Mark McCaffrey's picture

ACE is the Space

When years from now people look back on how we began to address climate change by preparing young people with knowledge and knowhow about climate and energy, they should know about people like AshEl Eldridge.

A passionate educator-performer-comedian with ACE, the Alliance for Climate Education, AshEl is on the front lines of informing and inspiring young people about the causes, effects, and risks of--and responses to--climate change. 

Having seen one of ACE's high school assemblies last year at El Cerrito High in the East Bay and been impressed by the high quality of the science content and the deliberately youth-oriented flavor of the presentation, I was looking forward to seeing the new improved assembly, with updated graphics and a focus on the Right to Know (or R2K) campaign that ACE has been developing with NCSE and other partners.

ACE has already reached well over a million and a half students in 2000 schools, and many of the students inspired by ACE over recent years are now in college, pursuing climate- and energy-related studies and activities.

I arrived at Concord High School a little early (I was impressed to see most of the student parking area shaded by solar panels) and already could hear through the door AshEl describing the greenhouse effect and talking about the American propensity for "living large." Today, rather than a large assembly with hundreds of students, AshEl was presenting in front of Mr. Duffy's AP Chemistry class.

Clearly comfortable bantering with youth and articulate and well-informed about climate science, AshEl delivered his talk with the aid of new multimedia graphics that walk students through the essential science of climate change. AshEl talked about young people's right to know about climate change, and how they can support the Right to Know campaign, which declares:

  1. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW that climate change is happening, and that its impacts will affect us all within our lifetimes and beyond.
  2. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW that solutions to this challenge exist right now.
  3. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACT by educating our peers and family members about climate change impacts and solutions to spark a real national conversation.

American's right to know is a deeply held value that goes back to the Food and Drug Act of 1906 (recognizing the right to know what's in our food and drugs), and continues today in such efforts as the Federal Trade Commission's monitoring of truth in advertising and numerous environmental and health statutes designed to provide people with access to information about hazards in their communities, in the environment, and in their workplaces.

The right to a good education that will prepare one for the challenges and opportunities of the future is also a basic human right. But unfortunately, in too many schools, climate change hasn't been taught at all or hasn't been taught well. And that means that students in those schools aren't getting a good education.

There are notable exceptions, thanks to teachers like Mr. Duffy, who says he weaves climate and enrivonmental topics into his chemistry and physics courses. And of course thanks to AshEl and the other educators with ACE who are doing the vital work on the front lines. We clearly need to do more, but ACE and the Right to Know campaign are vital steps in the right direction.

(Photo of AshEl Eldridge courtesy of ACE; photo of Mr. Duffy and AshEl Eldridge by the author.)