This Thanksgiving, pause and give thanks for our environment. Our environment that provides the oxygen that we breathe and the clean water that we drink and use for irrigation. Our environment that provides the soil in which we grow crops. Our environment that provides the pollinators that pollinate our produce and the flowers that we enjoy in our gardens. Our environment that provides the wood that we build with and the trees that give us shelter. Our environment in which we recreate. Our environment that is filled with unknown diversity and which, when you pause and really see what is going on around you, is simply magical.
Give thanks for our environment because it is threatened. It is threatened by our use of carbon. It is threatened by our own ingenuity—the chemicals that we have created pollute it in unknown and perhaps (given the diversity of chemicals) unknowable ways. It is threatened by our use of fertilizers and insecticides. It is threatened by over-harvesting—both in the sea and on land.
Give thanks to those teachers and environmental educators without whom we wouldn’t know what is at stake if we continue to burn carbon, pollute, over-fertilize, and create toxins. For these teachers are a key link in understanding and are those that must teach us not only what is at stake, but also to help facilitate our search for solutions.
Give thanks to those teachers and support them in wise curriculum development. Curriculum that inspires our students to solve problems rather than simply parrot answers on government-mandated standardized tests. Curriculum that teaches our students to be citizens, with all of the knowledge about civics and politics, history and social studies, art and literature, and science that this entails. Curriculum that empowers rather than bores. Curriculum that can effect a change.
And give thanks to those around you, with whom you must work to create this change. We’re at an important crossroads in history where inaction can lead to unknowable destruction. As John F. Kennedy, extending the thoughts of the Babylonian Jewish leader Hillel the Elder, said: “If not us, who? And if not now, when?”
Daniel T. Blumstein & Charles Saylan