Creating Care on Campus

The thought to keep in mind while you read my article: We may only have 100 months to get our act together before global warming becomes irreversible.

I recently visited my old high school. I stood in my old haunt, an area between the gym and the wrestling room where I used to practice for cheer. As I stood there waiting for an old friend and current teacher, I wondered why there were plastic water bottles strewn across this area when the school has an environmental club. As I mused over this, I witnessed a backpack hunched student kick a water bottle in front of me.

High School
Photo by: Calvin-C

I felt sad. It was apparent to me the kid just didn’t care. His kicking was not spiteful nor was it an “oh what does it matter anyway?”, no … it was simply being so used to seeing this that it didn’t occur to him to even care. The Surfrider Foundation has a term for this, it’s called “shifting baselines”. This can apply to an individual, a community, or an entire culture. It’s the old raising the bar, lowering the bar concept in regards to expectations. The bar is our current situation. We always have the ability to either raise or lower the bar, or as Surfider puts it, shift our base. Why would we ever want to lower it? Well I would say that most of us would not but what happens is that overtime a baseline can start to degrade. Our standards slip for all sorts of reasons (I have some ideas on this but I’ll write about that later) but it happens slowly. If people don’t speak up, we start to get used to the current standard, then kids get used to that, and grow up to simply accept it as the status quo. Then we either are not taught or forget to think outside this prevailing thought structure.

So the kid kicked the water bottle simply because it was there AND the majority of people on campus must not pick the water bottles up and it was there for him to kick. Had it been a rock he probably would have kicked that instead.


High School
Photo by: warq2
   We teach by example. If we are sloppy, we promote sloppiness and apathy and then this becomes our baseline. There must be a general consensus on campuses to make efforts to cultivate a caring of our environment. This is not about being a goodie two shoes. This is about not being pigs. Our personal piggyness and our commercial piggyness now threaten to change climate inciting extreme weather patterns, and the extinction of ½ the world’s species, including our own. This is about preventing a new holocaust. We need to wake up and evolve out of our immature, self-centered, and myopic behaviors. We should aspire to evolve into caring, loving, respecting beings.

My friend finally arrived I found out that janitors pick up the bottles and sort the ones thrown in the trash for recycling. To me, that sounds like depending on your mom to pick up for you and sort your laundry. What a lame excuse. “Oh it’s ok because …” has got to go. We should not rely on the janitor to pick up after the kids, nor a handful of people to save the world. We can lighten the load on the planet by taking on responsibility ourselves. A responsibility becomes an honor when we care about what we are responsible for. It’s a similar concept to having kids. For those of you that do, it’s time to realize that the responsibility to your children today will be to take on the responsibility of viewing the world and it’s inhabitants as your children. The children of the future will suffer if as a culture we do not think beyond our immediate family and the immediate moment. If we could love and care for everything as much as we loved our children, or those closest to us (or at least made an effort to try) we probably would not be in the mess we are in today.

So what to do? Education and action. And we need everyone on board. Parents, faculty, and of course the kids.

For all the adults it will ultimately come down to a conscious decision to expand and cultivate permanently a consciousness centered on love. It will be by seeing all elements, all things inanimate, and breathing as sacred, comparable to the people we love the most. Most of the sciences now converge showing all things are inter-related. Our decisions and choices have effect potentially on the planetary scale. We should not downplay our daily decisions but give both credit and considerable thought into the manner in which we lead our daily lives. So the first step in the creation of care on campus would be for each and every teacher and administrator to truly recognize their impact and lead by example. For parents, it’s getting active in PTA and learning to keep up with your kids. For the kids, it’s time to make a difference now and become a leader for those younger than you.

Here’s what we can do:

  • Faculty –build a community amongst yourselves. Create a forum for intra-departmental communication. Talk to the school board about adopting a green curriculum or creating one yourself. Make a pact in the meanwhile to become students yourself, and share through conversation with both faculty and students your findings. Work with the students.
  • Environmental Clubs –get active. Become the leaders for the school and surrounding community. Work on campaigns to get healthy food on campus. Work to start a Farmer’s Market or CSA for your school or community. Maybe create an organic farm on campus. Help initiate a food sharing program for families that already grow some of their own food (fruit, veggies, herbs). Do a March for Water, or the Rbght free Milk Campaign, or a Rise Above Plastics campaign. Create assemblies for environmental education or interweave it into current assemblies. Hold documentary screenings for movies such as An Inconvenient Truth, Flow, Fuel, the Meatrix, The Story of Stuff. Start new fundraising efforts by selling reusable bags, or resusable stainless steel water canteens. Hold an Earthdance. Make this one of the main dances held every year. Organize rallies in front of City Hall. Branch out and teach kids at the middle and elementary school levels. Hold environmental awareness workshops for the business community or parents. Work with the clubs on campus at local colleges.
  • Basically, be active and others will follow. It is education, both formal and informal, which is key to creating a driving sense of care. The more we know, the more we, at least, start to care. Our scope broadens and we begin to see the inter-relations between ourselves and of the Earth’s natural systems. It’s as if the world unfolds to as if it were new typically creates a spontaneous compassionate urge to make changes. I have personally found that the more involved I am, the more I learn, the more I want to do. I am confident this is contagious.

Learn more about Janine at Green Wave Enterprises

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