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Science Teachers Stoke
the Fires of Global Warming


By Dick Russell
December 3, 2006

  • Since the 1990s, when we first started becoming aware of the threat of global warming, the rate at which humans have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels has more than doubled. And, according to a team of Australian researchers, it’s going up every year. Last year, about 7.85 billion tons of carbon emissions were spewed into the atmosphere, compared to 6.67 billion tons in 2000.

  • British scientists announced that the North Atlantic waters – from western Europe to the eastern U.S. – have warmed up dramatically in only seven years. This storing of enormous amounts of heat, they say, is a time bomb that will stifle marine life and could accelerate warming of the atmosphere by almost 9 degrees Centigrade.

  • At a symposium in Rhode Island, marine biologist S. Jefress Williams warned that “we’re setting ourselves up for a major disaster in most of the United States.” Sea levels have already risen by a foot in New England over the past century, and U.S. Geological Survey models predict another 21 to 33 inch rise during the next hundred years – destroying coastal habitats, finding salt water entering fresh drinking water supplies, and worsening hurricane impacts.

  • James Lovelock, the scientist who gave us the Gaia theory that the earth functions as a single, self-sustaining organism, predicted that global warming will traumatize earth and enable our planet to support less than one tenth of its current six billion population.

All this appeared in the news during the same week, just after Thanksgiving 2006. And so did the revelation that the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has turned down an offer of 50,000 free DVDs of Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that would educate students about what is happening and the kind of world they are about to inherit. The film’s producer, Laurie David, also founder of StopGlobalWarming.org, received an Email refusing the offer. An NSTA spokesperson said this would pose an “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.”

It turns out that these “targeted supporters” include the ExxonMobil corporation, which has a whole task force out there debunking the onrushing reality of climate change. The NSTA has received about $6 million from the oil company over the past ten years, primarily for its “Building a Presence for Science” program. In 2003, the NSTA even gave ExxonMobil an award for its supposed commitment to science education.

It turns out that the American Petroleum Institute funds the NSTA Web site on the science of energy. There kids and teachers can read all about “Running on Oil.” The teacher’s association has also distributed an API video, “You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel.” And when the teachers attend the next NSTA national conference in March, they’ll be deluged with materials on the benefits of coal and oil.

My blood boiled when I read about this. America's science teacher’s association selling our children’s future, keeping them in blissful ignorance about the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced! What we need is an army of young people who know the stakes – that the glaciers are already in retreat and the polar bears are dying and the sea levels rising and there isn’t much time before it’s a completely hopeless situation.

The earth’s climate is rapidly spinning out of control, while greed remains in control. And these educators are utterly complicit. Gerald Wheeler and the NSTA need to know how we feel about this. Email the man at: gwheeler@nsta.org.

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