Humanity is young. While the fecund earth from which we sprang came into existence a colossal 4.54 billion years ago, the human race only reached anatomical modernity approximately 200,000 years ago. We began to muse over the more intricate concepts a minuscule 50,000 years ago, reaching a point archeologists describe as behavioral modernity. Only 12,000 years ago, we began to settle down and practice sedentary agriculture, then, beginning a mere 200 years ago, in the 19th and 20th century, we pulled forth from the stone of the earth a double-edged sword. Our double-edged excalibur? Fuel.
Speedy scientific advances in the 1800s allowed humans to delegate unpleasant tasks to fossil fuels, and we began to innocently extract these resources from the earth in many different forms. There is a twist to this happy fairytale though. Human greed, lethargy and corruption drove us deeper and deeper into a spiral of addiction. We pillaged and plundered the very earth that provided for us. We grew fat, as individuals and as a race, creating unhealthy lifestyles and living conditions for ourselves. We have crippled the Earth, making it less and less supportive of life as we know it by spewing toxic chemicals into the air, destroying habitats and unbalancing ecosystems. The most impressive part? We have utterly redefined what it means to be a living creature by demanding that the Earth provide every little amenity for us at the lowest personal cost - all in the last 200 years.
So what do we do to fight this massive, ever-growing problem? With an issue as pervasive as this, simple taxes and bans will never get to the heart of the problem. Our greatest tools in this oncoming struggle are our minds. The issues of global climate change, pollution, overpopulation and non-sustainable fuel are issues of science and behavior. So how do you fight an issue of behavior? How about an issue of science? The answer is through education. The only way we can change the actions of the human race as a whole is to educate the human race as a whole. To slow the additional injury to our planet that is caused every minute, we must spread the word. It also can not work to confine this knowledge to the select few who can include higher education in their lives. The range has to be far and wide.
To me, it makes perfect sense that the group we need to focus on educating first and foremost is children. This generation of kids will be among those facing the most drastic human-caused changes in our world that we have seen yet. It seems natural that these people should know the intricacies of sustainable living by heart. It should be their first instinct. Despite this, environmental education is still lacking severely in public school systems in high schools, let alone in middle schools and elementary schools. The EPA has given out more than 3,500 grants for environmental education programs since 1992, a nod in the right direction, but one organization giving out grant money can not turn the tide of a massive country like the United States. What we need is a revising of our priorities. Environmental education programs should not be optional individual programs, they should be mandated and integrated into schools of all economic or racial statuses. As of 2007, only 12 states required integration of environmental education and environmental literacy programs in K-12 schools. This cannot be accepted. Its time to spread successful environmental education to every corner of the United States, before its too late.