Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall: A Reflection on Dark and Light

Dateline October 27, 2013
The latest IPCC report on Climate Change was out Sept 30th and it indicates that indeed we are in climate trouble.  Big trouble.  No news to many of you tuning into this blog.  But the piece that is making the most news is that the report concludes that HUMANS are largely responsible for the earth and oceans warming. 

Incredible as it may seem, it appears that releasing tons and tons of carbon from fossil fuels over the last couple of centuries has had a net effect of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels tied that carbon up for 200+ million years and we’ve released it in the geological blink of an eye.  I guess there was bound to be a complication or problem with fossil fuels.  Glaciers and arctic ice melt combine with warming and expanding water to raise the oceans, hurricanes hurl their might onto shorelines, fires rage in the tinder dry steppes of Russia, Australia has the worst drought and fires in recorded history and floods pour out of the Himalayas. For the most part, the report is a dark and troubled prediction for climate changes in the next 100 years.

Fall is an incredible time of year. When the sun shines, the warmth oozes under your skin and stellar blue skies make the lakes sparkle, fall flowers leap in color, and even the wind rattling trees and grasses is a bit more fantastic.  When the grey clouds rip across the sky they bring geese formations, migrating birds and, for a few of us, the joyful promise of winter snows.  Fall is a time to be outside. I make every excuse to get outside in the fantastic weather.

In the fall, our SSR classes are outside daily. Students need no excuse to go out into the real classroom. They go outside every day! They go out into the classroom where the wind blows, the rain sprays, toes freeze, sun warms, mud sticks, stars twinkle and the river flows onward past forest, field, fen, agriculture, industry, town and city. 

So what connects the first dark section with the light and promise of the second?

The energy and brightness of studying sustainability in a cohort of dedicated and creative students shines light on those dark predictions.  Last year as I worked with the SSR cohort, my optimism grew as the daylight shortened. Seven students tackled problems big and small.  Each one took on personal challenges to reduce their own carbon footprint while as a group we investigated ecosystems around Merry Lea, unsustainable practices and ethical choice making. We also tackled my favorite, the thorny challenges to creating policies that can guide our society into better living.

Right now there is more hope and positive vibes running around as K-12 students explore Merry Lea. Our master of environmental education program fills me with light as our students share their passion to preserve and protect the environment. Whether the students are giggling and running with 1st graders, or pushing and prodding 7th graders to make connections and learn about the natural world, I am buoyed to the surface of hope and optimism.   Our world, all the people, all the animals, all of creation is going to need the light that shines from each student. Every day I am reminded of that light and Fall is a great time to soak it up.  Cool, bright, refreshing Fall.

These weeks of fall remind me of the beauty that is all around us.  In fact fall carries me into the beautiful coldness of winter and the life-giving grey rains of early spring.

-Dave Ostergren 

1 comment:

  1. At times I feel bad that we are asking the young people of today to step up and be a part of solutions for these global problems in a way that my generation never did. I am amazed, though, how ready and willing the youth of today are to get working toward solutions. It is indeed inspiring and it does give me hope that perhaps they will help all of us find ways to treat this planet with more respect and to move into the future on a more sustainable path.