100. Spaceship Earth Mission Control
Climate Change is under way bringing changing weather patterns, extreme weather events and sea level rise. A mass extinction of Earth’s plants and animals is ongoing due to climate change, habitat loss, invasive species and pollution. The United Nations report GEO-5 Assessment of 2012 warns that “the earth's environmental systems are being pushed towards their biophysical limits and that sudden, irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes are looming," a press release for the report states. (CBS/AP, Rio de Janeiro, June 6, 2012) Consensus about climate change is building. But now many people wonder “what can we do?” Students face this dire news about the trend of their future environment on a daily basis. We can provide them with information and knowledge and as many tools as possible to assist them in responding to this challenge.
SPACESHIP EARTH MISSION CONTROL
A Community and Solution Based Education Project for Local and Global Student Efforts
This project utilizes the analogy describing Earth's water, air and soil as life support systems, and as an analogue to life support systems for spacecraft travel. Thanks to NASA’s Dr. John Hogan who presented this analogy and R. Buckminster Fuller for first imagining Earth as spaceship.
NASA with other agencies, universities and non-profits with expertise in earth, atmospheric and marine science could create a virtually based collection of experts serving as "Mission Control “ for Spaceship Earth -- SEMCon Virtual Institute.
Potential public/private partnerships could be NOAA, National Park Service, Department of Interior, National Renewable Energy Lab, Bureau of Land Management, conservation societies, public land trusts, corporations, community gardens, local water boards, and national environmental non profits.
SEMCon experts could create a rich database comprised of current earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences and solutions for remediation or repair. Students and teachers could periodically consult via email with experts (robotic and real) as schools investigate, select and report on local/regional issues, and research advice on any possible action for remediation.
Mission Control for Spaceship Earth virtual institute and online data base could be organized and focused in the following framework:
"Mission Control to Spaceship Earth, your Life Support Systems are
The following Earth Life Support systems need repair immediately
The SEMCon homepage could use image of warning lights/alarms on areas of concern in global image.
1. Database could list the systems in decline in their order of urgency and resiliency. Database should include information on healthy systems.
2. employ the web based system for students’ and teachers’ communication with Mission Control experts in each system in decline, to understand problem and explore options for repair
3. determine and take appropriate actions that can be implemented
in discrete but numerous locations by students around the globe.
4. monitor the current condition and outcome as actions are taken using ground truth and when possible via NASA satellite and airborne data – UAVs, EOS, Landsat, NASA World Wind or any appropriate remote sensing vehicle
5. students could cooperatively develop mission patches for each
life support system or biome type effort
6. Enlist International Space Station astronauts to occasionally communicate with students and teachers real time as they report from ISS via phone or web link re: any visual observations related to areas of focus
*establishes the correct context of Earth in the harsh environment of space
*establishes the criticality of the moment and the expertise of Mission Control
*places students in the role of crew on Spaceship Earth, which could be motivational
*organizes an international approach to potential numerous restorative
actions to systems and habitats in decline
Selection of problems by schools/classes could be made in concert with city councils, state officials or other advisors familiar with their locality. These projects/ actions would respond to the most apparent and potentially solvable environmental problems in their communities.
Classrooms could communicate across the globe with classrooms in like biomes. Students could monitor local species health, migrating species patterns, and air, soil and water quality. The focus, where possible, would be on remediation after data collection - habitat restoration for migrating or local species, cleaner water, streams, coastlines, better waste management or traffic habits. Students could observe local flora and fauna, and track changes in life cycle rhythms or migrations in response to changing climate signals. Students could explore endangered species habitat restoration where possible. Schools could plant food forests, butterfly gardens or vegetable gardens to encourage localizing food supplies. Local citizens might form a neighborhood network to increase range of habitat restoration – additional butterfly or bee gardens for example. Classes could construct suggestions for adapting to extreme weather events.
Why it should be recognized:
NASA Ames created and manages two virtual institutes – the Astrobiology Institute and the Lunar Science Institute. A Spaceship Earth Mission Control (SEMCon) virtual institute could centralize global and local earth, ocean, and atmospheric data sets and knowledge, and make information readily accessible to decision makers as well as educators.
Access to this knowledge base could advance students’ critical thinking about climate change.
This Institute could crowd source students’ ideas, which may bring many innovations. Students from similar ecologies could collaborate via cloud platforms, stimulating solutions around the globe.
Engaging students would acquaint them with their local ecologies and bring hope for a better future.
This project would encourage students to focus on the natural landscape. Studies show psychological calming with time in the natural landscape.
This comprehensive database could enrich curriculum at schools, allowing schools to adapt the material. Studies conducted on international school performance show that decentralized curriculum is a strong factor in improving successful learning (The Economist, Sept. 17, 2011 Great Schools Revolution).
This data could aid academic institutions in developing online curriculum open to the world. Online curriculum is currently expanding and trending free. Many major universities are compiling free online courses - i.e. Stanford’s Coursera and others.