Author Archives: racetothetopdannas

My New Blog On Climate Change

Hi Folks,

Please check out my new blog on climate change, and if it appeals to you, subscribe for future entries.

www.climategaga.org

Steve

 

Climate Change and Our Carbon Footprint

Few things seem to stir up people’s emotions more than the topic of climate change. Whether it’s the complex science or predicted disastrous scenarios, climate change causes confusion, fear, disagreement and malaise. However, the realization of what’s at stake is settling in. From the U.S. Defense Department’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review: “Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes … will devastate homes, land and infrastructure.” John Kerry recently described climate change in a speech to Indonesians as, “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report said climate change is impacting our entire global community. Exaggeration? Hyperbole? Well, let’s review some basic science.

Carbon dioxide, CO2, is always mentioned when people speak of climate change. CO2 gas in our oceans and atmosphere is essential to living organisms. Plants through photosynthesis absorb carbon dioxide to make food (think carbohydrates) which provides energy to the plant and any other organism that consumes the plant. Carbon molecules in the food are then returned to the atmosphere and oceans as CO2 in a process called respiration. Carbon is also released when an organism decays. Simply put, carbon dioxide is constantly recycled and reused. Carbon dioxide is also critical in keeping our planet at a comfortable temperature. When the sun heats the Earth’s surface, CO2 traps some of the heat energy and prevents it from reradiating back into space. CO2 works pretty much like a blanket, and that is good under “normal” conditions.

Unfortunately, conditions are no longer “normal” and haven’t been since the industrial revolution. To power our economic engine (cars, planes, power plants, factories, etc.), we have extracted and burned “old” carbon stored as fossil fuels underground releasing 30 billion tons of CO2 each year. That is a lot of CO2. By burning fossil fuels, we’ve increased atmospheric CO2 levels from 316 parts per million in 1959 to 400 in 2013. CO2 levels are also rising in the oceans, resulting in increased oceanic acidity.

So what does this have to do with climate change? Well, 800,000 years of climate data show temperature and CO2 levels move together. When CO2 levels are low, temps are low. When CO2 levels are high, temps are high. Given that our CO2 levels have been steadily increasing for more than 150 years, it is no surprise our atmosphere and oceans are getting warmer. In essence, we’ve been adding extra heat trapping blankets in the atmosphere.

Here are some facts taken from the IPCC:

— Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the past 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased primarily from fossil fuel emissions.

— The decline of Arctic sea ice in summer is occurring at a rate that exceeds most model projections.

— The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of the emitted anthropogenic (from humans) carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.

— Sea level has risen.

— The past decade (2000-09) was the hottest on record.

I could go on. The science is clear, and nearly unanimous, with 98 percent of climate scientists saying humans are causing climate change. Rather than worry or argue, let’s take action. Contact government officials and elect politicians who understand climate change and are willing to take measures to solve the growing problem. Talk with friends and family members who are unconvinced about climate change, and remind people of the opportunities for new industries and jobs through renewable energies, water management, agricultural science and conservation practices. Finally, let’s each reduce our carbon footprint. After all, what kind of a world do we wish to leave our children and the generations that follow? We can and must do this.

Namaste in the Classroom

A friend and former colleague shared a recent incident in her classroom that spoke volumes of the intended consequences teacher elicit through purposeful nurturance and guidance. Such actions don’t show up on a state measure, but rather subtly in a student’s behavior many days, months, and years beyond school. As my friend tells it,

My Business Law class enjoys lively conversations about contemporary issues. This past year I’ve noticed “reality show” behavior occurring in our discussions with incidents of insensitivity and inadvertent personal attacks.  In response, I requested that we apply the yoga philosophy of Namaste, by showing respect and gratitude toward each other. One brilliant young man, whose aspiration is to become President,  publicly corrected a factual error by a quiet young woman whose goal is just to graduate. Her error was calling Africa a country instead of a continent.

I asked to speak to him privately. We spoke about his aspirations of becoming President. I said he had been correct in his remark about Africa, but that the only result was that the quiet girl had shut down, rather than share her valuable insights. Her error may have been inadvertent and it had not impacted the conversation, but it did disengage her from any further discussion.

I suggested to my young future leader that reaching his goal will depend on maximizing the motivation and skills of others; he needed to use his talents to get the best out of the people. By applying the concept of Namaste, by honoring each other and recognizing that our lives are interrelated, people would feel valued and optimize their abilities. He would likewise be valued, instead of resented, and benefit from their successes and insights to become a more intuitive and wiser President. I have since noticed more respectful, mindful interactions from the young man.

And so it goes. Teaching students goes far beyond content and skills outlined in curriculum guides and standards. Good teaching develops the whole person for the betterment of society. This wonderful educator took a “teachable moment” and transformed students’ interactions. By focusing on respect and gratitude toward each other, her students were acquiring a deeper sense of social capital and harmony. That’s a good thing in today’s digital, fast-paced world.

Namaste

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  So goes the idiom for March weather. This year is different, however. My family lives in the exceptionally beautiful Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, and our winter is not ready to quit. Two feet of snow coating our yard and a winter weather advisory for tonight forecasting six inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain are reminders that Mother Nature sure has a good sense of humor.  Well, sometimes she does. If you recall the early Chiffon commercials, Mother Nature also has an angry side when you mess with her.IMG_2436

Such is the case with our wild 2013 weather which is yet another indicator of climate change. Severe drought in California, blistering heat in Australia, unparalleled Typhoon Hainan that ravaged the Philippines, extreme flooding in England, and so on. We’re not fooling Mother Nature. Rather, we are fooling ourselves. Extracting fossil fuels (old carbon) from the earth and releasing them into the atmosphere to power our cars and factories, and heat our homes and businesses has disrupted the natural carbon cycle. The end result is an atmosphere with over 50% more CO2 than “normal”–And a pissed off Mother Nature.

