Each year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day! Beautiful pictures from around the world get posted on social media with wonderful statements about the the importance of protecting our Earth! We highlight the great work of many around the globe who commit to protecting, conserving and developing solutions to our environmental challenges.
Our planet Earth is home to ALL of us! It is also the home to all the living and non-living things we share this planet with. We are facing some critical global challenges such as shortage in fresh water, clean energy and climate change. These problems are extremely complex and will require us to work together!
Earth Day needs to be more than pretty pictures… it needs to be an urgent message about the work we must all contribute to. As a STEM Educator, I know that science, technology, engineering and mathematics all play a critical role in developing innovative solutions to these challenges… physicists, chemists, biologists and environmentalists commit their lives to better understanding the complex systems that drive the dynamic earth… computer scientists and data scientists work with massive amounts of data and use the largest supercomputers around the world to run climate models… engineers develop new technologies and potential solutions to reduce our environmental footprint.. and mathematicians create mathematical solutions and prediction models to better understand global systems including economic systems. STEM professionals work across multiple disciplines and work together to develop ideas, test them and implement them. International scientific discoveries are always accomplished by teams of STEM professionals!
STEM Professionals alone will not be able to create the global change we need. We need people in many non-STEM professions! We need people who are social activists, philosophers, sociologists, economists, communications experts, politicians, policy makers and global leaders. Traditionally, we have “educated” people in these disciplines in isolation of others. We “trained” people for specific careers… I believe that in order to tackle the global environmental challenges of today and into the future, we will need people to have a strong understanding at the intersections of these “careers”. We need people who are economists/environmentalists… sociologists/mathematician… chemists/politician… engineer/global leader… communication/physicist… We will need people to hold skills and knowledge that blurs the boundaries of these traditional career pathways.
I believe that the complexity of these problems can only truly be understood and robust solutions can only be developed when we have a diverse group of people working together. We must ensure that all perspectives are heard and used in the development of global solutions. This scale of collaboration is not easy… and will require a shift in our thinking about the “education” we must provide for our future generations… and create a concrete plan for how we will work better together!