The Fall 2012 edition of Our Schools Our Selves includes an article by Victoria Wills about environmental education in schools. She points out that school field trips are the dominant “experience of nature” for many students and that too often they end up reinforcing the idea that nature is somehow seperate from civilization. She applauds the efforts of schools to recognize the educational potential of ‘near nature’ of parks and urban spaces. She laments that liabilities make schools treat nature as dangerous (I suspect too many parents do that too). She laments the awkward situation where schools attempt to teach environmental responsibility, pitting children against the environmentally irresponsible lifestyles of their parents. She says that “Rather than build villages to raise children as per the oft-cited proverb, we have placed children in situations in which they must raise their village single-handedly.”
There are many interesting ideas within Victoria Wills article but the thing that is sticking out for me today is where she quotes David Suzuki as saying “A person for whom nature is a stranger will not notice, let alone care about, environmental degredation.” I think of this in connection with Canada’s Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver saying that “people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees.” Forget for a second that the Natural Resource Minister should be more concerned about the science of climate change than about what people think about it. Forget that the Natural Resource Minister’s very title reinforces the idea that nature is only to be used for resources. Think about how people interact with nature and how that might make what he says true or not. If people think about nature as a place to enjoy days at the beach they might not think there’s a problem with two degrees warming but if they think of nature as anything more than that, well, then they have a lot to be concerned about.
When I attended a training session of the Citizens Climate Lobby Canada, I was taught that if I’m writing letters to or talking with politicians I should use specific details and stories to try to sway them. So this morning when I saw Citizen’s Climate Lobby picture-in-a-box about Minister Joe Oliver’s comments that Canadians aren’t worried about a two degree climate change I wanted to respond with details. Sure, I’m worried about climate change because I fear for my children’s future, our food supply and all the big things, but I’m going to write about some of the “little” things too.
The first thing I thought about was the apple crop in Ontario. Last year Ontario lost 80% of its apple crop as a result of warm weather in March bringing the trees out of domancy earlier than normal and leaving them vulnerable to a late frost. My family makes a yearly apple harvesting trip to Avalon Orchards and we care about the sustainability of small orchards.
Then I thought about the increasing blue-green algae. Warmer weather means more blue-green algae, and every summer now there’s a point after which they close the local beaches because of this. The same lake is where our drinking water comes from.
What about the Monarch butterfly migration? We’ve planted milkweed in our yard and watched monarchs land there last summer. Is that going to be affected by climate change? Apparently monarch butterfly migration is directed by the temperature telling the monarchs to fly either north or south and climate change may affect that.
What about frogs my children like to watch in the creek near our house? Will they be affected? Apparently some Ontario frogs are starting their calling and mating earlier, but no one knows exactly how that will change things. Will it give an advantage to one type of frog over another? In other places the affects of climate change are more obvious. Frogs that lay eggs out of water require rain in order to keep the eggs moist. Climate change is creating sporadic storms instead of the steady rain they need.
Joe Oliver might say that two degrees climate change isn’t a big deal, but the devil is in the details. I could think of four small ways in which my family would directly see the results of changing temperature. This isn’t including all the huge things like rising food prices, bigger storms and flooding, or the global conflict that occurs when people end up short food and water.
For the love of nature, that beautiful wonderful web of living things that we are part of, I ask that the Canadian government and all other world governments put a price on the release of carbon dioxide, to stop subsidizing fossil fuel companies and to invest in the infostructure for sustainable communities.
And if people need yet another reason to care about climate change, it will probably affect their favorite wines.