Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 4.30.09

Carbon Conversations
New ways of looking at interrelated problem
by Artemio Paz

I appreciate your recent article (4/2) on global warming and its recognition of the eminent danger posed by coal and fossil fuels contributing to excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Presently, the majority of the scientific community, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agrees that the excessive CO2 in our atmosphere is driven by human development activities, primarily by developed Western countries although Asia and the developing nations are also contributing to the global carbon impact at an alarming rate. Perhaps the recent public policy discussions regarding the global economic recession and the renewed interest in solar technologies have created a 21st century renaissance for sustainability. 

The U.S. and the initial roll-out of President Obama’s agenda are starting to reframe a paradigm for a new carbon future. Locally and nationally, people and policy makers through out the world seem to be engaging in a new look at conservation, renewable energy systems, energy efficiency in buildings and electrical generation — including carbon conversations that are articulating new ways of looking at our health, organic farming, sustainable forestry practices, transportation options and general environmental sustainability that recognizes species diversity within complex local and global communities. Yet too often, all this carbon conversation appears to be abstract, not related to me. But it is. 

Presently, the current CO2 count in the atmosphere is approximately
374 ppm. Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, believes that if we are to avoid catastrophic global warming effects, we need to be at 350 ppm or lower. To prevent loss of marine and terrestrial species diversity, and protect the well-being of cultural and social communities throughout the world and our children and their grandchildren in the future, we need to immediately reduce personal and community carbon footprints. 

What the scientific community is telling us is that business as usual and the way that we teach school are no longer valid. We are reaching a fragile interface. The acceptable old metaphors do not properly account for the finite nature of the environment and its accelerated over-heating. New analogs in the public schools must teach a carbon awareness that informs how we structure scholastic and practical applications of critical thinking and essential skills. We need concepts of sustainability embedded in the contextual frame work of public school course content and mastery in math, science and reading. 

Public education reform needs a contextualization of PK-12 public schools, where pedagogy and curriculum instruction has local and global meaning and relevance that carry into post-secondary education and into sustainable workplace careers. Let us not falsify our carbon future but enhance our communities and global relationships in sustainable ways for all species of the world. 

Artemio Paz is a Springfield architect with a focus on sustainable design. His website is