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Why Be Stupefied When You Can Be Energized?

John Terry, PhD

How to best prepare our children to meet climate change with confidence and science?  Critical to our answer is education: education with purpose, capacity, and the methodology to meet the task. Currently the two institutions most essential to assume this role are public schools and libraries.  


Let’s look through the rear-view mirror before putting it in drive. In 1839, Horace Mann, founder of American public education, argued that public education's historical role is to instill and perpetuate democratic values.[1] Later, in the 1900s, when public education began to shift its focus to educating for jobs, John Dewey vigorously defended Mann's position and forcefully stressed the need for a special type of education— education that prepares each generation to be stewards and transmitters of democracy while living in harmony with Nature. Hands-on, problem-solving learning that:

·     Imbues democratic values.

·     Commits to coevolution and,

·     Enables citizens to transmit culture from one generation to the next through a seamless, evolutionary, and peaceful process.

As Dewey stated it : "What nutrition and reproduction are to physiological life, education is to social life."[2]


Today's neo-Know Nothings[3] arguments ,vociferous as they be, to ban books relating evolution, gender, Black history etc. have no standing as they are antidemocratic. I am happy to discuss their arguments in another editorial but not this one. Reviewing the origins of public schools and libraries exposes an enormous gap between the original purpose of education (perpetuating democratic culture) and current practice (preparation for work). The dominance by the latter undermines the purpose of the former and blocks our passage forward.


Moving forward, we need to understand, protect, and preserve the connection between biodiversity and human evolution and give top priority to valuing both. With this understanding, the pathway to “how” we should educate and for “what” becomes a vision of the possible.


Moving forward bolstered by the encouraging winds of change and the power of doing, we will vault daunting hurdles. By embracing the lessons of history, welcoming the energy and commitment to democracy by new arrivals seeking freedom, and trusting science we can co-evolve in a sustainable just world.


Our first hurdle is not to be stupefied by ominous and grim reports of extinction. Our second is to understand the answer lies in shift in lifestyle (values) and the proper use of our awesome technologies current and yet discovered as our tools. We then are bolstered by growing winds of change. Cited below are but a few examples of these winds.


Dr. Tallamy's Home Grown National Park® Movement [4]

brilliantly exemplifies how re-envisioning gardens from individual unconnected plots to yard-to-yard corridors of native species plants creates a home for many animal species and pollinators, helps reduce carbon emissions, and, parenthetically, builds community. Dr. Tallamy's statistically and logically persuasive suggestions require little effort beyond rethinking and re-planting your garden plot as part of an intricate living national park sanctuary: a re-evaluation of values. The outcome? A people's national habitat sanctuary park with no cost to taxpayers.




Similarly,  Camille T. Dungy[5] writes in Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden, makes the case, as only a poet can, with ecological, spiritual, and political reasons, why and how habitat gardens should and do flourish  in our cities. (Dungy's book will be reviewed in the next issue of GOMI Journal).




As I write, a landmark youth climate trial case has begun. The plaintiffs are sixteen Montana youth. They have filed against the State of Montana, contending "that the state's embrace of fossil fuels is destroying pristine environments, upending cultural traditions and robbing young residents of a healthy future and is unconstitutional".  Julia Olson, the executive director of Our Children's Trust, the environmental nonprofit that helped bring the case forward, points to its:[7] “… potential to set a new course for a healthier and more prosperous future for the generations to come." Kudos to the youth, Julia Olson, and Our Children's Trust.[8]




The above represent a few grains of sand from the beach of rising voices and actions. Each and all, large or small, enhances the pace and strength moving forward and demonstrate doing replaces stupefaction with purpose and agency. A great mental health boost.


Find in this issue more reason for hope:

      Dr. Tallamy's commentary on why he wrote his young readers' edition of Nature's Best Hope.

      A review of his book by two middle schoolers.

      Jenna Buckler, a Nova Scotia's Lockview HS student tells how her teacher, Alicia Hennessy, taught her class to understand the importance of water and how to protect it. 

      Dominic Nose, a GOMI alum, writes how his teachers helped him fulfill a dream to be a wildlife biologist.

      Ella Niederhelman, an Ipswich HS, MA student, in word and deed, expresses the need for schools to celebrate learning about ecology and democracy through community-based action.

      Nova Scotia 7th graders, led by their teachers Danielle LeBlanc and Sheila Parsons, Kings County Academy, Kentville, Nova Scotia, declare war on non- native invasive saltmarsh plants.


Fill your sails with the winds of change and act locally:

·     Vote, regardless of party, for local and national candidates, who demonstrate by deed willingness to move forward. Check their record to be sure.

·     Listen to the youth who face the legacy of climate change and help them learn and be heard.

·     Help your schools and libraries provide the knowledge and skills to move forward. 

·     Join organizations like Tallamy's Backyard Conservation movement or Dungy's urban gardens.

·     Learn more about Our Children's Trust and join their effort.

·     Parents and grandparents - encourage your children to learn about the natural world around them and consider careers needed to move ahead.

·     Checkout your community. See what's there. If nothing! Make something!


Need more inspiration? Closing words from Amanda Gorman's Inaugural Poem, now on the "to be banned list" of Moms for Liberty did it for me. Amanda, with poetic power and grace, captures the energy, vision, and empathy we need to move ahead each and all.


Somehow we've weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn't broken

but simply unfinished.……;

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And in every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When the day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

There is always light if only we're brave enough to see it.

If only we're brave enough to be it.


Amanda Gorman



[1]  government-speech-text/


[3] For those wishing to know more about the Know Nothings and their influence on American politics please go to:  





*Cover photo: Stock image


John P. Terry, Ph.D.

John founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999. John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows. He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award

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