A Litmus Test For Academia


Co-written by Rachel Olivia O’Connor. Valleria Ruselli and Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel


“And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; 

  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil 

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.” — Gerard Manley Hopkins


Introductory note: Individually, the three of us expect to receive teaching offers this week for the 2017-18 school year. We intend to submit this article to educational institutions, and — on the basis of feedback received — determine which positions to accept. We may write a follow-up article addressing the interaction we experience.

There are many critical topics which are being taught tepidly in our schools, if touched upon at all. And the most prestigious educational institutions shy away from authentically confronting our collective crises, except within the parameters set by corporations which are contributing to our horrid societal/environmental momentum. This is enormously important, as our mainstream media outlets — and even most alternative news sources — do not encourage the public to self-educate about the major issues of our time, but rather compound ignorance with ignorance.

Of the issues which are totally ignored, for all practical purposes, there’s one that we can spotlight here which — if not addressed post haste — stands to take us over the precipice. That is that if we want to protect our environment , we must talk about population size and growth and actually do something about it.

Perhaps readers will want to ask authorities at local schools whether or not anyone is addressing the phenomenon highlighted here. We see that as a litmus test. One that we believe all schools will get an “F” on, if truth is told.

Forty-seven years ago Earth Day was born with dire warnings about overpopulation being on the horizon. Today, the U.S. is growing by an average of one person every single second. There were one-hundred and fifty million people in 1950, but now there are over three-hundred and twenty-five million, with four-hundred million slated to be crowding together across the fifty states by 2050.

On the basis of consumption levels alone in our increasingly wasteful society, the threat of overpopulation has been quite clear for some time. But schools haven’t discouraged consumerism, have they? In fact, they’ve encouraged it. Nor do they even speak about out-of-control population being a problem, except — perhaps — in passing. Yes, the topic is treated to some degree here and there, usually where it doesn’t demand that students seriously self-reflect, or consider changing anything significant respecting their lifestyle. In other words, it’s presented in the abstract. An approach that’s quite at home in academia.

Religion is a factor in all of this, of course. But so is unwarranted faith in Science and Technology. One of us has addressed these facts of life previously, but — clearly — serious discussion (and action) must follow soon. Very soon. For we simply cannot afford to move at the arthritic snail’s pace society has embraced vis-a-vis this issue.

Rather than repeat the statistics which we’ve been documented to death intermittently, when population is addressed here and there, we believe it will be sufficiently instructive and motivating for readers to review what’s provided at www.npg.org. For starters, to get deeply engaged. Educators can find teaching packets available there, and concerned citizens can get involved with Donald Mann and his colleagues at Negative Population Growth, an admirable non-profit worthy of your heartbeats, attempting to make a difference in solidarity in time.

We have some reservations about Negative Population Growth, but they are relatively minor considerations in the context of their acknowledging that we are facing collective deadlines. The phrase “relatively minor” might strike some who are working on behalf of immigrants as inappropriate, but we underscore that the crucial NPG focus on overall numbers does not preclude discussion of the various nationalistic aspects of their stated Vision. O bailan todos o no baile nadie.

This week we look forward to testing the waters with various educational institutions and NPG, when we submit this article for their kind consideration. Before deciding what jobs to take on.

Rachel Olivia O’Connor, Valleria Ruselli and Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel are educators who have founded the Educators’ Collective for Writers. They can be reached at [email protected]



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