cross-cutting themes

MOVING FORWARD FROM THE STATUS QUO REQUIRES THE ARTICULATION of policies that can help establish an infrastructure for fostering education for sustainability. That journey can begin through the formulation of recommendations that are broad in scope, touch all learners, and can serve as catalysts for action. In this chapter, four cross-cutting actions are offered that lay the foundation for a solid infrastructure for education for sustainability.

These recommendations address goals both at the federal and state levels. They suggest taking advantage of communication and information technologies that access quantities of information never before possible in the classroom. They also take into account the planet's rich diversity of cultures and look beyond the United States to our nation's global partners. Together with their related actions, they are the building blocks for broadening education for sustainability.

Cross-Cutting Themes

Institute policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels to encourage education for sustainability; develop, use, and expand access to information technologies in all educational settings; and encourage understanding about how local issues fit into state, national, and international contexts.

Action 9: State and Federal Policy Changes

Initiate strategic state and federal policy changes, including establishing necessary partnerships, as the foundation for a coordinated strategy for education for sustainability.


At the state and federal levels, interest and investment in environmental education are long-standing. Historically, state and federal agencies have delivered a spectrum of programs and directed resources to advance environmental careers, as well as to protect and enhance human health and the environment. In addition, state and federal agencies have invested in promoting the increase in knowledge and skills needed for the public to make informed decisions about the use and conservation of natural resources. Encompassing the broader, overarching vision of sustainability will require partners in government to develop effective approaches to education and public understanding.

Limited resources hinder government efforts to support opportunities in the field of education for sustainability. Even when resources are available, there are no guarantees from year to year that the support will be reauthorized. Nor are available resources adequate to support agency missions and meet the public's need for education and training in this area.

A coordinated effort among federal agencies to foster collaboration, engage in long-term planning and sharing of resources should be pursued. One consequence of an uncoordinated single agency mission approach is duplication of efforts and overlap in programs. Enhancing cooperation and coordination will help in designing effective programs and materials that broadly reflect agency missions and respond to the public's needs.

Although exemplary collaborative projects at the state and federal levels are underway, the resources needed to sustain such efforts and maintain ongoing communication is a challenging undertaking. The result is a limited number of sustained quality programs and insufficient evaluation and promotion of the success of these programs.

Federal Activities

The Clinton Administration's priorities include the creation of jobs, educational reform, workforce training, economic competitiveness, and environmental protection. In short, the Administration has a strong commitment to sustainability. How can we meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs? One solution is education; another is technology.

The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 is designed to improve public understanding of the environment and to advance and develop environmental education and training. The Act directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to play a leadership role among federal agencies in implementing the new law and encourages partnerships among federal government agencies, local education institutions, state agencies, not-for-profit educational and environmental organizations, and the private sector. This role is assisted by the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (NEETF). The Act has provided the EPA with the authority to administer national grants, teacher training, internship and youth programs.

In 1993, a working group of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology, co-chaired by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Education found a growing interest in environmental education among federal agencies. In addition, the agencies recognized that needs in this area have been exceeding the resources available and that an opportunity exists to coordinate priorities and resources, thereby reducing duplication among the agencies.

Congress affirmed its commitment to education through bipartisan support of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.35  The principles underlying Goals 2000 include: the need for high expectations for students; full participation by parents, educators, and communities in education; safe and disciplined learning environments; quality teaching and professional development; effective and coordinated use of technology in learning; systemic reform; and custom-made school improvements. Goals 2000 provides national leadership to enable states and communities to raise academic performance.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, understanding the importance of raising academic standards and aware of the need for educating students about environmental technologies, identified education as a priority policy area of the National Environmental Technology Strategy.  The Strategy  calls for an integrated, interdisciplinary education and training system for students at all levels.

The National Environmental Technology Strategy , in combination with Goals 2000 and other educational initiatives throughout the federal government, such as initiatives led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Peace Corps, and others can help ensure that all learners achieve high standards and are knowledgeable about sustainable environmental technologies of the future. We owe all learners nothing less.

Establish a working group within the National Science and Technology Council to devise and coordinate the implementation of broad federal policies for education for sustainability, ensuring an integrated set of federal programs directed to high priority national needs.
In 1993, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) was established by President Clinton to coordinate policy development, coordination, and implementation of the $72 billion federal budget dedicated to science and technology. Approximately $6 billion of this budget is earmarked for research and development related to the environment and natural resources, but only a small fraction of these funds are focused on education for sustainability.

