We Get By With a Lot of Help From Our Friends: The Jeffrey Bennett Edition
I’d like to invite you to take a moment to peruse the NCSE staff directory. One thing you’ll notice (after you note what an interesting bunch we are) is that there aren’t very many of us. Fewer than a dozen in fact, tasked with the daunting mission of ensuring that every teacher, in every school, has the confidence and expertise to teach evolution and climate change without equivocation.
Obviously, we can’t do it alone, and we don’t. In addition to the thousands of people who support us with their annual financial donations (thanks!), sometimes people support us with gifts that have more than simple monetary value. One such gift, as I mentioned in my last blog post, came from author Jeffrey Bennett, who gave us 500 copies of his book A Global Warming Primer and asked us to give them away to teachers. This is an extraordinarily generous gift, and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to provide so many teachers with this wonderful resource.
So who is this Jeffrey Bennett, and what motivated his extraordinary generosity?
First, a little background. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied astrophysics and now specializes in mathematics and science education. Bennett has worked extensively with students of all ages—he has worked with students from pre-school to graduate school—and all ages in between! He has written seven books about climate change, impressive in itself, but perhaps even more impressive, the books have all been sent into space!
Bennett was also responsible for creating the Voyage Scale Model Solar System on the National Mall in Washington DC. I have to say, as someone who struggles to wrap my mind on how large the universe is, this model really helped me begin to understand it.
So why give us so many books? When I asked him, he said that he hopes the book “would cause many more people to understand the reality of global warming and the critical importance of taking action to stop it.” While acknowledging that his target audience for the book is, well, “everyone,” he hopes the book will be particularly useful for teachers so that they can understand the key issues themselves and explain them more effectively to students.
I can attest that the book does a great job explaining the basic science principles behind climate change in an accessible, data-filled manner in fewer than 100 pages. Crucially, he provides clear answers to many common climate science questions—often those that one might expect to be asked by a skeptic about climate change science.
Discussions of the impacts and implications of climate change are often pretty bleak, but in Bennett’s final chapter, he gives the reader reason to be optimistic. He writes, “I believe that if we go about it in the right way, there is a solution to all of the problems of global warming.” That’s a message that teachers, their students, and, really, all of us, need to hear.
Bennett ends A Global Warming Primer with the suggestion that readers take a moment to write a letter to their grandchildren telling them how we responded to the evidence supporting global climate change. I know what Bennett can include in his letter: “I made sure that 500 teachers had the tools they needed to give their thousands of students an accurate, clear, and complete understanding of climate change.”
Thanks, Jeff, from all of us at NCSE, and all of those students. We couldn’t do it without you.
If you’re a teacher and you want a copy of A Global Warming Primer, you can sign up here—but supplies, alas, are limited!