“Even a five year old can reach a light switch. Should we commit to providing our youth with the essential tools for conservation from Kindergarten-up and expose them to Clean Energy alternatives as they travel the learning road, we will raise future generations who will raise their children based on a legacy we can provide.” ~Jack Costantino, Pres., TFU~
As we continue to launch the future of broad based eco-awareness (a daunting task to say the least) itâ€™s possible that the most durable resistance will come not from oil lobbyâ€™s and other anticipated forces opposed to changing the status quo; but from the entrenched behavior of current society itself. Our addiction to fossil fuels may be of minor consequence compared to our addiction to convenience. As a consumer society we are the stuff of legend. Our homes, cars and office buildings have been designed for opulent aesthetics with an eye toward impression rather then eco-common sense.
As much as this is damaging to our environment on a planetary level, it is also the environment in which we educate our children by their observation and experience. If there is a potential for permanent damage to our world it may not come only from our generations resistance to changing its behavior; for in the numbers which matter and for some adults 50 and over, in the time we have left, it may already be too late for us to experience the benefits in our lifetime.
The greatest danger by far to our planetary health, national security and economy may be our failure to prepare the next generation(s) to learn what they must to protect themselves and those who follow. There is no more potent renewable resource to achieve these essential imperatives then our children. However, in order to equip them with the knowledge they need, it will be necessary to provide the information in a systematic and purposeful way. To that extent the advocacy of this column will be to address that objective and the ways in which it can and is being accomplished.
In a recent interview with John Henry, USGBC-NJ Chapter Green Schools Advocate, and Program Director at EIRC (Educational Information and Resources Center, www.eirc.org) he described his significant interest and momentum in this direction. Johnâ€™s focus is not only on the infrastructure of the school house and its operating efficiencies, he is also sharply zoned-in to the human potential of each edifice whether it is state of the art or an old timer with worn out mechanical systems, bad windows and leaky roof. Johnâ€™s dedication to the imperatives of all layers of the USGBC-NJâ€™s Green Schools initiative is comprehensive and clearly defined. Funding, district awareness and a willingness to incorporate eco-education with core curriculum are the issues he describes. John has clear ideas about how to approach and overcome these hurdles. There is an ample and ready supply of already written curriculum, programs, class projects and interesting happenings for kids of all ages. The challenge is to mechanize their access to it. As a proponent for environmental literacy in our workforce and schools, John comments…
…What about education? It is important to teach children about going green so it becomes common practice for them when they become adults…
…With the threat of global warming and climate change combined with other human created environmental catastrophes, greening our schools should be at the top of our educational priorities. Buildings, including schools, affect the natural environment and consume a great deal of electricity and contribute to CO2 emissions. We should convey to children that sustainable design would significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment. Connecting students with the process for transforming their school to become a green building is a way to increase student involvement with real-world situations and introduce studentâ€™s 21st century skills that will prepare them for blue, white and green collar careers of the future. It is essential that students begin to learn about sustainability at an early age. If students understand the systems of a green building in conjunction with other sustainable practices in a place where they spend a great deal of time…in school, it would create a setting for life-long learning. In the United States millions of students attend public and private schools every day. These same students will eventually become consumers and will make decisions about what to buy, where to live and what vehicles to drive. Their decisions could influence the marketplace and will either force favorable change that will benefit the environment or continue in a non sustainable way. They will eventually be part of the workforce and become the building blocks for our sustainable future only if environmental literacy is placed as a high priority in all our schools. Imagine if sustainability was no longer viewed as optional, but rather a way of life.
~John Henry, USGBC-NJ Chapter Green Schools Advocate~
We agree that the gold standard would be the introduction of education for conservation and clean energy alternatives for K-12 in our nationwide core curriculum. Even a five year old can reach a light switch. Should we commit to providing our youth with the essential tools for conservation from Kindergarten-up and expose them to Clean Energy alternatives as they travel the learning road, we will raise future generations who will raise their children based on a legacy we can provide. The result will be a population with an inborn cultural instinct about energy conservation and the environment…a far cry from our current circumstance where turning off lights and TVâ€™s in unoccupied rooms, consolidating travel and donning a sweater instead of cranking up the thermostat is viewed as inconvenient, depravation and punishment.
As a concerted effort is made to engage New Jersey school districts and present alternatives, we will report them here in the Green Schools Column of the USGBC-NJ Newsletter.
Please feel welcome to comment and contribute at: timbersRus@comcast.net.
Board of Editors