Four Teaching Guides
for Classes on Care of the Environment
The following are outlines for four topics—to be taught in a series of classes—on Care of the Environment. A reading list is not attached. Instead, please use the recently published journal and pamphlet (both are called Sustaining All Life). More outlines will follow, and these will be updated regularly as the situation is changing quickly.
Introduction for teachers
These are heavy topics for almost everyone. A priority will be helping people discharge. The following can help create the safety and connection for discharge:
- Close relationships within the group
- Open caring for each other
- Light tone (aided by songs, games, excursions outside, and so on)
- Pleasant memories of contact with the natural world (spectrum of techniques)
- Sharing hopeful things that are happening in connection with the environment
Help people work on the early distresses underlying their present-day feelings about the topic. While the situation is difficult in the present, our feelings are fueled by our early experiences. These are often feelings of discouragement, helplessness, and isolation.
If you are doing these classes in series, you may want class members to try things between classes and report back. For example, they can learn about the local impact of climate change, learn something about a local life form, attend an environmental action, create a “climate change” game or skit, and so on.
Start the classes acknowledging that you are meeting on Native land, and give information about the original inhabitants of the land. Ask class members to learn more about this and share what they learn at the beginning of each class.
The following are outlines for four topics. Each outline could be used for one class, or could easily take several weeks to cover well. Go at the pace that is right for you and your class.
Class 1—An introduction to the work on Care of the Environment (COE)
You can find suggestions for an introductory class in the online update to the Fundamentals Teaching Guide, part 1—Topic 27. https://www.rc.org/publication/ftg/readings/topic_27
Class 2—The 2013 Goal on Care of the Environment
The 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities adopted a goal that put Care of the Environment (COE) work at the center of the RC Community. Members of the RC Communities worked hard in preparation for this. The result was the following goal:
That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.
Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.
The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.
For the Goal to be effective, we need to internalize it and make it our own personal goal. Considerable work must be done—in classes, support groups, and workshops—for this to happen. The following are some suggestions for helping people discharge on the Goal:
Read the Goal, sentence-by-sentence, or phrase-by-phrase, with attention. Stop after each sentence or phrase and say your thoughts. Put your attention on these thoughts and on any feelings that come up. Discharge. Repeat with each phrase or sentence.
Read the Goal with attention. Find where you feel most connected to it. Discharge from that spot. Read the Goal repeatedly in session, each time looking for your connection to the Goal and for where you can discharge.
Have everyone in the group do a mini-session on the first sentence of the Goal. Change partners and have a mini-session on the second sentence of the Goal. Continue having mini-sessions with different partners for each sentence in the Goal. Have each person share highlights and what they have learned.
The first paragraph of the Goal: That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.
See Chapter 4 of this Guide, which addresses increasing our awareness.
The second paragraph of the Goal: Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.
The same societal distresses that cause oppression and exploitation cause degradation of the environment and climate change. This understanding is key to our work. Chapter 3 addresses racism, genocide, and the environment. We need not wait until Chapter 3 to address these topics—we can work on them in each class. Capitalism also plays a key role in environmental degradation; we need to discharge on this as well.
People experience a variety of oppressions. We need to discharge on the relationship of these oppressions to the Goal. For example, racism in the mainstream environmental movement impacts people of the global majority and Indigenous people. Jews may find that distresses connected to the Holocaust are restimulated. Sexism can undermine women’s confidence and make them feel like they can’t think about science and these issues. And so on.
The third paragraph of the Goal: The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.
The historical roots of greed, competition, and consumption are found in our species’ battles for survival. Encourage people to look honestly at these patterns within each of us personally and within our society and decide to free themselves from them. A good starting place is "what do you want more of?"
Historical background for the 2013 Goal
The RC Communities adopt goals and policies at the World Conference, which takes place every four years. We put attention on Care of the Environment for the first time at the 1989 World Conference. The following Long Range Goals were adopted at that time:
- The preservation of all existing species of life and the re-creation of extinguished species
- The preservation of wilderness areas and the creation of a completely benign environment over most of the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere
In 1993 another Long Range Goal was added: Complete responsibility for and the optimum use of, and recycling of, all the resources of the earth in the interests of all human beings and other life forms
An International Liberation Reference Person for Care of the Environment was first appointed in 1996. Organized work on Care of the Environment began at that point.
