From an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, 19 February 2017:
In Clinton Huey’s 6th-grade science class at Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro just south of Oakland, students have made their own carbon dioxide, measured the acid content of car exhaust, created greenhouse gas models from plastic bottles, charted sea-level rise since 700 A.D. and built wind generators – all in a quest to understand climate change.
“To me, this is the single biggest issue facing humanity,” Huey said, referring to climate change. “We have to talk to our kids about it. We have to learn about it. … We need to educate our students to become citizens of the world, which is important if we care about what our future world will be.”
The State Board also voted last year to include environmental principles in the framework for the history-social science curriculum, which means students would learn about topics such as how humans have attempted to shape their environment throughout history, from Paleolithic times to the present, or how a healthy environment is crucial for human survival.
“If we have a more environmentally literate citizenry who more thoroughly understand the essential relationship between humans and natural systems, we’re in a better position to make sustainable choices – as individuals and as a society,” Bryan Ehlers, director of education for CalRecycle, said.
The environmental standards have triggered very little opposition, either in California or nationwide, officials said.
“My hope with all this is that ultimately we can slow climate change,” he said. “I was so happy to see the new curriculum reflect humans’ impact on the environment and climate change, especially at the elementary school level. I’m hopeful we can really make a difference.”
I see this as nothing short of great news. I do not pretend to know whether the new administration could do anything to curtail California’s efforts to teach children about environmental science, including climate change, or not. But I think if the Department of Education, or any other federal agency tries to undermine this effort, they will be in for some challenges, legal and otherwise. Something to keep an eye on.
Trump is not a fan of California these days, and I think the feeling is mutual. But California is on the cutting edge in a number of areas. Led by reliably progressive Governor Jerry Brown and bolstered by the economic hothouse that is Silicon Valley, California has become the sixth biggest economy in the world. Californians pays $452.8 billion in federal income taxes to Washington, eclipsing second-place New York by $150 billion. It grows more food than any other state, and produces most of the technologies we’ve become reliant on. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California has more electricity-generating solar plants than the rest of the nation combined. Also … and this is important … about 85 percent of American wine comes from California.
California’s ‘return to greatness’ didn’t require border walls or trade wars. Instead of rolling back environmental regulations to curry favor with corporate interests, California has passed the toughest green laws in the nation, the first of them championed by Brown’s predecessor, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state’s citizens have voted in measures to increase taxes, legalize marijuana, restrict the rights of gun owners and enact criminal justice reforms. While conservative state legislatures are debating pointless “bathroom bills,” California has passed what some say are the strongest LGBT protections in the entire world.
California has the nation’s biggest share of undocumented immigrants, 2.4 million, who are allowed to get driver’s licenses in order to get to and from jobs, pick up their children at school, etc., and while Trump is calling for an indefinite ban on all immigrants from Syria, California welcomed more Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016 than any other state. It was a major participant in 2015’s climate change accord in Paris — the one Trump is threatening to vacate, which has most of the industrialized world working to curb greenhouse gas emissions. California expects to get half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, with billions of public and private dollars going to wind and solar projects around the state.
Whatever the Trump/Pruitt team plan to do to undermine California’s environmental policies, Governor Brown says he is ready to fight. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight,” he boasted of his state. “We’re ready to defend. California is no stranger to this fight. If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.” (He refers to a potential diminution of the federal government’s role in collecting atmospheric data.) Brown laid out a road map for California legislators who have their own disagreements with the new president: Resist by simply continuing to do what California has been doing; dare Trump to play chicken.
Trump, for his part, has singled out California as one of the two states that he believes he would have won the popular vote were it not for “voter fraud”, and has announced plans to tighten immigration rules and punish jurisdictions that offer sanctuary to those without proper papers— penalties that in California could rise to millions or billions of dollars.
According to U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, “He could have a tremendous impact — probably no state is as much at risk as California. This is a president who is not above being very punitive for perceived slights. And so you could easily foresee him trying to reward states that are with him and punish states that weren’t.”
What is coming down the road is anybody’s guess at this point, since Trump does not direct policy based on anything akin to logic. But California has made some great strides in the environment, education, and civil rights, and if any state is ready to defend such progress, it is certainly California. The upside is that California is one of only six states that has what is known as a Democratic triumvirate: a Democratic governor, and a Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature. I think this latest, the teaching of environmental science, including climate change, is certainly a positive step and I would like to see more states follow suit, though that may be difficult under the current administration. At any rate, I tip my hat to their efforts thus far.
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