As millions of school kids return to classes statewide this week, I’m reminded that teaching our children about environmental problems, their causes and the solutions to these problems has never been a higher priority.
Opening up the newspaper or visiting a few environmental websites can lead to an overwhelming sense of depression. The San Francisco Bay-delta ecosystem is on the verge of collapse. Over a billion people don’t have access to clean water on a regular basis. The rate of species loss globally is comparable to the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction event that led to the end of the dinosaurs. Climate change is leading to glacier and polar ice cap melting at a pace beyond those predicted by the least conservative of scientific models. China is adding a coal-fired power plant every two weeks and its pace of air and water pollution is unprecedented. Fisheries around the world have declined dramatically and the scourge of marine debris wreaks havoc on even the most remote parts of the world’s oceans. All are environmental tragedies grabbed from today’s headlines. All leave one with a sense of helplessness in our fight for a cleaner, healthier environment.
Before you put click away to another web site, take a hard look at your son, daughter, little sister or brother, or a neighborhood kid.
My generation and the two generations before mine are responsible for the majority of environmental degradation on the planet. In the generation of children today lays the best hope for solutions to our most devastating problems. Teaching our children about environmental problems, their causes and the solutions to these problems is of utmost importance.
Heal the Bay does this every day through our aquarium educational programs, Speakers Bureau, Key to the Sea program, and our efforts in the Compton Creek watershed. As you know, we’ve partnered with the State of California and National Geographic in trying to make the Education and the Environment Initiative a success. The curricula development phase and in school field testing should be completed within a year. Soon after, we hope to see environmental education in every grade of public school across all disciplines.
When my sons are plugged in to “Warcraft” on their computer or my daughter is watching “High School Musical 2” for the 37th time, it can be challenging to maintain faith in our environmental future. However, as any parent can attest to, they certainly can have their moments. Just last week, my oldest son Zack was volunteering at the aquarium touch tanks while my daughter Natalie was enthralled by his demonstration of the sliminess of a sea hare and the ability of a kelp gas bladder to squirt large volumes of cold salt water on the unsuspecting. Biodiversity appreciation moments like this give me hope.
Watching Jake stop complaining about being dragged to another Heal the Bay event while he examines the flotsam, jetsam and residue of urban decay at a Compton Creek cleanup gives me hope. Seeing Zack testify passionately at Santa Monica City Council for a plastic bag ban gives me hope. I know. My three kids don’t make much of a sample size. Multiply by thousands and you start making a difference.
The Pacific Asian Volunteer Assn. and Anahuak Youth Soccer Assn. brought out thousands of students from all over the region for a recent Los Angeles River clean up with Heal the Bay. The changing face of environmental restoration and protection in Los Angeles is reason for hope locally. Multiply by millions and there’s reason for hope worldwide. Advocacy, science and legislation are some of our most important tools in the fight for a healthy environment, but no tool is more important than comprehensive environmental education because it leads to the next generation of environmental leaders, stewards, innovators, problem solvers, and the long needed, first generation of green consumers. Please let us know how we can help educate those young people close to you.