Part 2: Educating the Masses

Disclaimer: Please be aware that citations were not used as most of the ideas were used from Part 14, more specifically the ideas of Michael K. Stone and Zenobia Barlow.

The post carbon world is almost upon us, am I right? … or have you learnt nothing from Part One?  Well it is, and like I said before, there is nothing we can do to stop it.  With the last post I talked about the sacrifices we will all face in this new era, but now I want to talk about how we, as a collective, have to inform ourselves and the others around us.  The problem is that not everyone will pick up books or essays, nor will research statistics on how our beloved earth is spiraling downwards.  We have our own personal and social problems that are being dealt with on a regular basis, so who really has the time?  However, part 14 of the book “The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises” has come up with a solution and a pretty good one at that.  The book suggests that we start at the root of the community with the youth, as they really are the future. Instead of being confined to a stuffy classroom while learning about nature through textbooks, why not take a walk around the neighbourhood or go on hikes?  Being outdoors is abundant with more learning opportunities than one might think.  There needs to be an appreciation for nature instilled in the youth so that they can make conscientious decisions with the environmental impacts in mind.

“This generation will require leaders and citizens who can think ecologically, understand the interconnectedness of human and natural systems, and have the will, ability, and courage to act.” (©Stone and Barlow: pg. 410)

How can we ensure that this and the next generation develop this understanding?  Michael K. Stone and Zenobia Barlow, the authors of this segment, suggest that the current educational curriculum needs to be revised to incorporate a more eco-friendly outlook.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of cons that present themselves in the initial stages.  Most schools might not be able to afford the renovations required because it will be a costly endeavour.  Another obstacle are the notorious corporations that are at the forefront of supplying foods to schools; it will be hard to make the shift from soft drinks and chips to the healthier options that could be made available by neighbouring farms because these multi-billion dollar corporations have a stake in it. However, the long-term effects are just too beautiful and ideal to ignore.  Imagine a more sustainable community with greener buildings and facilities equipped with solar panels, lush gardens, and greenhouses nearby to house fruit and vegetable plants, all because of the collective’s cooperation.  More and more students will stick to local schools (community colleges), thus slowly reducing the use of cars as a form of transportation because of the need to commute.

So what is it about the youth that makes them so special?  Why the need to target them when we have adults in powerful places in local, provincial, and federal government bodies that could lobby against the use of chemicals, the over-use of resources, etc?  Well have you noticed that there is a noticeable difference in the youth’s mentality towards life versus the adult’s? The youth have a “Does it have to be this way?” attitude instead of “It is what it is” and it is because of this reason that they can make a world of difference. In Vermont, the Sustainable Schools Project (SSP) that was implemented in the ill-reputable Lawrence Barnes Elementary School turned that school into a shiny pearl.  The key element was that the students were imbued by the civic engagement created by this project.  Without that, this project would have failed.  The children needed to understand the human and natural systems and their interconnectedness, apply this to their surroundings, and then realize that they could make a difference.  This approach worked on so many levels as the children pointed out major flaws around the neighbourhood like poorly light parks and the lack of street signs.  As the authors stated, as a result, the children’s test scores and attendance increased.  SSP worked.

Now, I bet you might be asking where I am going with this and what does this have to do with the environment. Well I’m just about to get to it.  With this generation and the next realizing that they can make a difference by being engaged in their community, they can push for more environmentally friendly facilities that could boost their knowledge with the understanding that these new facilities would take into account the human and natural systems, almost like balancing the scales if you will.  Take for instance the installation of greenhouses on school property.  Both pupils and their teachers can learn hands on about plant growth and gardening while also having a source of fresh and organic foods readily available, thus reinforcing the benefits of an eco-friendly institution.  The new curriculum has to start integrating better conservation, recycling, and eco-friendly habits through hands on education of the children and teachers, which will then influence nearby institutions, and local governments.  We have to target the youth in order to make a successful transition, thus enabling them to survive in what seems to be, a completely different way of life that the Post Carbon Era will usher in.

Source:

Barlow Z. and Stone K. M. “The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises”.  (part 14: pg 410 – 420). ©2010 by Post Carbon Institute. Watershed Media, California.

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