Friday, July 24, 2009

Orion for Educators - Essential Questions

Climate Activism | Connecting Children to Nature |
Rethinking the American Economy | What Is Security?

Orion delves into the connections among nature, science, people, livelihood, justice, politics, and values -- exactly the issues desperately in need of discussion today.

Below are articles grouped into several topics for discussion. We'll be adding topics from time to time. Please send suggestions of topics that you would like us to address to

Climate Activism

Essential Questions

  1. Why is there a disconnect between what science is telling us and what the public and politicians are doing about climate change?
  2. What role, if any, do morality, ethics, and spirituality play in addressing climate change?
  3. What leads some people to commit themselves deeply to addressing climate change -- and not others?
  4. What is the hardest thing about addressing climate change?

Related Orion Readings

Bill McKibben, "When Words Fail"
Climate change activists have chosen a magic number

Janisse Ray, "Altar Call for True Believers"
Are we being change, or are we just talking about change?

Mike Tidwell, "Snap into Action for the Climate"
The terrifying new speed of global warming and our last chance to stop it

Audrey Schulman, "How to be a Climate Hero"
Something truly horrible is happening to the planet's climate

Auden Schendler, "The Big Green Lie"
The hope and the hype

Ted Nace, "Stopping Coal in Its Tracks"
Loosely affiliated activists draw a hard line -- and hold it

Jeff Goodell, "The Limits of Ethical Capitalism"
Market-based solutions can't substitute for moral clarity

Jennifer Oladipo, "Global Warming is Colorblind"
Can we say as much for environmentalism?

Connecting Children to Nature

Essential Questions

  1. What should education accomplish?
  2. What are good and bad uses of computers in classrooms?
  3. What’s the case for mandating computers in classrooms?
  4. What’s the case for excluding them?
  5. Should children have unstructured, even unsupervised, time in nature?

Related Orion Readings

Lowell Monke, "Unplugged Schools"
Education can ameliorate, or exacerbate, society's ills. Which will it be?

Richard Louv, "Leave No Child Inside"
The growing movement to reconnect children and nature, and to battle "nature deficit disorder"

Lowell Monke, "Charlotte's Webpage"
Why children shouldn't have the world at their fingertips

Rethinking the American Economy

Essential Questions

  1. Is capitalism a success? Why or why not?
  2. Has environmentalism failed? Why or why not?
  3. Can the current economic system solve major environmental challenges? Why or why not?
  4. What’s the relationship between corporate personhood, environmentalism, and people’s connection to place?

Related Orion Readings

Gus Speth (interview), "Change Everything Now"
One of the nation's most mainstream environmentalists says it's time to get a lot more radical

Rebecca Solnit, "Jurassic Park of the Free Market"
When giant corporations walked the Earth

Chris Carlsson, "Building an Anti-Economy"
An alternative logic of money and markets

Curtis White, "The Idols of Environmentalism"
Do environmentalists conspire against their own interests? First in a two-part series.

Curtis White, "The Ecology of Work"
Environmentalism can't succeed until it confronts the destructive nature of modern work — and supplants it

Jeffrey Kaplan, "The Gospel of Consumption"
And the better future we left behind

Thomas Ulrich, "Replanting People"
Immigrant workers earn a piece of an organic farm

Josh Harkinson, "Profits of Place"
A different vision of success emerges along Main Street

What Is Security?

Essential Questions

  1. How do you define security?
  2. What is threatening the security of Americans today?
  3. If you were the president, what would you change to make Americans feel more secure?
  4. Is there a relationship between security and the natural environment?
  5. Is our current system of government and economy making Americans more secure or less secure?

Related Orion Readings

Wendell Berry, "A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States"

William Kunstler, "Making Other Arrangements"
A wake-up call to a citizenry in the shadow of oil scarcity

Rebecca Solnit, "Winged Mercury and the Golden Calf"
Two elements, one economic theory, and a cascading torrent of collateral damage

Sandra Steingraber, "The Pirates of Illiopolis"
Polyvinyl chloride's domestic terrorism

Wendell Berry, "Compromise, Hell"
Economic WMDs are being used against our own people in a version of "freedom" that makes greed the dominant economic virtue

Jeffrey Kaplan, Consent of the Governed
The reign of corporations and the fight for democracy

Hope Burwell, "Jeremiad for Belarus"
Chernobyl eighteen years later