Schools and Climate
What could school safety and climate change possibly have in common? Plenty, it turns out. At the root of each of these enormous issues is human behavior: all of us, what we do — and what we don’t.
Whether it’s a school shooting at Sandy Hook, a bullying event, or a school bus accident, too many schools see only darkness and sadness, instead of being healthy, cheerful places of learning. But inevitably, we’ve learned, resilience appears: the amazing propensity for communities to come together to support, love, heal, and rebuild.
Now what does this have to do with the environment? I’ll get to that… First, let’s level set on some facts.
Carbon emissions are analyzed by scientists, who have warned of a planetary greenhouse effect for decades. In a series of increasingly alarming reports, they conclude that global warming creates exacerbated conditions for extreme weather events: major precipitation, historic flooding, unmanageable wildfires, unbelievable wind-velocity accelerations, and record-breaking heat waves among them. All of which affect our school children, teachers, families, and staff, especially if they are asthmatic, or if they live near a coal plant, or a flood zone, or if the coach doesn’t bring practice indoors on a sweltering day. (See, I told you I’d make that connection.)
Threats to schools are often tangible. A gun, social media post, or a bottle of pills. Each of these are controlled by the people who use them — and also by the policies that regulate them, or not. By contrast, carbon emissions are gaseous, barely tangible. But greenhouse gasses are also controlled by human beings, and by the policies that regulate them – or not.
Visitors from another planet might wonder why carbon emissions and school-based crises, both issues with massive public support and smart solutions — have not been fixed. “Why the delay?” they might ask. After all, the danger is obvious. Solutions are at hand.
To tap into the solutions available, we need everyone to get involved. When it comes to climate change, we are involved, with more of us joining the ranks of the concerned and alarmed as we speak. On the school safety front, we see more parents, students, educators, mental health professionals, public safety officials, and general community members stepping up and doing what they can.
School-safety advocates know what climate activists know: culturally, politically, and financially, the established “business as usual” approach does not always welcome change.
For a moment, let’s leave the special interests, the lobbyists, the partisan politics behind. Let’s focus on the lives of our friends and neighbors, doing all we can to help those who feel fear, loss, pain, and suffering due to violence in schools. Similarly, as we watch people’s livelihoods, health, homes, and farms literally burn, smoke, blow, or wash away, we need to be there for each other, to comprehend the loss, and be supportive as we press ahead.
An overwhelming majority of the world’s most esteemed scientists agree climate change is real and human activity is to blame. An equal chorus of first responders, educators, parents, and policy leaders would say the same about school tragedy: it is real, and human activity is to blame.
In climate communications, the Trusted Messenger principle has proven to be powerful: informed and engaged, armed with facts, we can all be influential in our communities and networks. The same is true in school safety. When we work together, across all facets of schools, families, public safety officials, and community partners, we can develop comprehensive solutions to address threats to school safety.
From the broadest standpoint, we need a planet on which to live and educate our youth. As we dive more deeply, the threats schools and communities face due to weather-related incidents, amped up due to climate change, are only going to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration. So for our planet, for our schools, and for our youth, we must step up. We must do all we can to make our children – and our planet – safe and sound. Please help me in protecting our world – the physical planet, and all it holds dear, including our precious students and those dedicated to their education.
Guest Author: Sarah Finnie Robinson is the Director of The 51 Percent Project, a new climate communications initiative based at Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. She is a parent and grandparent, and she knows the world can be a better place.
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