National Environmental Literacy
Overview of National Environmental Literacy Efforts
The future of our nation, and our world, relies on a well-educated public to be knowledgeable and active stewards of the very environment that sustains us all. As an expanding global population pushes the limits of the earth’s resources and ecosystems, the public will be increasingly called upon to understand complex environmental issues and how individual decisions affect the environment on a local and global scale. Yet, studies consistently reveal that the U.S. public suffers from a tremendous environmental literacy gap that appears to be increasing rather than decreasing.
America is in the midst of one of the most profound and rapid societal shifts in history. Today’s generation of children is the first to grow up indoors and “plugged-in”. Simultaneously, increased emphasis on testing has forced schools to drastically reduce or even eliminate environmental education and severely limit instructional time for science and social studies, the traditional subjects in which environmental concepts are typically addressed. Future issues relating to resource management and environmental sustainability may be inextricably linked to global economic leadership and security, yet we are at dire risk of graduating a generation of students who are fundamentally unprepared to deal with the challenges they will face on an individual, national, and global front.
Fortunately, tremendous efforts have been made in recent years to address these issues and support opportunities for the development of environmentally literate students and citizens. Many states have developed Environmental Literacy Plans to provide a framework for school systems to expand and improve environmental education programs. Significant regional and local initiatives are also developing detailed strategies to support schools, teachers and administrators as they implement programs to achieve student environmental literacy and pursue more sustainable practices in school buildings and on school grounds.
To learn more about these exciting initiatives, visit these links below:
- North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
- Developing a State Environmental Literacy Plan
- List of State Environmental Literacy Plans
- No Child Left Inside (NCLI)
- National Environmental Literacy One-Pager: downloadable pdf