Monday, September 14, 2009

An Environmental Education

Most educational programs in our colleges and universities probably include some science courses, but probably not an environmental course as a general educational requirement. This, and an ethics requirement for business majors, is woefully lacking in an educational system trying to survive into today’s economic world. Note: I didn’t say that our institutions were not aligning ourselves with other world-class educational curriculums to produce students who will be able to complete in today’s market. We may or may not be cranking out ├╝ber breadwinners. That may not be clear until the financial dust settles around the world.

But, whether or not you believe institutions of higher education exist for people to get high-paying jobs, fit into our society, know their cultures and others, or think well on their feet with a smart gadget in their hand, you must include graduates who can (and will) rationally assess the health of their environment. In the September 2009 edition of Harpers Magazine “Dehumanized, When Math and Science Rule the School,” Mark Slouka makes the case that the humanities have suffered in our colleges as our country only focuses of what they think we need to compete. In our strivings to compete, Slouka says, we are losing what is to best to be human. I submit that we are also losing something more basic: the core of our existence. For, whatever one’s beliefs or interests, we are among the billions of biological creatures on this planet that must have clean air, water, and land.

In today’s world of 6.5 billion people a well educated person should have a firm grasp of our biological underpinnings. It may not get you a job, a mate, popularity, or allow you to be a stunning dinner speaker, but it will allow you to intelligently sift through news, environmental studies, and reports of early signs that our environmental systems are shutting down—as many argue they are. The climate is warming (despite crazy radio talk rhetoric) along with acidification of the oceans, the loss of biodiversity, and much more. A people who cannot tell (or don’t even pay attention) that things are not going well with the system that keeps them alive is a people on their way out.

So, if you missed that day in college when your professor mentioned during a math or computer class that she wasn’t opening the windows that day because of an ozone alert, you might want to attend one of the many programs on the environment in our area this fall. Check rochesterenvironment.com/calendar.htm. There are a lot of good programs going on by non-profit groups, universities, and our local governments, including a lecture series to draw attention to important environmental topics by the town of Irondequoit.

Of course, we cannot make up for decades of not putting environmental studies high on the agenda in our universities, nor demand that a sizeable (for that is what it will take) portion of humanity to take note of the vast unhealthy changes we’ve made in the last couple of centuries. We are a ‘free’ people, in pursuit of Happiness, Liberty, and just trying to get by. But Mother Nature is a demanding parent: Ignorance of her laws will have no effect on her rules. One of these programs might help your reconnect with Her.

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