Not to be ignored, Mother Nature preempted election coverage last week when Superstorm Sandy churned through the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the United States. High winds, rain and unprecedented storm surges wreaked havoc on one of the most populated areas of the country, wiping out entire communities in some places and causing severe flooding, disruption of power, fires and widespread destruction throughout the region. Mandatory evacuations forced families to wait out the storm in shelters and children learned to occupy their time devoid of the electronic devices and tightly choreographed schedules as they were abruptly introduced to the powerful influence that nature can have on our lives.
The storm was ironically dubbed the “October Surprise” of the 2012 Presidential Election when Sandy began to form in the western Caribbean Sea. As it picked up speed, the candidates still remained strangely silent on the topic of climate change, with some republicans flatly denying that climate change was even real and caused by humans. As if on cue, the massive storm propelled the issue into the spotlight with incredible force and some believe even changed the course of the election. Both parties had to work together to help those in need, while partisan politics was temporarily silenced.
But, it shouldn’t take a horrific event like his to initiate a dialogue on the environment and the effect of our human footprint. We’ve seen the warning signs for years. Scientists have recently admitted that their original estimates of the consequences of climate change were conservative, and swift action is now required to ensure the future viability of the planet for our children and grandchildren. And still we drag our feet…
The events of the past few weeks clearly highlight the urgent need to understand the principles of Ecological Literacy and use these principles to create sustainable human communities. Ecological Literacy is a new educational paradigm that creates an integrated approach to addressing environmental problems. It recognizes the world as an integrated whole and combines holism, systems thinking and sustainability to understand our interdependence on nature and to live accordingly. Proponents of Ecological Literacy believe that the survival of all humanity will depend upon our understanding of the basic principles of ecology and they recommend that Ecological Literacy should be an integral part of our education system at all levels and a critical skill for business leaders, politicians, and all citizens, including our children.
Many families have been displaced from their homes. Some have lost loved ones and many fear that their children have been traumatized by the storm and the resulting destruction. Children’s exposure to the natural world has already been significantly diminished due to a wide range of factors, including fear. Natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy highlight the importance of teaching our children to understand nature and the ecological systems that affect our lives, in order for them to have the will and ability to address environmental challenges in the future.
Just a couple of days ago, as people continued to dig out from the destruction of Sandy, a nor’easter cruelly dumped a blanket of snow across the storm ravaged region. A cable news camera showed a family huddled in their home, waiting for the power to be restored to their neighborhood. The camera panned across the front yard where a snowman stood smiling next to a pile of rubbish.
The lure of nature and the resourcefulness of our children is truly our greatest hope for the future…
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the storm.