Up a creek…on Earth Day

In an effort to do my very small part in creating a greener, cleaner world, I spent all my class time this week on Environmentalism.  First, my Oral English classes discussed the connections between media, advertising, and over-consumption.  We tried to reveal the problems created with media telling everyone to BUY-BUY-BUY – EAT-EAT-EAT – CONSUME-CONSUME-CONSUME.

We also discussed the inherent issues related to a nation’s growing wealth by asking the question: “Is it easier or harder to be “green” when you are wealthy?”  Of course, everyone wants more money, why…to buy more things…to get a bigger house, etc.  These attitudes and drives go deep into our core, they will not change over night, but we have to start the conversation.  These are HUGE issues that are discussed in the news by economists and environmental scientists.  What happens when China’s middle class begins consuming at the rate of the USA?  Can the world survive this legacy of Americanization?  Every day hundreds of cars are put on the roads of every city in China. Every day a new high rise apartment building goes up.  Every day China looks more and more like the West with all its over-consumption and connected problems.

The class ended with each student making a pledge – one small thing they are willing to do to help the environment.  I heard everything from, “ I pledge to wash my clothes by hand” to “I will carry a cloth shopping bag to the store,” to “I will sleep more – thus using less energy.” (That one made me laugh!)  The quality of the pledge not withstanding hopefully each student will begin to understand their small steps can make big differences.

Americans are very familiar with the the idiom, “Up a creek without a paddle,” but have you thought about how it relates to Environmentalism.  Well, neither had I until, rushing to teach my 8am class, I had to think of a warm-up topic.  My students came up with some classics: “I think this sentence means that all the forests are being cut down, so there is no longer wood to make paddles;” and another,  “Because of global warming, the creek is drying up, so you no longer need a paddle.”  Now there’s an image for Earth Day!  I think this exercise was more for me than the students because the images they shared were poignant and impressive.

The junior stylistics classes aren’t off the ECO hook; they will be meeting to discuss Guizhou University specific environmental concerns. Then they will create 30 second public service announcements for the campus radio station.  The goal is to teach them how to advocate for small change that is feasible and fun.

A couple of weeks ago Charlie and I requested a few of our senior students to begin brainstorming efforts we could take to raise awareness for Earth Day.  Last week, one student, Aaron, had the idea to hold a design competition.  “What Can You Do with Old Jeans?”  He mentioned that students often throw away old clothes in favor of new styles instead of “re-purposing” them for other uses.  His goal was to give all students on campus the opportunity to think creatively about environmental issues.  Slowly but surely with the help of a motivated journalism student, the word is getting out and we expect to see some awesome designs on May 13 (the deadline for entries).

As teachers, we always talk about motivation in our students whether in the US or China.  How do we keep them engaged so that learning can happen?  I hope that this Earth Week planted some seeds.  I hope that these seeds begin to grow.  I hope that a giant forest most figurative and literal will result.


2 thoughts on “Up a creek…on Earth Day”

  1. Beautifully said, Beka….I’m always so amazed at you and that you are my daughter! love, mom

  2. That was great reading Beka.

    Where can I buy a copy of that?

    OK, OK, OK, I was just joking. I couldn’t pass it up. LOL

    It is amazing how much impact the two of you are having on your students and the University.

    We love you both and are deservingly very proud of you and your work!

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