There are messages everywhere revealing the precarious condition of the climate. We know them. We read about them. We watch them on the news. And then we disregard many of them unless they literally hit us over the head. I’m quite sure the residents of California, particularly the farmers, are very concerned about the climate. The same can be said for the Philippine victims who survived the Typhoon. A recent Bloomberg article on climate change had the line, “I wish it weren’t so, but forewarned is forearmed.” Mother Nature is warning us, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.” Let’s do the right thing for all species of life that inhabit this lovely planet by leaving a legacy we can be proud of, not one that has future generations wondering “What were they thinking??”

Next blog entry we will explore what the “right things” are.

 

My First Massive Open Online Class (MOOC)

MOOC. The word rolls off the tongue so easily, belying its complex and controversial nature. For some, MOOCs are a long-awaited digital opportunity to make college accessible and affordable for the masses. To others, it is a threat to all that is the college experience. Regardless of one’s position, MOOCs have arrived and are changing the education conversation and experience. To speak more knowledgeably about the topic, I decided to venture into the world of MOOCs and experience the pros and cons by taking a four-week long Coursera class titled, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.”  From Coursera, This MOOC brings together renowned scientists to provide a synthesis of the most recent scientific evidence and presents an analysis of likely impacts and risks, with a focus on developing countries. Perfect topic, perfect length of time. What follows are my impressions.

Starting with the pros, I found the content outstanding. The course was laid out in a comfortably sequential manner starting week one with scientific background on the history and present state of climate change. Week two looked at possible 21st Century climates based on different projections. Week three explored the impacts on life and societies in a 4 Celsius warmer world, and week four was about solutions. Throughout the course, there were outstanding videos, excellent reading passages, and a fairly active discussion board (With nearly 20,000 registrants, it wasn’t hard to find discussion strands to participate in). Since most of the materials came from the World Bank, the readings and videos were well prepared and researched.

Activities were appropriate for the medium. Our first exercise was to evaluate and write a 400 word essay on one of three recent climate change news articles from either The Guardian, New York Times, or a Press Release from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We were asked to evaluate the author’s knowledge through his or her prior works, credibility of resources used by the author, publication readership and implications for the author, and how thorough the article addressed climate change. For the second activity, we were directed to interview an individual either in our community or fellow Coursera student regarding how we prerceive present and future climate change impacts on us and our community, and what are solutions to the climate change problem. We were to summarize the results into a 400 word essay. Our last task was to create a web-based digital artifact or resource that would summarize the most important things we’ve learned in the course.

My two favorite activities were the interview task and final project. The highlight of the interview project was being interviewed by a gentleman from the Philippines who was a government employee. It was really neat to Skype with this man who lived halfway across the globe. Given the recent horrific events of Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged his country, the issues of climate change were real and palpable. That said, we had a really pleasant interview session and talked about other things besides climate change during our meeting including the cold, snow winter we’re having in Upstate New York. I also appreciated the Final Project because it offered students a variety of options to choose from (We know from Cognitive Psychology the value of choice). I considered making a YouTube video, creating a podcast, developing a Wiggio group, or building a Prezi and sharing it publicly (I’m sure there are more digital options out there, but for this baby boomer, I was tapped out on ideas). I ended up using this blog as my medium for a project on people’s concerns/fears regarding climate change.

There were a number of cons to my MOOC experience. First and foremost, online learning with 20,000 others is an overall lonely experience. It’s mostly just you and the computer. Since the content was familiar to me, I didn’t need to ask questions or ask for elaboration on any particular concepts. However, were this unfamiliar material, I would have struggled and spent many more hours than the 12-20 hours projected to complete the course resolving questions without direct contact with instructors. I also dislike discussion boards. Sorry, but my 55 year old brain prefers to talk face to face with people. A few posts are fine, but I find the time it takes to type something and wait for responses wasteful. I’d much prefer to sit with a group of individuals and hash it out, whatever the topic. So, online course work can be a lonely experience for some.

A second serious concern was the course’s method of evaluation. In this class, our content knowledge was assessed following completion of readings and video viewings. As mentioned earlier, the content was excellent. However, the quizzes were approximately 20 questions long with rigor primarily at the knowledge and comprehension levels. The best part for those struggling with the content was that you got to get a second chance at the quiz! Now, I’m a firm believer in make up tests, but with the use of digital technology, one could easily earn a 100 on every test by simply saving feedback from the first round. That may not matter for a free MOOC, but when you are paying for a class or taking them from an accredited institution, this evaluation format would not be sufficient.

The final problem I experienced was with peer assessments. Besides quiz grades, all projects are peer assessed using rubrics provided by the instructors. I enjoyed doing the assessments and giving feedback to my classmates. Unfortunately, I don’t believe some of my classmates felt as I did regarding peer feedback. In fact, for my article review project, I got a 50% (score of 2 in a 3-point rubric) with no feedback at all. I spent a lot of time on the project, and in my humble opinion, felt it warranted more than a “50″ score, and so I complained to my teachers:). Surprisingly, they responded and gave me a higher grade with nice feedback. Grades aside, one needs useful, valid and reliable feedback on their assessments, and to suggest that one or two of 20,000 students could provide such feedback is a stretch. But hey, this was a free class, so I’m okay with it.

Overall, I’d give my MOOC experience a solid B. What does that mean? I guess that depends on your situation. For me, I enjoyed the MOOC–particularly the fact that it was free. Many hours clearly went into organizing the content, projects, and structure. The curriculum was A+, and some of the classmates were stellar. I learned some new things about climate change, and I also got to interact with people I otherwise never would have met. Were I living in a more remote region with MOOCs as my only connection to course content, then I’d reckon this course would earn an overall “A”. MOOCs fill a need, and though they can’t compete with a true college experience, they can be tremendously useful to the self-directed learner.

