Solving the world's problems one step at a time

Beyond the Curb


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Visiting an animal shelter is always a challenge to me. Every time I go, I leave feeling that it would be wonderful if I could just bring all those animals home and give them the love and attention they need. The last time was no different.  

During that visit, though, I left feeling that I should bring at least two more home. They were two adult sibling cats who were born with a birth defect: they were missing one of their back legs. That touched me even more. “Would those two ever be adopted?” I thought. My birthday was coming up and at that moment I knew what I wanted for my birthday gift.

When I shared with my husband what I would like for my birthday, he was adamant. “We already have two cats. We can’t adopt two more!” 

But with so many cats up for adoption, those two in particular would probably have a harder time finding their forever home. 

“You gotta understand that you cannot solve all the problems of the world,” he concluded.

I ended up not getting the cats, but that question still pounds inside of me. 

Alone, I know I am limited in what I can do, but if everyone does what they can do, wouldn’t problems eventually be solved?

There is no silver bullet solution, but we are all part of the solution together and whatever we do every day will either make problems worse or will move us a step further toward a solution.

So how do we get a group of individuals to realize that? How do we get them to become active “solution generators”? The answer is through effective education.

Education is the building block of a society. Effective education not only passes on information to make individuals more knowledgeable, but it also gives them tools to become active participants in a society; it creates real citizens who will help build a society. That starts at home and after a few years, parents share that responsibility with others around them and formal education falls mainly into teachers’ laps. Being a teacher, no matter the grade, is a huge responsibility. 

Teachers spend hours with our children and have a chance to present to them materials that will help form their opinion and shape them as citizens.

That is why parts of a text entitled “Natural Gas: An American Treasure” presented to fourth graders was really disturbing to me. In that text, natural gas is said to be “the most important resource under the ground.” What about our drinking water? Shouldn’t that be the most important resource under the ground to all of us?

That text goes on to affirm that natural gas is “a great resource” and it is such a great resource that “it’s worth all that work” described in the text to extract it from the ground. That goes right against what the essay “Failing Governance, Unsustainable Planet” by Michael Renner and Tom Prugh has to say about natural gas and all fossil fuel reserves.

In that essay, the authors bring to our attention that “the currently proven reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal contain about 3 trillion tons of CO2” and declare that “two-thirds or more of this can never be touched if there is to be any hope of avoiding a destabilized climate. […] Leaving the bulk of the world’s fossil fuel deposits untouched will require quasi-revolutionary change.”

Having our children read bias-free texts, for example, plays a very important role in making that change because, yes, you guessed right, they are citizens in the making and “a more engaged citizenry is a key not only to the success of specific movements such as the resistance to the fossil fuel domination that drives climate change, but to all dimensions of sustainability.“  

If you think I’m still trying to solve all the problems of the world here, I can assure you I am not. I am just trying to point out the impact that small steps we take may have in changing the world for better or worse. I believe if we all take small steps into making good changes, the world can be one step further into a better future.