The Council ensures that federal funds are directed to national goals -- both near- and long-term -- and helps federal managers become familiar with related programs in other agencies, ensuring that efforts are not duplicated, and facilitating coordination of similar activities. Two NSTC reports resulting from this effort, Technology for a Sustainable Future: A Framework for Action and Bridge to a Sustainable Future: A National Environmental Technology Strategy , 36  include discussions and recommendations pertaining to the advancement of environmental and sustainability education at the K-12, community college, and university levels.

Of the council's nine committees, two in particular play a leadership role in advancing education relating to sustainability: the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and the Committee on Education and Training. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources provides a mechanism for interagency coordination related to domestic and international environmental and natural resources issues. The Committee on Education and Training works to coordinate and focus federal efforts so that they become a powerful force in helping Americans meet the challenges of the 21st century. This will be accomplished by ensuring that all Americans have access to quality education and training tailored to their individual learning and workplace needs, and achieving exemplary performance that is second to none in science, math, engineering, and technology in American classrooms and workplaces.37 

A Working Group on Education for Sustainability has been established that builds on the expertise of these two NSTC committees and other education efforts across the government. Priority activities will be developed by the participating federal agencies. The Working Group on Education for Sustainability can guide this coordination, linking and maximizing federal investments in education for sustainability. Agency initiatives in this area must be carefully coordinated if collective action and collaborative partnerships are to become benchmarks of federal leadership.

Additionally, the working group should coordinate its activities with the EPA Task Force on Environmental Education, which was created to advise the EPA on its implementation of the National Environmental Education Act. The broad policy perspective of the National Science and Technology Council's Working Group on education for sustainability coupled with the specific mandate of the Federal Task Force on Environmental Education could provide a beneficial 2- pronged approach to education for sustainability across the federal government. Leveraging limited federal resources to spur initiatives in the private sector should be a priority. Ultimately, the working group's efforts should result in an integrated set of federal programs directed to national needs and closely linked to and supportive of private sector, state, and international activities.

Explore ways to coordinate resources, make education for sustainability more central to agency missions, and increase funding of education for sustainability programs and research.

Once coordinated efforts are established among federal agencies to enhance government's capacity for designing, developing, and supporting educational efforts in the area of sustainability, it will be possible to provide technical assistance to federal agencies for maintenance of these programs. Strategic planning and investment in long-range strategies to strengthen efforts in education and evaluate the effectiveness of such investment is not only necessary but is the key to the success of educational programs.

Assistance in identifying needs and responding with strategic programs and materials that tap the strengths of other agencies and partners from the private and nongovernmental sector is greatly needed. Linkages and partnerships that are effective and resourceful -- and persist over time -- would ensure that the educational community benefits from a coordinated effort to provide responsive programs and services.

State Activities

It is essential that states take the lead in infusing education for sustainability into the classroom. Development of programs related to sustainability varies from state to state and among communities around the country. No one state has incorporated this kind of programming fully into its formal and nonformal educational institutions. A given student may receive an environmental education unit in one or two classes in the early grades, and possibly an environmental studies elective in high school. If students are to develop interdisciplinary, systems-based knowledge of the natural and built environments and the skills to participate actively in developing a sustainable society and economy, education for sustainability should be infused into more subject areas and at all grade levels. It also should be reinforced in postsecondary institutions and outside the walls of the classroom. Fortunately, education leaders in many states are working toward these goals.

Programs and initiatives in many states date back to the 1960s and 1970s. Professionals in the field developed educational frameworks for environmental education, created teaching materials and programs, and conducted research to help facilitate the infusion. In many states, education leaders also worked to pass legislation encouraging the teaching of environmental education. They worked to create positions for environmental education specialists in state education agencies and advanced initiatives for incorporating environmental education across the curriculum.

The challenge today is to encourage and support comprehensive programs that result in learners with a commitment to sustaining ecologically sound and economically prosperous communities, cities, and regions. To date, work has been completed toward outlining the components of a state-level comprehensive environmental education program. "Comprehensive," in this case, refers to a combination of program, structure, and funding components.

The National Environmental Education Advancement Project, (NEEAP) headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has been assisting states in their efforts to develop comprehensive programs. NEEAP, with the support of its partners -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, North American Association for Environmental Education, National Wildlife Federation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation -- provides seed funding, leadership training, consulting services, a clearinghouse, and a quarterly newsletter to individuals interested in strengthening state-level environmental education programs. NEEAP has developed "EE 2000," a project that will assist 20 states by the year 2000 in building comprehensive environmental education programs.

Across the nation only a handful of states have achieved a majority of the components: Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In addition, at least 30 other states have a few, or at least one, cornerstone component in place. Many of these states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming, have active environmental education associations, committees, or councils that are currently in the process of strengthening their state environmental education programs.