Well, gotta go now and check whether or not Coursera has set a date for reoffering my next MOOC class, Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations!

Teaching Literacy Through Climate Change Science

There was a time when science, social studies, and other non-English Language Arts teachers were exempt from teaching literacy in their classes. Aside from performance based subjects (arts, tech…), rote memorization of content was mattered greatly and the notion of close reading, writing from sources, text-based evidence, and disparate viewpoints and positions was unfathomed. For many, chugging through the core curricula via a favorite textbook or select set of readings got one from September to June. Fast forward to the Common Core State Standards era and today EVERYONE has responsibility to teach literacy within their subject areas. Not surprisingly, teachers are embracing the changes when given adequate time to develop the necessary understandings and skills literacy instruction require.

To help educators make the shift to literacy instruction, last week a friend and colleague of mine at Capital Region BOCES presented a session on Climate Change and the Common Core to a group of 25 science, social studies, and ELA teachers (Six participants were MST students from SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury).  Laura Lehtonen is the BOCES Science Director, and like me, strives to help educators incorporate rigor and relevance into classroom instruction while also meeting state-mandated curricula. For our workshop, we decided to look at the Common Core Literacy Instructional Shifts through the lens of Climate Change. Climate change was our chosen topic given the misinformation, confusion, and at times, ignorance about climate change swirling among this great nation’s populace.

Our day began with a 90 minute Climate Reality presentation which describes the process of global warming and the impacts of climate change on extreme weather and drought events, rising sea levels, melting of glaciers and ice caps, dwindling food production and potable water supplies, and spread of tropical diseases. We followed the melancholic Climate Reality session with the Common Core Instructional Shifts, and then had participants practice a number of fun and engaging literacy-based strategies.

Participants investigated and interpreted the message of climate change cartoons, practiced and responded to text-based questions, jigsawed a Royal Society publication on Climate Change and Causes, and reviewed evidence based claims. My favorite activity was the 4 A’s protocol (see below) from EngageNY which includes close reading, text-dependent questioning, use of evidence, and discussion strategies required by the Common Core.  For that activity, participants evaluated first the Climate Reality presentation given in the morning, and in the afternoon an opinion piece by Charles Krauthammer Op-Ed piece, Observing ‘settled science’.  Though one may not agree with another’s opinions, it matters little without critical inspection of the piece (think close reading, evidence based facts… ala 4A’s Protocol).

Screen shot 2014-03-08 at 7.10.16 AM

Armed with a good understanding of climate change, our participants scrutinized Krauthammer’s op-ed piece and found a number of assumptions made by the author including confusing “unsettled science” correlations of climate change science and mammogram studies, changing climate change predictions as a flaw of climate prediction models, suggesting climate change scientists spend all their time in white lab coats in front of computer screens, and citing one physicist’s interpretations of climate change as a non-urgent matter while disregarding 98% of the world’s scientists including those on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who state climate change is a problem and anthropogenic in origin. There was agreement that climate change science is complicated, and some participants were interested in checking Krauthammer’s data more deeply, including claims that global temperature hasn’t risen in 15 years or that there are fewer intense tornadoes than in previous years.

The beauty of close reading, text-based evidence, and other shifts of the Common Core State Standards is the promotion of critical thinking. Charles Krauthammer is an excellent writer, and it was an interesting and satisfying experience for participants to use what they learned to verify facts from fiction. Whatever the topic one teaches, the beauty of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for non-ELA teachers is the opportunity to engage students in greater rigor and relevant activities. Activities that demand students read text closely and use evidence to support their positions, whatever their positions may be. By implementing CCSS, we are in effect empowering students to use evidence to speak, read, and write with conviction. And that’s a very good thing for the future of our global society.

Teacher Leader Reflections on Covey’s 7 Habits

Last week our Teachers As Instructional Leaders Seminar Series met at the SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury Branch Campus to review Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We’re a small group of eight creative, self-directed teachers seeking strategies and understandings to grow our skills as teacher leaders and better serve their students and schools. The Covey session was not originally listed in our six-session Series, but was added at the group’s request following a brief discussion about Covey in an earlier meeting. After a quick review of the habits, we brainstormed simple examples of what the 7 Habits look like for teachers and teacher leaders.  I then asked the group to look at the habits through the lens of school reform. See below for minutes of this thoughtful group. Enjoy.

Habit One: Be Proactive

  1.  A proactive teacher leader would act upon education rather than being acted upon by the educational process.  We would be a driving force as part of the change because we have already identified the need for changes in our classroom/curriculum  and understand those goals most clearly.
  2. We would be the voice rising above the educational chaos and jargon, the leaders saying follow me because I know what I’m doing, and you have nothing to fear, we will achieve this together.
  3. We would not wait for the educational standards to arrive, we would be the educational standard everyone is trying to achieve. Ahead of the changes, always on the cutting edge of the next educational opportunity for our students.  We would see and realize the change even before it arrived.  
  4. Ask ourselves how we can implement the common core by working together. We need to implement them, so let’s take the initiative and make it work for everyone.
  5. To be successful, you must be proactive. I don’t want to react to something, but rather study it, fix what needs fixing, and then go with it. Prepare for success. 
  6. The failures of my students to meet the standards are my failure. If it isn’t working, it’s due to something I did in the classroom.
  7. Common core standards are an improvement over past standards, and a work in progress. We must figure out how to get everyone to accept and use the standards.
  8. Using midterms and finding strengths and weaknesses for students to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Helping others see the value of such assessments. Matching up students’ predictions with the actual results.
  9. Using KWLs so I don’t spend time on boring stuff they (students) already know or are uninterested in. I can take what they want to know and work it into the curriculum.
  10. Ask colleagues for topics to discuss at department meetings. I am not their boss, but do organize and prioritize their interests into the agenda.
  11. I try to think of the APPR as an opportunity to make my teaching and my classroom better. To use it for my own advantage and not something imposed on me.
  12. Student excuses. If I take responsibility for not getting their homework graded on time, I can honestly tell them I made a mistake. I am going to model proactivity and responsibility.
  13. School Reform: Give it a chance. Keep an open mind.
  14. School Reform: Get the facts straight and don’t make assumptions.