In 2001, the RC Communities passed an additional Goal on Care of the Environment: That members of the Re-evaluation Counseling Community put increased attention on discharging the distresses that have led to the continued degradation of the environment of the world and to discouragement about taking the actions necessary for its restoration
This Goal emphasized the importance of discharging. With its passage, the work moved forward more steadily.
Class 3—Racism, genocide, and the environment
Our oppressive economic system and society foster environmental degradation. Capitalism encourages profit making without regard for the well being of humans or the planet. Exploiting human labor, racing to be first to claim and use up the earth’s resources, using those resources in ways that poison humans and other life forms—this is how capitalism has brought us to the current situation, a situation in which the majority of the world’s people suffer from oppression and exploitation and in which serious harm is being done to the Earth. Racism and genocide have been and are major vehicles for the exploitation that is fundamental to capitalism.
Environmental degradation endangers everyone. However, certain populations are impacted more heavily and sooner than others. The damage done by human-caused climate change and environmental destruction disproportionately impacts people targeted by racism, Indigenous communities, and poor and working-class communities. And it disproportionately impacts the nations that have long been targeted by colonialism and imperialism. (In many of these countries the majority of the population is also targeted by racism.)
These communities and nations have long been the dumping ground for the world’s toxins and waste, including the waste from war. They have had their resources extracted without just compensation and without regard for environmental damage. And many of the effects of climate change (for example drought, sea level rise, extreme weather events) are already causing grave harm to members of these groups, who lack the resources to move out of harm’s way (at best a temporary solution) or to adapt to the damage.
The globally dominant, more industrialized nations (that have colonized, dominated, and exploited the labor and resources of other nations) have consumed the most resources and have done so in ways that have polluted the Earth and emitted large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. They are clearly responsible for the growing disaster. But they resist policies that would halt these damaging practices (although some important commitments were made in 2015 at COP21 in Paris). And they resist making financial commitments to repair the damage and provide aid to countries that are already being negatively impacted (this was a major failing of COP21).
Unchallenged racism, the oppression of Indigenous people, and classism in the mainstream environmental movement make the movement unwelcoming to people targeted by racism and Indigenous people. The perspectives and voices of people targeted by racism have generally been marginalized or excluded. (In recent years, the historically white movement has been trying to address this; however, those efforts move slowly because people have not yet faced their role in these oppressions.)
Through our work in United to End Racism and Sustaining All Life, RC has begun to take our tools into the environmental movement. White people have much work to do on racism and its intersection with the environment and climate change.
Indigenous people have been stewards of the land for tens of thousands of years, and they are playing an important leadership role in many environmental campaigns. Important alliances across historic divides are being formed, but much more work on oppression is needed.
The environmental crisis cannot be resolved without addressing racism and the oppression of Indigenous peoples. And we cannot create the massive diverse movement needed to solve the situation without also working to end these oppressions.
We need to hear directly from people from these communities and countries about the harm from climate change that they have experienced. If such individuals are not present, members of the class can educate themselves about these issues and report to the group. They can attend events held by these populations. There are also excellent articles and films on these topics. A Power Point presentation on Racism and the Environment has been posted along with these Guides. It is useful a useful source for information on environmental racism, climate change, and climate justice. You may download and modify it as you wish to use with your classes.
It’s important for white people and people targeted by racism and the oppression of Indigenous people to have a time to meet separately for discharge.
Class 4—Climate change science basics
We have to understand a situation in order to think well about it. People are vulnerable to emotional manipulation when they lack accurate information. Many of us don’t feel smart enough to understand climate change. Or we have too many feelings about the topic to manage to learn about it. We can discharge our way to understanding the situation and we can be effective at turning it around.
In particular, many people were made to feel stupid about science and math in school. Discharging early memories about science and math will be important. It’s best to start with early pleasant memories on these topics.
