by Taylor S. McLoughlin
EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck encapsulates the importance of environmental education in this thought-provoking quote: “Tomorrow’s leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow’s challenges and protecting our environment is a critically important challenge for all of our futures.”
Whether we get information from watching news broadcasts, listening to podcasts or reading articles whilst browsing the Internet, everyone is aware of at least one environmental issue. We all have had the proverbial conversation starting with, “did you hear about the [insert news headline here]?”
General awareness of current environmental happenings is good; knowledge of issues empowers individuals to take action and create change. However, while simple environmental knowledge is widespread, public comprehension of complex environmental subjects is limited.
A study by The National Environmental Education & Training Foundation found that over 80 percent of Americans are heavily influenced by incorrect or outdated environmental myths.[i] This is disconcerting considering the limited time we have to act before irreparable damage is done.
We know the vast majority of people tend to listen to whoever has the loudest microphone. Therefore, the importance of environmental education, especially at a young age, is crucial in being able to discern between fact and fiction. An estimated 30 million out of the 55 million students, teachers and staff in K-12 schools in the U.S. participate in environmental education[ii]. Fundee.org reported 95 percent of American parents support environmental education being taught in schools. Despite the exposure to environmental education, there is a clear disconnect between what is taught in classrooms and what is applied outside of them.
As Enck alludes: tomorrow’s leaders are born today; they are in school now and they will assume responsibility for future environmental challenges. Power2Sustain, a non-profit environmental education organization, was born out of the need to address the obvious deficiencies in environmental literacy. Our mission is to teach K-12 students about environmental stewardship and sustainability and empower them to take action to value and preserve their natural world. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “An educated public is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
[i] Coyle, Kevin. Environmental Literacy in America: What Ten Years of NEETF/Roper Research and Related Studies Say About Environmental Literacy in the U.S. Rep. The National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, Sept. 2005. Web. Dec. 2014.
[ii] Coyle, Kevin. Environmental Literacy in America: What Ten Years of NEETF/Roper Research and Related Studies Say About Environmental Literacy in the U.S. Rep. The National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, Sept. 2005. Web. Dec. 2014.