Today, I did something that I haven’t done since my family got our first car four years ago – I filled up the tank with sub-90-cent gas. Oddly, in addition to feeling the obvious joy for saving money, I felt a momentary sense of worry about turning into a liberated gas-guzzler. Like many others, my driving habits reflected the tough times of $1.30/L fuel – I drove less, travelled to more local options, and conserved gas however I could (e.g. opening the windows instead of using the air conditioning). Now that gas feels like a bargain, I fear that I and others like me will start taking long joy rides with the AC blasting for no good reason (even in the dead of winter), and in so doing, contribute even more of those nasty greenhouse gases I’ve heard a bit about to Mother Earth. After all, the whole reason fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars came to be is due to the economic pressures that came with high fuel prices, and not for any environmental considerations. Money drives behaviour, unfortunately. When it comes to low gas prices, it’s not all roses and rainbows.
So what’s the educational spin in all this? Students should be encouraged to explore all sides of any issue. Role playing and debating are some simple ways to promote critical thinking. This coming semester, I’ll be incorporating social justice issues into math, and no doubt there’ll be some serious debating happening.
In the meantime, I’ll try to enjoy the low gas prices and, well, walk, We’ll see how that goes, as I stare at a snowstorm out the window.