Emphasize Thermodynamics and Ecology in U.S. Education

Target: United States Department of Education

Goal: Make thermodynamics and ecology an integral part of the American education.

The size of the United States’ carbon footprint is no secret. It is responsible for nearly 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and the highest emissions per capita. These are numbers that have stayed roughly the same over the last 5 years despite an increasing awareness to the problem itself. The cause is a lack of understanding as to how our actions effect our environment. Something must be done immediately to integrate this understanding into our general education before it’s too late.

The principles of ecology and sustainability are certainly being developed more in schools now, but what isn’t being developed is a greater understanding the responsibility of using that knowledge. Education fails when it carries with it the assumption that we can understand something without seeing its effects on real people and communities.

A perfect example of this is economics. When economics is taught without reference to the laws of thermodynamics or ecology it teaches us a very destructive lesson: that ecology and physics have nothing to do with the economy. For example, it has become common practice for economists to neglect subtracting resource depletion from the gross national product. We add the price of the sale of a single bushel of wheat, but don’t subtract the three bushels of topsoil lost in its production. As a result, we ultimately think we are much richer than we really are.

It is not enough that our educational system provides students with knowledge; we must ensure that it also teaches us how to use that knowledge responsibly.  This is why it is necessary for thermodynamics and ecology, the basic principles of Earth itself, to be an integral part of the U.S. educational system. Doing so will give students the tools they need to understand how the choices they make affect both society and the global environment. Please sign the petition below so that future generations will know how to make more responsible choices.


Dear United States Department of Education,

Who is responsible for Chernobyl? Climate change? Oil spills? Ozone and soil depletion? Each of these tragedies occurred as the byproduct of knowledge that has been created in which no one is ultimately responsible or is even expected to take responsibility.  The education we receive in the United States has given us the ability to do vast and amazing, but very risky things. What it has not done, however, is given us the resources to keep that knowledge from outrunning our ability to use it.

The consequences of our actions can no longer stand simply as byproducts of the knowledge we possess. It is time for us not to simply learn about ecology and sustainability, but for each of us to be taught how to take responsibility for our actions so that our means are no longer in danger of overwhelming our ends. This can be done by making the laws of thermodynamics and the principles of ecology a fundamental part of the American education. By understanding what the consequences of our actions will be before we make certain choices, we can begin to build a global community in which our knowledge can be used safely and for consistently good purposes. Knowledge is not simply a matter of contribution or a tool for success, it carries with it the responsibility that it will be used well in the world. Let’s start taking responsibility right now.


[Your Name Here]

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111 Signatures

  • Lynn Juozilaitis
  • Ann Blank
  • tam O
  • Mary-Carol Gales
  • Debbie Biere
  • Eveline Mutsaerts
  • Carole Mathews
  • Amy McKeon
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