|EDINBURG, May 11 - Climate change will soon become part of the public school curriculum in more than 40 states, but Texas is not one of them.
The state has refused to adopt the new standards that would introduce the science of climate change into classrooms across the country. There is already a state law which requires teachers to tell their students that climate change is a controversial theory rather than an established fact. Instead of advancing knowledge, our leaders in the statehouse now want to set us back. Where do they expect to get with that idea?
Refusing to educate students on the subject of climate change will deprive the world of educated leaders and innovators who could one day help us mitigate and adapt to the new climate reality. They donít want us to learn anything on the subject, even though itís crucial to our survival and the survival of our civilization. Itís like weíre riding a train with defective brakes, and no oneís telling us. If we donít know the train has broken brakes, how will we be able to stop it from crashing and causing mass destruction?
Climate change fundamentally threatens our society, our lives, and the human species as a whole. Over the past several years weíve begun to see the shift in weather and in an increase in catastrophic weather events. The record high temperatures in the United States have been increasing, while the number of record low temperatures has decreased. Sea levels have risen 17 centimeters in the last century, but the rate in the last decade is double that of the century. Evidence also shows that our ocean is becoming more acidic because it is absorbing the carbon dioxide we are emitting into the atmosphere.
The consequences of these changes are dire. Approximately 25 percent of mammal species and 12 percent of bird species are expected to vanish if warmer temperatures keep on altering their habitats and human actions keep on destroying their land. Ocean acidification is destroying our coral reefs, and scientists do not expect them, or the fish that rely on them, to survive. Our supply of fresh water could decrease by up to 50 percent in some places. Sea level rise is expected to displace tens of millions of people worldwide. Global warming already causes 300,000 deaths a year, and itís projected to cause many more in the future due to heat waves, floods, and forest fires.
These are facts based on the latest scientific research, but until I attended my environmental studies English class at UTPA, I didnít know that climate change existed. The first activity in the class asked me to analyze my lifestyle. I was astonished to discover that if everyone on Earth lived the way I do, we would need 5.5 earths in order to have enough resources. I had no idea that my lifestyle was harming the planet and its people. I had no idea that our environment is slowly deteriorating. But what struck me most is how the government isnít taking action and how some of our leaders are refusing to acknowledge the reality of climate change.
If students remain ignorant about climate change like I was through high school, they canít push the government to take action, and our country will not change course. But teach students the latest information and I believe many will work to preserve their world. I am an example of how well climate change education can impact students. I had no prior knowledge and never thought of the environment, but after the class, I found myself inspired to make a difference.
Spreading the knowledge of climate change will benefit the lives of individual students as well. There are an increasing number of career paths that will allow students to work on climate change. For example, there are already jobs in the renewable energy industry developing wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Students might also work on mitigation projects to preserve animal habitats that will be affected by climate change. And we will certainly need people to develop and deliver climate and energy policy solutions. Preparing students for these jobs will not only improve the environment but also the economy.
My generation and the ones that follow me need to know about climate change because it is our new reality. We have a right to know the truth. We deserve to have a chance to do something about it. Students all over the country should be taught the latest information in public schools, colleges, and universities. Climate change needs to start being the subject of science-based discussions, debates, arguments, and talks within school walls. Not one child should be left behind in learning about climate change because that one child could be a leader in improving our situation.
Weíre sitting on the train, too. We deserve to know that the brakes are broken.
Vanessa Ramos lives in Weslaco and has just finished her freshman year at UTPA. She plans to become a speech-language pathologist.
The above guest column is part of a series on environmental issues the Rio Grande Guardian is running in association with UTPA.