Habit Two: Begin With The End In Mind

  1. Think of the footprint of your career. What do you want said about you at the retirement dinner.
  2. When planning, I want to anticipate where my students are going to struggle.   
  3. Thinking about what my students will need when they leave my class for middle school. Being mindful throughout the year about those needs.
  4. At the high school level, being mindful of what students will need for career or college success.
  5. Curriculum. What are your exit outcomes and ensuring students realize the goals. Planning a given unit. Working backwards from the major assessments.
  6. As a teacher, thinking what you could learn to make you a better teacher for the following year. Reflective thinking.
  7. Working with students with disabilities and determining reasonable goals during IEP prep followed by purposeful planning to close the gap in their deficits.
  8. I don’t worry about attendance, I worry about the students in my class. I don’t worry about SLOs or the proper paperwork. I run with the good ideas when they arise.
  9. School Reform: Look at how the reform could be a positive (the district goals).
  10. School Reform: How do you want your school to be perceived (reputation).

Habit Three: Put First Things First

  1. Comfortable environment for the students. No drama. No gossip. No negatives.
  2. Meeting students where they are at and guiding them to where they need to be. We’re not going to have a half hour fight over whether they have a pencil or not.
  3. Putting together my evidence binder. The not urgent paperwork that is important. The budget. The field trip paperwork….
  4. Parent letters. Not urgent, but very important to send home periodically. Lowers parents’ anxiety.  At elementary, letters go out regularly.
  5. Unit planning. Getting the plans organized.
  6. Next Generation Science Standards. Taking time to learn them in preparation for their pending arrival.
  7. Attending professional development when available. To improve your skills—curriculum development, common core,.….
  8. Using department meetings and common planning time to do important work.
  9. Faculty meetings have fallen into the urgent but unimportant category. They can be a horrible waste of time. Help principals make better use of such meetings.
  10. School Reform: Student-driven. Students must always come first. Even when an IEP says a class of two.
  11. School Reform: Prioritize. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Make the change that’s really needed. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Let things roll off your back.

Building Up The Emotional Bank Account

  1. Going to outside school events to show support. Dance recitals, soccer games, science symposium, horse shows, plays, music events, concerts, art shows, fiber tour, Washington county fair, 4H events, FFA events, winter Olympics, charities
  2. Being on time and attending all meetings with undivided attention (cell phones off)
  3. Listening to your colleagues and your administrators and students. Listening to what’s not being said. Being aware of the nonverbal. Trying to see things on their side. Walking in their shoes. Thinking about them while driving through the neighborhood and passing their homes.
  4. Clarify expectations. Write objectives on the board. I tell them there will be surprises such as pop quizzes.
  5. Sticking to a routine. That stability piece gives students a sense of clarity. Model integrity.
  6. Giving out a golden broomstick award (Witches) for students who went beyond the expectations of the classroom. Giving out stickers that work towards a party day once a month. They can play a game that is math related and a treat they select (apple cider, Christmas cookies….)
  7. Bucket fillers. Elementary are so much better at praising students and recognizing their accomplishments.
  8. When I make a mistake, I promptly apologize.
  9. It’s important to say when we don’t know. It builds trust when we admit we don’t know the answer.

Habit Four: Think Win-Win

  1. Sharing ideas with your colleagues.
  2. When focused on decisions, make sure the decision is student-centered, not teacher-centered. It’s not personal. It’s about the students, even if it means sacrificing. It’s professional, not personal.
  3. You should like everyone else’s idea for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Realizing that your big ideas may negatively impact others and being aware of such impacts.
  5. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes when making decisions.
  6. Being with administrators or colleagues in a team (there’s no I in team).
  7. School Reform: Work together. Parent-Teacher-Student-Administration-Community relationships. Make the school the community and the community the school.
  8. School Reform: Offer the proper continued support for everyone involved with the reform. Professional development, time, resources, and recognition (private or public) are essential. Ensure there is follow through.

Habit Five: Seek First to Understand Then to be Understood

  1. With students or colleagues, ask questions first. What would you do, what do you think.  Then offer your ideas.
  2. When a student is seated at their desk and not doing something, try not to take it personal but instead think how to get them back on track. Don’t assume.
  3. Try not to be judgmental. Don’t judge a book by its cover. People have different moral compasses. Correct behaviors, not judge them.
  4. Use the ten-second rule. You can’t respond for ten seconds.
  5. Ask and listen.
  6. School Reform: Think about the school’s needs. Community forums. Fully understand the purpose of reform before offering your thoughts or input.
  7. School Reform: Fully understand what the implications would be for students, teachers, staff, community…

Habit Six: Synergy

  1. Find the strengths of all students and exploit those strengths. It empowers them to do great work. We all have special talents which together make us more powerful as a department, school, and community. Our school and community are almost like one. This begins with our administration.
  2. Let students know this isn’t the only way to do something. I teach math, and they need to recognize there are other solutions to a problem.
  3. Apply for a grant with a group of people or a fellowship with a colleague. It creates great synergy.
  4. Focus on your strengths and manage your weaknesses.
  5. You can’t force synergy. You have to want it.
  6. School Reform: Have every person involved. Use their strengths. Everyone has a role. Everyone owns it.

