This week in class, my students calculated their ecological footprints (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/personal_footprint/). The outcome determines how many earths would be needed if everyone lived the same lifestyle as you did. As a class average, we needed 5.6 earths. Well, we really only have one right? We did an activity to reflect on our footprints and one of the questions the students had to answer was: Do you think it is fair that we add extremely more tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere than people in less developed countries? I was shocked that about a third of the answers were “Yes”. The perspective was that since we developed the technology, we have the right to live the way we do and that we need to keep living our lifestyles they way we live them; we are used to a standard of living. This made me very perplexed. I asked the students about our moral obligations to others and then they started to understand that maybe we don’t have the right. I also asked them if we “need” to live the way we do or is it that we “want” to. I was very proud of my students for being open and honest about their thoughts. This is a very sticky question. In the past, students have said what they thought I wanted them to hear, but this group was open and honest. I believe that is where we all start to grow. It was a great teaching and leaning day for me.
I found this overview of the big carbon emitters in the world on NPR. “Right now, 10 countries — including the U.S., China and Russia — are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is the world’s second largest emitter (China ranks no. 1), sending around 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year. That’s the equivalent to a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from 1.1 billion average passenger vehicles. Below, a look at today’s big CO2 emitters — and projected emissions giants in 2030.” For more information complete with maps and graphs, check out: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121240453.