My Turn: Concord schools should put more emphasis on sustainability in the classroom
I feel a deep attachment to Concord. I’ve lived here nearly my whole life, and I went through the entire Concord public school system from Beaver Meadow Elementary to Rundlett Middle School and on to Concord High School. Looking back, I am happy with the education I received from the Concord public schools, as it helped me value well-roundedness, innovation and diversity. However, one aspect of my education was severely lacking, and that was in the realm of sustainability.
What is sustainability exactly? There is no clear-cut answer. Sustainability is an interdisciplinary concept that is not just about recycling or composting or taking shorter showers, but rather a response to the fact that we live within a world of limits. One of the central questions relating to sustainability is: How do we ensure that we have the water, materials and resources needed to preserve human life and the environment?
What limits am I talking about? The central limit we will soon face is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the beginning of human civilization until about 200 years ago, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, our atmosphere contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. This allowed greenhouse gases to trap just enough heat so that the planet was not too cold for humans to inhabit. In recent years, the world’s top climatologists have concluded that the highest safe level of Co2 in the atmosphere is 350 ppm, and we have already passed that threshold to about 396 ppm of carbon dioxide.
So the planet is warming. There is no doubt that global climate change is happening, but the extent of human impact is still controversial.
Regardless, we must discuss this issue and challenge people to think critically and creatively. Real differences begin to be made when people engage in true, intellectual discussion. As someone who was involved in the discussion of social issues and politics during my time in the Concord schools, it concerns me that I was not really exposed to intellectual conversation about sustainability until college. The qualities I learned to value while attending the Concord schools fit right into the idea of sustainability. So why are we not talking about it? Do we not value it?
Global climate change and sustainability aren’t necessarily the most fun or easy topics to talk about, as there aren’t clear-cut solutions. However, the idea of sustainability runs parallel with what the people of Concord value, and education on this topic could help set apart Concord as a community that cares deeply about its future generations. It would be very beneficial for students in the Concord public schools to understand where their trash goes after it’s thrown in the garbage or where their drinking water comes from. Such lessons would help Concord students become more innovative and more aware of the environment around them.
The Concord community helped shape me into who I am today; I’m just trying to give back.
(Kyle Klose is an environmental studies major at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.)