|Museums, zoos, libraries, extension programs, the media, the workplace, and community organizations are just a few venues for providing lifelong learning opportunities. These nonformal educational settings can expand awareness and put sustainability concepts in a familiar context. To be most effective in doing so, nonformal educational institutions should expand their relationships with formal educators to identify those areas in which schools are inadequately preparing students and to help fill those gaps and develop appropriate materials.||
Until sustainability becomes a public philosophy,
conscious or unconscious, it will not become a reality in our
-- Olin M. Ivey,
Several sources of nonformal education deserve special consideration:
|Nonformal Education and Outreach|
|Encourage nonformal access to information on, and opportunities to learn and make informed decisions about, sustainability as it relates to citizens' personal, work, and community lives.|
Five actions are suggested for implementing this recommendation:
"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a
mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of
worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones
Average, nor national achievement by the gross national product.
For the gross national product includes air pollution and
advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highway
carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the
people who break them. The gross national product includes the
destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It
grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear
warheads . . . It includes Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and
the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to
sell goods to our country."
"And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of public officials . . . the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."
-- from a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy
|Studies show that in early childhood -- from birth to age six -- the home is the primary educational influence. Between ages seven and 12, the role of the home diminishes while that of the school and -- to a lesser extent -- the community, church, and media increases. The influence of the home continues to lessen, and that of the school grows, during the teen years. In the individual's next decade, however, the school's impact drops dramatically, and that of the community increases proportionately. The greatest influences during the adult years are the community, church, and home, in that order. Interest groups remain relatively constant as an influence throughout one's life, beginning at about age seven.1||
There is no easy dividing line between formal and nonformal education. We are all committed to a continuum of lifelong learning.
Most adults received limited information directly related to sustainability during their formal schooling. Through the U.S. educational system, many students do not develop an understanding of the interconnections among economic, environmental, and equity issues. More than three-fourths of U.S. citizens do not obtain a college degree, and even those who do graduate from college lack an understanding of sustainability.2 In other words, for the vast majority of Americans, knowledge of sustainability will have to be obtained during their adult years. Continuing education programs in local communities and educational opportunities offered by the media, civic organizations, clubs such as the 4-H, nonprofit organizations such as the YWCA and YMCA, and informal venues such as museums and churches are needed to fill the gap and equip adults with the knowledge and skills required for committed and effective action.
The challenge for nonformal education is to find ways to reach a voluntary, "noncaptive," adult audience. Motivations of adult learners range from the opportunity to socialize to mental stimulation, personal growth, and professional advancement. The challenge is to harness some or all of these incentives to stimulate interest in educational experiences related to sustainability.
For some aspects of environmental education, the challenge of attracting adult learners is not a difficult one. Outings offered by environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society often contain instruction in natural history and attract intensely interested learners. Interpretive programs offered in national parks are drawing participants at a faster rate than park visitation overall.3 Interest in this area is also indicated by the explosive growth of ecotourist excursions led by naturalists.
Although these programs are growing in popularity, a new challenge is emerging -- how can these programs help adult learners link environmental education experiences to their everyday lives? Extension offices and conservation districts offer one avenue for widening participation. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service has boosted its efforts to create an environmentally literate citizenry, targeting a broader audience than their traditional farm clientele.
Other avenues are continuing education classes offered by community colleges and school districts. The nation's 1,200 accredited community colleges represent the fastest growing type of educational institutions in the United States. Since they are well-connected to local businesses, community colleges are ideally suited to serve as catalysts for sustainability.
Nonformal educational organizations should work closely with educators to identify areas in which schools traditionally have not prepared students adequately. Once these opportunities are identified, nonformal educators can develop materials and work with formal educators to determine possibilities for partnership. In this way, nonformal education can complement classroom teaching.
Examples of successful nonformal sustainability education efforts follow.
|Community In The Classroom|
To initiate local business ventures, create employment, market craft
products, or staff a day care center, people need guidance, support,
ideas -- and education. Thus, to promote the development of their local
business ventures, Appalachian communities created the Community in the
Classroom project. This program takes a community-based, participatory
approach to educating citizens by integrating education into community
development activities. Components of the program include a series of six
workshops aimed at building knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities
of staff and volunteers. A series of special projects have also been
developed to focus on particular community needs. Finally, a process of
program reflection and development, designed to integrate literacy
education with other community empowerment activities, has been initiated.
