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[greenyes] Report on Improving Environmental Literacy in America


For your information, I just came across an interesting report by the
National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, titled Understanding
Environmental Literacy in America: And Making it a Reality. What Ten Years
of NEETF/Roper research and related studies tell us about how to achieve
environmental literacy in America, 147 pages, and is available at no cost on
the internet at http://www.neetf.org/roper/ELR.pdf.

In an introduction by Kevin J. Coyle, J.D., president of the NEETF, he
write:

In the course of a lifetime, an individual will accumulate environmental
knowledge from a combination of schools, the media, personal readings,
family members and friends, outdoor activities, entertainment outlets, and a
wide range of other professional, parental and personal experiences. For a
few motivated individuals, this can eventually add up to true environmental
literacy. But, for most Americans, it falls far short of this larger goal.
These people accumulate a diverse and unconnected smattering of factoids, a
few (sometimes incorrect) principles, numerous opinions and very little
in-depth understanding. Research shows that they also have a fairly high and
mostly inaccurate opinion that they know more about the environment than
they actually do.

That is why 45 million Americans think the ocean is a source of freshwater,
120 million think spray cans still have CFCs in them though banned in 1978,
another 120 million people think disposable diapers are the leading problem
with landfills when they are about 1% of the problem, and 130 million
believe that hydropower is America's top energy source, though it accounts
for just 10% of the total. It is also why very few people understand the
leading causes of air and water pollution or how they should be addressed.
Our years of Roper data show a steady pattern of environmental ignorance
even among the most educated and influential members of society.

This condition is becoming less acceptable and more perilous to society. We
are moving beyond a time when we can rely on a cadre of environmental
experts to fix our environmental problems. With most environmental issues
becoming more complex and difficult to manage and with a shift toward the
prevalence of problems that are caused by individuals and smaller businesses
and institutions, today's experts are less well positioned to address
tomorrow's environmental needs without a lot more help from the general
public. A stronger public understanding of environmental science and related
issues is a growing necessity and comprehensive environmental education is
the only answer that makes complete sense. But can we get there?

To arrive on time, our leaders will need to understand far more about what,
educationally speaking, works and what does not. To the education novice,
for example, what seems to be education is really mostly information and
therein sits the main environmental literacy problem we face today.
Information that is or seems factual on its surface can, by virtue of its
superficiality, end up fitting into a false belief and further confusing a
comprehensive understanding of a principle or issue.

So we need to improve education on the environment. We need to grasp its
original promise and make it work. We need to build more support for
stewardship through more solid environmental education and even mitigate
some of the adverse effects that such major information sources as the media
can have on true environmental literacy. This report is about sorting out
this complexity in a way the nonexpert can readily see and do something
about.

.....................

John Reindl, Recycling Manager
Dane County, WI



> -----Original Message-----
> From: Reindl, John
> Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2004 10:44 AM
> Subject: Report on Improving Environmental Literacy in America
>
> For your information, I just came across an interesting
> report by the National Environmental Education & Training
> Foundation, titled Understanding Environmental Literacy in
> America: And Making it a Reality. What Ten Years of
> NEETF/Roper research and related studies tell us about how to
> achieve environmental literacy in America, 147 pages, and is
> available at no cost on the internet at
> http://www.neetf.org/roper/ELR.pdf.
>
> In an introduction by Kevin J. Coyle, J.D., president of the
> NEETF, he write:
>
> In the course of a lifetime, an individual will accumulate
> environmental knowledge from a combination of schools, the
> media, personal readings, family members and friends, outdoor
> activities, entertainment outlets, and a wide range of other
> professional, parental and personal experiences. For a few
> motivated individuals, this can eventually add up to true
> environmental literacy. But, for most Americans, it falls far
> short of this larger goal. These people accumulate a diverse
> and unconnected smattering of factoids, a few (sometimes
> incorrect) principles, numerous opinions and very little
> in-depth understanding. Research shows that they also have a
> fairly high and mostly inaccurate opinion that they know more
> about the environment than they actually do.
>
> That is why 45 million Americans think the ocean is a source
> of freshwater, 120 million think spray cans still have CFCs
> in them though banned in 1978, another 120 million people
> think disposable diapers are the leading problem with
> landfills when they are about 1% of the problem, and 130
> million believe that hydropower is America's top energy
> source, though it accounts for just 10% of the total. It is
> also why very few people understand the leading causes of air
> and water pollution or how they should be addressed. Our
> years of Roper data show a steady pattern of environmental
> ignorance even among the most educated and influential
> members of society.
>
> This condition is becoming less acceptable and more perilous
> to society. We are moving beyond a time when we can rely on a
> cadre of environmental experts to fix our environmental
> problems. With most environmental issues becoming more
> complex and difficult to manage and with a shift toward the
> prevalence of problems that are caused by individuals and
> smaller businesses and institutions, today's experts are less
> well positioned to address tomorrow's environmental needs
> without a lot more help from the general public. A stronger
> public understanding of environmental science and related
> issues is a growing necessity and comprehensive environmental
> education is the only answer that makes complete sense. But
> can we get there?
>
> To arrive on time, our leaders will need to understand far
> more about what, educationally speaking, works and what does
> not. To the education novice, for example, what seems to be
> education is really mostly information and therein sits the
> main environmental literacy problem we face today.
> Information that is or seems factual on its surface can, by
> virtue of its superficiality, end up fitting into a false
> belief and further confusing a comprehensive understanding of
> a principle or issue.
>
> So we need to improve education on the environment. We need
> to grasp its original promise and make it work. We need to
> build more support for stewardship through more solid
> environmental education and even mitigate some of the adverse
> effects that such major information sources as the media can
> have on true environmental literacy. This report is about
> sorting out this complexity in a way the nonexpert can
> readily see and do something about.
>
> .....................
>
> John Reindl, Recycling Manager
> Dane County, WI
>




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