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(NOTE to readers) Be sure to see the Pickles cartoon at the end of this editorial.

Global warming of the earth’s atmosphere has been attributed to increases in the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide emissions that have resulted from the burning of fossil fuels. Land use activities, such as tropical deforestation (such forests were once referred to as the “lungs of the earth”) are also contributing to the amount of CO2 that stays in the atmosphere.

Global warming and tropical deforestation are “creeping” environmental changes, where today’s CO2 levels are like yesterday’s and tomorrow’s levels will be like today’s. Like the frog in the boiling water analogy, there is no hard and fast indicator for when a dangerous threshold has been crossed with regard to greenhouse gas levels, but once it has been crossed, major irreversible adverse changes are expected to occur. At that point major environmental troubles for society become visible and, with the benefits of hindsight, become attributable to a major change in the earth’s climate. For example, though scientists tell us there will be more extremes, it is hard to see that from day to day. Even under ‘normal’ climate conditions, one must keep in mind that record-breaking climate and weather events are occurring somewhere on the globe every year.

It appears that NO GOVERNMENT DEALS WELL IN ADVANCE OF A CREEPING ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, UNTIL A CRISIS HAS EMERGED BUT BY THEN IT IS TOO LATE IN THE DAY TO RESPOND EFFECTIVELY. As a result, societies end up having to cope with an environmental crisis situation that is often more deadly, more destructive and more costly than if they had dealt with the less threatening seemingly harmless incremental changes from year to year or decade to decade.

Governments, the big ones especially, are backing up into the future. How to turn them around to look into the future is the challenge that has faced older generations alive today. Despite new technological breakthroughs, trying to get governments to figure out why or how to cope with slow onset, incremental but accumulating adverse environmental changes is an almost impossible task. As I proposed at the Nepal Small Earth Network-CCB conference <www.smallearth.org.np/>, we need to come up with a “Plot to Save the Planet”… and very soon. It seems that developing that plot will be up to the youth to develop, not the climate change negotiators who have become mired in detail (e.g., “not seeing the forest because the trees are in the way”).

I have come to realize, following the conference in Nepal and the first few days at UN COP16 <see earlier editorials here>, that we have to re-think the concept of “youth”. It has different connotations to different people. Teens are youth to other people. People still in a university are considered youth by still others. To many, the young are small, child-like, harmless humans who are seldom listened to until they become adults: but, is that how young people want to be viewed regardless of age?

I suggest that there be a decade-wise view of humans where youth are up to the teens (high school and early college years) and succeeding categories are to be branded as “20somethings”, the “ 30-somethings”, the “40-somethings”, and so forth. One could argue that each of these age groups (age cohorts) are generally speaking more like each other in terms of knowledge, goals, enthusiasms, shared lived history, etc. than they are with their neighboring age groups. The lines separating the adjacent age groups are not sharply defined so there is some flexible overlap.

The above suggestion means that I am … gasp … among the 70-somethings, the age group with lots of information and experience but with rapidly waning power to influence! The 20-somethings (with a degree of overlap with “youth”) are in the process of gaining knowledge, training and experience. They hold the keys to safeguarding the future. They are young adults (although it is often used, I do not like this term as it labels them with a junior status) preparing to take on the world. They are no longer youth, playing in a sand box or youth in middle school, ignored for their thoughts. They are out in the real world. They are increasingly demanding to be listened to and still unencumbered by bureaucratic rules and regulations. So, youth, the 20-somethings, the 30-somethings, the 40-somethings, and so on, of the world unite and challenge those professing to want to save the planet’s atmosphere but whose activities do not support their words.

As for those age groups in front of yours, hold them accountable for their “damnages” to the planet. [NB: “damnages” is damage that a decision maker knows will occur (and does occur), as a result of his/her decision or indecision].

As a final point on this, I would also argue that the 20-somethings and the 70-somethings make the best allies, as the former gain the tools that they need to bargain while the latter have the experiences that can be used to mentor and guide them without expectation of personal gain.

The day I wrote the first draft of this editorial I noted in my local newspaper the following cartoon called Pickles (free at http://comics.com/pickles/). It underscored the need for making explicit the possible contributions, at least in terms of mentoring, that older generations alive today can provide face to face to the younger generations.

(Prepared at COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico). Mickey Glantz. 8 December 2010

This is a quick note (that is, I wrote it as if I were speaking to someone) that was first sent to the group of students who participated in the First International Graduate Conference on Climate Change and People” held 15-19 November in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have been learning a lot (see, old people can still learn!) being at the COP16 side event, though I was not there as an active negotiator. Negotiations that have occurred in the first week may end up having little to do with what will happen in the second week (now in progress) when the Ministers’ level gets involved in negotiations. They are likely less familiar with the details and nuances of climate change science and its impacts that the negotiators have been dealing with and they are more political I believe than most of their national negotiators.

Anything can happen, as the COP 16 comes to a close in a few days. One thing is sure: The USA Congress will continue to be an obstacle. The Congress will be hindered by several members so conservative (anti-science and into religious fundamentalism {the earth was created 6000 years ago, so they believe!} and that means that, for the USA, the local communities will carry the burden of addressing climate change causes and consequences on their own time, energy and money.

