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      « The Architect, Richard Huffman | Main | Student Green Design/Build Award Nomination »

      January 09, 2009


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      Glenn BErgman

      I am sorry I was away on vacation during this process. Thank you for posting this and doing all of the work to get it on film.

      Grand Caveman

      Great post and great information. Green Design Build sounds like it's going to be a big success.

      Jeff Lackney

      John, could you give your readers a reasoned response about how you reconcile the inconsistencies between your admirable environmental green school/ PBSL and your naysaying on the rise of human CO2 emissions contributing to global warming, and all that is going on around us in terms of natural resource depletion? A subtext to the Green Schools Movement, as I understand it is all about educating our youth to deal with the mess our past generations have unwittingly placed on our environment. What do you have to say about this pressing issue?

      John Sole

      Thanks for your response. I have no bull to gore (forgive the pun) in this case and I want to leave the planet a better place as much as you do. The fact that over 31,000 renowned scientists have recently signed a petition ( ) denying human responsibility for much of the warming simply indicates to me that there is room for debate on the issue and that it is not beyond discussion. Having said that, as an educator, sustainable design projects, regardless of grade level are the gold standard of Project Based Learning and achieve many of the 8 Hallmarks of Effective Teaching/Learning
      ( ).


      Is there global warming? YES.
      Are humans CONTRIBUTING to global warming? YES
      Are humans the CAUSE of global warming? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT depending on how you interpret the data.

      This third question is the one at issue. Those who discuss this issue seem to lump all these questions together, throwing out the baby with the bath water. This is precisely where I think the mass denial comes from - muddying the waters, usually for some political (conservative quarters) or economic reason (transnational corporations).

      Those scientists I would listen to are those directly involved in the research, not the peanut gallery of PhDs - me included. Those doing the real work-a-day research can parse these fundamentally different questions out and look at each with specificity.

      With ANY scientific theory, debate is expected and demanded. It can get quite heated sometimes too usually during what Thomas Kuhn originally referred to as a Paradigm Shift. These debates are evident in the current discussions about evolution WITHIN the scientific community. Fundamentalists, listening in with one ear, like to think since there is this debate then evolutionary theory is bankrupt. The Throw-The-Baby-Out-With-The-Bath-Water approach. Not in a long shot has evolutionary theory been discredited or even replaced by some completely new theory. Scientists are refining their views on how evolutionary mechanisms work based on new science available with new technologies. There is no way Darwin could have figured it all out - but he staked out some powerful intellectual territory for others to follow, and in so doing, he started a whole new line of inquiry in science.

      This is the genius of the Scientific Method as a discipline and why it is the best tool for discovering basic truths about the natural world. Of course there are those scientists who will doubt the science, that is expected in science: a good rigorous debate where the truth can be found, or for the moment, relative truths. Philosopher of science, Popper sharped the Scientific method's saw by proposing the concept of Falsification: He argued that we can only disprove a theory (by finding conditions that do not fit the theory), however, we can not prove it absolutely. This is how science advances. The subtle distinction of falsification is lost on the general public - and it is completely understandable.

      At some point in ALL scientific endeavors, the balance tilts one way of another, and for our pragmatic purposes, I think the final two paragraphs of you article, provides that summary. I am most interested in those scientists who study these things directly, not just some PhD like me who could sign that petition too.

      Here is how your article reads in the last two paragraphs:

      "A spokesman for the Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, said: “The world’s leading climate experts at the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believe that it is greater than 90 per cent likely that human activity is responsible for most of the observed warming in recent decades. That is a pretty strong consensus.
      “The science has come a long way since 1998 and it continues to point in one direction - the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avert dangerous climate change.

      I tend to believe that our critical global collective interest in environmental sustainability is deeply connected to humankind doing what it can to at least slow this trend.

      We need a transformational cultural shift in our relationship to our planet (an opinion based on the evidence). The First World is ethically and morally tapped to lead this change as most of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Worlds appear to be following the First World's lead.


      A quick question: why do you assert that, "sustainable design projects...the gold standard of Project Based Learning."?

      John Sole


      Thanks for your impassioned, well thought out response. It does nothing for a reasoned discussion, however, to equate those who may come to different conclusions about climate change, also based on facts and scientific method, to some sort of knuckle dragging, fundamentalist evolution deniers. This is not, in fact analogous to a Scopes Monkey trial where all of the scientific evidence was on the side of evolution as a valid theory of biological development. There are, in fact, many scientists who study solar physics and many meteorologists who report on climate trends who conclude, backed by their objective observations, that, based on sunspot activity, that the Earth is in a cooling phase and that warming of the planet essentially stopped in 1998. Again, I am not in a position to authoritatively argue the point one way or another but to dismiss out of hand any other conclusions about the causes of climate change except because of human despoliation of the environment is counterproductive. Climate is not a static phenomenon and throughout history patterns of change based on any number of variables have occurred.
      Again, thanks for your response.


      OK, knuckle dragger. Point taken. I guess we'll just have to "wait and see" what happens. ; )

      In the meantime, I think its prudent for us to continue to be vigilant of the effects we do make on our environment. The Chinese, for instance, are building plants that will liquify coal to oil, a process that spews out three times the CO2 of a conventional oil refinery. All this for a few 100,000 gallons of oil in a country that is using 1.2 million gallons a day. There's a knuckle dragger for "ya"

      John Sole

      Agreed and agreed, Doctor!
      Being better stewards of our environment depends on our youngest citizens conducting projects just like this one at Philadelphia University.

      The comments to this entry are closed.