|There is no such thing as a free lunch; so money in education influences what is taught and for how long.|
|Everything must go somewhere; so a few benefit and a majority pay the price of large classes, poorly designed classrooms, costly materials, and inadequate time to reflect on serious matters!|
|Time is limited, so misinformation, distractions and false beliefs, like chaotic classrooms, rob participants of opportunities to learn!|
The problems associated with global change directly influence our quality of life because we depend on predictable patterns of climate, weather, economic cycles, population change, ecological limitations, and institutional patterns of response to human needs. Distress in any one sector has a ripple effect to any and all of these other related sectors. Thus a drought in Brazil influences the world markets for coffee or orange juice just like the failure of the East Indian monsoon may signal the onset
of an El
Nino event. We are all connected to the heat engine of this planet the ocean, in ways that can be long-lasting and impossible to alter. Thus the concept of
global change is related to but not restricted merely to planetary shifts in temperature,
pressure and humidity. Long-term climate or short-term weather patterns have serious
implications for soil moisture, radiation exposure, and perturbation of drought and flood
These altered physical conditions are serious because of their direct influence on the crops comprising local food supplies and international trade in food and vegetable crops. Because we change the face of the landscape due to what we eat, drink and consume as durable goods we ought to learn how our economic choices shape the world we must adapt to for our personal and collective survival. Because we must focus in order to learn well, practicing our understanding of how one event triggers unintended consequences in another realm altogether is a valuable skill when it comes to trouble shooting disruptions in any system. Comprehending links, triggers, and unintended outcomes in a systematic fashion ought to influence how we should learn about local, regional or global food problems .
The threat to food provisions is more than hyperbolic expressions of as yet unaccountable risks faced by growing populations. Edward O. Wilson, experimental biologist, argues that "Very few of the species with potential economic importance actually reach world markets....20 species provide 90 percent of the world's food and just three -- wheat, maize, and rice -- supply more than half." of what the world eats! In relating this thin green lifeline to biogeography he comments that "This cushion of diversity is biased toward cooler climates, and in most parts of the world it is sown in monocultures sensitive to disease." (Wilson, 288) Biological diversity in this view acts as insurance against a catastrophic disruption of the producing sectors of the international, regional and local sectors of the market.
Given the problem expressed by the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change as "the depletion of the ozone layer attributed to the accumulation of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the stratosphere is an unintended side effect of human industrial activities," (NRC, 17) Wilson's is a sentinel viewpoint. Sentinel in that he is alerting us to the fact that we are vulnerable to the disruption of our food staples. The Committee argues that "For the first time," due to the increasing size of the arctic and antarctic ozone holes, the increase in the carbon content of the atmosphere and the ongoing loss of biological diversity "human beings have begun to play a central role in altering global biogeochemical systems and the earth as a whole." The Committee of scientists and social scientists fears that "the earth has entered a period of change that differs from previous episodes of global change in the extent to which it is human in origin."
Climate expert W. John Maunder concludes that "We are certain of the following: There is a natural greenhouse effect which already keeps the earth warmer than it would otherwise be." He refers to the initial assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that:
"Emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of green house gases, carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. The main greenhouse gas, water vapor,will increase in response to global warming and further enhance it." (Maunder, 141)
The scope of and depth to which these risks exist will over the coming decades increase the need to analytically determine and synthetically evaluate the influence of these changes on the livelihoods of people. Such a methodology requires the integration and interpretation of data from among traditionally isolated disciplines within a behavioral and historical framework uncommon among existing specialties except for oceanography, and to a limited extent the microbiology and public health traditions.
To best equip a new generation of research and development into the threats and potential opportunities involved in global climate change requires a new pedagogy. Predictive explanations of ecological and behavioral responses to global change rests on investigative methods that mesh quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, visual interpretation and written expression. Language acquisition and symbolic manipulation abilities are one cornerstone in the incipient formulation of a new pedagogy required by the need "to focus on human responses to to global changes." (NRC, 17) The experimental nature of the changes in the biogeochemical milieu and of the adherent cultural adaptations to surrounding conditions this necessitates a wedding of the sciences and the arts at a sustained level of intimacy.
