencies help sustain healthy life and healthy lifestyle).
His journey revealed how “climate-related vulnerabilities” effect food security, water quality and access, human habitats, infrastructure resiliency, heat extremes in summer and cold extremes in winter (and vice versa); human health risks and air pollution, i.e., allergies and more. It also spotlighted a troubling fact: due to global warming, temperatures have increased in the region over the last 50 years at twice the rate of the lower 28 states, and they are rising.
Though it may appear that none of it has anything to do with all the tea in China or trying to make a living or anything as remote as a Back to School “To Do” list, it really does.
Beyond the language of everybody participating in “building a strong, sustainable economy” centered around “green living”, comes some hard questions related to where the jobs of the future will be, who will develop the innovations for a sustainable society, who will power it and who will prosper from it.
We must be part of — and engaged in — the discussion of global warming and climate change science to implement solutions for this changing climate which brings intense heat waves, more pollutants in the air and more diseases. The success of public health efforts globally will depend directly on the action the world takes to combat climate change, according to a new report published in the medical journal The Lancet.
By the year 2100, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “such action would avoid 12,000 annual deaths from extreme temperatures in 49 U.S. cities, and 57,000 fewer deaths from poor air quality”.
The EPA report estimates that by the end of the century these efforts would have saved billions in needed bridge repairs, adapting the nation’s roadways and avoided damage to coastal areas from sea level rise and storm surge.
This December, a meeting in Paris of international negotiators will try to work out an agreement to take action in limiting future warming.
Obama’s trip revealed that “taking global action” starts locally — and personally, beyond board rooms and gatherings but within ourselves: what we do at home, how and what we teach our children. So we have some thoughts and suggestions on this:
At every grade – and at home — our children should be talking, studying and/or reading about Earth Science. We can teach children how earth systems work, how they evolved and are evolving, and the impact of humans on this evolution and the environment by relating these subjects to what is happening in the world today. Reports of droughts, constant wildfires, rises in sea levels, beached whales and human migration patterns make “for real” – though admittedly scary — Reality TV.
Consider this: interest in the tragedy of a 14-year-old boy who passed away after coming into contact with a rare amoeba while swimming in a lake led to us taking a trip to the Science Museum. “Microbes” now are a curiosity to a six-year-old.
The backyard of a residence or the tree-filled front yard of a NYCHA building are learning centers in geoscience related to this planet Earth. Prospect Park, the Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Bridge itself are laboratories for observing fauna and flora.
Historically, African-Americans stand at the crux of these teachings. Hattie Carthan was Brooklyn’s pioneer environmentalist; Garland Baltimore, the first Black graduate of Troy’s RPI, designed parks; and the works of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver are known throughout the world.
Scratch the surface of your ancestry and you may find what this writer was told: that my own grandfather nurtured one of the world’s largest Tung Trees in southwest Georgia, a perennial studied by scientists from afar.
Even the use of Earth Science words — atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere may foster interest in the tools earth scientists use: physics, chemistry, biology, chronology and mathematics.
Expanding the conversation with children to include Climate Change, geoliteracy and the environment can be done in a number of ways. The effects of hot and cold air on the flight of a basketball to a hoop are of interest to an 11-year-old, whose only career interest formerly was in becoming “a major basketball star”.
During the fall, Our Time Press will continue informing our readers of local S.T.E.M. programs that are developing other stars.
Read More About It
In relation to teaching Geoliteracy and to President Obama’s trip to Alaska and The Arctic Circle, you may want to introduce your child to Lee & Low’s “Vanishing Cultures” book series by Jan Reynolds. Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. www.leeandlow.com
Also visit: http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/04/15/where-in-the-world-how-one-class-used-google-maps-to-explore-the-vanishing-cultures-series/