Develop consortia to coordinate, both among states and at the federal level, the infusion of education for sustainability into formal and nonformal educational institutions.

As states design comprehensive programs, moving forward through legislative or administrative channels and public-private partnerships, efforts to coordinate across state lines and with federal agencies are crucial. The formation of state consortia as partners with federal agencies to participate in setting priorities will ensure open lines of communication, consistency, coordination, and accountability.

State consortia will be formed by linking existing and essential networks of public and private entities in each state. The purpose of the consortia will be to integrate research, education, and extension functions in support of sustainable development practices at the community level, and to coordinate with other states in the region and with federal agencies.

Action 10: Technology and Information

Coordinate or enhance existing essential tools for formal and nonformal environmental and sustainable development education, including multimedia computer and telecommunications technologies and an information clearinghouse.

"Today we have a dream for a different kind of a superhighway that can save lives, create jobs, and give every American young and old, the chance for the best education available to anyone, anywhere. I challenge you... to connect all of our classrooms, all of our libraries, and all of our hospitals and clinics by the year 2000."

Al Gore
Vice President of the United States


Success in advancing education for sustainability programs nationally and globally will depend to a large degree on the extent to which advanced communication systems such as the Internet are used to make information available to teachers, students, and the public. Nationwide, tens of millions of people have access to the Internet. Globally, the rate at which the Internet is being accessed is advancing at lightning speed. The Internet and the associated World Wide Web are highly efficient and cost-effective systems for linking educators, policymakers, students, and parents interested in advancing education for sustainability.

In parallel with the growth of the Internet, the demand for information by way of interactive, multimedia technologies have advanced rapidly in recent years and are projected to continue to grow even faster in the years ahead. In the United States alone, the number of homes containing multimedia personal computers is increasing rapidly. A multitude of products are available commercially and are being used in schools, homes, and workplaces. These include a variety of interactive multimedia products such at CD-ROMs, which allow students to learn about the environment through text, audio, and video images. Educational tools such as these are designed to hold students' interest and encourage creativity while conveying information. Computer-aided environmental education that takes advantage of new interactive multimedia approaches will grow dramatically in the coming decade. Society is being transformed by information and communication technologies, yet the application of this technology in the classroom is lagging. As recently stated by the U.S. Department of Education:

"Everywhere we look, technology is changing the way we work and live. Everywhere, that is, but in our classrooms. In an information- age society we have factory era schools. In classrooms that could be modern communication centers for learning, the basic media of instruction continue to be blackboards and chalk. Only a handful of schools have full access to the new technologies that are becoming so central to our lives, and the abundant learning resources available on the information superhighway are out of reach for most of our teachers, students, and parents."  38 

Studies have demonstrated that students are capable of learning at substantially higher levels than they are achieving at present. Information and communication technologies offer major opportunities for improvement, and these technologies are the key to ensuring a well-trained, highly motivated workforce.

Given the attractiveness of interactive multimedia to students, progress toward sustainability will depend in part on the extent to which modern technologies are employed in disseminating curricula and related education resources. Access to technology is clearly a limiting factor in advancing this field nationally and globally.

In the United States, lack of telephone lines in classrooms is a barrier to teachers' participation in electronic communications networks. The good news is that access to telephone lines and advanced communication devices is improving at a rapid pace. In 1993, approximately one-fourth of U.S. schools had modems.39  By 1994, those figures inched up to nearly 65 percent in all schools, including 77 percent of all high schools had this technology.40  Telecommunications systems are advancing rapidly worldwide, and the education community should continue to take advantage of this emerging network to reach millions of individuals and organizations on a global scale.

Equity in access to advanced educational technology will be an important factor as these technologies expand and mature. Ensuring equal access to technology is critical, and resources from both the public and private sectors will be required by educational institution.

"In our GLOBE* program, we are studying how to take measurements and send them over the Internet. We have taken temperature readings, soil moisture readings, cloud observations, solid and rain precipitation readings, water temperature and pH readings. The readings show us how the changing weather and seasons affect the everyday events we normally see and ignore, to better understand the enviroment we live in, is to help better the enviroment we live in."

Jason Terry
GLOBE student
Kingsburg High School, Kingsburg, California

*Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) is an international science and education program coordinating the work of students, teachers, and scientists to study and understand the global environment.

Enhance existing interactive information and communications networks designed to facilitate the exchange of information on education for sustainability through the Internet, linking educators, students, and policymakers globally.

