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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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Terri Grams's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I would suggest to Mr. Taylor that he check into the most recent agreement by scientists from many countries about global warming. It is indeed happening and they have agreed that is a fact that needs to be acknowledged and solutions pursued. The report was one that came out within the last two weeks. I just recently showed "An Inconvenient Truth" to my students, and I found the science to be quite accurate. It needed to be in basic format in order to educate a public who do not understand some of the intracacies of earth systems. Even if there was no such thing as global warming, taking better care of our Earth, using resources more wisely and being responsible citizens instead of wasteful and unmindful are moral and ethical choices that we need to make. I also believe that ICT is nothing like Fahrenheit 9/11. While the message is strong, ICT is not sensationalist.
Joylette Portlock's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Daryl, you seem very sure of what you are saying. However, it is probably worth re-evaluating why you have certain beliefs about climate change. Look for yourself at the data - the Feb. 2nd report by the International Panel on Climate Change, with data produced by over 600 climate scientists and in language approved by 113 countries disagrees with your statement that "There isn't even agreement that this is an unnatural event." In fact, this report, and just about every other report for many years now says that climate change is happening, and that people, through greenhouse gas emissions, are causing it. The report also describes, rigorously, with margins of error indicated, the predicted consequences. You don't have to believe it just because I say it (I'm a genetics Ph.D. who is part of the Climate Project as well) or because Diane says it. You can read it for yourself. http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf I urge you to take a look at the work of the scientific community the world over, and then go back and investigate whatever reports have led you to reach the statements you posted before you make up your mind. There absolutely _is_ an overwhelming scientific consensus - and the sooner we agree on that, the sooner we can act.
James M. Bryant's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
There is a call to be answered here, but a different one than some suspect. It is a call for a new form of science education, and thus a new trend in support of scientific endeavor in general in the United States. In an address last year to a meeting of natural history professionals in New Mexico, Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanic Garden bemoaned the state of government support for basic science in the US, specifically, that obtaining funding depends upon each project promising innovative and ground breaking results, instead of following up on long-term trends in research and monitoring of natural phenomena. The intellectual error at the core of the problem is the constant emphasis in the US on science's justification being in its utilitarian outcomes and its consequences for the human condition. And indeed, if one surveys text and curricula across the nation, this is how science is defined by education, especially at the secondary level. As a result, the US tends to harbor notions - among scientists as well the public in general - of nature "in balance" for the benefit of humanity, and any imbalances responding quickly to brilliant technological measures (especially those invented in the US). Unfortunately, long-term scientific studies tell us that nature is not "in balance", but constantly veering off toward one extreme or another. The key injustice here is that scientists and educators have kept sending the message that the Earth's climate, normally, would or should not change. As it turns out, change is just a matter of time. What is equally clear in today's science is that thousands of years of expanding human numbers has altered the makeup of the planet, and such alteration could include climate. Scientific evidence of climate change does not have to be "conclusive" (as if any scientific evidence ever is) for people to begin to address the moral and political issues (note: no scientific issues here) of whether or not the risk of allowing the flow of human waste to alter the direction or rate of climate change is worth taking. Unfortunately, very, very little in the science education of the average US citizen has prepared him or her to make that decision, either individually or collectively. Instead, everyone seems to be waiting for science to "wave its magic wand" and make the future brighter.
Chris G.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)
California is one state that is taking global climate change very seriously. Last year, California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the state promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, as part of a strategy to reduce reliance on petroleum fuels. Whether you believe the jury is still out on global climate change, you cannot argue that a cleaner environment and an economy that is not heavily reliant on petroleum fuels are goals we should all strive toward.
Diane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
The world's largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is holding its annual meeting this week. Thousands of researchers and policymakers from over 60 countries are in attendance. What is the topic that is dominating this gathering? Global warming. Joh Holdren, the association's president was interviewed by the science writer at theSan Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday. Here is an excerpt from that article:
The evidence for dangerously climbing temperatures is "absolutely stunning"...He noted that virtually all climate scientists agree that global temperatures are rising, and that the major cause is increased greenhouse gases--largely from the burning of fossil fuels.
The world's most urgent need, he said, is "a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruptions before intolerable consequences become inevitable...we've only got about a decade to get things right."
Given that 70% of us will be alive in 2050, worldwide climate changes will affect every person's family. It's time to look at the scientific facts, rather than the politicized spin that has been playing out in the media. The scientists from the around the world are in agreement. Human activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) are the main cause of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that leads to increasing temperatures. That's what the evidence shows: higher carbon dioxide levels = higher temperatures.
