Taking Action to Reduce Global Warming
The following article is a review on a study taken from the journal Science Education entitled, Beliefs and Willingness to Act About Global Warming: Where to Focus Science Pedagogy?
[view full article online after registering] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sce.2013.97.issue-2/issuetoc
This article will focus on the role that science educators have in promoting student awareness of global warming and their role in empowering students to take action to reduce global warming. In this study, 500 secondary students from New South Wales (NSW), Australia, and 785 secondary students from England, contribute their thoughts regarding the effectiveness of various actions that need to be taken to address the issue of global warming through the use of a specially designed questionnaire. The relationship between beliefs and willingness to take action to help reduce the impact of global warming is a major focal point of this study, as well as actions science educators may take to encourage pro-environmental behavior. Herein, I will give a summary of the study and the points that I feel are the most important, and I will include my thoughts on actions science educators should take to address socioscientific issues.
Climate neutrality is a term that wraps up the goal of achieving a balanced and harmonious planet. To achieve this, the article explains, it is imperative that governments, cities, businesses, and individuals, especially in developed countries, make changes to their energy usage. For global warming to be reduced and eventually brought back to equilibrium, people need to change. This parallels the prophetic Biblical message that states for kingdoms to change, people need to change. Similarly, if we want to reduce green house gases and restore the natural balance, people need to change the way they think and the way they behave.
Science educators are employed to disseminate science understandings and science inquiry skills. However, this research supports the notion that science educators can make a real contribution to the adoption of pro-environmental behaviors. Science teachers, in my opinion, need to focus not only on issues surrounding global warming, but also on promoting students’ scientific knowledge and social activism in ways that reinforce each other.
In this study, science education would be making a necessary and essential contribution to enabling students to make reasoned decisions in science-related personal and civic matters. When students feel personally empowered to effect change related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this prerequisite for action will motivate them to engage in content-specific knowledge and cognitive skills. While socioscientific activism may not be a traditional role of science teachers, it is a role that is becoming more and more of a NEED.
This study begins by analyzing students from two different cultures and imploring their beliefs about the necessity to take action to reduce global warming, followed by their WILLINGNESS to take pro-environmental action. It was stated in this research, that for students to be empowered to meet the challenge of global warming, students must, “be motivated for action toward the global warming problem (have hope and vision for the future, have a general feeling that they can influence the future of the world, be interested and engaged in the global warming issue, and think that environmental protection is important for society),” and they need to have, “sufficient knowledge about the science of global warming, possible adequate actions in terms of personal lifestyle, technical solutions and political measures, and possible channels of influence through politics, organizations, etc.”
Sufficient knowledge thus becomes the role of science educators. Science educators need to broaden the awareness of the students. This can easily be done while maintaining the traditional approach of imparting science understanding. Planting trees and learning about botany is a great way for science teachers to impart the knowledge they are employed to impart, while promoting an ACTIVE role in reducing global warming. In the article, they go on to say that science education, “can assist in meeting many of these requirements, and a science teacher, focusing on social activism as well as science understanding and inquiry processes, and who is also aware of these empirical findings and theoretical positions about being pro-environmentally active, will make better informed pedagogical decisions that may assist students in deciding to take pro-environmental actions.” Science teachers may be able to enhance more of their students’ understanding by requiring them to compare energy use and consequent greenhouse gas emissions of different appliances and houses without insulation and other areas of study.
According to this study, more English students than NSW students believed that nuclear power, home insulation, less artificial fertilizer use, and more recycling would reduce global warming. About forty percent of all the students believed that the best ways to address global warming were to use public transportation, renewable resources, to plant more trees, to use smaller cars, and to use less home electricity. The other forty percent believed recycling, the use of nuclear energy, the use of energy efficient appliances, insulation (to reduce energy use), and fertilizer free foods is the best approach in addressing the global warming issue. Lastly, approximately twenty percent of the students believed that using fewer new items and eating less meat were important in creating a pro-environmental impact.
To increase economic savings, insulation improvements and the use of fuel-efficient vehicles was thought to be the major areas of improvement. However, while nuclear power was agreed to be a great way to produce energy without heavily damaging the environment, it comes at a high economic cost. In the grand scheme of things though, it is agreed that these costs are worthwhile and this form of energy use should be embraced. Like adults, students may be largely unaware that nuclear energy is a low greenhouse gas emission technology.
To add greater clarity to their thoughts, three categories were developed. The first category addresses the potential effectiveness of education. In both countries, students agree that the highest potential effectiveness of education are supporting energy production from renewable resources, planting more trees, purchasing energy-efficient domestic appliances, and accepting a diet with less meat content. This study suggests that educators can have a huge impact in increasing awareness that these actions can contribute to a reduction in global warming. Education, then, would serve as a great tool to create behavior change on a population basis.
The second area considered the natural willingness to act. In the study, students said that they were willing to save electricity at home, to buy more energy-efficient appliances, and to improve home insulation. However, there were differences in opinion between the two cultures regarding recycling, using smaller cars, planting more trees, using less artificial fertilizer in food production, buying fewer new items, and purchasing energy-efficient domestic goods. The English students said they were less willing to engage in action regarding these areas, whereas, NSW students said they were more inclined to undertake pro-environmental actions.
The third area considered the natural reluctance to act. The studies found that the action with the smallest natural reluctance to act was switching off unused domestic appliances. The studies also showed that English students appeared less reluctant to improve home insulation.
A major finding of this study is that the association between beliefs about the effectiveness of specific actions to reduce global warming and the willingness to take those specific actions varies greatly. This discussion is not suggesting that teachers tell students how to behave, but instead, for teachers to provide students with opportunities to debate, evaluate, and judge for themselves the relative merits of competing positions. For people to change, they have to WANT to change. When presented with clear information regarding the topic of global warming, hopefully everyone will make the selfless choice to take ACTION in order to create a positive pro-environmental change!
The studies showed that the most productive behaviors on which to focus education are eating less meat, using renewables, and to use fertilizer-free food. For some of these actions, students seemed to be unaware that eating meat increases one’s contribution to global warming. Most people are familiar with carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, but many people are unaware of the fact that methane produced by livestock and nitrous oxide released through fertilizer runoff promotes global warming and is destructive to the planet. It was concluded in this article that an increased understanding about the role of meat eating and fertilizer use in global warming needs more emphasis.
While this article addressing the scientific aspects of global warming, woven within it is a spiritual and philosophical message as well. For us to WANT to help the earth and all life in it and on it by working toward addressing the global warming issue, we have to have LOVE FOR LIFE! We have to CARE first and foremost. Only when we WANT to change, will we change. This study showed that may students (and adults) WANT to change and they do care, but how many will TAKE ACTION!?! The study showed us that while students care, only a small percentage are willing to take action. The actions that they take are certainly selfless when they go out of their way to conserve energy use and to avoid wasting and being cognizant of the impact of their actions in the natural world, yet the studies show clearly that while MANY agree that reducing meat intake is a necessary pro-environmental action, very FEW are willing to make the sacrifice. In order to make a big impact and to restore the natural equilibrium of the world, we MUST be willing to sacrifice our selfish desires and our unnecessary ways of life. We need to be DISCIPLINED and MOTIVATED to create a positive change and DEDICATED to inspiring others to change. Now is time to take action to create a better world for ourselves and for the future generations to come!