Maybe you've heard. We are facing a climate crisis that threatens life on our planet. Climate scientists are unequivocal: We are changing the world in deep, measurable, dangerous ways—and the pace of this change will accelerate dramatically in the decades to come.
Then again, if you've been a middle school or high school student recently, you may not know this.
That's because the gap between our climate emergency and the attention paid to climate change in the school curriculum is immense. Individual teachers around the country are doing outstanding work, but the educational establishment is not. Look at our textbooks. The widely used Pearson/Prentice Hall text, Physical Science: Concepts in Action, waits until page 782 to tell high school students about climate change, but then only in four oh-by-the-way paragraphs. A photo of a bustling city includes the caption: "Carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other sources may contribute to global warming." Or they may not, the book seems to suggest.
IAT's Coordinated Science: Physical, Earth and Space Science devotes several pages late in the book to climate change, and concludes with this doubt-soaked passage:
Some people take the position that the increase in carbon dioxide should be reversed. They believe this is necessary even though the size of the contribution to global warming is not certain. It is their belief that the consequences would be very difficult to handle. Other people take a different position. They consider that it would be unwise to disrupt the world's present economy. They consider the future danger to be questionable. The big problem is that no one is certain that rapid global warming will take place. If it does, it may be too late to do anything about it!
The danger of climate change as "questionable"? ExxonMobil itself could not have produced a more skeptical approach.
These textbooks are not mere egregious outliers; they are typical of commercially produced science and social studies teaching materials. In fact, a partnership between the American Coal Foundation and Scholastic to create a propagandistic 4th grade curriculum was ended only last year, when educators and environmentalists exposed the lessons' absurd pro-industry biases. Scholastic's curriculum, The United States of Energy, was distributed free to tens of thousands of elementary teachers. It showed gleaming piles of coal, along with many of its alleged benefits. Students didn't learn of a single problem, including coal's huge contribution to climate change.
"...the enormity of the climate crisis demands that educators, scientists, environmental activists, parents, and students join together to pull down the barriers between disciplines, and to rethink the curriculum. The cost of continuing with business as usual is too steep."
But as state legislatures get into the business of writing school curricula, things may go from awful to worse. Take Tennessee. It just became the fourth state—following Louisiana, Texas and South Dakota—to pass a law that requires global warming to be taught as one of a number of "scientific controversies."
The fact that Tennessee is home of the infamous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial makes the new law ironic, but not funny. As the American Association for the Advancement of Science explains, "Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them."
If you happen to be a member of the one percent that owns a coal company, oil wells or a pipeline, young people's confusion is a good thing. For the rest of humanity, the passivity generated by this confusion is tragic.
Of course, educators cannot simply blame the lack of climate education on greedy corporations and the legislators they buy. In high schools, too often teachers regard the walls between disciplines as fixed and legitimate. Most social studies teachers thus far seem willing to leave discussion of carbon dioxide, the mechanics of the greenhouse effect, and "feedback loops" to the science department. And science teachers, overwhelmed by the requirements of their own discipline, are reluctant to trespass into the social causes and consequences of climate change. Teachers of other disciplines—drama, language arts, math—may wonder about the relevance of the climate for their subjects. And elementary teachers may think that climate change is too depressing or too complicated for their children.
But the enormity of the climate crisis demands that educators, scientists, environmental activists, parents and students join together to pull down the barriers between disciplines, and to rethink the curriculum. The cost of continuing with business as usual is too steep.
The good news is that addressing this crisis with the urgency that it deserves offers the possibility of revitalizing schools as young people develop the consciousness and commitment that the earth desperately needs.
And this work needn't be grim, as some educators have already discovered. For instance, a workgroup of teachers in Portland, Ore.,wrote a role-play on the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples throughout the world—from island nations like Kiribati to the Yup'ik of Alaska—in which students assume the personas of indigenous activists and propose global solutions.
And of course there's always straight-up physics and chemistry—understanding the mechanics of climate change is classic science education.
A curricular full-court press on the climate offers a compelling renunciation of the numbing test-preparation that passes for education in so many schools these days. As Rethinking Schools editors wrote recently, "This endeavor demands that young people exercise their utopian imaginations to consider alternatives of all kinds. And it invites them to 'talk back' to those interests that promote and benefit from endless consumption—including the publishers of their own textbooks."
This is our chance to develop a generation for whom climate awareness is as natural as logging onto Facebook.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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