Sherry Montemayor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I am not a scientist, just a senior citizen anthropology major who would like to see a cleaner, safer environment for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. My personal belief system is that we were charged with the task of caring for and preserving this earth and its contents, and I attempt to do that in whatever ways I can as a private citizen. There is no need to give up our modern conveniences (necessities nowadays) of dailing living, but exhibit respect for those things while we have them and use them as wisely and as efficiently as we can. I know that many scientists do not ascribe to this belief system, however, I don't think there are many people who would disagree that we need a cleaner, more economic environment and that we need to conserve in any way we can as individuals, as a nation, and as a world. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Brock d'Avignon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
My Project Based Learning students have been studying Malinkovitch cycles as Earth has an elliptical orbit, not a circular one. Our Spaceship Earth's oblong path also oscillates. These cycles range from 17 years to 49,000 years. For the last decade at least the melting of glaciers to ice shelves has been apparent. What is apparent is ridiculous Aristotlian perfect circle orbit nonsense allowing only humans to effect the climate. The inconvenient truth is that the reds turned green wish to regulate and control all human behavior, and this big lie grants them an excuse to do so. My students are taking a dim view of Mr. Gore and wonder where the heads of Hollywood are like Leonardo DeCaprio when they only have to Google research Malinkovitch Cycles. My students recycle and refurnish computers and process electronic waste in Sacramento to the tune of $14,000 to $40,000 per month. We are eco-capitalists in a variety of ways learning Digital Art, Business Training, Media Production, and Business Math. We use computer knowedge and data to make conclusions in social science and physical science. Humans are not even statistically significant in the amount of heat generated versus that of the Sun, nor are cutbacks in industrial activity mandated by erroneous concerns as expressed in the Kyoto Accords going to stop or help going over a temperature cliff or nor causing a reverse ice age. Thinking about what to do about numerous industrial needs in deserts and ice blocks would be better spent in oil and other energy production in severe climate extremes. My students for several years have produced for opinion leaders and scientists other concerns such as our Solar System entering a galactic arm gas pressure wave for the next several million years that will displace comets and asteroids. My students are defining the smallest size rock that could hit Antarctica and send ice shelves sailing off to wobble the Earth, set off every earthquake & volcano, and kill 5-billion. They'd like leadership to get their priorities straight with mega disasters, and stop trying to control people but lead. Systems of defense and economic incentives for discovery, co-discovery, assaying, beaconing, renavigating, mining/habitat rights have been received for 6 years by Vice President Cheney, Dr. Lynne Cheney, and the OMB Science Advisor to the President Jim Mietus. My students think Mr. Gore is an innaccurate fearmonger when there are other things to be fearful about. My students call the Vice President "The Captain of Spaceship Earth" because he is eager to listen about how to silhouette 3,543 asteroids and comets that cross Earth's Path each day, and listens to facts, not assumptions they research. We have set up an Earth Path Defense Fund to create the international conventions necessary to recognize property rights in Space where the resources are that will save us all. Proect Based Learning has finally reached at least the Galactic Arm, and that should give George Lucas something worthwhile to make a movie upon.
Diane's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Yes, Milankovich's work, published back in 1941, was regarded as one of the greatest breakthroughs in climate studies. However, arguing that today's climate changes are simply due to normal orbital variations is simplistic. It is ignoring evidence from other scientific disciplines such as geology, oceanography, paleobotany, atmospheric chemistry, and more; which combined, accounts for today's scientific consensus that global warming is happening, and that human activities are contributing to the fastest rise in temperatures that our planet has ever seen. If you want to teach kids about climate science, have them look at what the world's best climate scientists are looking at. Here is where the real scientific discussions are happening: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Real Climate. Your students might want to ask the best climate scientists for their opinions. That will give them a chance to understand what good scientific thinking is all about.
Gerald Rodriguez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
It seems our friends to the north have something to say on this subject. One such scientist asks "why is it that when scientists who have studied the Global Warming phenomenon for years say that humans are not the cause nobody listens? Why does no one acknowledge that the Emperor has no clothes on?" (http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/global-warming020507.htm). I truly believe that such questions must be asked and answered. Anyone out there willing to do just that?
Bonnie Bracey( Sutton)'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I was taught at the National Geographic in a workshop. So to me climate change, global warming, geography and other subjects come naturally. I did not have geography as a subject in school, and since being at National Geographic I have a lot of courses and different understanding, but project based learning helped me to craft my skills and understandings, and some work with maps and map study. Earthwatch , I think I have been a part of Earthwatch for 20 years. they pioneered teacher field experiences and learning. Take a look at their web page. Look under educator.

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