Projects initiated by the participating communities include an effort by the Mountain Women's Exchange, which aims to bring GED graduates to volunteer in an adult education program. The Dungannon Development Commission is developing an adult education program for members who are rehabilitating housing and who want to develop reading and math skills related to their work. The Whitley County Communities for Children's staff is creating a curriculum for employment which targets unemployed mothers receiving government aid. The Big Creek People in Action are developing a literacy and adult education program in an area isolated from any nearby communities. Finally, the Lonsdale Improvement Organization is writing a housing survey and brochure about its community as a part of the group's neighborhood revitalization and development efforts.
Sustainability Education Center of the|
American Forum for Global Education
In order to prepare today's youth to be responsible citizens in an
interdependent world, the American Forum for Global Education created the
Sustainability Education Center to integrate environmental, economic, and
social equity issues in the local community with those in the global
community. The center's mission is to develop teacher education and
professional development programs as well as programs at the local,
national, and international levels that promote lifelong learning about
sustainability. Some of the center's projects include the following:
By helping facilitate dialogues, projects, and activities between schools and communities, the Sustainability Education Center is promoting broader participation, understanding, and linkage between these entities regarding each other.
|National 4-H Council|
|The mission of the
National 4-H Council is to build partnerships for community youth
value and involve youth in solving issues critical to their lives, their
families and society. The Council is implementing a hands-on environmental
stewardship program which encourages partnerships to be built between
young people and trainers at local, county, or state levels.
The National 4-H Council is also involved in a program -- A Future for Me -- with six West Virginia University County Extension Offices and local school systems to encourage career education and preparation for local students. The program works with high school guidance counselors to help students explore different career opportunities and develop an understanding of the skills needed in today's workforce. Training is provided on a weekly basis during the school day. Students are educated on decision making, interview skills, resume writing, career options, personal interest assessments, self-exploration, prerequisite job skills and credentials, and goal planning. All counties involved in this training cited an increase in student planning for postsecondary education as a result of the effort.
The Council also supports a work study program in which a local store sponsors a student, providing him or her with employment and a scholarship to the college of his or her choice. Under this program, Williamina Keegan worked part time at the Saratoga Springs Shop and Save. She gained valuable experience in her future major, business management in the food industry, and later attended Cornell University. "This work study program has encouraged me to go on and pursue a career in business management. I realize that I am one of the first students to participate in this program, and I am encouraged by myself and my mentors to achieve my goals and to set an example for anyone else who might want to participate. I am extremely happy with the program, and I hope that anyone else who is interested does try."
|Four Corners School|
|Imagine exploring pristine
ruins, rafting through incredible geological formations, hiking
magnificent plateaus, and mastering crafts with Native American artists.
Located in Utah, Four Corners School offers this five-day "ed-venture"
vacation as well as many other educational programs on environment,
culture, and sustainability in the Southwest.
Since 1984, the school has been dedicated to educating people of all ages and backgrounds about the need to preserve the natural and cultural treasures primarily in the Southwest, and also around the world. The school provides scholarships to teachers so that environmental education may be presented throughout schools, and offers accredited courses that can be transferred for use in undergraduate and graduate educational institutions.
Currently, Four Corners School is involved in a three-year project aimed at creating a better understanding of Native American cultures. Part of the project involves a traveling fine arts exhibit developed by Navajo children that will be featured at the Denver Art Museum, in Denver public schools, and in the Navajo Nation. Many travelers who have visited reservations through Four Corners School reflect that, "the best part of the trip was meeting the Navajo and Hopi people . . . [there was] a feeling of harmony and oneness with nature that permeated every aspect of living."
In 1994, the Four Corners School was recognized by the Utah Society of Environmental Education with a program award for its preservation work on the Colorado Plateau. Four Corners developed a public-private partnership, the Colorado Plateau Research Group, to assess research and service needs to manage the Plateau. The school is also collaborating with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance to develop wilderness advocacy training in the wildlands of southern Utah.
