On the Friday morning of the Global Climate Strike, as I geared up my camera equipment to head to out, I had only one song in my head. It was Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning.
I’ve been listening to that song as a mantra for my passionate work in the environment since high school. I cranked it up really loud as I packed my lunch, water and then walked to Cal Anderson Park for the youth rally.
Last week Greta Thunburg made a passionate decree to the UN, saying, not only “how Dare You”, but more importantly, “For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.”
30 years and I asked the same.
30 years of teaching the same stuff because it’s still matters, and little change, indeed, has happened.
30 years, when I too, was 16.
That Midnight Oil song I know so well has really been in my repertoire and in my heart since the 80s. The song was released in 1987 during my freshman year of high school. Before I would graduate the Exxon Valdez would spill billions of gallons of oil into Alaska’s water, images of crude oil on otters and sea birds would be burned into my mind, and the US would declare war on Iraq for fossil fuels. Our high school friends talked of a draft for the Gulf War, and I swore, if it came to that, I would drive a van full of kids over the Canadian border.
In my first year of college, where I was already a declared science and environmental studies major, I remember Severn Cullis-Suzuki speaking at the Rio Summit in 1992. She was 12 year old. Meanwhile, I was reading the works of her father David Suzuki, and his colleagues in conservation Wendell Barry, Aldo Leopold, E.O Wilson, Jane Goodall, and more. Even my music was influenced by digging in to the earth, as the band Arrested Development was singing about the way children were living was positively European. Dig your hands in the dirt. Children play with earth. That’s right. Children, it is the Earth’s time. We can stop being washed away.
I’ve been teaching environmental science and physical science through a lens of sustainability for more than 20 years. Ten years ago, I taught alternative energy, and had students watch the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. Five years ago, while teaching climate science to high school students in the Canadian Arctic, mind you with temperatures recorded in Churchill at 30 degrees C, we watched the compelling documentary by James Balog Chasing Ice.
For 25 years I’ve had hope in my students. Yet, Greta makes it clear do not ask for her hope, do not look to or listen to the youth; listen to the science–the science we have known for 30 years. She doesn’t want hope. She wants us to panic. you should act as if your house is on fire, because it is.
I panicked 30 years ago, when the data was crystal clear. In grad school I would protest the second Iraq invasion–and commit to bike commuting. Recycling is only the THIRD step in REDUCE, REUSE, Recycle–and most Americans merely sort their waste, not really recycle it anyway. There is no away.
In fact checking Midnight Oil’s hit song I discovered a remix was made in 2009 for the UN Summit in Copenhagen. Kofi Annan sang on this remix and pledged to be a climate justice ally.
I participated in the Global Climate Strike because “young people asked us to. In a well-ordered society, when kids make a reasonable request their elders should say yes–in this case with real pride and hope that the next generations are standing up for what matters.” I am a climate justice ally.
I was striking because science is real. Physics exists. Chemistry matters.
I have always let my students be my teachers. I will not let them down. It matters.
How can we sleep when our beds are burning? The time has come to take a stand.
updated to include this photo of Greta Thunberg and Severn Cullis-Suzuki in Vancouver, BC, Canada October 2019, copied from Greta’s FB page.