Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: January 2010

What must a conscientious teacher of climate change do?

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I ask this because I've a session coming up on our PGCE course with climate change as its focus.  One answer, of course, is to keep an eye on what the IPCC is itself saying – as opposed, perhaps, to what is being said about it by others.  Their Google search engine gets you access to the wealth of its detail and reports.  For example, if you wanted data on glaciers and which are melting (and which not), and the effects this might have on fresh water availability, you might find your way to this page.  Here, you'd read:

Glaciers in the Himayala are receding faster than in any other part of the world ... if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them (sic) disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate ... (WWF, 2005).

You might wonder, of course, what WWF knows about glaciers, but you'd probably not pursue this because the whole point of the IPCC is (isn't it?)  that only kosha research gets through its processes and scrutiny by experts.

Well, apparently not.  The Times has a story today which did chase up the WWF reference – and found it wanting.   Oh Dear!  More to worry about than just what to teach – but I think I knew that.


A great dilemma as Australian fireworks lead the way

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The Sydney New Year Celebrations were as colourful (and over-the-top fabulous) as ever this (ie, last) year, and their bridge always seems to outdo our wheel as a framing for activity.  If you missed them, you can have a look here.  And this year, despite using 5000 kg of fireworks, they were even carbon neutral, it seems.  I found this claim rather unlikely, but it seems to be the case, at least in the sense that buying carbon credits allows you to carry on doing what you like doing – you just pay a bit more for it.   This must be a great dilemma for local environmental educators to use, whether they like fireworks or not.


If pester power is good enough for McDonald's, then it's ...

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I overheard a conversation a while back about the use of young people to persuade their parents through targeted pester power to change their bad social-living habits.  It struck me as odd to invoke McDonald's values to justify this rather shameless exploitation of children, especially when such values are so widely deprecated in the education world in other contexts.  But then, ends justifying means is hardly a new phenomenon.  I was reminded of all this when reading Frank Furedi's recent piece, 'Turning children into Orwellian eco-spies' in Spiked.  Although slightly dated in some of the examples, the article raises issues that ought to concern anyone who puts education ahead of social engineering when thinnking about the purpose of schools.  Furedi's final paragraph is:

In previous times, it was only totalitarian societies that mobilised children to police their parents’ behaviour. It was Orwellian, Big Brother-style states that tried to harness youngsters’ simplistic views of good and evil to reshape the outlook of adults. But who needs Big Brother when the former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, can openly assert that ‘on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children’? It appears that preying on children’s fears and exploiting their anxiety is now considered to be a form of enlightened education. Yet the future of our children demands that we provide them with existential and moral security. Instead of feeding them on a steady diet of scaremongering, we need to inspire them about our potential to improve the future of our world.