By emphasizing that learning about sustainability is a lifelong as well as an intergenerational and cultural endeavor, the Four Corners School is providing opportunities for students of all ages to explore sustainability in action at a hands-on, grassroots level.
Raising public awareness is central to any plan to move the nation toward sustainability. If citizens are to reverse such negative trends as urban sprawl, loss of biodiversity, and decreasing voter turnout, they must understand the issues and have accurate and accessible information. In general, people rely on the mass media for their news and information. A 1995 Roper poll found that 72 percent of survey respondents obtained most of their news and information from television, 38 percent from newspapers, 18 percent from radio, and eight percent from magazines.4 The fact that Americans rely so heavily on print and broadcast media underscores the importance of supplying information on sustainability that is accurate, easily understood, and readily applied to everyday life.
Polls disagree on Americans' overall understanding of the concept of sustainability. On the one hand, a 1995 national survey of 1,036 adults conducted by pollster Paul H. Ray to determine Americans' attitudes toward sustainability revealed that a strong majority -- 61 percent -- favored sustainability. Further, a majority agreed that they would be willing to pay 10 percent more for consumer goods and 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline if they were sure it would help the environment.5 Ray concluded that American citizens are aware of the concept of sustainability and agree with it. It should be noted, however, that a sizable minority (40 percent), were against sustainability or unsure about what it is and its benefits.
On the other hand, a pair of 1995 Roper surveys tested Americans' "green point average." These environmental quizzes revealed that the average adult and teenager could answer fewer than four out of 10 questions correctly. The average adult score was 33 out of a possible 100 points; teens scored 31 out of 100 points.6 Moreover, the Roper surveys indicated that the majority of respondents believed that the only actions they can take to improve the environment are those related to litter and indoor air pollution. Sixty-one percent believed that large companies are responsible for causing the nation's environmental problems and should be the ones to implement solutions, failing to take into account pollution from individual sources such as automobiles and lawn mowers.7
The conclusion to be drawn from these findings is that a substantial minority of Americans need more information about sustainability -- what it is and what they can do to live more sustainably. Even those citizens who don't need to be convinced that long-term development problems exist do need information showing how their actions can affect sustainable development. They also need information and ideas, presented through the popular broadcast and print media, about practical things they can do that have a positive effect on sustainable development. For many people, the desire to change is not the issue; they are ready to change their behavior but need the guidance and mechanisms to do so.
A media campaign on nationally and regionally relevant issues should be used as a vehicle to raise awareness about sustainability. This campaign could feature and publicize easily understood benchmarks of sustainable development. People have become familiar with national numeric measures of the economy, such as the gross domestic product, inflation rate, and unemployment index, as well as such indicators of environmental quality as the air quality index. As indicators of sustainability are developed, the media should feature these "yardsticks" as part of their regular coverage.
Daily and weekly reports of trends and measures will help increase understanding of costs and benefits, and contribute to public awareness of areas where a change in course is needed. Like economic indicators, sustainable development indicators will provide policy makers and the public with a more accurate view of progress in achieving sustainability goals. These national benchmarks will make it easier for all sectors of society to reach consensus on tough issues related to sustainability.
Much is being done toward developing relevant indicators and benchmarks, as the following examples illustrate.
|Color Me Green*|
"People say, we're only children. People say, what can we do. Can't you
see we are the future, and right now we're depending on you?" These
are the words of songwriter Mike Nobel. They are powerful to read,
but just imagine the impact when a group of students known as the
Color Me Green singers put these words to music. Mike Nobel's songs
and the Color Me Green singers are part of the Color Me Green
campaign in Portland, Maine, to build awareness of environmental,
community, and intergenerational issues.
Now in its third year, the award-winning campaign has been made possible by an enthusiastic partnership involving the local television station 6ALIVE, businesses, state regulatory agencies, environmental groups, educators, parents, and students. The campaign features four components: Nobel's songs, produced as music videos and aired as public service announcements; a series of "Ecotips," individual actions that people can carry out in the community; "Earth Notes' which describe current issues, such as what industries are doing to become more environmentally responsible; and a public education program that disseminates a Color Me Green school kit to schools throughout the state.
