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The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)

The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)

Charles Saylan
Daniel T. Blumstein
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)
    Book Description:

    At a time when wild places everywhere are vanishing before our eyes, Charles Saylan and Daniel T. Blumstein offer this passionate indictment of environmental education-along with a new vision for the future. Writing for general readers and educators alike, Saylan and Blumstein boldly argue that education today has failed to reach its potential in fighting climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. In this forward-looking book, they assess the current political climate, including the No Child Left Behind Act, a disaster for environmental education, and discuss how education can stimulate action-including decreasing consumption and demand, developing sustainable food and energy sources, and addressing poverty. Their multidisciplinary perspective encompasses such approaches as school gardens, using school buildings as teaching tools, and the greening of schoolyards. Arguing for a paradigm shift in the way we view education as a whole,The Failure of Environmental Educationdemonstrates how our education system can create new levels of awareness and work toward a sustainable future.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94872-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Problem(s)
    (pp. 1-20)

    Environmental education has failed to bring about the changes in attitude and behavior necessary to stave off the detrimental effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation that our planet is experiencing at an alarmingly accelerating rate.

    For decades, scientists have warned of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change, and although it has become a highly politicized issue, serious problems still loom in earth’s near future. A conservative approach would dictate that our societies act expediently to mitigate these potential threats. But that is not happening. Instead, we are all paralyzed by indecision, argument, misplaced politicization of the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Foundations
    (pp. 21-37)

    Environmentalism is not an option like choosing one’s religion or political affiliation. It is a responsibility and fundamental aspect of cohesive society, like respect for the law. It isn’t something we should debate teaching. If we breathe, if we consume anything, then we are each responsible for our part in that consumption, like it or not. That society has failed to accept this responsibility is a result of placing ourselves at the center of our universe and believing we are here to dominate our surroundings. Unfortunately for where we find ourselves today, the concept that “man is the master of...

  6. CHAPTER THREE What Went Wrong
    (pp. 38-56)

    TheOxford American Dictionarydefines denial as the refusal to accept that something unpleasant or distressing is true. In a generic sense, we of the industrialized nations of Earth are a populace in denial about impending environmental impacts to our collective well-being. We have blatantly ignored the bad news for decades, all the while refusing to acknowledge the unsustainable nature and long-term ramifications of our runaway, fossil-fuel-powered consumption. If only 30 percent of the scientific predictions about global warming and resource depletion come to pass, humanity will soon face profound changes in our surroundings, our security, and our standards of...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Accountability and Institutional Mind-Set
    (pp. 57-71)

    To better understand how education, environmental or otherwise, plays an important part in addressing the potential effects of climate change, we need to know something of how social consciousness is shaped and formed. The combined effects of media and governments tend to influence how societies perceive reality. What we all believe to be possible, or impossible, often has little to do with practicality and much to do with collective perceptions and beliefs. To be effective and relevant, educational efforts should fit into the trends and rules of the societies in which they exist, and before we can make this happen...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Needs of Environmentally Active Citizens
    (pp. 72-94)

    In previous chapters, we’ve discussed some of the problems facing our planet, and reasons why environmental education has not brought about measurable impacts on or reversals of these destructive trends. We have made a case for developing a more responsible citizenry as a central factor in changing the collective future for the better. But what does this really mean? What are the elements of the sort of responsibility that successfully leads to broad-scale action? In this chapter, we examine those elements and identify some of the traits we believe necessary to help active citizens confront the coming challenges to our...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Between Awareness and Action
    (pp. 95-115)

    It is relatively easy to create a wish list for what environmental education should provide, and the preceding chapter is our attempt to do just that. It’s another thing entirely to see such a list become reality. The changes we propose are big ones, and the time in which to accomplish them is short. There are significant institutional, financial, and political obstacles to implementation that must be overcome, or ways must be found to get around them. We do not purport to know all the specific means to effect these changes but we are confident that grassroots efforts by educators,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN A Political Primer
    (pp. 116-134)

    To become environmentally active, environmentally aware citizens must understand how political decisions are made. How does environmental legislation really get passed? Why do polluting industries seem to have such a strong influence on the outcome? How can educated citizens help create environmentally sustainable legislation?

    Although this chapter is framed by a decidedly American political perspective, as both authors live and work in the United States, we will attempt to take a global view as we look at these and other questions. We will offer some remarkable examples of how citizens around the world have changed seemingly entrenched policies. We also...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Consumption, Conservation, and Change
    (pp. 135-157)

    Our societies are driven by consumption, at least in the developed and developing world. Those with the wherewithal to acquire stuff do so, and those without can’t wait to get developed so they can get stuff too. The more wherewithal people have, the more stuff they seem to want or need. Over the last several decades, America has witnessed a trend of extreme consumerism. In order to “keep up with the Joneses,” typical American families of the middle class and up seem to want homes that are five thousand square feet or larger, multiple SUVs, oversize plasma screen televisions in...

  12. CHAPTER NINE An Evolving Metric
    (pp. 158-172)

    In previous chapters, we’ve talked about what should be taught to create an environmentally aware, ecologically literate, and environmentally active population. We’ve talked about why this is essential, and we’ve outlined some of the obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing the task. Let’s assume, for a moment, that everyone agrees environmental education is important, and that its scope ought to be somewhere along the lines of what we have laid out so far. Let’s further assume that grassroots efforts are successful in getting a foot in the door, and that environmental education, coupled with social involvement, finds its...

  13. CHAPTER TEN And How We Can Fix It
    (pp. 173-198)

    Fixing the issues we have described in this book is a tall order, by any stretch of the imagination. But imagination is precisely what it will take. And fortunately, when it comes to imagination, humans are particularly adept. As perhaps is now clear, we do not pretend to know all the specific educational steps or changes necessary to create a more active environmental consciousness. We have, however, presented a broad spectrum of ideas to consider, as well as some possible directions to take to address the environmental problems facing our planet and ourselves. These are solvable, we think, through education....

    (pp. 199-202)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 203-218)
    (pp. 219-224)
    (pp. 225-228)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 229-241)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 242-242)