Learning and Environmental Choices

By Rick Fullerton | Bio

I continue to be struck by the environmental challenges facing planet earth. With signs of increasing public awareness about the deepening climate crisis, it is gratifying to sense a noticeable shift taking place in my own and others’ behaviour. For instance, I see more and more people supporting recycling programs, choosing Energy Star appliances, and driving fuel efficient cars. And we change our light bulbs! Yet is it enough?

At best, such actions represent well-intentioned but relatively modest gestures when viewed in relation to the major sources of carbon dioxide that humans influence.  Compounding the situation are the conflicting messages, increased costs and lack of feedback on the contribution of such initiatives. Still, these individual decisions to address global warming are essential demonstrations of the commitment to do whatever can be done to make a difference. Even if it is not enough, it is something. But what else might we do?

To help sort out what I might do, I have been reflecting on the dynamics underlying the choices that we make in deciding to act or not act when confronted by such big messy challenges. It seems that, for the most part, we rely on our experience as the source of our understanding and, in turn, our decisions. Thus, the educational efforts of environmental leaders do make a difference. For example, “An Inconvenient Truth”, the Oscar-winning documentary by Al Gore, and public service announcements featuring authorities like David Suzuki have helped shift our awareness about the seriousness and urgency of the situation we face.  

Another facet of how learning is shaping our behaviour can be seen in the school curriculum. Thankfully, children today study environmental matters and receive much more accurate and up-to-date information than did many of their parents or grandparents. Over a decade or two, this knowledge will hopefully alter the baseline understanding of necessary and beneficial environmental choices.

While we as individuals may argue that we did not consciously choose to pollute our water, create acid rain, deplete our agricultural land, clearcut our rain forests, wreck the ozone layer or cause global warming and likewise, individual actions alone will not resolve the problems. Rather, the challenge today is mobilizing urgent action at the corporate, national and international levels—before the mean global temperature reaches a point that triggers unstoppable warming or other catastrophic consequences. Failure to do this soon will cause untold problems such rising sea levels, massive migration, extreme weather, desertification, widespread famine, accelerated species extinction…. and ultimately put at risk the future of life on earth.  

More tomorrow….

© 2009 Rick Fullerton. All rights reserved.


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