The Color Me Green campaign has been a huge success. The National Association of Broadcasters awarded it first place at the 1994 Service to Children Awards, and said that the campaign, "reflects the best of what America represents." And the fame of the Color Me Green singers is spreading. The group's recordings and videos have been circulated around the world to international acclaim. As one of their songs says, ""Cause everything we do today can change our tomorrow. And maybe when kids lead the way, the whole world will follow."
*Color Me Greenc lyrics copyrighted by Mike Nobel, Gorham, Maine, 1993.
|WQED Public Television Series on Sustainable Development|
|The Pittsburgh public broadcasting station, in conjunction with New Vision Communications and the Jefferson Energy Foundation, is producing a series of one-hour programs about the implementation of sustainable development practices in the United States and throughout the Americas. The goal of the series is to introduce viewers to the concepts of sustainable development using documentary profiles of compelling case studies. It will use many of the success stories featured in Sustainable America: A New Consensus, the final report of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, as well as examples based on research by the World Resources Institute.|
To complement a public information campaign on sustainability, a vehicle is needed to ensure that information is accessible and accurate at the community level to initiate community action. This can be accomplished through information sharing on practical actions that individuals can undertake as consumers, members of the workforce, and community residents. The same vehicle also could facilitate coordination with state efforts to encourage education for sustainability, and help guide nonformal educational venues such as museums and nature centers in making the transition. Similarly, technical assistance will be needed to help introduce new sustainable technologies within the nation's industrial, transportation, and communications sectors. Clean environmental technologies will be needed to help industry augment current practices for controlling pollution and cleaning up wastes by adding sustainable practices such as prevention of pollution and efficient use of energy and resources.
A national extension service, which collects and disseminates information on particular topics of interest, could be used to meet the research, technology transfer, and community needs generated by those interested in charting a sustainable course. It could make information on sustainability widely available to the public, schools, media, communities, and businesses and could clarify and infuse sustainability issues into the nation's environmental, economic, and social agendas.
Extension services have a proven track record of providing outreach and integrating research and education at the community, county, and state levels. Various federal agencies and organizations have successfully coordinated and made available existing information through such services. Notable models for a Sustainable Development Extension Network include the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension System, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant College Program, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Space Grant Program, the Department of the Interior's National Parks Outreach Program, and the Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Also, the Office of Economic Conversion Information at the U.S. Department of Commerce has a clearinghouse offering information on economic development, defense adjustment, technology transfer, and community sustainability. And the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment is establishing a national library to link major collections of data and centers of scientific expertise for use by scientists and public users. A new or expanded national extension network on sustainability could work collaboratively to focus on interrelated issues such as communities, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, coastal zone and marine environments, technology transfer, and education.
Information gives people the power to shape their own futures. The extension network can provide educational expertise, needed information on sustainability, technical assistance, and training for individuals and employees in organizations and businesses interested in applying sustainable development principles.
Establishing a Sustainable Development Extension Network could help ensure that local needs drive national policy. In addition, the network could help clarify research, education, and extension roles for government agencies and the private sector. It could help ensure that national policy and programs for sustainability are coordinated.
The success of the extension effort will be measured by the actions taken by local communities and the adoption of new technologies by industries. A major criterion for evaluation may be responsiveness to actual community needs. Extension activities will have to remain flexible and innovative so that they are targeted to changing conditions as society advances along the path to sustainability.
Some model extension services and networks are already being forged locally and nationally, as these examples describe.
Flourishing communities are the foundation of a healthy society. At the
community level, sustainable development means building partnerships
among business, government, the nonprofit sector, and citizen groups to
develop a shared vision for the future. It means working together to
provide jobs for all citizens while simultaneously managing community
resources responsibly. It also means providing all citizens the
opportunity to live in a healthy, clean, and safe community.
Overcoming barriers to change is not an easy task. For this reason, people need to embrace their own vision of the advantages of living in a sustainable world before they will be inspired to act and make the necessary behavioral changes. Community residents need to create a collaborative vision of what their community needs to sustain itself into the next century. Across the country, people are meeting this challenge by participating in planning, implementation, and assessment exercises that measure their progress toward meeting their goals.
With proper education and jobs, citizens themselves can transform urban
areas, renovating and creating affordable housing, cleaning streets and
parks, ridding their neighborhoods of crime and drugs, planting trees and
gardens, and even encouraging new smaller scale economic development.