Pieces of the new pedagogy are beginning to congeal into what G. Tyler Miller calls "the Spaceship-Earth Worldview in which the Earth is viewed as a spaceship -- a machine that we can understand, dominate, and change at will by using advanced technology." (Miller , 27) But he warns that this growing perspective in the environmental sciences is "an upside-down view of reality. It thinks of the earth as a spaceship -- a simple unsustainable human creation." The incipient stage of a new pedagogical approach to redefining human behavior in the context of an internationally unprecedented experimental alteration of our atmosphere, seas, and climate requires a dialectical approach to learning characterized by Murray Gell-Mann, theoretical physicist, as a corrective feedback approach to assessing information inherent in all "complex adaptive systems." (Gell-Mann, 25) In terms of Miller's approach to pedagogy the dialectical antithesis of the spaceship-earth worldview is the sustainable earth worldview, a "life centered approach," that conceptualizes "human beings as part of nature -- not apart from nature," to rephrase Robinson Jeffers verse.
The dialectical thinking required by Gell-Mann's explication of the algorithmic information content and effective complexity inherent in any data from both natural and human systems forces learners to encourage debate. As Miller advises we ought to "Put the poor and their environment first, not last; help the poor sustain themselves and their local environment, and do this with love not condescension." (Miller , 29). Such an approach to interpreting scientific data and implementing policy rests on comprehending regional and cultural differences in the ways people symbolically reconstruct their inhabited world. (Geertz ,170) Education for global change insists that we learn more than a facility for problem solving as the cornerstone of intellectual growth, instead it challenges us to provide an emotional and motivational framework within which to articulate competing ethical restraints upon our individual and collective behavior.
As embodied in the tenets of the World Conservation Strategy, the protection of the planetary life support system and the promotion of biological diversity will always encounter the necessity of providing adequate livelihoods for communities whose people are and will be affected by erosion, desertification, flooding, radiation and depletion of renewable resources. But historical study of the responses to pestilence, urbanization, famine, and depopulation reveals ample evidence against which to measure the predictive quality of the negatable hypotheses that must form one basis of an emerging research agenda. If the new pedagogy is to provide lasting interpretive value, then it must increase our ability to solve problems and simultaneously to handle ambiguity while promoting tolerance of paradoxical findings and large degrees of uncertainty.
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture, (New York: Harper Colophon, 1973).
Murray Gell-Mann, The Quark and the Jaguar, (San Francisco: Freeman, 1994).
W. John Maunder, Dictionary of Global Climate Change, (London:University College of London Press, 1992).
G. Tyler Miller, Environmental Science, 4th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth, 1993).
National Research Council, Global Environmental Change, (Washington. D.C., National Academy of the Science, 1992).
Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life, (New York: Norton, 1992).
World Conservation Monitoring Center, Global Biodiversity, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1992).
Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values (1979)
Preston Cloud, Cosmos Earth and Man, (1973)
Freeman Dyson, Infinite in all Directions, (1988)
R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth ,(1963)
Garrett Hardin, Living within Limits, (1992); and Filters Against Folly, (1990)
Humphrey Jennings, Pandaemonium, (1985)
Kai N. Lee, Compass and Gyroscope (1993)
Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (1964)
Charles Piller, The Fail Safe Society: Community Defiance and the end of American Technological Optimism (1991)
Tjeerd Van Andel, Tales of an Old Ocean, (1977).
Key problems facing many states and localities include the following:
To understand the argument, try the following list of issues and the web addresses for more details:
While all politics is local, manifestations of local power and economic control is lost today for several reasons:
Each of the above crucially significant influences are fluid–that is shifting unexpectedly–by being influenced through planetary changes especially with respect to: growing population, exponential rates of consumption, climate alteration, loss of biological diversity and the undermining of the Earth's life sustaining capacity.
Emergent properties complicate how we must effectively solve problems.
This page was written by the above on 8-14-98, Last Updated and revised on 3-12-08 and 6-11-2011.