Five Teaching Guides
for Classes on Care of the Environment
(updated December 2017)

The following are outlines for five 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), and the article "Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change." 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 2017 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.

At the 2017 World Conference, the 2013 Goal was replaced by the following goal:  

That members of the RC Community become knowledgeable of the clear evidence of the continually growing damage to the environment and all life forms, especially the climate change resulting from the ever-rising temperatures caused by human activity.

That we face and discharge any distress that interferes with our finding sustainable solutions, including the ending of the oppressive and exploitative nature of our societies. That we decide, discharge, and act against any distress that inhibits us from determining immediate steps, as large and radical as necessary, to end this damage, and from organizing and agitating for their adoption by governments and industries.

That we do this work together with everyone—especially oppressed communities which are currently experiencing the most damage from climate change.

For a 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.

Work on the goal paragraph by paragraph.

First Paragraph: That members of the RC Community become knowledgeable of the clear evidence of the continually growing damage to the environment and all life forms, especially the climate change resulting from the ever-rising temperatures caused by human activity.  Refer to Chapter 4 of these class outlines (increasing our awareness of the impact of climate change) when working on this paragraph.

Second paragraph: That we face and discharge any distress that interferes with our finding sustainable solutions, including the ending of the oppressive and exploitative nature of our societies. That we decide, discharge, and act against any distress that inhibits us from determining immediate steps, as large and radical as necessary, to end this damage, and from organizing and agitating for their adoption by governments and industries.  Work on distresses that keep us from thinking and acting big in the face of the challenges posed by climate change. 

Third paragraph: That we do this work together with everyone—especially oppressed communities which are currently experiencing the most damage from climate change. Work on the connections between climate change, classism, and racism. 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 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 COE Goals

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 (Wytske Visser) 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.

In 2013, the only goal passed for the RC Communities was the COE goal, bringing this work into the center of our Communities.  

In 2017, the Communities adopted 4 goals, all of them supportive of our work on COE. 

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. While commitments have been made to reduce emissions, the commitments made only bring us one third of the way needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade (November 2017). And these wealthy nations continue to resist making financial commitments to repair the damage and provide aid to countries that are already being negatively impacted .

Unchallenged racism, the oppression of Indigenous people, and classism in the mainstream environmental movement make the movement unwelcoming to people targeted by racism, Indigenous, working class and poor 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. Groups organized by class will also be useful 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 focus on learning about it. We can discharge our way to understanding the situation and we can be effective at turning it around.

In particular, many of us were made to feel stupid about science and math in school. And it's important to understand the basics of scientific information showing that human activities are the source of climate change in this period. 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

  1. 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%). 
  2. 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 2016 it reached 406 ppm. 
  3. 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.  
  4. Average global sea level is now rising approximately 1.3 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).
  5. 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.)
  6. 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% as developing nations continue industrializing (in spite of the rapidly increasing use of renewable energy sources).  
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. The cost of renewable energy sources (solar and wind) is currently the same as that of fossil fuel in many places. The International Energy Agency estimates that to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees would take $3.5 trillion in energy-sector investments on average each year until 2050, which is around twice current levels of investment.  
  10. 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. 

 

Class 5--Sustaining All Life at the COPs (the United Nations Climate Talks)

PART I: Sustaining All Life 

Reading assignment in advance of the class:
SAL pamphlet

Some downloadable SAL flyers on topics of interest to the class: https://www.sustainingalllife.org/cop23

Sustaining All Life was organized in 2015 with the goal of taking RC and our understandings about the natural healing process and the connections between oppression and care of the environment to the UN Climate talks (called COPs--for Conference of the Parties). Attended COP21, COP22, and COP23 so far. We are committed to attending through COP25 and then we will reassess our participation.

At the COPs, our delegates lead workshops (presentations of basic RC theory connected to some aspect of oppression and climate change—racism, indigenous people, young people, women, war, Arab oppression), forums (where we invite people to come share their personal experiences with climate change, climate activism or their experiences doing this work as indigenous people, young people, women, people of the global majority, Muslims, and so on). We also hold many listening projects, support groups, fundamentals classes, and caucuses…. using any reason to get people sharing their experiences, listening to each other, and learning a little about RC. 

Go round for the class: what information from the pamphlet and the flyers or handouts was significant for the students? Up to 1 minute each to report.

Show COP23 SAL slide show followed by a mini-session.  

As of November 2017, several thousand people have come to our events at the COPs and more than 1000 have expressed interest in learning more about us. Many SAL delegates and volunteers have ongoing relationships with people that we met at the COPs. We have started RC Communities in the following countries through those connections: The Gambia, Cameroon, Guinea, Morocco. We are still teaching RC to people in Nepal, Egypt, and Madagasgar—hoping to start Communities there in the future. 

