There wasn’t anything that I could do. I was too late. As the old chip bag full of water flew through the air and landed into the ocean, horror flooded my body. I was paralyzed. Had I just seen what I thought I had seen? Had I just witnessed an adorable little girl dressed in a neon green shirt and black leggings throw a piece of garbage purposefully into the ocean while her 5-year-old sister and dad looked on?
At first, I was confused. That couldn’t have just happened. WHAT was she doing? Was she insane? I was angry. At her. And then at her dad. He didn’t even flinch. How dare he let her throw trash into our ocean, how dare he not teach her the impact of her actions, how dare he do nothing. And then it hit me. Maybe HE didn’t know. Maybe he doesn’t know that, “There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans – enough to circle the Earth over 400 times” or that “Scientists have documented 700 marine species affected by ocean plastic” or that the “Many fish humans consume, including brown trout, cisco, and perch, have at one time or another, ingested plastic microfibers.” So many emotions and questions pulsed through my body yet, the best I could do was to run out and look for the trash. I didn’t find it.
The moms of Earth Mamas International and I have spent the last eight months working tirelessly to get the word out about pollution, climate change and what we as moms and parents can do to do our part. But what is even the point, if we, along with SO many others, aren’t getting our information to those that need it most?
Unfortunately, that little girl and her dad aren’t the exceptions, but the rule.
As I slowly walked back to my own child, playing in the sand, unsuccessful in my mission to get the trash that was so carelessly thrown into the ocean, I racked my brain about how this could happen and why that dad thought this was okay. And it hit me. My personal belief is that people are inherently good and want to DO good but they don’t always know. So he just didn’t know. He didn’t know the impact of his actions and maybe he just didn’t know any better.
So what do WE do? What can I do? My mind raced. And then, I knew the answer. As an educator, this IS my job. Is teaching the world about climate change in my job description? Well, no, but teaching my students to be citizens of our world, while helping them to be positive contributors to this planet, is my job. Not only is it my job, but it is what drives me and so many other educators.
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
So, I ask you, educators, to do YOUR part. Even if you don’t have the formal title as an educator, a teacher, you are. You are a teacher to someone. Your nieces, your nephews, your children. But maybe you are thinking, I’m never around kids. Well, you all are teachers too. Teachers to your families, your friends, your books clubs and your workout buddies. We have an obligation here. An obligation to spread the word and make a change.
So, as school starts and those formal educators meet their students for the first time, students so full of hope and teachers that feeling of so much potential, think of that little girl in her neon green shirt. She just didn’t know. As your students open those fresh packs of markers with those shiny, new untouched notebooks, think twice about how you will use those this year and where they will go when you throw them “away”. Think twice about the materials procedures in your class and what kind of waste your class will create. Think twice about how your words and actions empower your class. How will you instill the knowledge, urgency, and call for action into your students?
And for those of you who aren’t formal educators, what will your role be? Who will you talk to? What will you do to influence and teach those around you? As you go about your day chatting with colleagues, packing up your groceries at the grocery store or socializing with your friends, how will today be different?
What will your contribution to reversing climate change be? Let’s not be TOO late.
We are all teachers to someone. What is one way you will incorporate climate change into your student’s learning this year? What is one way that you will teach your friends or your family? Share your ideas with us! We’re in this together.