Guest column: Bullying must go, but climate change is here
Special to The Aspen Times
I am dismayed by the headline and story on Thursday’s front page, for a few reasons (“Some local parents hot over schools’ climate talk,” Oct. 10, The Aspen Times).
No child at any school should ever be persecuted by peers for their beliefs. If children throw rocks at every other child who might disagree with them, we will have an anarchic society soon enough. Perhaps, in addition to science, we need to teach our kids about empathy and equality and the First Amendment (something most students in the U.S. know nothing about, which is dangerous enough).
But more, I am dismayed by thoughts expressed by some of the unnamed parents at our recent school board meeting that somehow the subjects around climate that the Aspen schools are teaching are “politically motivated” or “anti-capitalist.” I posit that climate science is what is being taught, and we should be more than invested in the learning that our kids are engaged in on this front.
Climate has become a political issue because we citizens, with our competing and growing desires for various goods and services, have let it become one. Governed by our loudest lobbyists, climate mitigation has become thornier than health care reform. Heaven help us.
Depending on whose statistics one reads, the vast majority of citizens in the U.S. and beyond believe we need to make change when it comes to this large, looming dilemma of warming oceans and associated repercussions. Were it that recycling and composting would make threats of climate challenges all go away! While admirable, the issues we face will require a much larger commitment from industry as well as individuals, governments as well as voting citizens. It is heartening that one of the more conservative business groups — the Business Roundtable — has embraced just in the past month a broader view of the responsibilities of corporations, among them, sustainability.
And thankfully there are many politicians on both sides of the aisle, conservative Sen. Lindsay Graham for starters, who agree with the 90-plus percent of all scientists worldwide who express a sense of urgency to combat the effects of climate change. Not that getting to consensus on what to do is going to be easy, but let’s not pretend there is no issue by proclaiming this just a political one.
As for climate worry being somehow “anti-capitalist”? All capitalists found their livelihoods in solving problems — and making money at it. I am looking to the future generation — this one that is right here in Aspen’s public schools, the one that is going to suffer most from the decisions and lifestyles we lead today — to solve the problems that a changing climate will cause and to be economically successful at the same time. And many “capitalists” are making big bets and generating great profits through the development of smart technologies that are mitigating the effects of climate change, including incredible start-ups but also traditional oil companies, utilities, auto firms — those that might otherwise be considered the worst offenders in our climate dilemmas. We need to do more, yes, and the good news is we can make money doing so. Seems pretty smart to me.
Frankly, if our school teachers are presenting the science of climate and the possibilities for a better future at the same time, bring it on. Please, let’s not look at this as politics being taught in our schools. Our climate dilemmas are ones we all face, regardless of political position, and we should keep the discussion in that realm, looking to politicians to help sort through the best policies for mitigation, but not to sow division among citizens that there is or isn’t a problem. Because if we think and act as if there isn’t one, and believe that threats posed by climate is a myth constructed by the far left to destroy capitalism, I believe we are in real trouble.
No, I don’t agree that the world will end in 2030. But by 2050, without substantive action, our kids may experience habitat devastation with threats to supplies of food and water that will wreak havoc well beyond the classrooms of Aspen. There are places in the world where this is already happening — including the U.S.
Who knows? Perhaps one or more of these kids, inspired by teachers who challenge them to be excited about science and the problem solving it offers, to aspire to addressing the greatest challenges we face. Just Wednesday, three Nobel Prize Laureates were awarded the penultimate decoration for their inquiry into the lithium-ion battery, the one that has “laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil-fuel free society.” The ones that will employ this technology the most? The capitalists who are working to make the world a safer place.
As an executive at The Aspen Institute, Kitty Boone runs the nonprofit organization’s Public Programs and Aspen Ideas Festival.
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