--Francis H. Duehay,
Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 charges communities with formulating action plans to move toward a sustainable future.8 The first step in each municipality's long-range planning for sustainability is to initiate a "visioning" process. How does visioning or community planning work and how will it promote community sustainability? This process involves bringing diverse members of the public together to discuss and define sustainability at the local level. From their collective vision emerges support for implementation plans and projects. These in turn are measured periodically by indicators gauging the community's success in meeting its goals.
Citizens who participate in community visioning exercises are asked to describe their idea of an ideal community. This vision usually comprises a safe and healthy community with parks; walking and bike paths; good schools supported by parents and community organizations; affordable and clean housing; recreational facilities, museums, and libraries; clean, energy-efficient transportation to replace traffic jams and road noise; and clean, safe, and friendly streets. Creating a vision of a desired future lets a community compare an ideal state with what will likely occur if present trends continue. By backcasting from the vision to the present, appropriate changes in policy and behavior can be identified. Participants in the visioning process clarify their values and become proactive change agents rather than victims of circumstance.9
Just as municipalities vary enormously, so will their visions. What is considered sustainable under certain conditions may not be sustainable under others. Each community will need an overall plan for becoming sustainable that addresses its unique local economic, environmental, social, or technological demands. In a community located in a desert, for example, sustainable use of water resources may differ greatly from sustainable use in a mountain community or a city situated on a major river or near a sizable underground aquifer. The natural environment and other factors will affect a community's needs and vision: This means that the plan developed must be regionally specific and must consider interconnections between the community and other locations near and far. There are many alternative paths to sustainability, and the task of visioning is to find a particular community's best road to a better future.
The reasons for initiating the visioning process are diverse. Some towns may embark on a visioning process in response to the closing of a military base, the devastation created by a natural disaster, economic doldrums, or environmental problems.
Education is crucial to this process. An active community outreach and education program must be in place to help people understand and adjust to changes in their community brought on by the transition to sustainability. Such formal and nonformal educational efforts as the information clearinghouse previously mentioned will contribute to the visioning process and follow-up assessments. In particular, the proposed Sustainable Development Extension Network could provide information to help facilitate visioning activities.
Community visioning exercises need support at all levels of government as well as from organizations, businesses, and citizens. At the federal level, the Sustainable Communities Task Force, one of the eight task forces of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, has developed an action strategy to move our nation's communities toward sustainability. The Task Force drew constructive guidance from actual community experiences to develop policy recommendations that, when implemented, will invigorate our communities to be more livable in the broadest sense -- environmentally, economically, and socially. Other efforts at the federal, state, and local levels are emerging as well, especially with assistance from national organizations such as the National League of Cities, the National Governors' Association, and the International City/County Management Association.
Some examples of visioning in action follow:
|Chattanooga: A Community for Sustainability|
In 1969, a U.S. government study on air quality criteria for particulate
matter declared Chattanooga, Tennessee, America's most polluted city.
This pronouncement, coupled with economic recession, environmental
degradation, governmental in-fighting, and general urban decline, pushed
the city into a downward spiral.
To effect a turnaround, Chattanooga in 1984 invited its citizens to come to the table and offer their hopes, ideas, and goals for the future. More than 1,700 residents participated in a series of community visioning meetings. Out of this process came a revitalized riverfront with fishing piers, restaurants, housing, a business park, and a city aquarium that generated $133 million in economic activity in its first year alone.
Also as a result of this visioning, Chattanooga is now a living laboratory for the research, design, and manufacture of electric-powered public transit buses. The city's transit authority teamed with a private research center and a new company to provide continuous, free, electric-powered shuttles in the downtown area. Chattanooga today operates and maintains the world's largest electric-powered bus fleet.
Other outcomes include 4,166 units of new affordable housing, a family violence shelter, a restructured government that increases accountability and provides the opportunity for a broader and more diverse pool of candidates for local office, a plan for a county wide network of greenways along streams to enhance the integrity of the watershed, citywide recycling with sorting contracted through a rehabilitation center for mentally challenged adults, and training workshops in environmental education for teachers.