Some of Our Teacher Leader Contributors:

Nicole Dixson, Rebecca Harke, Gwynne Cosh, Nicole Fortier

People’s Greatest Fears and Concerns About Climate Change

Dear Reader, what follows is a final project for my Coursera class, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4C Warmer World Must be Avoided.  The assignment was to submit a digital product to share on the Internet, and I chose to record a blog entry on people’s greatest fears and concerns about climate change.  On Sunday, February 16th, I enlisted my network of friends, family and contacts to share their five biggest fears/concerns regarding climate change. It could be things happening now, or those predicted for the future. I’ve since assimilated their findings into the report that follows.

Why a 4C Warmer World Must be Avoided Final Project

We’ve known how carbon dioxide (CO2) influences the Earth’s climate for over 150 years (Tyndall), and we’ve seen first hand the rapidly changing atmospheric CO2 levels since 1958 from Keeling and others’ work (1976) work at the Moana Loa Observatory. Bill McKibben (1990) warned us about climate change in The End of Nature, and in 1988, the United Nations (UN) established an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the request of member nations concerned about anthropogenic sources of atmospheric gases. The IPCC was tasked to enlist scientists worldwide to evaluate environmental and socio-economic impacts and help inform UN climate change discussions (The IPCC has since written four reports, each painting a more dire scenario about climate change and our planet’s future). Despite the research. Despite the warnings. Despite the “dirty weather” events of recent years, our global community is speeding towards a 4 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures that threatens all forms of life, including Homo sapiens.

Scientists have accurately predicted climate changes for decades now, and the faster we alter the earth’s atmosphere the more urgent the call to adapt and mitigate to a changing planet. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is at the highest level in 15,000,000 years and increasing at an accelerated rate, breaching 400 parts per million for the first time in 2012 (Turn Down the Heat, 2012). Sea level continues to rise at a faster rate as ocean waters expand with rising heat. Ocean acidity increases as more and more CO2 gets absorbed, threatening ecological collapse of coral ecosystems. Extreme unwavering droughts punish parts of North America, Australia, Russia, Africa, and Asia. Russia experienced 25% crop failure in the epic drought of 2010 (Turn Down the Heat, 2012). Flooding inundates Europe, bitter cold descends on the Southern United States, and superstorms ravage the Philipines. We are fast approaching unknown tipping points as we add 35,000,000,000,ooo metric tons of CO2 annually to the atmosphere (Turn Down the Heat, 2012). So much to process. So complicated. Sadly, the projections for inaction will make present events seem docile in comparison.

Rather than reiterate what the media shows us on a daily basis (Extreme weather, flooding, droughts, melting ice caps, superstorms, rising sea level, heat waves, fire, coastal flooding, crop failure, geopolitical pressures, loss of biodiversity, etc….), what follows are nearly 200 fears and concerns shared by people who responded to my request for comments. Also included is a wordle image showing the most frequently used words by scale. As I organized this material, a profound sense of melancholy enveloped me while reading the heartfelt worries of people who “get it.” People who know we have a clarion call to act now. People who want what’s best for their children and society. People who are especially mindful of the poor and disadvantaged who stand to lose the most, and people who yearn for days of old when life was simpler and the environment more predictable and constant. Common themes are geopolitical conflicts, scarcity of water and food, rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, melting ice sheets, ocean acidification, severe weather, flooding, drought, suffering of impoverished individuals and countries, reduced biodiversity, fear of the unknown, impacts on children and future generations, loss, lack of ethical decision-making by leaders and business,….

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Climate Change Fears/Concerns:

Geopolitical

  • The wealth gap that may occur as we fight for energy
.
  • Isolationists will fire on refugees
  • Populations will riot, nations will fall, civilization will stumble, and the species will be reduced to Iron Age conditions.
  • Some of the scenarios Gwynne Dyer sets out in Climate Wars:
http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/features/2009/07/09/climate-wars-part-12-cd/
  • e.g. Nuclear War between India and Pakistan over water rights to the Indus as the flow reduces after the Himalayan glaciers melt.
  • Climate refugees and displacement leading to conflict/war. My fourth fear is that climate impacts will destabilize the world’s political systems and create conflict and mass migration.
  • My fifth fear is that delay will mean that once climate impacts begin to take effect they will overwhelm the resources of countries to deal with the problems and societies will collapse. Imagine it as a chain reaction of ‘Arab springs’.
  • Wars will be fought over diminishing resources as millions become displaced by extreme weather (climate refugees are already on the rise).
  • Unrest, upheaval, internal and external, geopolitical stress and conflict, nations competing rather than cooperating.
  • War over water.  We’re already seeing certain countries blocking water from going to other countries as populations increase
  • Increased warfare around the world. Even if my country is safe, my sister lives in the Middle East, and I have other relatives in China and Singapore.

Food and Water Scarcity

  • Shortage of food
- lack of water
-
  • Declining water supplies for agriculture and urban needs.
  • As a 69 yo, Fear for my children and grandchildren in a frightening world of no food or water security
  • Depletion of clean water
  • Storms and droughts will decimate food supplies
  • Increases in food and water shortages, reaching unbearable levels.
  • People always worry about farmers when it comes to climate change, however, as oceans become more and more acidic, fisherman are going to face serious issues as food chains are disrupted.
  • Natural fresh water sources will become more scarce, causing major costs to convert ocean waters into potable fresh water.
  • Going hungry. Food prices will rise, and my finances will worsen as I devote more time to activism.

