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Stealing and Selling Nature

Why we need to teach environmental history
Stealing and Selling Nature
DAVID McLIMANS

In the wake of superstorm Sandy and a presidential election in which the candidates from both major parties essentially ignored climate change, its time that our schools begin to play their part in creating climate literate citizens. Hurricane Sandy, and the superstorms that will certainly follow, are not just acts of naturethey are products of a massive theft of the atmospheric commons shared by all life on the planet. Every dollar of profit made by fossil fuel companies relies on polluting our shared atmosphere with harmful greenhouse gasesstealing what belongs to us all. But if we dont teach students the history of the commons, theyll have a hard time recognizing whatand whois responsible for todays climate crisis.

Most U.S. and world history textbooks teach students to ignore the role of nature in history. But as environmental crisesclimate, water, soil, and biodiversitythreaten the viability of life as we know it for future generations, we can no longer afford a no-nature social studies curriculum. Our students need to know the environmental history of our current crises, including how nature was turned into a commodity to be bought and sold, and used for private profit. They need to recognize that todays enclosure of the commons has a long history.

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