As you know, the core problem of global warming (that is, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation) is one involving a creeping phenomenon where today’s co2 levels are like yesterday’s and tomorrow’s levels will be like today’s. Like the frog in the boiling water analogy there is no indicator when a dangerous threshold of major change has been reached and is crossed and major troubles become visible and attributable to a warming atmosphere. NO GOVERNMENT DEALS WELL IN ADVANCE OF A CREEPING ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, TILL IT IS LATE IN THE GAME. though scientists tell us there will be more extremes, it is hard to see that from day to day. Climate and weather records are being set somewhere every year.

Governments, the big ones especially, are backing into the future. How to turn them around to look into the future is the challenge that has faced older generations alive today and trying to get them to figure out how to cope with slow onset, incremental but accumulating adverse changes we are making to the Planet. As i proposed at the Nepal Small Earth Network-CCB conference, we need to come up with a “Plot to Save the Planet”… and soon. It seems that the plot will be up to the youth to develop, not the negotiators mired in detail.

I have come to realize, following the conference in Nepal and the firstfew days at COP16 that we have to re-think the concept of “youth”. It has different connotations to different people. Teens are youth to other people. People still in a university are considered youth by still others. To many, the young are small, child-like and harmless humans who are seldom listened to until they become adults: but, is that how young people want to be viewed regardless of age?

…………………………….

Definition of youth

noun plural: youths

1. the quality or condition of being young, immature, or inexperienced his youth told against him in the contest

2. the period between childhood and maturity, esp adolescence and early adulthood

3. the freshness, vigour, or vitality characteristic of young people youth shone out from her face

4. any period of early development the project was in its youth

……………………………

I suggest that there be a decade-wise view of humans where youth are up to the teens (high school and early college years) and succeeding categories are to be branded as “twenty something”, the “thirty something”, the “forty something”, and so forth. One could argue that each of these age groups (age cohorts) are generally speaking more like each other in terms of knowledge, goals, enthusiasms, shared lived history, etc. than they are with their neighboring age groups. the lines separating the adjacent age groups are not sharply defined so there is some flexible overlap.

www.20somethinguniversity.com/ a social networking site

The above suggestion means that i am … gasp … among the ‘seventy somethings’, the age group with lots of information and experience but little to no power! The twenty somethings (with a degree of overlap with “youth”) are in the process of gaining knowledge, training and experience. They hold the keys to the safeguarding the future. They are young adults (i do not like this term as it labels them with a junior status) preparing to take on the world. They are no longer youth, playing in a sand box or youth in middle school, ignored for their thoughts. They are out in the real world. They are increasingly demanding to be listened to, still unencumbered by bureaucratic rules and regulations. So, youth, twenty something, thirty something, and so on, of the world unite and challenge those professing to want to save the planet’s atmosphere. Hold those age groups in front of you accountable.

Finally, I would also argue that the twenty somethings and the seventy somethings make the best allies: the former are gaining the tools that they need to bargain in life, while the latter have the experiences that can be used to mentor and guide them without expectation of personal gain.

There are universities filled with academic departments of all kinds: physics, math, sociology, music, political science, philosophy, oceanography, education, and so forth. You get the picture. We have these academic discipline-based divisions in America. Yet, statistical records that compare American education of kindergarten through the university level show that American kids today are less knowledgeable than their parents! How can that be? Don’t we have a National Science Foundation pumping billions into research and educational activities? Don’t we have associations like the AAAS, the AMS and the AGU to foster education in the technical disciplines?

The answer to all the above is yes; billions and billions of dollars spent over the decades since the end of WWII have gone into educating Americans. To what avail? Our national ranking nears the bottom of the other industrialized countries according to some objective set of metrics. There was an initiative a few years ago at the NSF called CDI (Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation). To my mind this was a great concept, an initiative to foster innovation backed by money (funding). However, I think that the NSF bureaucracy got in the way of its stated desire to seek out innovation and discovery by having uncreative people in charge of determining what was a creative concept and what was not.
[NB: the review committee is made up of heads of departments within NSF, tethered to the protection of their specialized areas of concern]. It did not seem that the NSF sought to leapfrog into the future for new out-of-the-box creative thinking but sought to infuse (or tweek) with a bit more cash what is already done in the way of research, relabeling new activities as CDI.

How can America improve the education of the next generation so that it is smarter and more creative than the present generation? The idea was suggested to me by the title of a book written in Europe about 20 years ago: “The Discipline of Creativity.” Maybe we need to think about how to create academic disciplines (or departments) along non-traditional lines: the Department of Innovation, the Department of Creativity, the Department of Discovery, and the Department of Improvization.

Students and their teachers and professors can earn certificates in, innovation, creativity, discovery or improvisation, along with their tradition BA, MA or PhD from a traditional, societally accepted discipline.

Personally, I think Sparetime University (STU) is one of those undisciplined non-traditional approaches to fostering out-of the-box thinking. It is not rocket science but is a way to share as well as create knowledge, free to the recipients, and taken in at will, independent of time, place and level of education. So, STU will foster the non-traditional academic disciplines of creativity, innovation, discovery and improvisation. Maybe this can help America (and other countries as well) climb back toward single digit rankings in various categories of levels of knowledge, including but clearly not limited to science and math.

http://fragilecologies.com/blog/?p=1819

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