Future Generations

  • My daughter’s world, and the world of the other kids I love who are growing up so quickly, is not going to resemble the world I grew up with.
  • As a 69 yo, Fear for my children and grandchildren in a frightening world of no food or water security
  • That my 10 year old son will grow up in a world that is irrevocably changed for the worse – food shortages, refugees searching for habitable countries, disease, mass disruption or our economies, and with no hope of returning to the balance of the world we have lived in for so long.
  • I’m afraid my kids will have to suffer and struggle needlessly, that their generation will represent the end of humanity, that they may die painfully due to avoidable lack of food, clean water, or shelter.
  • I worry about my 3 year old daughter’s future, what kind of planet will we be on in 30 years? We’ve already seen dangerous and “extreme weather”.
  • The state of the world we will leave to our kids and the feeling that we could have done something to leave them a better place.
  • Future generations will miss out on what we once had.
  • Climate Reality will affect the education throughout the world, but focusing on the US- schools will close more often with weather concerns- snow, tornadoes, hurricane, torrential rains, and drought. Children will miss school and be kept home because districts will run out of budgeted money for food as it increase incrementally in price and supplies of water as it becomes scarce. More children will suffer from PSTD-like symptoms as the reality of the world situation becomes revealed.
  • That our children, their children and every other living thing we share the planet with pay the highest price with their lives compromised. 5. That I cannot pass on to my children a world that they would want to bring their own children into.

Loss of Biodiversity

  • The major Die-Offs continue–we see the tip of the iceberg now with the declines of populations of Monarch butterflies, frogs, bats.
  • Extinction of critical wildlife affecting ecosystems
. 3-Destroying cures before they’re even found (especially in the rainforest)
.
  • I am sad that we are destroying not just human lives but animals’ lives as well–large mammals like dolphins, whales, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, and moose, in particular. I fear the loss and extinction of so much that is amazing and glorious about life on Earth–the rainforests and coral reefs teeming with varieties of gorgeous and wondrous species, as well as the intelligence, creativity, invention, and emotional connection that humanity has amassed.
  • The earth will lose various flora and fauna.
  • Ocean’s ecosystem will be further stressed / challenged and possibly collapse.
  • My biggest fear is that as a result of temperature changes, many species may go extinct. This could cause a domino effect which slowly kills off more and more species.
  • I hate to see the seals/polar bears/penguins all bunched up together on some small piece of ice…(the animals) wondering where all the ice went and how will they survive? Extremely sad :(
  • Increased rate of extinction among animals (fish specifically
  • The risks to the habitat of many endangered species. (especially Puffins)
  • Air quality
- endangerment and extinction of species
  • Ocean acidification is not often talked about and that needs to change. With oceans being the largest carbon sinks available, our excessive CO2 emissions are significantly affecting the highly productive marine ecosystem.

Melting Ice Caps/Sea Level Rise/Flooding

  • Floods.
  • Within a shorter time span, the shoreline of Manhattan will move inland dramatically (50 feet? 100?).
  • Flooding and rebuilding costs.
  • Extreme weather events and ocean rise will kill and/or displace millions of people this century.
  • Coastal flooding
  • The rising sea level and the flooding it causes.
  • Melting ice caps, disappearing environment.
  • Melting of polar ice caps.
  • Melting ice caps
  • Ocean temperature rise

Human Suffering

  • Worst case scenario: Rising sea levels will back up the sewage systems of coastal cities. People will flee the sickness this causes, and overwhelm inland cities’ infrastructure. People will sicken and die due to unsanitary conditions, and corporations will prey on the desperate.
  • That those least involved in creating the problem of climate change — the developing world — will suffer on a mass scale before our eyes on our first world televisions!
  • Huge coastal populations will need to move inland at a serious cost.
  • Forced migration as certain regions lose their water.  This could lead to a variety of problems as new groups come into areas that may not welcome them.
  • My biggest fear is a rapid decline (one-two months) in global communities due to an explosion of simultaneous natural disasters, food and water shortages. This leads to a complete breakdown and unraveling of the civilized world. We become primitive survivalists ala Lord of the Flies. How’s that for a worse case scenario
  • My biggest fear is where do we go.
  • Being made homeless by flooding. I live on the sixth floor, but the July 2013 Toronto flash flood (featured in the CR presentation) flooded my car in the parking garage. Water levels came within inches of surrounding the whole building, at which point the police was considering evacuating us.
  • Losing all hope. I’m almost there now, and I have to consciously devote some time on a habitual basis to keeping my mental health stable.
  • My biggest fears are rising food costs for the poor and losing so much that’s beautiful about the world we live in.
  • Heretofore unknown viral diseases emerge.
  • We HAVE to develop more sustainable food production. Vegetarianism is the answer as well as urban, year round farming. With environmental refugees relocating to urban centers and more sustainable transport reducing cross-country food distribution, local farming is key to the existence of future generations.

Extreme Weather Events/Droughts/Wildfire

  • The severity of storms, such as Sandy, will destroy more homes and centers along the East Coast–and more Federal funds will get wasted in rebuilding
  • Rising intensity of the weather related storms
  • Extreme weather.
  • Stronger and stronger superstorms
  • Global weather conditions will become way more extreme, making more and more areas uninhabitable.
  • Increased strength of storms
  • Weather pattern instability
  • More intense storms such a hurricanes and tropical storms due to the higher ocean temperatures.
  • Climate extremes will continue to be more severe. We already struggle with incremental weather extremes; both from an endurance standpoint as well as paying for the energy we need to survive.
  • Droughts, wildfires, and
  • Drought and particularly long-term drought in certain regions
  • Desertification

