After a year of hybrid classes, quarantines, mask etiquette, and fear of the novel situation of a global pandemic, we feel a little more settled entering this school year because our community has embraced the individual responsibilities required of addressing a global challenge. We have the same opportunity to teach individual responsibility as it relates to the pandemic of climate change and climate justice.
One of my many roles at Proctor Academy is to serve as your friendly neighborhood environmental coordinator. Because of that role, along with being an environmental science teacher, I see “pandemics” everywhere. It is not just the global COVID-19 pandemic, but the massive wildfires that have popped up all over the globe, rain storms in Greenland, plastic pollution, and the continued loss of biodiversity on a global scale. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by a sense of emergency, however, within each of these emergencies there is reason for hope, a hope based on our individual and collective compassion to take action to change.
For decades, Proctor Academy has worked hard to maintain a healthy relationship with the natural world (see our accomplishments here). From operating programs like Wilderness Orientation and Ocean Classroom to installing solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling on many of our buildings, our school is committed to creating a brighter and healthier future for all community members. But, these institutional commitments mean little if we, as individuals, do not embrace our responsibility to effect change in our own lives.
The past 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us the power of individual actions as we seek collective change. By modeling (wearing masks and getting vaccinated) the future we want (community health), we make tangible progress toward that goal, first on an individual level, then a community level, and eventually on a national and global level. The same applies as we seek to recommit to doing better and being better examples for a future that we want to see. If all we do is consider the “What if...?” scenarios, we quickly become paralyzed with a sense of helplessness, and, in turn, inaction. We can alter the trends and change the story, however, by modeling the change we want to see in the world each day.
At Proctor, we provide opportunities for you to question and examine your impact on the natural world and future generations. We leave room to be critical about conditions of today and how it may or may not affect tomorrow. We also host fun challenges, prizes, and awards for those who choose to participate in these activities. The first of these will be the “Say No to Bottled Water” pledge. The details to that can be found in the Residence Life topics page on myProctor. We each must take the time to examine our daily habits, and then honestly ask ourselves what we can do to lessen our impact on other species, other people, and other places. Committing to that change, whether it is buying less stuff, or being a vegetarian on the weekends, or whatever it is, will be a positive step to lift and support life in every way.
Together, we find hope entangled within the multiple emergencies we are experiencing. Together, we become beacons of hope and examples of the solutions for a better tomorrow. When we take action as individuals, we inspire the action of those around us.