During the past year, thousands of organizations have established Internet World Wide Web "home pages" that allow computer users to access information about a wide range of programs and activities. A home page permits an individual to identify information products and access them instantly. It also facilitates two-way communication and cooperative activities, allowing educators to organize and exchange a wide range of information.

A newly created federal home page for environmental and sustainability education, for example, could facilitate access to information on programs in federal departments and agencies, grant programs, government-supported projects in the private sector, and projects in states and communities, as well as information on educational tools and curricula. Such a home page could be facilitated by the National Science and Technology Council.

Develop, regularly update, and disseminate a videotape or CD-ROM that features the current year's highlights related to successful efforts in education for sustainability, such as partnerships, leaders who have played important roles, curriculum materials, and other information resources.

Programs in education for sustainability are expanding rapidly nationally and internationally, and vast quantities of materials and information on educational successes, within and outside the classroom, are being developed. Educators need easy access to information that will aid them in teaching. Likewise, at the university level, information on education for sustainability is increasingly in demand as universities build multidisciplinary teaching and research programs in this area.

The advances are so rapid that an annually updated resource, in the form of a "who's who" or national "spotlight" would be useful for educators, students, parents, community leaders, government officials, industry managers, and individuals in nonprofit organizations addressing education for sustainability.

Technology Learning Challenge Offers Partnership Opportunities

In 1994, the Clinton Administration, through the U.S. Department of Education, announced Technology Learning Challenge grants to serve as catalysts for change. The grants support communities of educators, parents, industry partners, and community leaders who are working to craft their schools for the 21st century. The department awards $9.5 million in challenge grants to 19 communities a year. In February 1996, President Clinton announced America's Technology Literacy Challenge, an expanded version that will, if passed by Congress, award $2 billion over five years.

Support coordination of existing clearinghouses to offer collaboratively a primary point of contact for incorporating and disseminating the vast array of information resources on education for sustainability available through print and electronic media.

Information related to education for sustainability is available in a variety of formats -- hard copy curricula to multimedia CD-ROMs to "distance learning" activities. Programs include the Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse (ERIC), EE-Link, various compendiums, and on-line networks such as EcoNet. To date, there has not been an effort to coordinate and link existing services through a "one-stop-shop" for the user that identifies all links to any desired end product, whether existing materials, conferences or programs, information for dissemination to the public, or vital linkages between an identified need of a particular student body and a scientist or other expert.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Education Division has launched a new effort, the Environmental Education and Training Partnership, which, among other objectives, facilitates partnerships between existing clearinghouses such as ERIC, the Eisenhower Clearinghouse, EE-Link, and services offered by the North American Association for Environmental Education. This program will provide a resource library aimed at improving existing databases of environmental education materials as well as access to such information. Additionally, the Environmental Education and Training Partnership will complete the development of standards for environmental education materials and provide training on methods of evaluation of environmental education materials using existing databases. As part of an effort to explore additional partnerships in this area, the partnership will facilitate a meeting with providers of environmental education databases and clearinghouses.

With the increased use of emerging technologies, information clearinghouses should provide national access through electronic routes such as e-mail and conferencing, as well as traditional communication modes such as a toll-free telephone number, fax, and mail.

A coordinated clearinghouse system is essential in order to provide a comprehensive, user-friendly service. Such a system should encourage critical evaluations so that future needs for information in the field may be identified.

Make greater use of geographic information systems and other databases related to the environment and sustainability in educational curricula.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are essential tools for monitoring natural resources, environmental quality, and modifications of local, regional, national, and global ecosystems. The federal government, states, and private organizations maintain tremendous quantities of data on natural resources and environmental quality. Information is increasingly becoming accessible to users worldwide by way of advanced telecommunications technology. City planners, land use authorities, and others are making use of GIS increasingly in their everyday work.

Students and teachers should be aware of the availability and utility of these systems. Appropriate education courses should familiarize students with the types of databases that exist, the methods for accessing them, and the ways they can be used to monitor environmental change and guide decisions about resource use and environmental protection.

Revitalization of an Urban Neighborhood

To promote revitalization of Detroit's inner city, Cass Technical High School is working with the Urban Environmental Education Resource Center through a program titled "Urban Environmental Education in Detroit" to use geographic information systems (GIS) to help students observe how environmental conditions in their neighborhoods could be improved by using GIS mapping applications.

In collaboration with the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, the students are using GIS applications to map 200,000 homes located in school districts that exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for acceptable lead levels in drinking water. Detroit public schools will use this data to compare standardized test scores of elementary school students from neighborhoods that have lead pipes and those that do not.

"We need to do away with textbook education and move toward technological education," says Randall E. Raymond, teacher and director of the Cass High School program. "Using GIS systems that focus the students' learning on their own communities allows them to make valuable contributions to the revitalization and regrowth of their communities."

University of Connecticut


TO: Interested Colleagues

FROM: Chester Arnold and Project team colleagues: Jim Gibbons and Heather Nelson, University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System

RE: Chester Creek Watershed Project

Many folks across the country continue to struggle with how to implement effective watershed or "ecosystem" projects, and those of us in Connecticut are no exception. However, we feel that our Tidelands  watershed projects are beginning to demonstrate the potential of the approach that we've been slowly working our way through -- an approach based on interdisciplinary natural resource information, public-private partnership, the educational use of geographic information system (GIS) technology, and close collaboration with both local officials and private land owners.

The Chester Creek Watershed Project -- our first Tidelands  project -- is a natural resource management initiative demonstrating that nonregulatory public education programs planned and conducted in close cooperation with local residents and officials can effectively protect natural resources and foster environmental stewardship. Through information gathering and a series of public education programs supported by geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology, the Project is providing town residents and decision makers with information and tools that they can use to make better decisions regarding the use and management of their local natural resources.

The Project is an ongoing public/private collaboration between the Town of Chester and a project team from the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, The Nature Conservancy-Connecticut Chapter, and the University of New Haven. The Project began in 1993, supported by a one-year seed grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region I; the educational initiatives begun that year, however, are open-ended and will extend into the foreseeable future.

We continue to expand and modify this model in a second Tidelands  effort and we invite your comments and inquiries. We are interested in helping colleagues in the Land Grant and Sea Grant systems to adapt our approach to their states, and we'd love to talk to you.

Action 11: Multicultural Perspectives

Emphasize and reflect multicultural perspectives at all levels of formal and nonformal education.


The demographic composition of our nation's classrooms and communities is becoming more diverse than it has been at any other time in U.S. history. One aspect of this transformation is that students are increasingly children of color while teachers are predominantly white. Many of these children are from immigrant families and, for many, English is not their primary language. Additionally, a significant number of America's children face an array of conditions that affect their ability to learn and succeed in school and life. These conditions include poverty and violence, teen pregnancy, and a rollback of educational and employment opportunities.

Recognition is growing that multicultural approaches to teaching and more inclusive content are needed in all forms of education. Educators in both formal and nonformal programs need special training to teach in settings that are increasingly diverse racially, culturally, and linguistically. Teachers of all ethnic groups can benefit from preparation that assists them in performing effectively in diverse settings. The phrases "environmental justice" and "environmental equity" are relatively new, but the underlying concepts are not. The goal of environmental justice is to ensure that all people, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, social class, or race are "equally" protected from environmental hazards. Environmental justice expands the notion of environment from natural ecosystems to the landscapes where people live, work, and play.

Several reports over the past 25 years, beginning in 1971 with the annual report of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, describe disparities in environmental impacts by health and demographic groups. In recent years, the environmental justice movement has highlighted the special plight of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color with respect to the inequitable distribution of environmental exposures and risks. In addition, the movement has stressed ways in which information can be used to address these problems at the local level. In the 1980s, grassroots and community action groups began mobilizing to focus attention on the adverse health effects associated with hazardous waste incinerators, landfills, sewage treatment plants, and industrial facilities. Because of the proximity of these facilities to low-income and minority communities, residents in adjacent areas often are disproportionately burdened by the potential health effects created by these facilities, such as nausea, asthma and bronchitis. This problem is coupled with the fact that low-income and minority groups often have limited access to health care.

Increase professional development among teachers who are incorporating education for sustainability in urban and rural settings that are characterized by diverse cultural groups.

The demographic transformation under way in the United States challenges educators to develop relevant and inclusive materials reflective of their communities; new multidimensional pedagogies for working with culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse children and communities; and new inclusive visions of an active multicultural citizenry committed to sustainable communities.

Efforts should be made to assist educators in developing specific competencies for success in teaching education for sustainability in culturally diverse settings. The needed skills include conflict resolution, intercultural communication, and approaches that are sensitive to cultural values and practices in communities.

Environmental Teacher Institute

Since 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, have teamed up to sponsor the Environmental Teacher Institute, which provides training to educators who teach in settings that are increasingly diverse.

The Institute offers a nontraditional approach to community outreach by empowering teachers from under-represented communities to have a stronger role in environmental decisions affecting their communities. Teachers are recruited from states across the nation. The Institute's objectives are to expose teachers to a variety of environmental issues and discuss methods for bringing the knowledge into the classroom; to familiarize teachers with local environmental justice issues; and to recruit minority and disadvantaged students for environmental jobs and careers.

At each Institute, teachers develop materials and teaching strategies that they can take back to their communities. According to an EPA official, "Ultimately, these teachers will become a part of nationwide communications networks that will disseminate key data about environmental issues and will be helpful in recruiting students to pursue careers in fields related to protecting the environment."

The educational value of this Institute went far beyond the walls of the conference room. The multicultural diversity [of participants and speakers] was a most helpful and interesting aspect of the Institute. It gave me insight to the different ways we may have to use to reach students of varied backgrounds."

Gail Brodnax
Science Teacher, Marksville, Louisiana

Support efforts to introduce all educators and students to the issues and perspectives of the environmental justice movement.

The advent of the environmental justice movement provides an opportunity to nurture an interest in education for sustainability issues among educators. Though many teachers are aware of the environmental justice movement through the media and professional publications, most do not have adequate tools and background information to educate students in the classroom.

The environmental justice movement has spawned a number of community-based educational innovations that could benefit mainstream conceptions and practices. Likewise, these communities could benefit from interaction with traditional environmental educators, who could broaden environmental literacy among members of those communities beyond the specific issues they face.

These community-based multicultural approaches to education for sustainability are supportive of the cultural and linguistic traditions and heritages of diverse peoples. New and innovative examples that are culturally relevant and appropriate abound. They are clearly extensions of what is normally considered education for sustainability.

Harlem Environment Access Project

The Harlem Environment Access Project is an innovative pilot project directed by The New York City Economic Empowerment Zone (NYC EZ). Through the deployment of information technologies and relevant environmental curriculum materials, the Harlem project is intended to empower schoolchildren, teachers, and parents in the NYC EZ to address some of the numerous environmental injustices suffered by this community of 200,000 people, who have a high incidence of poverty. The digital networking of schools provides access to a breadth of intellectual and cultural resources, and enables modes of interaction and communication that were not formerly possible.

The project has several primary goals: to engage students in learning about environmental issues that are relevant to their lives and their community; to provide students with new technologies and new sources of information to assist them in addressing local environmental concerns; and to expose students to the possibilities of careers in environmental science, management and law.

The project connects the information resources and expertise of Columbia University and the Environmental Defense Fund with students and teachers in the NYC EZ. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is funding the project. Columbia University and the Environmental Defense Fund plan to continue development of project software and content for a period of at least three years following the completion of the 18-month pilot project.

Action 12: Global Perspectives

Continue to expand international linkages for environmental education and education for sustainability.


Achieving sustainability requires an unprecedented degree of international cooperation, understanding of the global forces that affect human lives, and empowerment of students to be responsible citizens. Education about sustainable development has progressed substantially, primarily through the efforts of individual nations and regions. Many environmental challenges -- such as climate change, air pollution, and loss of species -- are global in nature. The impacts on human health, livelihoods, and international peace underscore the seriousness of these challenges. Responses must be global in scope and grow out of the cornerstone activities that began in the 1970s in Stockholm and continued in Tbilisi and Belgrade, and in the work of the Brundtland Commission.

The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, led to specific education recommendations. The topics addressed in many, if not all, chapters of Agenda 21  outline the platform from which education in the future must be launched. Agenda 21  speaks not only to the need for international cooperation, but also to the necessity of maintaining a global perspective while taking action and responsibility in the context of local communities.

Many countries have embraced the themes of Agenda 21  as part of their programs in environmental education, global education, and development education. Lessons are being learned and the pace of progress continues on a global scale. In some countries, young people are learning about the workings of global ecological systems and the delicate interconnections between social, environmental and economic systems. To further these advances countries should play an active role to ensure that sustainability themes crosscut curricula at all educational levels.

"One certainty is that the world in which students will live will be increasingly interdependent, marked by accelerating economic, technological, and social change; and driven by an urgent search for patterns of economic and urban development that sustain the environment and its resources."

Jean Perras
Learning for a Sustainable Future


Educate for global sustainability by: (1) introducing all students to issues raised at the Stockholm and Tbilisi conferences, and by the Brundtland Report  and Agenda 21  of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED); (2) sharing sustainability approaches used by other nations, both their successes and challenges, through distance learning and other forms of communication; and (3) exposing students to the responsibilities shared by industrialized and developing countries for providing solutions to environmental, economic and social challenges.

One key to a sustainable future is the realization that we are all citizens of one Earth, dependent on common resources and on one another. Recognizing that major environmental challenges are not limited by political boundaries or geographic lines of demarcation is merely the beginning. A leap forward in present curriculum planning must occur if today's youth are to be prepared to contribute to sustainable development. Education is the vehicle for imparting the knowledge, attitudes, expertise, and values needed by the generations to come.

Support the convening of an international congress on education for sustainability to take place early in the next decade as a catalyst for strategic planning for the remainder of the 21st century.

A conference with a significant voice from youth can serve as the next milestone in the series of actions that have marked the development of education for sustainability. The time has come for a venue where the common ground will be education for sustainability. Educators and consumers from all walks of life should explore the paths being taken to merge environmental, economic, and social themes.

Participate in global partnerships on education for sustainability that build on the progress since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, while being tailored to reach generations of the 21st century.

Specific partnerships and activities that address the needs faced by educators in various regions of the world will strengthen youth's capacity to respond effectively to today's compelling agenda for action. More resources are needed to foster partnership programs. Educational sectors, both formal and nonformal, can benefit from such partnerships, as demonstrated by many of the programs and activities already in operation.

Alliances must be forged to build international linkages among the major organizations involved in global education, development education, and environmental education worldwide. Strategically, this will include calling upon them to identify -- on national, regional, and international levels -- the primary institutions, organizations, and agencies involved in education for sustainability. Established networks such as the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), telecommunications centers, and Internet capabilities can greatly facilitate the exchange of information.

"We don't want to reinvent the wheel, but blindly using educational materials developed elsewhere would reduce the chances of widespread use of the materials in our country."

Meena Raghunathan
Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad, India

Global Perspectives, Local Practices

When the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based policy research institute which focuses on global sustainable development issues, attempted to distribute a new high school curriculum on global issues, Meena Raghunathan responded with the statement above. This is a typical reaction among educators worldwide. But by working with Raghunathan and environmental educators in nine other countries, WRI developed a network of centers that are producing local adaptations of teachers' guides about global issues.

"There are three aspects to dealing with global issues," says WRI education director Mary Paden. "First is the global perspective -- taking a worldwide, big-picture look at topics such as biodiversity, climate change, poverty, population, or consumerism. It means looking at data that show conditions and trends as well as regional variations. Second, to be interesting and real, the big picture must be tied to local situations and cultures. Third, is the matter of perspectives. People from different parts of the world have different takes on these issues, and listening to them is highly enriching."

Educators in each country adapt WRI's global curricula units to incorporate local examples and to suit their own educational system's requirements while retaining the global conditions and trends data. As the units are developed, they are shared with other countries. For example, the Indian biodiversity unit was sent to Indonesia.

"There is nothing else like this guide in Mexico," says Margot Aguillar of Grupo de Education Ambientales. "It is in Spanish, has Mexican artwork, was created in Mexico, yet it has a lot of global information that is hard to get in the schools here."

As part of this, international partners like Aguillar, Raghunathan, and other educators will review WRI's next U.S. teacher's guide, Sustainable Cities , which will incorporate diverse perspectives with the help of the reviewers, as well as present trends and examples from around the world.


In the first century of the new millennium, the quest for environmental improvement will be framed in terms of science and new technologies, but also will benefit from the wisdom and values espoused by indigenous peoples of the world. Educators and educational systems can respond more vigorously to this global challenge with new methodologies, information technologies, and partnerships on national and international levels.

International cooperation will be key to sharing trends in thinking, research, and pedagogy. Coordination among groups such as the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) or World Conservation Union; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will lead to support for much-needed collaborative relationships among established and emerging environmental and social programs, institutes, and resource centers. Shared research, the articulation of coherent strategies, and common resources accompanied by systematic dissemination of results at a multinational level will add significantly to achieving a desirable and prosperous future.

Examples of Opportunities for Partnerships

Chester Creek Watershed Project
1066 Saybrook Road, Box 70
Haddam, CT 06438-0070
Contact: Chester Arnold
Phone: 860-345-4511
Fax: 860-345-3357

The Chester Creek Watershed Project is the first of the Tidelands Watershed Projects on the Tidelands region of the lower Connecticut River. The projects are collaborations between the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension's Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) team and The Nature Conservancy. The project is a natural resource management initiative focusing on public education to protect natural resources and foster environmental stewardship.

Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)
1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20006
Phone: 202-775-6600
Fax: 202-775-6622

Established in 1989, CIESIN is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that provides information to help scientists, decision-makers, and the public better understand our changing world. CIESIN provides on-line access to data, information, and applications used by researchers, decision-makers, and the public to reach a better understanding of how human activity is driving global environmental change.

Institute for Global Communications (IGC)
18 De Boom Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Contact: Anthony Whitworth
Phone: 415-442-0220
Fax: 415-546-1794

ECONET is one of five networks operated through the IGC Network. ECONET provides access to a variety of environmentally related home pages, numerous conferences, and resource centers on-line. IGC provides software, frequent updates describing new features on the networks, and technical support.

To access EE-Link's gopher server, the URL server is:

EE-Link is an on-line source of information about environmental education. It provides access to teaching resources on the Internet, including articles, databases, grant information, and instructional materials. EE-Link is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Environmental Education and Training Partnership Program and is housed at the University of Michigan.

Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics, Science, and Environmental Education (ENC)
1929 Kenny Road
Columbus, OH 43210-1079
Toll-free telephone: 1-800-621-5785
Phone: 614-292-7784
Fax: 614-292-2066

The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education encourages the adoption and use of K-12 curriculum materials and programs that support state and national efforts to improve teaching and learning in mathematics and science. It provides K-12 teachers with a central source of information on mathematics and science curriculum materials.

Environmental Education and Training Partnership (EETAP)
1255 23rd Street, N.W., Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone: 202-884-8828
Fax: 202-884-8701

The Environmental Education and Training Partnership, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a three-year endeavor managed and coordinated by the North American Association for Environmental Education. EETAP provides training for teachers and other education professionals, enhances existing environmental education clearinghouses, and facilitates partnerships and networks of education and environmental professionals.

ERIC (Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse)
Office of Education Research and Improvement
Department of Education
Washington, D.C.
Toll-free telephone: 1-800-443-ERIC

The ERIC system, managed by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), consists of 16 clearinghouses, a number of adjunct clearinghouses, and an ERIC searchable database that contains more than 800,000 records of journal articles, research reports, curriculum and teaching guides, conference papers, and books.

Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE)
744 Jackson Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20503
Contact: Margaret G. Finarelli
Phone: 202-395-7600
Fax: 202-395-7611

The GLOBE Program is a hands-on program that joins students, educators, and scientists from around the world in studying the global environment. GLOBE's worldwide network of students work under the guidance of GLOBE-trained teachers to make environmental observations, report their data to a GLOBE processing facility, receive and use global images created from their data, and study environmental topics in their classroom.

Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN)
721 E. Huron Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Contact: Keith Wheeler
Phone: 313-761-8142
Fax: 313-761-4951

GREEN is an innovative, action-oriented approach to education, based on an interdisciplinary watershed education model. GREEN's mission is to improve education through a global network that promotes watershed sustainability. Its goals include incorporating all areas of the curriculum and working with schools to develop watershed studies programs; and providing communities with strategies for sustaining these programs.

The Harlem Environmental Access Project
Institute for Learning Technologies
Columbia University Teacher's College
New York, NY 10021
Contact: Robbie McClintock
Phone: 212-678-3375
Fax: 212-678-4048

The Harlem Environmental Access Project is dedicated to helping school children in five participating schools find solutions to local and global environmental issues.

National Environmental Education Advancement Project
College of Natural Resources
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI 54481
Contact: Abby Ruskey
Phone: 715-346-4179
Fax: 715-346-3624

The National Environmental Education Advancement Project is a national organization that aids state and local environmental education leaders in promoting their environmental education efforts and develops informational items on building state capacities for environmental education.

Technology Learning Challenge
Interagency Learning Technology Task Force, Suite 6200
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, S.W., Suite 6200
Washington, D.C. 20202
Phone: 202-708-6001
Fax: 202-708-6003

The Technology Learning Challenge is a grant program providing an average of $1 million a year for five years to 19 school systems throughout the country for the purpose of improving education through new learning technologies.

University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Haddam Cooperative Extension Center
1066 Saybrook Road
P.O. Box 70
Haddam, CT 06437
Contact: Chester Arnold
Phone: 203-345-4511
Fax: 203-345-3357

Urban Environmental Education in Detroit
Cass Technical High School
2421 Second Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201
Contact: Randall E. Raymond
Phone: 313-494-2605 x315
Fax: 313-494-2125

The Urban Environmental Education in Detroit program is a nationally and internationally recognized program designed to help urban youth make positive contributions to improve their urban environment.

World Resources Institute (WRI)
1709 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Contact: Mary Paden
Phone: 202-638-6300
Fax: 202-638-0036

Created in 1982, the World Resources Institute is an independent center for policy research and technical assistance on global environmental and development issues. WRI is dedicated to helping governments and private organizations of all types cope with environmental, resource, and development challenges of global significance.

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