Below is some basic information on the scientific basis for understanding climate change and the present situation. It can be used to help people build their personal knowledge base. Make sure people get plenty of discharge as you present it. It also helps if you can lighten the topic as you teach. For example, use drawings on colored paper or graphics printed from the internet for each point. Or play a climate change game by writing up some of the statistics (without explanation) and having people guess what the statistic means. Or guess at definitions for some of the new vocabulary. (Funny prizes help even more!)
Ten things we should all know about
- The Earth is warming. Accumulated greenhouse gas emissions have formed a warming blanket around the Earth. The most dangerous of these emissions is carbon dioxide (CO2), though other emissions and substances contribute about 50% of the warming of carbon dioxide. Most human-caused CO2 emissions (80%) result from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas). Other significant sources are industrial agriculture and deforestation (20%).
- We have measured the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere over time by drilling ice cores in Antarctica. This data shows us that the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere for the past 800,000 years has been between 180 and 260 parts per million (ppm) of CO2—reaching a high of 300 ppm in some periods between ice ages. In 1750, at the start of the Industrial Revolution (when humans started using fossil fuels in large quantities), atmospheric CO2 was at 278 ppm. In 2013 it reached 400 ppm.
- In this same time period, the planet has warmed by 1 degree Centigrade. Half of that temperature increase has occurred in the past 35 years. (10 of the 12 warmest years on record were in the last 12 years.) The climate science community is now in agreement that temperature rise should be kept to well below 2 degree Centigrade (aiming at 1.5 degree Centigrade) to avoid drastic, life-threatening global climate change.
- Average global sea level is now rising approximately 1 inch every 10 years as a result of the melting of polar ice and the expansion of warming ocean waters. Sea level rise varies depending on the warmth of the water in each part of the globe. For example, in the Philippines, the rate of sea level rise is 5 times the average. Our oceans absorb about 80% of the planetary temperature increase (causing sea level rise). The oceans also absorb about 33% of CO2 emissions (causing acidification).
- To keep the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees C, we must achieve "net-zero" carbon emissions (all emissions are absorbed by existing "carbon sinks," such as forests and the ocean) by the year 2050 (a 70 - 95% reduction from 2010 levels of emissions). Other emissions must also be reduced significantly. 60% of global CO2 emissions come from the world’s 7 largest economies: United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, German, and the UK (20% are from the U.S. alone; the U.S. population is 5% of the global population.)
- That means we can release no more than 353 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2 between now and 2050 to have a 50-50 chance of meeting the 1.5 degree goal. Coal mines and oil and gas wells already in production contain 942 gigatons of CO2. Globally we currently get 80% of our energy from burning fossil fuels. By 2020 that percentage is projected to reach 90% (in spite of the rapidly increasing use of renewable energy sources).
- Maintaining the resiliency of carbon and methane sinks is also critical to limiting global warming. Today more than half of human-caused carbon emissions are captured by natural ecosystems on land and ocean.
- Climate change is already a harsh reality in some parts of the globe. It is causing the following: a) droughts and crop loss (the temperature increase means fewer rains, or rains at the wrong times of the year in some places), b) severe weather events and the consequent habitat damage and flooding (a warmer atmosphere holds more water and results in bigger storms), c) sea level rise resulting in destruction of habitat and salinization (destruction by salt) of crop land, d) increased acidification of the oceans (damaging marine ecosystems), and e) an increase in diseases (as warmer temperatures foster multiplication of disease vectors such as mosquitos). By 2030 it is projected that climate change will cause an additional 6 millions deaths a year.
- The cost of renewable energy sources (solar and wind) is currently the same as that of fossil fuel in many places. It would cost about 1% of global GDP (gross domestic product) ($850 billion USD) a year for 30 years to transition to a renewable energy based economy.
- The International Monetary Fund estimates that global fossil fuel subsidies total about $4 trillion USD per year. (These subsidies include direct subsidies as well as providing the fossil fuel industry with free infrastructure such as roads, pipelines, ports; tax breaks; and not charging the industry for the costs of harm to the environment and to public health.) Global military spending in 2013 was $1.75 trillion USD.
You can find many good presentations of this information on the internet. Here are a few.
NASA: Climate Science, How Do We Know?
Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye the Science Guy
Climate Science: What you Need to Know