Focusing Our Energy On…well, Energy!

Climate change and Appalachia. I know, I know. You’re probably sick of hearing me talk about it. I’ve blogged about it on many different occasions, but this time I actually want to share some tangible teaching devices to help us talk climate change and the energy sector.

A couple weeks ago I was visiting one of my all-time favorite blog, Science League of America, and came across the Energy Literacy Principles.

As their blog post puts it: The Energy Literacy Principles were developed by a consortium of thirteen governmental organizations, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health & Human Services. All these groups are interested in energy because it affects every aspect of our lives and involves everything from the environment and national security to food and even public health.

I can’t imagine anything more fitting for Appalachia. Energy defines a huge chunk of our economy. It defines our history, our politics and possibly our future. Our education standards echo this as well, which might be the scariest thing of all.

Energy literacy plays directly into climate change literacy. Our energy choices influence how people alter the climate. Principle 5—“Energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental, and social factors”—gets to the heart of this idea. In West Virginia, there used to be a $2,000 tax credit for new solar projects, but the state legislature did away with it in 2014. In fact, West Virginia has an Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and does not actually require a minimum contribution from renewable energy!

How can we expect to teach energy literacy when we’re silent about energy sources?

The NCSE put it best when they said, “energy and climate are inextricably linked. The principles are a good first step, but how we use them to educate others about the connections between energy and climate is up to us.”


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