Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Climate, Media and Learning
In the age of Fukushima. Past the time of dead terrorists and Royal Weddings. Underlying deadly storms and higher food prices, we continue our relentless carbon war against the atmosphere and the sea.
In this Radio Ecoshock program 5 guests take us through the process.
Almost the father of public health warnings on climate change, Harvard's Dr. Paul Epstein is our guest. Before the deadly tornados in the American South, he specifically warned of more violent weather. An advisor to governments, Dr. Epstein talks about climate impacts on the air we breath, smog, and the one out of every ten Americans suffering from asthma.
Just for the horror, I'll toss in a few minutes from another climate and health talk, this time Dr. Tim Takaro in Vancouver. Did you know even moderate projections of global warming will move malaria-bearing mosquitoes as far North as Scandinavia, or the Province of Quebec in Canada?
Dr. Takaro, and his co-speaker, Dr. Michael Brauer agree we are already committed to signicant climate disruption. We need new models of public heatlh, trying to adapt, trying to save lives.
Then we'll talk with one of the premier environment journalists of our day. As global warming reved up in the public mind, Andy Revkin was THE environment reporter for The New York Times. His blog "Dot Earth" continues to connect the big stories, with a science edge.
We'll wrap up with two interviews asking: why aren't schools preparing kids for a morphing ecosphere? Captain Paul Saylan has a new book about fixing green teaching. Charlie heads up the Ocean Conservation Society in Southern California.
And from New England, active primary school teacher Katy Farber tell us a way to connect students to the community, to the real world - perfect for the Transition Movement - and great for disconnected kids. Don't miss her bright green activism, or her blog "Non-toxic Kids".
I'm Alex Smith. Four new interviews, one speech clip, one hour, here we go.
DR. PAUL EPSTEIN - CLIMATE AND HEALTH
Our first guest advises governments all over the world on the health impacts of climate change. As you will hear, this is no small matter. Literally millions of lives are at stake. It is possible climate disruption will become the single largest cause of premature human death.
New diseases can arrive where you live. You could die of heat, even in a modern city, as tens of thousands did in the heat waves in Paris and Moscow.
Likely, someone you know is already suffering from allergies, with plant pollens pumped up by extra carbon dioxide in the air.
Dr. Paul R. Epstein is a world recognized expert in the growing relationship between climate change and health. An instructor at the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Epstein is Associate Director for Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment.
Now Paul Epstein has teamed up with a very good science writer, Dan Ferber, to tell us what we need to know, about this under-reported side of climate disruption.
The book is "Changing Planet, Changing Health, How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health, and What We Can Do About It".
One of the things I like about this book: the authors don't say climate change is the cause of everything. Storms and droughts are complex events, with pre-existing drivers, like El Nino or ocean currents. They explain this well. Dr. Epstein, does say climate change aggravates a lot of natural weather events - and two weeks before the tornadoes in the U.S., Dr. Epstein talked about more violent storms coming, in part due to climate distruption.
On the dismal side, it looks like pumped up weather, such as extreme precipitation events, hurts the people least able to protect themselves, or recover. From the medical perspective, I ask Dr.l Epstein to compare the impacts of Hurricane Mitch on Central Americans, versus Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.
This Radio Ecoshock interview is pumped full of facts, gathered from a long career of studying and advising on the public health impacts of climate change. Give it a listen.
WATCH OUT FOR THOSE MOSQUITOES!
As we close our segment on the public health impact of climate change, I add just one chilling example of the new risks to your health. The speaker is Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University. He explained the impacts of more wildfires, and more floods. That led to this short piece on the growing domain of disease-bearing mosquitoes, as the climate warms.
Dr. Takaro explained malaria mosquitoes invade the old colonial capitals of Africa, which were previously built above them. A hotter climate brings this awful disease to the capitals. And by 2025, malaria mosquitoes could be found as far north as Scandinavia, or the Provinces of Quebec and British Columbia in Canada. Malaria can be treated in developed countries, but it is a life-long disease with serious health consequences.
Will it drain our civilization further?
Find a link to a video, complete with slides, with the full speeches by Dr. Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University, here.
The two talks on "Public Health and Climate Change" were part of a lecture series presented by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, in Victoria B.C. on March 31st, 2011. The video asks you to download a player from Microsoft called Silverlight - go ahead, it's free, harmless, and a tool you'll see used more often.
A good collection of climate-related speeches from the Pacific Institute can be found here.
THE PERILS OF CLIMATE JOURNALISM
Now we move on to a working example of climate journalism. That's Andy Revkin, of the New York Times.
