Environmental Education Today the federal government is sitting back and watching as the youth of our country blindly walk into the biggest crisis our planet will have ever faced—climate change. When the American people have faced serious threats to public good in the past (STDs, racism, obesity), public schools exercised power in their realm of control by mandating classroom lectures on addressing problems. The impressionable younger generation is both eager to learn and has the youthful spirit that will yield innovative solutions. With global temperatures projected to rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit within this century, students should be educated now about the dilemma that they will be facing as adults. Positive environmental change can occur from a top-down governmental approach or a bottomup individual effort approach. A top-down strategy at approaching environmental issues is unlikely as the American government does not want to get its hands dirty, considering the abundance of controversial political debates right now. The state has priorities, and nobody is denying the importance of the other issues currently at hand: overseas military deployment, large-scale unemployment, healthcare, and even alternative energy. While the EPA is effective at handling many environmental concerns, it is not at all concerned with education. This leaves the matter up to the discretion of the teachers, who most often choose to limit studies to mandatory subjects. With our governmental structure, a possible solution is policy implementation. This requires the government to take on a whole new responsibility, with enforcement of policies and application of a standard across greatly varying locations and populations—an undoubtedly significant undertaking. To avoid adding another item to the overly-busy White House schedule, the government is encouraging the bottom-up approach, which conveniently requires a simple lack of governmental effort. Instead, motivated individuals lead the movement by personally taking action to resolve the most pressing problems. Any positive results become a collaborative social effort and responsibility, rather than a government burden. Only when the American people effectively write legislation, gain public support, and raise awareness, will the national government accept a policy change or assume a position of power. This method has its successes; the work gets done through the passion of individuals. However, asking someone to change his or her ways or to sign a petition can only be so effective. The two obvious options for mitigation of environmental issues are either impractical or ineffective. On the other hand, the American government’s locus of control doesn’t have to assume complete responsibility, but can enforce collaborative solutions. When the US government faced what
was thought to become the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, an effective collaboration between the federal government and the educational system worked to spread awareness and educate the public on protection methods. As the current generation of young students grows up to face issues of climate change, land degradation, and resource depletion, teachers should be educating today’s youth about future affairs. In the past two years, Taiwan has been enacting its Environmental Education Act that legally requires a large portion of the population, ranging from kindergarteners to President Ma Ying-jeou himself, to attend at least four hours of government-funded environmental education curriculum every year. Enacted by Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration, the goals are to “incorporate environmental issues into the lifelong learning of the public,” and to give the public access to the proper knowledge, values, skills, and attitudes to solve problems of the future. Taiwan is the twenty-second ranked nation in highest carbon emissions per capita. We rank number one. As one of the world’s leading superpowers, we cannot and should not leave our youth out in the acid rain without an umbrella.