Wednesday, July 05, 2006
E Lansing teacher trying to teach other teachers about Peak Oil
Over 10,000 people were alerted to peak oil at the National Education Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida today. The NEA is the largest professional association with over 2.8 million members in the United States.
Aaron Wissner, a teacher from Michigan, alerted the delegation to peak oil with a motion to look into the impacts to education.
This morning, all delegates received a special morning paper that included the text of the motion along with a rationale.
"NEA, utilizing existing resources and within the current budget, will educate members on challenges to bargaining, threats to retirement, stresses on families, and other negative impacts caused by world peak oil production," read the motion.
The rationale, limited to a maximum of 40 words, read as follows: "Gasoline prices rob school pocketbooks, leaving less for educators. Expensive oil fires sudden inflation, imprisoning members trapped in multiyear contracts. The end of cheap oil threatens to cripple retirement plans. Children suffer as low wage parents face inflation driven unemployment."
Just before noon, addressing the full assembly of over 10,000 NEA members, Wissner presented a revised motion: "NEA will educate members on the impacts of world peak oil production".
He followed with a prepared speech, viewed on closed circuit television throughout the assembly hall.
"NEA, we have a problem. Gasoline prices have doubled in the past three years. Oil prices have nearly tripled. Why? What is causing this?
"Independent oil geologists are warning us that we have a serious supply problem. We are nearing global peak oil production.
"We know oil is a finite, non-renewable resource. We know we will eventually use it up. The problem comes much earlier than that. The problem is when world oil production maxes out and begins to decline. The physical reality is that no matter what we do, supply simply can't keep up with projected demand.
"NEA peak oil is the problem, and its a huge one.
"How will peak oil impact schools? How is oil depletion impacting us now? We need to know."
The assembly chose not adopt the motion, but heard the warning issued by Wissner.
The day prior to making the motion to the assembly, Wissner spoke with the president of each state affiliate. He brought them the motion and asked each if they had questions. Many questions focused on how oil production impacted schools. One example he utilized was explaining how oil prices drove up inflation. He explained that a 10% inflation rate would make 3% annual raises over multiple years very poor agreements.
One fact Wissner learned while talking with state presidents was that certain states were doing much better financially due high oil prices in 2005.
"Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota and Wyoming fund schools via money collected on oil revenues," said Wissner. "For students and educators in these states, high oil prices have paid off with big funding increases. For most states though, the impacts of rising oil prices have been significant. In my home district, not only did energy and fuel costs increase, but we had to add bus runs because less parents are driving their kids to school. For my home state of Michigan, I suspect that oil prices are the primary cause of our slumping economy, due to the drop in sales of SUVs and light trucks. They're the bread and butter of Michigan's economy."
Despite the defeat of his motion, Wissner remained optimistic.
"The next step is for everyone who cares about education to contact two people. First, the president of the NEA, Reg Weaver, and second, the president of their state's NEA affiliate (www.nea.org). The presidents are deeply concerned about schools and anything that could jeopardize them. By contacting these powerful people, we can impress the seriousness of the facts of peak oil, and that our teachers and educational professionals need to jump to the front of the effort to do what they do best, educate the public."
Wissner became aware of peak oil after looking into the ultimate causes of rising gasoline prices. In the past year, he and his wife attended both the "US Conference on Peak Oil" sponsored by Community Solution and the "Denver World Oil Conference" sponsored by ASPO-USA. Wissner has presented to groups in Michigan on the issue and been rebroadcast community access television. He is currently developing a new organization called the Local Future Network (www.localfuture.org) to support individual and community efforts to develop sustainable local systems.
Asked about how it felt speaking to over 10,000 people about this difficult topic, Wissner answered, "In any movement, where changing the very thinking process and belief of individuals is the goal, what we educators would call a paradigm shift, the first step is the toughest. I knew that peak oil would be difficult to explain to 10,000 people within a 2-minute time limit. On the other hand, I couldn't have come here, knowing about the seriousness of peak oil, without bring the issue to everyone's attention. It's been stressful and I got a share of confused looks. I'm thankful for the great support I've had from many of my colleagues from Michigan, who've offered words of encouragement and given me enough energy to take action on this. I have no doubt, peak oil is, simply put, the most important national and global change of this century and of our lives."
For more information, contact Aaron Wissner at firstname.lastname@example.org