Denial/Ignorance/Inaction

  • My worst fear is that climate change will never go from being an “environmentalist’s problem” to being everyone’s problem until it is too late. It is difficult for many people to make a collective problem like climate change a focus in their lives when they have other personal, family, or community problems. It should be the most important issue to everyone but instead it is at the back of most people’s minds.
  • My greatest fear is that too many people will continue to deny the evidence until it’s too late to create sufficient change before tipping points occur.
  • Politicians doing little or nothing to address the issue.
The more we delay enacting solutions the greater the cost will be to humanity in money and lives.
  • I’m most concerned that we are not doing enough and fast enough to transition to clean, non-fossil energy. We must drive ourselves as well as foreign countries to accelerate the switch to whatever non-fossil energy is available.
  • We can’t control the rest of the polluting developing countries. There are too many who are hiding their heads in the sand, denying it exists.
  • The richest and biggest polluters (the USA and China) will do nothing significant to change their energy policies
  • My concern about the climate change has more to do with human ethics. Although, Climate change can be proven with valid evidence, the bottom line is that if people are not willing to actively make lifestyle adjustments to improve the current climate change situation, what solutions do we really have? This is a question of humanity working together on this, not only the few that are working tirelessly.
  • My worry is the extent of denial and the amount of indifference! We like our lifestyle and don’t want to lose any comfort. (Myself included!) Honesty and awareness are the first steps toward any change or transformation.
  • Will the typical politician really push for hard changes that won’t win them as many votes as they will cost them? Is the rest of the world on board?
  • That even as the world collapses around us, deniers will continue to mock me and bully me and defend their right to continue polluting. That not only my efforts will be in vain, but my sacrifices will be the subject of ridicule and possibly persecution.
  • My third fear is that those in positions of power and influence will not be able to resist continuing to making money from fossil fuels and will use their wealth and power to buy denial (and bolt-holes for themselves)
  • I worry that the people with the power to steer us away from chaos are more inclined, even determined perhaps, to manage chaos through brutal force, rather than relinquish power to a new way of thinking about sustaining our existence on this planet.
  • My biggest fears about global climate change? The general public are ill informed about this global crisis.
  • That we’ll leave it too late to act collectively
  • My worst fear is that climate change will never go from being an “environmentalist’s problem” to being everyone’s problem until it is too late. It is difficult for many people to make a collective problem like climate change a focus in their lives when they have other personal, family, or community problems. It should be the most important issue to everyone but instead is at the back of most people’s minds.

We Underestimate Climate Change Impacts/Too Late to Fix it

  • That it’s too late to fix/stop it
  • My second fear is that natural climate variations and negative feedbacks (such as aerosols) will mask the worse aspects of climate change until it’s too late to make the necessary changes.
  • The change in climate may be larger and more abrupt than we expect, certainly faster than we can react to Political inaction; countless reports on the situations and solutions, but never any meaningful adaptation or support for the many. Everything just getting grindingly worse, more difficult, for more and more people. Geo-engineering with none or disastrous consequences.
  • The cost from people who insist on reinhabiting coast-line areas plus the cost of fixing our infrastructure along sea walls and earthquake faults. Will it be too late to “save” the planet?
  • That it will be a lot worse than predicted, sooner and that we will hit 1.5 degrees c and continue. 3. That the feedback loops really kick in and ecosystem collapse begins and species loss begins to accelerate even more
  • Are we at the point of no return? Will this impact any one area more than another in the US – where is a good place to live? Why do so few seem to care, especially the mainstream media!!!!
  • New climate in various geographic regions, unprepared for it & putting stress on available resources
  • I fear a sudden large release of methane in the Arctic.

Miscellaneous

  • My fears/concerns regarding climate change are Global Warming, CO2,
  • The scariest thing for me is realizing how difficult it is to avoid personally contributing to climate change. I consider myself fairly aware, but that doesn’t stop me from running a washing machine, buying bottled drinks and single-serving yogurt cups, showering every day, driving when I could walk
  • Thanks for asking!
  • That we are struggling to manage/pay for one extreme event after another, already happening I think 3) Just missing the good, old summertime the way it used to be enjoyed
  • As you can see from all the above, I fear the ‘domino effect’ is the problem. I don’t fear climate change as such because if there’s the will we can still deal with it. Humans are such incredibly intelligent and tenacious beings when their backs are against the wall, so I feel positive that if we get behind change, we can overcome. The answer is in our heads.
  • Rising sea levels and ocean acidification are two things that make me most nervous about climate change.
  • The group affected first will be animals as they already are; next the sacrifices will be household pets when water and food become scarce.
  • Suburban Neighborhoods will become battle grounds (soon) over personal water use on lawns, pools, etc. People who just don’t care about or even acknowledge the issue will try to ignore the regulations and cheat on water use. It will create a “them against us” mentality
  • Our national parks will be the last bastions of fresh water and pressure will be put on the government to drain those resources and this will end up devastating our pristine parks.
  • The Arctic region will become another resource to be pillaged by the countries in a position to do so.

If you’ve ever seen lemmings running off a cliff (I think I watched it on Wild Kingdom years ago), or saw the movie, Thelma & Louise (1991), then you have a pretty good idea of what we as a species are doing to ourselves and the biosphere. We’re on a suicide mission with a very bad ending if we don’t act now. We certainly can each work to reduce our own carbon footprint, but ultimately, we must look to government to correct the mess we are in. If you are still reading this, then I am speaking to the choir. Seriously, we need to change the conversation. We must demand much, much more from our politicians and business leaders. If they are too ignorant to understand, then we vote them out. If they are too greedy to care, then we vote them out. Just yesterday John Kerry spoke in Indonesia about climate change being the greatest weapon of mass destruction. Meanwhile, on Sunday Bill Nye the Science Guy debated the topic with a climate change denier and politician, Marsha Blackburn. Seriously! We need to call out those who are jeapordizing our global environmental security.  Climate change is an international catastrophe, and to mitigate the inevitable damages and adjust to a warmer world will take courage, persistence, ethical decision-making, wisdom, money, and education. We can no longer turn away from the problems that lie in front of us. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

The Comments continue to come in:

