Advocacy & Activism, Climate Justice, School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Climate Change is Impacting Our Students – Be a Second Responder

When I was thinking about the title of this article, I really wanted to use the term, “Climate Disaster” because truly that is what we have on our hands. We all have responsibility to do our share to work for climate justice.  Every blog post I have shared about climate change or climate justice have been my least read posts! What does that say about our willingness to look at what is happening right before our eyes? 

Well, as you know, if you have been readers of this blog, I am #Relentless and will not stop raising this issue. Climate change impacts our students and their ability to not only learn, but to flourish. Imagine our colleagues in California, working through fire after fire caused by climate change. As members of the educational system, school nurses can use our powerful voices and take a stand in support of legislation that will protect our climate and our students. 

While nurses are often first responders in emergencies, in the case of climate change, we can also be second responders which is defined as:

A second responder is a worker who supports “first responders” such as police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. They are involved in preparing, managing, returning services, and cleaning up sites during and after an event requiring first responders. – Wikipedia

I am reprinting an article by Park Guthrie, an educator from Northern California who is leading a national campaign for schools to address the climate emergency that is impacting his school and many others. Park is a climate activist because that is what it takes to address this emergency unfolding every day before our eyes. We must all be in action to do our share to bring this issue front and center to our legislators and policy makers.  We can all be second responders because we must!

My name is Park Guthrie. I am a parent and a 6th-grade teacher in Sonoma County, California. Every student in my school was evacuated due to the Kincade Fire this past week. Some of my students were evacuated twice as the homes of friends where they had taken refuge were later included in an expanded evacuation zone. Thanks only to the heroic efforts of 1,000s of first responders, the cities of Healdsburg, Windsor, and all of western Sonoma county were spared. Thank you, first responders! While none of my students lost homes, all of them suffered significant disruptions and varying degrees of fear and anxiety.

All of my students have experienced the direct and sometimes terrifying effects of 5 climate-related disasters in just the past 2 years. School has been closed for a total 14 disaster days due to 4 of these disasters: Tubb’s Fire (2017, 5 days), Camp Fire (2018, 2 days), Russian River Flooding (2019, 2 days), Kincade Fire (2019, 5 days).

Because of repeated exposure to climate-related disasters, my students may have a diminished sense of safety in the world as well as anxiety and pessimism about the future. Given the failure of our national government to seriously address the climate crisis (despite 30 years of warnings and reasonable policy options), pessimism, climate-anxiety, and climate-despair may be rational. I’m not OK with this and I hope you are not either. My students and all young people deserve more than an environment that generates pessimism, anxiety, and despair (not to mention physical danger and exposure to toxic smoke)!

This is where you come in. First responders have protected my students and my community from the immediate devastation of this climate-related disaster. We now need your help as a second responder to this most recent climate-disaster and the ongoing climate crisis. Please take a stand against climate-despair and anxiety. Our voices can help flip the context by which my students and young people everywhere face these perennial climate-disasters.

Together, we can quickly generate a massive signal that state and national leaders must prioritize bold, fast climate action. We can do it in a non-partisan way because climate-disasters strike families and communities across the political spectrum.

Up until now, the education sector has been nearly silent about the climate crisis, it’s impact on schools and students, and the need for fast, bold climate action to protect students. (This stands in stark contrast with the medical/public health sector which has been collectively advocating for climate action for years.) Second responders, let’s turn on a firehose of non-partisan advocacy for a safe climate from the tens of thousands of education sector leaders and organizations across the country.

Fortunately, the non-partisan, youth-adult Schools for Climate Action campaign has laid the groundwork to quickly generate this massive signal from education sector leaders and organizations from across the country. More than 100 education organizations from 14 states have already passed non-partisan climate action resolutions, including several state and national organizations. With your help and continued outreach, we are close to achieving a domino effect. There are 75,000 education organizations in the US that have not yet spoken up to help address the climate crisis. With your help, thousands of these organizations could speak up quickly. Not only will this “firehose” of resolutions help move Congress to act, but it can also counteract “hotspots” of despair and pessimism generated by difficult climate realities.

How can you be a Second Responder? Please support the Schools for Climate Action campaign in the 5 ways outlined below. By helping to energize education leaders to signal Congress, you will also create a context of hope and optimism that will build the resilience of all young people as they prepare to shoulder the climate burden we elders are, unfortunately, leaving them.

  1. Follow S4CA on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram and sign up for our e-newsletterMany resolutions (including the important Colorado Association of School Boards resolution) happened mostly due to Twitter outreach.
  2. Send an outreach email to your local, county, and state school boards59 school boards in 9 states have passed climate action resolution, but there are about 13,940 who are still silent about the climate crisis. Thousands of these school boards already agree with everything in our strongest resolutions and will speak up quickly. They are just not yet aware of our campaign or they have never been asked by a stakeholder to speak up. Please help us reach them.
  3. Share this student council resolution toolkit with students, teachers, and parents in your community. If you are a student, use this student council resolution toolkit to pass your own student council climate action resolution. Eco-clubs and other student organizations can also pass them. 27 student councils in 8 states have passed climate action resolutions. About 20,000 student councils in the country have not yet spoken up for climate justice but likely thousands would quickly with minimal encouragement.
  4. Share this outreach email about the Schools for Climate Action campaign with your personal and professional networks.
  5. Send polite, but assertive emails to the following state and national education organizations, encouraging them to break silence about the climate crisis and climate neglect. Click on links for template emails, addresses, and information about our engagement with them:

National School Boards Association (NSBA)

California School Boards Association (CSBA)

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

Thank you for being a second responder to the most recent climate-disaster striking my community and impacting my students. This article was originally posted on Medium: https://medium.com/@park.guthrie.jr/we-can-all-be-second-responders-to-climate-disaster-3aad265512ff

Bio: Park Guthrie, S4CA Co-Founder and 6th Grade Teacher has been a public school teacher in Northern California for twenty years. He has also worked as a landscaper, an Outward Bound instructor, and the director of an urban agriculture/school garden non-profit. He currently teaches 6th grade at a Salmon Creek Charter School and lives in Sebastopol, CA. He and his wife, Kristan, have three kids Kai (16), Lola (15) and June (12). He co-founded Schools for Climate Action (S4CA) with a group of students, parents, and teachers in July of 2017.  In the past 18 months, 97 education sector organizations have broken silence about climate justice with non-partisan S4CA climate action resolutions.  

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