Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Teach Environment-In

Last Thursday, I attended one of our area’s colleges involved in the National Teach In On Global Warming, February 5th. The mission of the teach-in was to enjoin ”thousands of colleges, universities, high-schools, middle schools, faith groups, civic organizations and businesses” to “determine if our descendants will inherit a prosperous or an impoverished planet.” Pretty heady agenda.

The goal was to get everyone to realize that “We stand at a unique moment in human history. The window for action on global warming is measured in months, not years. Decisions that we make—or fail to make—in 2009 will have profound impacts not only for our children and grandchildren, but for every human being that will ever inhabit the face of this earth from now until the end of time.” Almost makes our Recession an afterthought. Think of it: Humans realizing that they must charge of their planet’s machinations. Doesn’t this define Environmental Ethics?

Though largely ignored by the press (if you came across local coverage of this nation-wide event, drop me a line), many of us from outside the university world did attend the activities. My original plan was to stay about an hour or two, but I got engaged and stayed the whole day. There was tabling for recycling, a table for measuring your carbon footprints (I calculated mine right after the university’s president did his), attending classes on environmental ethics, listening to environmental poetry readings, watching environmental films, joining in webcasts, attending workshops, and whole lot talking and listening. My favorite event was the “Teach-in.” What could be more fun for an old philosophy student than discussing important matters with college professors?

Oh, what’s a teach-in? “A "teach-in" is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or an academic scope of the topic. Teach-ins are meant to be practical, participatory, and oriented toward action. While they include experts lecturing on the area of their expertise, discussion and questions from the audience are welcome.” from Teach-in - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I came away from my teach-in day realizing that in spite of the media’s dismissal of the event, there are a world people concerned about our rapidly changing environment. Professors get it. Business people are starting to get it, though how deep their green façades drill down into industry’s practices is problematic. Students get it, for they have never lived in a world where it wasn’t known that anthropogenic climate change rules. Back in day, only an enlightened few believed humans could actually affect something as incredibly colossal as our planet’s environment in any meaningful way.

Shelving our environment is quickly changing as evidenced by Thursday’s national teach-in. Try as they may, those who deny the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change are finding little traction for their views at the university level. And, disdainful as they might be, the media, which barrages us with ads, economic gloom, sports, political shenanigans, and the delusion that environmental concerns are not important because they don’t have a section in their newspaper on it, the media itself is being transcended. Already becoming marginalized by the Internet, teach-ins, and its own self-absorbed attempts to pander to a market that no longer listen to them, the media is merely fiddling around while the rest of us are trying to put out the planetary inferno.

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