Susan Larson's picture
What does environmental education mean to you?
Susan Larson
April 12, 2011 - 4:58pm

Earth Day is this month. You already know that. But did you know that this week is National Environmental Education Week? Maybe not. It can easily get lost in the shuffle of other important celebrations like Sneakers at Work Day and Improve Your Home Office Week.  Yes, those are real things!

Why don’t we celebrate environmental education?

Why isn’t environmental education something that is celebrated in America? I’ve been asking around. Environmental education is misunderstood. For some people it conjures up thoughts of an entire generation of eco-terrorists or tree-hugging hippies or militant environmentalists out to sink every whaling ship in existence.    

That really surprised me. So I thought I’d widen the net a little, write this blog post and ask, what does environmental mean to you?

What does environmental education mean to me?

For me, environmental education is just about everything and anything.

  • It is history—knowing how the environment we live in became what it is today, how the natural world impacted human history, and what people will see when they view our time and our environmental behavior through the lens of history.
  •  It is science—understanding the scientific principles that rule the natural world and how each thing in nature is connected to everything else
  • It is civics—realizing that we should be accountable for the societies we build, the laws we pass, and the deals we strike because they all have consequences for the natural world as well as the communities we live in
  • It is economics—measuring the success of our country on more than Gross Domestic Product and giving the quality of our air and water, the conservation of our natural resources, and the protection of our wild places a much higher weighting on the scale with which wemeasure our wealth.  

I could go on, but you get the point.

Environmental education is the glue that holds it all together. When it is missing bad things can happen. We can make terrible decisions individually and as a society that sometimes have dire consequences for us, for our communities, and for the wild places we love.

It means understanding what John Muir meant when he said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe,” and shaping our choices, our values, our lives, our government and our businesses based on that understanding.
 
Anyway,  I’d really like to know. What does environmental education mean to you?

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