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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Answering the Call: Part One

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Finally, the message about global warming has come into the mainstream! The world's preeminent scientists and scientific societies are in agreement -- global warming is happening, and we can no longer ignore the signs.

I first learned about global warming more than twenty-five years ago, when I was in college. The issue of human-induced global warming was of concern even back then -- although the public didn't pay much attention. The problem of global warming was difficult to comprehend, because its effects weren't in-your-face obvious.

However, the increasing signs of a warming planet were enough to push most of the world's governments into action by 1992, when the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was ratified. Still, most notably, the American and Australian governments did not sign "the convention," and went about business as usual.

Then, last year, the documentary An Inconvenient Truth came out. It became one of the most widely viewed and widely acclaimed documentaries ever made, and it brought the problem of global warming into the hearts and minds of Americans. My husband, a coworker, and I went to see the movie on the first weekend it came out. As the final credits rolled, I knew the tipping point had come. There would be a groundswell of interest and concern. Finally.

What I didn't expect was that global warming, and An Inconvenient Truth, would be the flash point for a heated argument between the husband of a good friend of mine and me. Again, science had become politicized in the minds of some people, in this case because the most recognizable voice shouting out about global warming and its effects is Al Gore. Because he is a former U.S. vice president, some people look at the issue as political, not scientific.

The argument with a friend still rattles me today, but I'm glad it happened, because it was a clear reminder that we all have a moral obligation to learn the facts and then speak from knowledge, not from ignorance, fear, or unanswerable beliefs.

As I went onto the Internet to find out the latest research on global warming, I came upon a call for help: Gore had set up a nonprofit organization, the Climate Project, to spread awareness and challenge citizens and governments to take action to combat global warming. The first step was to train 1,000 volunteers to present slide shows about An Inconvenient Truth across the country and do what the movie couldn't -- engage people in informed discussions to learn the truth and act on it. And so I volunteered, willing to pay my own way to Nashville, use my precious vacation time, and volunteer to give at least ten presentations in 2007.

On New Year's Day, I landed in Nashville and met 200 other volunteers from all across the nation and even from other countries -- teachers, bankers, doctors, homemakers, engineers, retirees, and even a fourteen-year-old high school student from Colorado. We spent two and a half days together learning the scientific facts about global warming from scientists and from Gore himself.

In my next post, I discuss the training and provide information and links to curricula resources.

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia
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Daryl L Taylor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Diane, I've been a follower of GLEF and Edutopia for years. This is the first time you have given me pause. As a physics guy who is trained to look at the 'big picture', I must object to your blanket generic statements that are being bandied about like 'truths'. 1st, Gore's movie is as much a documentary as Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 911'! It's shockudrama that uses innuendo, poor science, and sensationalism to get its political agenda across. Please, don't think I'm making a political statement here. Global warming is a SCIENCE topic and it should be treated as such. Gore doesn't even understand it's meaning. 2nd, to use statements like "...The world's preeminent scientists and scientific societies are in agreement..." is simply to ignore the scientific community as a whole. You have obviously bought into the media hype surrounding this topic. There is no overwhelming consensus. There is no agreement as to the model's projections. There isn't even agreement that this is an unnatural event. Please, take your own advice; "we all have a moral obligation to learn the facts and then speak from knowledge, not from ignorance, fear, or unanswerable beliefs..."
Gerald Rodriguez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Again, as with all who cry that the "sky is falling" I point you to more rational and sane minds who would bother to ask questions rather than join the frantic fray and make matters worse for all. Some like Dr. Thomas Sowell would rather study up on the issue and make comments based on evidence, logic, and good ol' common sence--see link (http://www.gopusa.com/commentary/tsowell/2007/ts_0213p.shtml). What is truly needed is an open forum for real honest debate on a national and international level, rather than merely accept the mantra that the "end is near" unless we blindly follow what high profile "experts" (such as politicians, actors, and late night celebrity hosts) say we must all do. Before we even begin to think about paying for a remedy to such an ill, shouldn't we examine and diagnose if there is an illness to begin with? After all, many are still stuck with heavy winter coats in their closets waiting for the dreaded coming "new ice age" lamented by so many back in the 1960s and 1970s.

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