This week lots of people were standing up and 2 classrooms full of Government students at NEO did too! While I had the opportunity to fill in for Martin Lively's US Government classes one day, my lesson was on how regular people in this country were able to create a demand strong enough that a brand new federal agency was born. It couldn't help but be based on the environmental history of the last century and the utter mess American companies can make and leave behind if there are no rules and no enforcers.
Rivers were catching on fire, smog in large cities made the air so dirty it could be seen, but not the sky. Chemicals left in landfills were forgotten and neighborhoods were built on top of them, causing people to get sick. And sick and tired of it forced all those folks to stand up and make those demands, and to get them met.
Every one of those Government students participated in the lessons. When asked to stand up, not a soul remained in their seats. They stood up and showed each other they know how to do it en masse.
And that is what students all over this country did this week, they walked out of their schools, stood in the halls, were silent for 17 minutes in remembrance for the last shooting victims at a school in America, or stood up and spoke out for those lost lives.
I can't believe this won't matter, their actions. But thinking about our government and what else I heard them say, they were all going to vote when they turned 18. It doesn't get any better for activism, for democracy, for power to the people than an educated electorate willing to stand up, speak out and to vote. And imagine safe schools for the students of the future, where education is the focus, not just safety. There ought to be a right to a safe school, and it looks like we are on the cusp of seeing what that may look like. While at the same time teachers around the country are speaking up, standing up, and wanting to be paid as the professionals that they are. Wow, students and teachers are who we are watching on the news. Like they matter. Because they do!
In this state the teachers and the environment are going to get tied up together soon as our state legislators have to wrestle with how they get those teachers paid without making the biggest polluting industry in the state pay more taxes. The oil and gas industry has the means to pay more, but our legislators have been denying all state agencies the funding they require and our citizens deserve, because the industry won't like being asked for more taxes.
Emporia State University Environmental Geochemistry students toured the Tar Creek Superfund Site last weekend but also the Kansas sites in the Tri-State Mining District. Marcia Schulmeister, Geology professor organized the tour to introduce college students to the impact of mining. Their tour was designed to examine science, policy and population, and was designed to prepare her students to be able to enter the workforce understanding that data-driven decisions are essential to preserving and protecting humanity and the environment.
They learned that the Tri-state project is a multi-agency, collaborative effort, by states, EPA and the Quapaw Tribe. They met Kansas State and EPA officials and spent time with Oklahoma University professor Bob Nairn at his restoration projects in Commerce.
Students from Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina, China, South Korea and Viet Nam had the opportunity of a lifetime, they camped out, many for the first time in their lives, in the LEAD Agency office. Sleeping bags all over the office and a couple on the front porch!
But the highlight for these Geochemistry students were the rocks. The rocks that were left behind all over the Tar Creek Superfund site. They examined, admired, and were awed by the rocks they discovered. As Professor Schulmeister said, "It was a field trip they will never forget."
They all came to purposefully study and learn from the land, our damaged land, appreciating each of the specimens they picked up, the rocks absolutely no other students had stopped to see in all these years of touring students. They saw the history of the origins of the earth in our rocks and could name every era and which parts of the rock were formed first and how our precious lead and zinc came to be infused in the stones and I saw real zeal as they handled the history of our earth, the one we need an agency to protect.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim