Despite more than 40 years of Earth Day events and more
environmental awareness now than ever, humanity continues to degrade
the Earth. Environmental education hasn't translated awareness into
action. Fortunately, there are easy ways to cut back our
We've both been participating in Earth Day events since they
began back in 1970. We've manned booths that teach people about
water pollution, we've organized environmental clean ups in the
Santa Monica Bay and judged Earth Day posters at schools in
Pakistan. But regardless of what we have done or where we have done
it, we've been struck by one simple, glaring fact. Despite more than
40 years of organized Earth Day events, and the heightened awareness
of environmental issues that they create, humanity collectively
continues to degrade the Earth.
Since Earth Day began, we humans have fished down the seas,
scoured the Earth for fossil fuels and rare earth elements, pumped
more and more CO2 into the atmosphere, and created dead zones and
Texas-sized garbage patches in our oceans and bays. How can this be?
We're more environmentally aware than ever before.
The problem is that environmental education has failed to
translate awareness into action. To be effective, it must go beyond
creating awareness to creating measurable changes in our behavior.
Our future and our children's future depend upon it. Fortunately,
there are easy ways to cut back our consumption.
Where traditional environmental education went wrong
Everyone learns about pollution, either in school or from TV.
Many of our K-12 schools teach children about the environment - and
how to respect it. Some schools even take kids outside to learn
about nature first hand. But somehow, environmental education has
uniformly failed to teach us how to change our unsustainable
Traditional environmental education assumes that environmental
awareness will somehow translate to action, but it doesn't teach how
to take that action. Whatever action this education has produced has
proven grossly insufficient to keep pace with environmental
degradation. If this traditional "raising awareness" model works,
why is public opinion shifting away from supporting any meaningful
climate legislation. And why is it so easy for "climate-change
deniers," often backed by industrial or oil business lobbyists, to
discredit credible scientific opinion on climate change? …