by Upper School teacher Tina Morris
Turning on the radio or looking at the headlines these days means having the senses bombarded by the human issues being played out on the world stage. It is obvious that the conflicts between people from different countries are not the only ones we face. Our own country is being divided as well, as divergent views on social justice, immigration, racism, health care, and taxes are pitting neighbor against neighbor, causing many to lose sight of who we are as a nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
A month ago, I attended the memorial service of a good friend who, at the vibrant age of eighty-five, had taught me a great deal about what was important in life. In an address he gave at an environmental conference last year he said,
If we are to survive, let alone thrive as a species, we must meet two central requirements:
- We must learn to live in harmony with each other, a test we are failing in many parts of the world today; and
- We must learn to live in harmony with our natural environment. To the extent we destroy nature, nature will surely destroy us. Living in harmony with nature is an absolute necessity for our survival. I don’t know about you, but I am strongly in favor of survival.
~ Donald (Obie) Clifford
I wanted to share his words here because of the power and confirmation they bring to the work we do at Pike.
In social studies, language arts, foreign language, and art, music, and drama, we teach students about the humanities, disciplines that have been created for and by humans. While we focus on our history as a people settling a new land, our institutions of government, and the works of art we create to form our culture, we spend much time thinking about our conflicts with one another, our disagreements, our differences instead of the commonalities that we share. As the human species, we have far more similarities, which must form the basis of our conversations if we are to survive.
As a biologist and environmentalist, I am concerned about the issues of human to human conflict precluding our ability to live in harmony with each other, and thereby blinding us to the equally important requirement that we live in harmony with nature. Without an awareness that humans are part of a bigger whole, we lose the perspective that will save us in the long run. As we allow our misunderstanding and intolerance towards our fellow humans fester, and eventually explode, we are ignoring what should be drawing us together. Our planet is in trouble, and global issues like water rights, scarcity of food, and depletion of natural resources threaten our future. In the U.S. we are witnessing the reality of climate change as wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes gain epic strength in the southeast, droughts and floods rampage areas previously immune to these extremes.
Environmental literacy is a fundamental stopgap to some of these ills through awareness, education and the call to action, at least on the local level. We need to train students to explore solutions for these ills that stretch beyond humanity into the very essence of its survival. We need to encourage students to pursue a STEM curriculum in conjunction with the humanities so they can have a balanced view of the world’s needs.
As I watch students collaborating on presentations about reforestation in Madagascar, rising sea levels in Asia, water shortages in African nations, as well as studying the nature trail outside their door, I am viewing the web of awareness being woven at Pike. As students connect their history, literature and art lessons to their environment, they have met the two requirements that will allow them to make the world sustainable: harmony among humans, and respect and understanding of the earth that they depend on. What goals could be more worthy of our full attention and effort as educators of this next generation?