[Andy Revkin interview]
Andy and I talk about the difficulty of writing for a large newspaper like The Times. Any environmental article is going to be criticized by industry as too radical, and by Greens as not enough. Andy kept a tricky balance pretty well.
Revkin has the kind of enquiring mind, and a remaining sense of wonder, that drives him to dig into the science as well as the politics. His reporting from the melting Arctic is just one good example.
All through his coverage of climate change, Revkin also stressed the importance of controlling the ever-expanding human population. This didn't earn him any friends in the Republican camp. Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh told his national audience that Andy Revkin should kill himself, to lighten the load on the planet. That's just Limbo's knee-jerk response to anyone who suggests birth control and education for women.
We also talk about big reductions in reporters for most major newspapers, what that means for journalism - and what you get to hear as "news". Can blogging really replace paid reporters?
Now that Andy has moved back to academia, he still blogs for the New York Times.
Find his blog, Dot Earth, here.
ARE WE PREPARING KIDS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE, ENERGY SHORTAGES, AND THE REAL WORLD?
Do you wonder if kids are learning about the new climate in school? Are they connecting with their community, or displaced in it?
During a speech to the Technology and Design conference in California March 1st, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned eduction funding will be cut to pay off pension money that was siphoned off and wasted by governments. He called it a battle of the generations, young versus old. But that's another story.
Let's talk with a do-er, Vermont teacher Katy Farber. Katy is an active primary school teacher with a new book "Change the World with Service Learning." I suppose you could think of this like a kind of classroom Peace Corps helping the local community. It seems to fit in so well with the Transition Movement, and really helps the kids as well.
Katy gives examples of what can be done from the classroom, to help the local environment, disadvantaged members of the community, and more. Sadly, Congress is trying to slash budget money from this program as well. But it seems with the help of Katy's "how to" book, teachers could use this method of learning, without adding a lot to their already busy work-load. I wish my school had it.
The full title is: "Change The World With Service Learning, How to organize, lead, and assess service-learning projects." I think this is something that goes beyond teachers. Parents need to know this real community building education is out there, and demand it in their schools. Take Katy's book to your local school.
[Katy Farber interview]
Here is a quick look at another book for parents, educators, and anyone who cares what the next generation learns about climate change, and other threats to our ecosphere.
Some kids, and even some adults, think meat is produced in factories or supermarkets. They don't know how the weather works, or why the climate changed. They don't know sea life is facing a great extinction event.
Why don't they learn about the real world in school?
Some of the answers are in a new book "The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)" by Charles Saylan and Danniel T. Blumstein. Dr. Blumstein is an academic, a science researcher, Chair in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, the University of California.
Charles Saylan, I think, is an example of what Jerome Ravetz talked about in a recent Radio Ecoshock show: the enlargement of science to include those with a passion for the subject.
He is know as "Charlie" at the Ocean Conservation Society, which Saylan co-founded, and now acts as Executive Director. To the research scientists at sea in the Society ship "Annie Jo", he is Captain Charlie, a licensed sea captain. But Saylan's passion for marine mammals, especially the dolphins near Los Angeles, added his name as co-author on several scientific papers as well.
In our brief interview, we talk about model legislation for eco-education in California - and how that state's budget woes could stall real learning about the environment until 2025!
[Charles Saylan interview]
Here is another resource, for connecting kids to Nature, the No Child Left Inside Coalition.
Teachers have been told to communicate the facts, help develop judgement skills, and leave the rest to the students, as future citizens. Now we need schools to make activists, or the planet will go haywire. How can we change the well established boundaries of public education?
Don't forget there is a massive institution behind education - everything from school boards, through administrative staff, textbook publishers and so on. Saylan and Blumstein write about overcoming "institutional mentality."
I think reaction to better environmental education, in fact ANY environmental teaching, is going to come not from the kids, but from the parents. How can we overcome parents in denial, reinforced daily by incompetent or polluter-paid mass media?
What about religious objections to teaching things like evolution, or a history of climate extending beyond the 6,000 years allowed by some strict Bible believers?
This isn't going to be easy. Somehow - we have to tell kids the truth about the huge environmental challenges that could derail the civilization they are being taught. Why not prepare them for climate change, peak oil, and the real economy, with real skills?
Even if you are not a parent or a student, you will depend on the action, or lack of action, this next generation takes.
I'm Alex. Thanks for tuning in to your planet.
Posted by Alex Smith at 3:33 PM
Labels: climate, climate change, diseases, education, environment, global warming, health, media, students
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