I worry about climate change. I worry about students who hear about it from adults or media who either predict dystopian hell-scapes or explain it as a political issue. Let's face it. We're all in this together, so all peoples need to work together. We can do it. We've done it when chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) created a hole in our ozone layer. (Here’s a good picture book about that. I find mid-schoolers still like them. But if you’d rather, here’s a video/article with David Attenborrough.)
In order to create unified action like that, we all need to start talking about it, so that people and their leaders are willing to take bold moves to minimize the effects of climate change. But before we can talk about it, we need to understand it. Reluctant science believers need to see the principles with their own eyes. That’s why I do a demonstration in each video. And I sprinkle my videos with humor to alleviate our anxiety, so we can think clearly and feel inspired to act.
This series of videos on my YouTube channel @STEMwithCog, focuses on carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the atmosphere because learning about climate change can feel like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. And I've organized the videos into three parts.
1. Carbon Dioxide Sources: We have to understand where that excess carbon came from. These videos include carbon sources like:
breathing (please keep breathing) and the way we break down food to produces CO2,
fossil fuels that release ancient carbon (coal, oil, and gas),
wood fires (contemporary carbon in contrast to fossil fuel fires),
and CO2 from rocks, like volcanoes (compared to cement production).
2. Carbon Dioxide Sinks (coming in fall 2023): If we want to have conversations about carbon sequestration, we need to understand that CO2 is a critical ingredient in most everything alive or decaying. It's also part of the rock cycle. That’s crucial to understanding how CO2 moves around the carbon cycle. In these videos I’ll talk about:
the miracle of photosynthesis,
assimilation of food into the food pyramid,
biomineralization in plankton, bird eggshells, seashells, and corals (including a “run” through fish guts all the way out to lovely white beaches),
and limestone formation.
3. Carbon Solutions(coming in winter 2024): At this point we can start a real conversation about solutions and how we can make the world a better place. Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell students that it’s all up to them to decrease their carbon footprint so they can save the world. Obviously, we can’t do that until our government and business leaders get behind green energy. I’ll have videos about:
carbon (almost) free or carbon (almost) neutral energy sources like solar, wind, water, biofuels, and nuclear,
the role of energy efficiency,
and I’ll even discuss geoengineering projects, starting small like painting roofs white and ending with scary, last-ditch efforts like orbiting mirrors to reflect the sun’s energy back into space.
Armed with a better understanding of the big picture, students are in a great place to start conversations by doing research, writing, singing, interacting with local officials and businesses, engaging with state and national leaders through letter-writing, planting trees, using less, and curbing food waste. I’ll include ideas for student action in each Carbon Solution video.
All hands are needed, now. So let’s get to work tackling this problem and minimizing the effects of climate change.