Wytske Visser and Teresa Enrico led our mostly European delegation to COP23 in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. There were many successes, reported on the website at https://www.sustainingalllife.org/cop23 .

COP24 will be in Katowice, Poland in December 2018 and again SAL will be there with a mostly European delegation. In September 2018 SAL will also send a delegation to the Global Climate Action Summit being hosted in San Francisco, California, USA.

Mini session on SAL at the COPs—what would you have to face to be a SAL volunteer or delegate to one of these events? Or to do a listening project on the topics being addressed by SAL at the COPs?

PART II: The United Nations Climate Talks

 The United Nations is THE international body addressing climate change. There is no other global organization trying to look at the big picture and unite the world in this effort. (While there are many global climate advocacy groups, none of them have anywhere near the reach or the power.)

Short history (may want to start with a mini session on learning history):

1979—First World Climate Conference

1988—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

1990—UN First assessment report (of the impact of climate change worldwide) released, and second World Climate Conference held. Call for a global treaty on climate change.

1992—UN holds Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Countries sign a treaty:  the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—where we recognized we have a problem, agreed on international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with the impacts. The treaty called on Developed Countries, as source of most emissions, to lead the way in cutting emissions.

1994—Treaty goes into effect. 197 countries signed the treaty: the Parties to the UNFCCC.

1995—First COP (Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC) held in Berlin

1997—Kyoto Protocol commits 37 industrialized countries and the EU to limit emissions based on the Convention. KP places a heavier burden on developed nations under its central principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”. US drops out in 2001, it takes effect in 2005.

2001—UN’s 3rd Assessment Report

2007—UN’s 4th Assessment Report

(Things move slowly forward as emissions rise. Useful to show some of the graphs showing the rise in CO2 and global temperatures during this time period: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

2013—COP19. Parties agreed to submit “intended nationally determined contributions”, known as INDCs, well before the Paris conference.

2015—Paris Agreement at COP21, replaces Kyoto Protocol. Aim to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

(For more information on the United Nations process and the COPs: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/items/6031.php

(Note that since 2000, human-caused carbon emissions have grown at an average annual rate of 3.5 percent. 10 of the hottest years in 136 years of records have occurred since 1998, with 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, each breaking a new “hottest yet” record. For more information, see: “Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change”)

Paris Agreement and Marrakech and Bonn Updates

It is very important that there is now a binding agreement for all signatory nations (Paris). For the first time, each country has submitted its own plan for emission reduction. Unfortunately, the sum of those proposals only gets us about one-third of the way to the goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees C; but it is an important start.

The Paris Agreement weakened some provisions that were in previous conventions granting indigenous rights/human rights, but this language was strengthened in Bonn.

Loss and Damage—Developed countries have consistently fought any language that hints at liability for damage caused by climate change. Climate finance remains voluntary. Paris Agreement says: developed nations shall provide financial resources, but “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.” This is still unresolved after Bonn. “Bonn reflects the ongoing division between developed and developing nations, with rich countries refusing to substantively accept their historical responsibility (and that of the corporations whose agendas they support) for the environmental devastation that threatens lives and livelihoods, and the very existence of many nations, around the globe.”

The Trump administration pulled out of Paris Accord in the summer of 2017 and is no longer funding the UNIPCCC. At Bonn, French Prime Minister Macron proposed that Europe take the place of the U.S. in funding the UNIPCCC.

UN Secretary General at Bonn called for: at least a further 25% cut in emissions by the parties by 2020 to meet the Paris Agreement, calling for “markets to be re-oriented away from the counter-productive and the short-term (for example, in 2016, an estimated USD 825bn were invested in fossil fuels and high-emissions sectors).” Unfortunately, few countries are actually on track to meet their commitments.

Between now and COP24 in Poland, negotiators will continue working on guidelines for making national pledges and policies more transparent, so that outsiders can gauge individual countries’ progress (or lack thereof) more precisely. In 2018, climate negotiators will make a major effort to assess the world’s progress on climate change to date and measure it against the 2 degree goal. 

Revisions to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (national pledges for emissions reductions) are to happen every five years, with the first increase due in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Resources

Why the RC Communities Prioritize Addressing Climate Change, by Diane Shisk and Tim Jackins (updated every few months).

You can find many good presentations of this information on the internet. Here are a few.

NASA: Climate Science, How Do We Know?
http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye the Science Guy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtW2rrLHs08

Climate Science: What you Need to Know
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffjIyms1BX4&nohtml5=False

 


Last modified: 2017-12-18 14:10:51-08