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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007

Re: Inconvenient truth

by Lance Read

Viewing An Inconvenient Truth in Grade 8 is perhaps too late. We watched this documentary with my nine-year-old nephew and he understood it very well. It is time for schools throughout the developed world to include not only this but also anticonsumerism programs in all areas of study.

Consumerism can and must be explored in every area of the curriculum. Not one single subject in any grade should be excluded from a reflection on climate change and global frying.

Starting with simple Kindergarten math, for example, how many shoes does your family own divided by number of family members and what is the effect on the environment? Later grades can study all sorts of relationship math. How do you get to school—walk, bike, bus, or private car? What kind of gas mileage and what is the difference in climate change costs? Lego math: what is the environmental cost of one Lego block and what can you do with the least number of blocks?

In history class: oil abuse from the Battle of the Bulge to the idiocy of Iraq.

In daily PE: how few sneakers can you get by on—one pair for indoor, one for outdoor, and one pair of all purpose molded-sole cleats for baseball, soccer, and football?

All grades: Alberta Tar Sands—worst environmental disaster ever created by humans. One of the largest remaining land-based carbon sinks being squandered to mine oil at a 60% net recovery rate, i.e., four barrels burned off in order to gain six.

For years, I attempted to include environmental education in my classroom. In the beginning, I latched onto elementary school mentor, Bill Bleasdale, and the Salmon in the Classroom unit. He and I worked through years of developing, improving, and disseminating this program as widely as possible. We believed in sensitizing children to the environmental difficulties in spawning salmon from tiny eggs. We encouraged students to get involved with local stream clean-up projects.

In 1989, teaching colleague Brent Pattison organized school and student paper recycling two years before GVRD businesses had started recycling waste paper. Little, if anything, of this kind of recycling was being done anywhere else. The first year, we received a lot of ribbing about so much extra effort being somewhat a waste of time. There isn’t a person today who would think so.

After years of effort surrounding the 3Rs—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, it has become apparent to many of us that we’ve done a pretty good job with recycling. We are struggling with the reuse part and have completely neglected the reduction component. Consumerism is the cause of global frying and we must all quit this human behaviour. It is a habit more addictive and destructive than crack cocaine, alcohol, and tobacco.

While spending seven months in Cuba, "enjoying" its hottest winter on record, I received constant e-mails from family in Vancouver about bizarre weather. In my Spanish class at the Havana-U, students from all over Europe spoke about disappearing glaciers, dying bears, unprecedented river flooding, etcetera. As a result, I wrote the poem Polar Bears are Gone Now and translated it into Spanish.

Polar bears are gone now

Polar bears are gone now
all that’s left are bones,
Scattered widely ‘cross the land
that used to be their home.

These bears can paddle sixty miles
that’s always been their way,
But more than that is far too much
their lives they had to pay.

The ice broke up quite suddenly
as they chased along for seal,
Polar bears they went extinct
just trying to get a meal.

The polar bears all left you know
just up and went away,
First dinosaurs and now the bears
"Are tigers next?" you say.

Based on Dinosaurs Are Gone Now, Anonymous

Lance Read is a middle school teacher, SD 43, on sabbatical in Cuba doing documentary film work since July 2006.

DVDs for all public secondary schools

A copy of the DVD of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, will be distributed to all public secondary schools in BC.

Gregor Robertson, Member of the Legislature for Vancouver Fairview and founder and former CEO of Happy Planet Foods, had the vision for the project. He brought together Tides Canada Foundation, Paramount Pictures, and Novex Couriers in this unique initiative to raise awareness about global warming among BC youth.

Tides Canada Foundation is gifting the DVD’s. Distribution will be carbon neutral, courtesy of Novex Courier’s clean fleet of hybrid and low emission mail vehicles, and bicycle courier service.

This business/charity partnership aims to ensure that BC’s secondary school students have access to this excellent, solutions-oriented film.

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