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Kiribati Climate Activists

Ten Years Left

A Cincinnati Public Education board member approached me recently, thinking I knew something about climate change. She asked me what I would stress in developing a climate change curriculum for elementary students. I thought about it for a bit and responded; teach humanity (no surprise for anyone who knows me). With a confused look on her face, I explained that, at one point, we were all equal. We all struggled to learn to walk, talk, eat, read, and share and care for others. I tried to make the point that leaving behind an egocentric mentality that we all have as children is not easy for anyone, but it is something we all learn to do... with varying amounts of tantrums. It takes time and heaps of patience from our elders to move from infant to toddler, toddler to child, and child to adult. Somewhere along this evolutionary path, many of us (myself included) need to remember these lessons associated with letting go of the giant I.


Having talked about climate change for 20 years now, I’ve realized that climate change is all about the big I, and most of us are infants regarding climate change comprehension. And as silly as it sounds, we need to remember our long path out of egocentricity to understand climate change. Climate change flourishes on the big I, inequality. It forces those least responsible for its creation to bear the most significant burden.


What would it mean to us if we shared our resources with others with little or nothing? If we listened with compassion to those calling out for help worldwide? Or if we took care of everyone, from our closest neighbors to that one distant relative only seen at Thanksgiving, with the same amount of care and compassion? What if we did this for people we had never met, individuals we consciously or unconsciously rob of basic daily needs like clean water or food? Why should I care about that homeless person on the street or why would I care about someone killed in the latest tornado, flood, fire, cyclone, earthquake, tsunami or whatever unnatural disaster were to hit next? What if one day it were to happen to me? Even though I did everything right, what if?


Disasters have no measuring stick; the only ones who do are us. So, what would I teach kids in a climate change curriculum? Not science. That would scare them to death. I would teach them to apologize. Play fair in the playground. Take responsibility for mistakes, big and small. CARE. Care for something as if your life depended on it, and extend that feeling to many others.


You see, somewhere along our paths to adulthood, many of us lost these lessons learned so early in our lives. I fear the Earth is teaching us daily survival lessons, and we ignore everyone. Today, we are locked up in confined spaces, and the Earth is healing. Without us! The Earth has wiped out civilizations before. Those of us who have survived unnatural disasters know this. Maybe they, too, did not heed Mother Nature’s warnings. We have forgotten seminal experiences of respect and compassion on a global scale.


Religion, for better or worse, has taught followers the power of care and empathy for others, animals, and Earth in almost every text, but we have missed these lessons... and for what? So, with 10 years left in our collective existence as we know it (2018 IPCC Report), schools teach compassion. The students will need it when they are older, and this may be the one thing left to move humanity forward in this last decade on Earth as we know it.

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