It’s Time to Talk About the Climate Crisis

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Climate change is real, it’s changing our world at a faster pace than we think, and many young people are passionate about tackling the problem. But there is a lot more to be done. For an issue that impacts everyone on earth, education surrounding the issue for the world’s youth is surprisingly limited.

Climate change has become a more and more pressing issue and the effects of it are becoming more and more deadly. The world is now experiencing dramatic natural disasters, like raging wildfires in San Francisco and rapidly melting ice caps in the far north.

Environmental Science is not required to graduate Williston, and the same goes for many other schools. NPR states in a 2019 story that, “Although most states have classroom standards that at least mention human-caused climate change, most teachers aren’t actually talking about climate change in their classrooms. And fewer than half of parents have discussed the issue with their children.”

Education is one of the best ways to help stop climate change. Yet it’s not mandated to be taught in school.

“I completed high school in 1981. I do not recall ever talking about climate change,” said AP Environmental Science teacher Jeffery Ketcham. “I’m certain scientists were talking about it, as there is literature about it before this date, however it was not mainstream enough to reach the curriculum of a public high school in New York State.”

According to NASA, “Global sea level rose about 8 inches (20 centimeters) in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year.”

Along with sea level rise, temperatures are also changing.

“The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950,” NASA data showed. “The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.”

Even now, 40 years later, talk about climate change and its effects are largely left out of the classroom unless students choose to take a course like Environmental Science.

Class of ’21 alum Eleanor Windrow from Connecticut took AP Environmental Science. Aside from that class, she said, “I think we talked about it maybe once in AP Gov. But other than that, I don’t remember learning about it at all.”

Sanger Breen, a senior at Northampton High, agreed, “I didn’t learn about it depth until I took AP Environmental,” Sanger said.

Ketcham is hopeful and does see more students feeling passionately about climate change then when he first started teaching. ” It is a regular part of conversation now – in school, at home, and in the media,” he said. He stressed how important it is that students are educated on the subject.

“This is  great as this issue is probably the most significant issue of modern times,” Ketcham said. “Without knowing what is going on it would be difficult to make any changes. I think everyone should be aware of how our individual as well as collective actions impact others and the planet that sustains us. We only have one planet and we really should take care of it!”

In places where climate change effects lives on a daily basis, talk about the issue is starting to become an even bigger part of regular conversation.

Tabitha Randlett grew up in San Francisco,  where the effects of climate change are very real, and dangerous. Tabitha recalled having to flee a hotel in Saratoga, California, because of wildfires. “As we left I had to drive right next to raging fires on the highway,” she said.

Tabitha’s education surrounding climate change started early. “Living in a part of California that has experienced severe drought for most of my life, my school taught about how to be environmentally friendly and conserve energy and water,” she explained. “We would get prizes for taking short showers, reducing water, or biking to school or any other little things that would reduce carbon and water emissions.”