Climate change calls for more education

As a concerned citizen, it is frustrating that the debate surrounding climate change continues to rage, even though the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that the human-caused release of greenhouse gasses is causing changes to our climate.

The data is in, the results have been calculated, and we need to take action. One of the most important steps we can take as a community is to improve environmental education across the state of Pennsylvania.

This is an important time for environmental education.  By mid-December, the Senate will vote on the federal budget for 2018.  President Trump recently called for $200 million dollars for STEM education, but he did so with a particular focus on “computer literacy,” and he proposed funding cuts for Title IV (Parts A & B) of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA).

Those cuts would potentially eliminate programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provide communities like northwest Philadelphia with environmental learning opportunities.

These programs should be enhanced, not cut. Environmental education taught with an emphasis on hands-on, field-based learning can enhance individual understanding of other STEM concepts. Environmental education also benefits the community, including improved health and eating habits.

As Mrs. Obama states on her website, “Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity.” By bolstering these programs, we will help kids live a healthy life as well as generating a lifelong connection to the environment.

By gutting, and potentially eliminating, programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, President Trump is hindering our students, our community, and our future. We need to demand that environmental education gets the funding it deserves.

Bradley Sachs
Glenside

 

  • Robert Fox

    I agree that the data is in, the results have been calculated, and the facts reveal that children are being raised in fatherless homes, unemployment is too high, wage growth has been anemic, the cost of education is absurd, and the healthcare system is too expensive. Taking more money from working people to fund “programs” to bolster “environmental learning opportunities” (i.e. that will have ZERO actual impact outside of making people feel good) is about number 43,784 on a list of 44,000 things our country should focus on. We need to demand that the middle class not be burdened with every initiative that we can possibly think of, and rather be left alone to raise their families, educate their children, and invest for their futures.

    • AJ Miller

      Robert, I think what Mr. Sachs is advocating for (properly funded environmental education opportunities in public schools) will in fact have concrete (measurable) impacts on students, families, communities, and the environment. Our Congress and Senate passed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 because they had evidence that experiential environmental education with service learning components provides students with the life experience and tools they’ll need to be engaged and civically minded members of society, something traditional educational models are struggling with. And this IS an investment in their future, as students not only become more interested in, and more marketable in the burgeoning green energy innovation sector, recreation industry, habitat restoration and waste remediation fields, etc., but they make more meaningful connections to the community in which they live, and are more likely to engage in pro-environmental behaviors (actions that mitigate the effects of climate change), which again, will save money…again, an investment in their futures. Robert, I’m biased…yes! I’m an environmental educator of 23 years, and have worked in the Northeast, Southwest, Northwest, and internationally, and I’ve seen some amazing outcomes in that time…from students working to restore endangered sea turtle nesting beaches, side-by-side with university ecologists (great role models/mentoring), to water quality testing for international water quality monitoring databases to protect community and public health, and even more simple solutions, such as creating and managing their school gardens, so that teachers and students have access to healthy foods, and green spaces on campus. Mr. Sachs is also advocating for healthier and more active students, both having the potential to lower their health care costs in the short and longer-term. Your argument is legitimate, that middle class families should not be burdened with every special interest initiative we can think of…but where I strongly disagree with you, is your argument that “environmental learning opportunities will have ZERO actual impact outside of making people feel good.” ZERO? Really? The outcomes you cite are far from that extreme, and I’m basing my disagreement on 23 years of working in this field….where the outcomes are in fact measurable and meaningful.

      • Robert Fox

        Do you have any evidence (data) that indicate experiential environmental education has had an impact on reducing climate change?

        • AJ Miller

          That’s a great question, Robert! There is peer reviewed published literature that measures pro-environmental behavior change before and after year-long EE advents, behaviors that decrease an individual’s carbon footprint (how much less CO2 they’re emitting by adopting or changing their behaviors). That certainly has an effect (on an individual/community Ievel), in reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (varying by age level…obviously a teen can do much more than a 3rd grader). Also I have peer reviewed published literature (both quantitative and qualitative) that shows the extent to which EE early in life, helps to get students interested in working to solve community/global environmental problems/issues, who then decide to dedicate their choice of higher education, professional skill sets, and careers to mitigating climate change, and by extension, their education has prepared them to work in the fields of alternative energy development, policy, advocacy, implementation, federal research (NOAA, NASA, USFS, USGS, etc), but there’s no way to say “environmental education (alone) has a measurable effect on reducing the effects of climate change”…many variables go into that, and EE is just another tool in the toolbox, part of a suite of ways in which we as a human race can collectively tackle this global problem. Honestly though, I’d rather have my kids learning how to solve environmental and community problems as part of their public school curriculum, as opposed to just being another cog in the giant of capitalism/corporate america, that promotes hyper-individuality/hyper-consumerism, that economic growth is the only indicator of prosperity. Im not a socialist or anti-capitalism; however, I do think that schools should have a much greater role in preparing our kids to be civically engaged, more connected to their communities, stand up for what they think is best, and working to solve both their and their neighbor’s problems…less selfish, with respect for all forms of life.

          • Robert Fox

            Well that’s a lot to address. For one I think we both agree that there is no way environmental education could reduce climate change, and certainly not to a meaningful degree, or at least there is no evidence to support that claim. I don’t really disagree with much of your philosophical viewpoint but I think we do part ways with regards to it being a sufficient reason to confiscate privately-earned funds for the purpose of getting young people interested in environmental issues and then pursuing certain educational and career goals to support that interest. If environmental education produces the desirable outcomes that you mention, then it sounds like outstanding fodder for local communities to discuss implementing into their local school curriculum, but does not warrant the spending of tax dollars at the federal level. Ultimately, it is the role of schools to educate, to form a person who is capable of critical thinking, not indoctrinating them with a particular world view about the importance of being less selfish. That role is reserved for us, their parents.

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