Climate change isn’t easy to understand. At any given moment, you’re unlikely to be able to see, smell, hear, taste, or touch it. For many of us its effects are so gradual as to pass by unnoticed. It’s a wildly interdisciplinary concept, and to grasp the issue in its full complexity, you’d need about five college degrees, one each in chemistry, economics, political science, environmental studies, and who knows what else.

That’s why teachers are, perhaps, the most important link to a sustainable future that we have.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’ve stopped to think about the massive impact my teachers have had on my life today–not least in shaping me into a concerned citizen and advocate for the environment.

I think about the strong school programs that took me to high, far-seeing places like Yosemite Valley. A sixth-grade field trip to the national park imbued me with a permanent sense of respect for the grandeur of nature–and, after seeing Hetch Hetchy Reservoir nearby, an interest in resource management. Without this experience, I would never have made the connection between human life and the environment at such an early age.

I think about Mr. Rossi, whose US History courses emphasized the ability of individual actors to make a real difference, especially when it came to standing up against unjust systems of oppression, and about Mr. Bowling, whose Government course allowed me to understand the formal avenues of power that change-makers must navigate. Without them, I wouldn’t have the courage, motivation, or wherewithal to make divestment happen.

I think about all my English teachers, from Mrs. Utchen to Professor Campbell, who gave me the tools and confidence to express my ideas to the public, and my science teachers, from Mrs. Jahns to Professor Striplin, without whom I wouldn’t have the requisite understanding of science to form an idea in the first place. Without them, I wouldn’t have the skills that make for an effective public advocate.

Strong schools and great teachers are good for the environment and good for society. DC Divest applauds the tireless example of great teachers everywhere. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

 

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