John J. Kirk
On November 16, 1989, President Bush signed into law the National Environmental Education Act of 1990. This legislation was passed over-whelmingly in both houses of the Congress and called for the establishment of an Office of Environmental Education within the structure of the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States. The wording of the Act states rather bluntly that efforts on the part of the Federal Government to inform and educate the public concerning the problems with the natural and built environment was not adequate. The legislation further states that the existing support for development and training of professionals in environmental fields was insufficient.
This new law calls upon the Federal Government acting through the Offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) to work with local education institutions, State Departments of Education, environmental organizations, non-profit educational groups and private sector interests in efforts to support the development of curriculum materials, special projects and other activities, to increase the understanding of the general public about the natural and built environment and to improve their awareness of environmental problems that threaten life on the planet. The Act further states that the E.P.A., through the new Office of Environmental Education should develop programs to provide increased financial resources for the purpose of attracting students into environment professions.
In the Legislation, there was some difficulty defining environmental education and finally within the framework of the Act passed and signed by the President, the following language is included:
Environmental education and environmental education and training, mean educational activities and training activities involving elementary, secondary and post secondary students, as such terms are defined in the state in which they reside.
Obviously this rather broad and loose definition does not specifically identify the content that should be included in an environmental edu-