2016 Rider Profile: Scott McDonald

IMG_4688Meet Scott McDonald, seventh in our get-to-know-the-riders series. The 2016 PA-to-DC ride will take place April 29 -May 3.  

I am a science educator at Penn State, and my interest in climate change and its impact starts with education. As someone who studies how students learn complex science ideas, I recognize the particular challenges of helping people to understand climate change. The scale, both in terms of time and space, is so large that is it hard for people to think about it in a meaningful way. This is further complicated by people mixing up weather and climate (if you want to see a satirical take on this, look for Jon Stewart’s Daily Show episode about the Snowpocolypse). We know that many people don’t understand how climate change could happen, and as a result are able to deny that it is happening. If people can’t understand what climate is and how human caused (anthropogenic) climate change happens, then it is difficult for them to care. So, for me, people being able to grapple with the moral and ethical issue around climate change depends on their ability to understand the science, at least a little.

I have been trying to play my small part in addressing this lack of understanding by doing what I do best, work with teachers to help them learn how to teach. As part of a National Science Foundation project I co-facilitated workshops for Pennsylvania teachers from school districts across the state to help them better understand climate and how they can teach it to their middle school students. In this way I hope to have a ripple effect on students across the state through their teachers.

Another recent experiences, a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, has brought a new dimension to my concerns about climate change. The visit reminded me, or more accurately gave me a clear physical example, of the disproportionate impact that climate change is having and will continue to have on the poor, particularly those in less developed parts of the world. Changes to our climate bring droughts and flooding, makes planting and harvesting of crops more difficult, if not impossible. For families that depend on what they can grow themselves, this is a potential catastrophe. We have to understand that our responsibility for reversing or reducing the impact of climate change has profound ethical implications and that we, living in developed countries must shoulder more of the responsibility because we have more of the privilege. The townships of Cape Town are a stark warning for the cost of our failure.

I am riding because I hope that raising awareness around the critical issues, both scientific and societal, will lead to people becoming more educated, either in schools or through their own independent seeking. I believe education can solve this problem, but before people will want to learn, they need to know see the problem.

FullSizeRenderPersonally, I am riding for my family, and in particular my two daughters, who are 13 and 16. They are wonderful daily reminders that I have responsibilities outside of myself. They keep me happy and sane.

On a final note, outside of my commitment to science education, I have a deep commitment to doughnuts and their consumption. While it is not directly related to climate or the PA IPL, it does give me another reason to ride.

Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders 

or send a check, memo: bike 2016 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801

MANY THANKS to our 2016 silver sponsors Sun Directed, and Beth Richards, KBB Realtor, to our 2016 bronze sponsors the Bicycle Shop and West Arête, and the Rock Ethics Institute for their support! for their support! (Become a sponsor)

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