  1. There are two concerns I have regarding climate change:
 1. uncertainty for disaster-related events to negatively impact people’s lives (as well as animals) – is the probability of a man-made or natural disaster event occurring in USA is higher in 2014 than it was decades ago; 
2. economic costs to USA as a whole for remediation after disasters, namely flooding, wind and fire damage (not an exhaustive list).
  2. There will be shortages of food, clean water, land and other resources.
  3. We will fight over water, food, land and other resources.
  4. Our health and well-being will be significantly impacted because of contaminated water, air, and food.
  5. the animals who will suffer and be forced to adapt to the changing climate or face extinction.
  6. The $$, stress, and inconvenience it’s going to take to rebuild our homes and communities, after super storms, floods etc..
  7. loss of life and land as a result of wildfires.
  8. The extreme heat in the summer that creates so many problems, I can’t even walk Jack (dog) in the afternoon because the pavement gets too hot.
  9. Our children and grandchildren lives will be a struggle due to the impacts of climate change.  It will impact their quality of life.
  10. Humans will no longer be able to live on planet earth.
  11. My biggest fear is that at least one critical species ( be it in the rain forest or polar region) will cease to exist and that will have a ripple effect on all other species…ultimately humans
  12. It is critical that existing legacy CO2 be removed from the atmosphere very soon. I am afraid that if climate cooling geoengineering happens instead, the oceans, starting with corals, will die from acidification with the CO2 that will continue to be absorbed.
  13. I am afraid that when emissions are reduced in earnest, that only then people will realize that it isn’t enough to curtail global warming, and we could have had significant legacy atmospheric carbon reductions by that time.
  14. I am afraid that we will continue to be so over-focused on reducing emissions that we will ignore extinction and desertification, destroying so much more of the earth than we have already, when we could have been working with nature to reverse all three trends with the same solution.
  15. I am afraid that we are so divorced from nature what we will continue to fail to see and use the power that nature has to cycle carbon and cool the atmosphere.
  16. I’m afraid that by not taking natural solutions seriously, brittle environments will continue to desiccate, causing more CO2 emissions from the land accompanied by lack of food and escalating starvation, instead of recharging water in the landscape.
  17. That we will reach the tipping point before we take decisive corrective action and It will be too late to avoid Widespread famine, natural disasters, rampant disease, and water shortage– rationing, increasing violence, and unprecedented extinction of plants and animals. I fear climate change is not linear but quadratic change like a snowball gaining speed as it descends….I feel a sense of desperation too many people just don’t care..are not willing to sacrifice their lifestyles. It’s the environment not the economy stupid!
  18. Reduced Food and Water Security World Wide
  19. More severe droughts
  20. Reduced run off from dwindling glaciers
  21. More rapid depletion of fresh water aquifers as more irrigation water is required in hotter weather
  22. Salination of coastal fresh water sources with rising sea levels and more severe storm surges
  23. Degraded soils due to severe storms and down pours
  24. Degraded soils due to over crowding results from displaced people
  25. Degraded soils resulting from droughts
  26. Flooding of food crops
  27. Hot weather crop failures
  28. habitat/species migration–the effect on species and the regional economies (e.g., in our area moose/tick, maple, invasives)
  29. extreme weather events (environmental, social, and economic effects)
  30. drinking water availability
  31. submerging coastal populations/rising sea levels
  32. increased temperature

 

C.D. Keeling, R.B. Bacastow, A.E. Bainbridge, C.A. Ekdahl, P.R. Guenther, and L.S. Waterman, (1976), Atmospheric carbon dioxide variations at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, Tellus, vol. 28, 538-551

McKibben, B. (1989). The end of nature. New York: Random House

“TURN DOWN THE HEAT”. (2012). Biocycle, 53(12), 8-8,10. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1269668384?accountid=13215

What’s Your Biggest Fear/Concern Regarding Climate Change???

Update: 21 Comments So Far.  Please Add Your List of Fears/Concerns.

Dear Reader, if you are concerned about climate change and are eager to share your thoughts anonymously with others, please take a moment to submit a comment with your greatest fears/concerns regarding our changing climate.  I will organize the comments into a digital product to be shared by Wed, February 19th.

For my climate reality friends, please submit a list of five in your comment.

Thanks so much.  Peace.

Teachers, You Are The Light of the World

It may not feel like it with all the daily stressors of school reform, assessments, budget shortfalls, public misunderstanding of educators, and so on, but truly, teachers, you are a gift to society. Please don’t forget that.

Last week at mass I heard a very encouraging and uplifting sermon from our talented Parish Life Director, Sister Linda Hogan. Sister Linda began with a simple line, “If you want to be happy, help someone.” She then went on to read scripture including one from Isaiah: If you share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own…then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed. I watched the congregation’s response as the sermon continued with words from Matthew: You are the light of the world.  Nothing yet. Then sister brought it all home by telling us that we are the light of the world.  People began smiling as Sister Linda enthusiastically reminded us how we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help victims of war and catastrophic events. We were all content as we reflected on how much of a difference we did make through our food drives, fund-raisers, community projects, and so on.

As Sister continued her talk, I reflected on my work as an educator, and that of my colleagues. It’s been a difficult five years. The Great Recession, 10-20% cuts in teaching positions, budget shortfalls, program cuts, and the big one, Race to the Top. For those that could, retirement was the solution. But for the majority, it was more of a “grin and bear it” situation. Through it all, I’m afraid teachers and the communities they serve have forgotten what a wonderful gift educators are to society. Teachers are parents’ best hope for their children. Teachers help shape the minds and hearts of children, setting a foundation that extends that which is developed at home. Teachers make all the difference, and we need to remind them how special they are to us.

Today is Valentines Day, a day to celebrate the love we have for special people in our lives. For all the teachers in my life, Happy Valentines Day. Thank you for being the light of the world.