Fond memories of Earth Day – the time I accompanied friend and pr associate, Brian Webster, to hang out with Wavy Gravy back stage and then to watch the sunset near Ft. Point. Astoundingly gorgeous Bay…with humor in the mix.
Last year I got to hang out with Evelina Molina and her friends, the Aztec dancer troupe and residents of Roseland neighborhoor, Santa Rosa, at a failed shopping center used for lots of events (rumors the empty big box behind us could be turned into a neighborhood store) learning how to make adobe bricks with Miguel Elliot of Living Earth Structures, taking home small veggies for back porch container gardens, even dancing with the troupe! GoLocal Sonoma Coop put this together to highlight green jobs and more created by sometimes KPFA producer Evelina and her Youth Green Jobs corps.
This year? You know that our planet can sustain its wellbeing at a level of 350 particles of greenhouse gases per million, right? Except its about 390ppm now…OUCH! So glad our local Daily Acts together with iGrowSonoma and Petaluma Bounty and yes, GoLocal Sonoma Coop – are planning a 350 Garden Challenge for May 14-15th. Well, THAT’s a good thing. Details at iGrowSonoma.org and an organizing meeting at Petaluma’s Seed Bank next Wed.
Serendipitous that Michael Krasny chose to bring Bill McKibben on his Forum show on KQED FM this am – part of a special show on science education held in San Francisco’s incredible living science experiment, the Exploratorium. Had thought to review McKibben’s new book, Eaarth (he says we don’t live on the same planet we did – it’s been changed BY us and we better do the right stuff before more terrible things occur). Wonderful that Forum covers science education on Earth Day; scary that McKibben shows us the terrible truth about climate change, though leaving us with hope and energy.
McKibben says “I remember years ago, taking high school kids out (in the Adirondacks) for their first camping trip. Of the 4 of them, 2 had never been shown the Milky Way!…The main experience is being out someplace realizing there are things larger than you. Our whole marketing culture tells us you are the most important being there is. Simply allowing them to fall in love with (nature) gives some sense of the scale of things and that we need to take care of our planet and get students engaged in this.”
This Forum hour will likely be repeated at 10pm today at , 88.5FM on your radio or you can listen to archives online.
A teacher at Headlands High talked about getting kids quiet around sunset at Marin Headlands. “All of a sudden, they hear frogs for the first time. It’s irreplaceable. We teach inquiry as well. You can’t get those things inside four walls.” A student called saying he watched Bill Gate’s presentation in Copenhagen. That we need to get emissions to zero by 2050. “Do you think affluence might go down to reach that goal?” asked the caller.
McKibben: “It’s the right question, he said. Women are beginning to have fewer children. Now it’s that rising affluence curve. One thing we need to do is make people pay for emissions. We very much need to do this.” What is challenging to teachers, he said, is they must take into account economics, sociology and more (to discuss climate change). “If economics was the organizing principle for the 20th C, environmentalism is that for this century, and it is much more complex because there are more moving parts. ”
Caller, Sandy, who runs a program in San Jose, said students are learning leadership skills to teach younger children to study creeks. Get students commitment to place. “It’s been great.”
From the Exploratorium audience, a Senior at Terra Linda HS, said college students are limited for jobs after college. What’s available?
McKibben said “I teach in Vermont, one of oldest environmental colleges in country. You can almost name where you want to work. We need environmental economics, green engineering, where we might put people to work, this transition to renewable energy is where it is all about and then make sure it is happening here in the USA instead of all in China so you can go to work.”
Amarina Trap of Nature Campuses said we should get 1st graders outside to enjoy the world and basic concepts about the earth and physical sciences; from there, hopefully they come to a place where they feel a connection, at an age where it won’t turn them off, maybe introduce in 5th-6rh, 7th grades – the 350 parts per million.
A Sebastopol guy responded to the age appropriate question that every student should go to a landfill and discover where the refuse goes and who feeds off it.
McKibben says “You don’t want 6 year olds freaking out; people don’t fall in love with terminally ill people for the most part. You got to give them things to do that give them some sense of mastery.” The 350.org people showed 10,000 photos in its flickr account – and because young people “grew up on facebook, this easy communion could help them feel much more empowered than an earlier generation.”
Krasny: “At what age do you feel it is appropriate – the kinds of things that give you real pause?”
McKibben “It depends on what community you are in and whether or not people have had a chance to fall in love with their environment,” he says. “If I can get any kid out here before the age of 16, that process of falling in love with the natural world should happen as early as possible. And sometimes this is a city garden or park.”
A question about the effectiveness of the Copenhagen environmental conference was countered with this:
“We got 117 nations to sign on to 350 pact, but the wrong 117 nations. Not the major polluters. But we are only 1 year old – and young people understand debate on environment it is between physics and chemistry and…it’s possible to turn this around (from where we are) and young people are flexible enough to figure out how to do it.”
A woman from UN Association, Northern CA asked if we can we get climate change in the curriculum in Northern CA.
McKibben said “Around the world, everybody is studying these ideas. Most interesting is parallel conversations going on. In Ethiopia, 2 sisters convinced every high school in a city that they needed to study this. The environmental movement was started in the Bay Area by the Sierra Club. David Brower lived in the Berkeley Hills and spent time at Indian Rock. The current planet has some real relation to the beautiful world we were born onto…and we’re going to see a lot more damage in the years ahead, but there is no use mourning what is lost; we need to preserve what we can.” Loosely quoted – go check the original or go hear McKibben tonight at Dominican University. And more info at