Chattanooga's story is not finished. Although the city has met most of its goals, it is now engaged in a process called Revision 2000 which will help the city adjust to its changing needs and prepare for a sustainable future.
All of these accomplishments have made Chattanooga a more desirable place to live and have elevated the public's commitment to Chattanooga. But one accomplishment in particular helped Chattanoogans breathe easier: In 1990, after more than two decades of trying, the city attained Clean Air status.
|Center for Excellence|
|The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a Center for Excellence for Sustainable Development -- a service to help communities get started on their own sustainable development activities. The center is an outgrowth of DOE's work in 1994 and 1995, when it helped two Midwest communities destroyed by flooding -- Pattonsburg, Missouri, and Valmeyer, Illinois -- plan new towns with sustainable development features. Since then, DOE has received a number of additional requests for help and will now make its materials available nationwide. The center will offer communities a tool kit of workbooks, guidebooks, and data. These include guidance on design and construction of "green" buildings and using computer programs to design neighborhoods that waste less energy, more than 70 case studies and more than 150 slides of successful community projects, model ordinances and codes communities are using to implement sustainable development, and a database of nearly 800 public and private programs that offer technical or financial help.|
We will need farmers, business persons, writers, bureaucrats, builders,
foresters, and workers who are also ecologically literate and competent
and who can build sustainable solutions from the bottom up.
-- David Orr, Oberlin College
|Employers, employees, and the self-employed need education and training that lets them reexamine the nature of their work -- what is produced and how it is produced -- so that they will contribute to sustainability in their homes and communities as well as in their workplaces. Incentives such as increased wages, greater job security, and increased training opportunities should be offered to employees who find innovative ways for their companies to conserve resources, reduce production costs, and help the company prosper.|
Educators are the key to readying the nation for the transition to sustainability. They can shape the workforce in part by focusing increased attention on career preparation, especially for those who do not attend college. A 1990 study concluded that the productivity of workers in jobs that do not require a college education will make or break the nation's economic future.10 The report states that America invests comparatively little in these front-line workers, who are fast becoming unemployable at U.S. wage levels. A 1988 report agrees, "Our economy, national security, and social cohesion face a precarious future if our nation fails to develop now the comprehensive policies and programs needed to help all youth."11
Anecdotal support for this conclusion was voiced at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, roundtable convened by the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force to discuss jobs, labor, and sustainability. Participants noted that their biggest concern is preparing students to be community citizens who will have the knowledge and training needed to become part of the workforce. Despite this concern, representatives from the diverse industries and organizations in Chattanooga had never sat down to discuss impediments to reaching this goal. Their assessment was that schools are failing to connect curricula with real-life situations and, consequently, are failing to prepare students with the skills needed in the workforce.
|But formal, in-school education will not answer to all the employment-related training needs raised by sustainability. Workers in all vocations -- from farmers and computer technicians to plant managers and shop owners -- will need to be trained to incorporate sustainability into their jobs. New industries employing sustainable practices will require a flexible and adaptable workforce that is prepared for a world in transition. At the same time, many resource-intensive industries may contract out for services, displacing workers who will need to be retrained for work in sustainable enterprises.||
Worker training is essential, but if sustainability is to become a
household word, advocates must respond to the job loss, insecurity, and
falling wages facing America's workers.
-- Ruth Caplan, Coordinator
Jobs in environmental industries contribute to sustainability and are presently high-growth areas. Demand for trained workers in environmentally related fields such as air quality management, sustainable energy production, hazardous waste management, and resource recovery is projected at a composite annual growth rate of six percent.12 More jobs will be needed to design and build water treatment plants, increase the efficiency of power plants, insulate homes, build bike paths, and manage parks and wildlife. Workers will need to be trained for these jobs.
Business and organized labor can play constructive roles in educating workers for sustainability. Companies can help finance formal and nonformal educational programs and can support work-based training in sustainable practices. Labor can help focus attention on the need for this kind of training and the fact that in a sustainable economy all citizens can obtain secure, ongoing means of livelihood with full benefits at livable wages -- jobs that improve the quality of life while protecting the local and global environment.
Education must go beyond training workers. Educational outreach programs are needed to help community leaders and community-based economic development organizations become aware of the need for new strategies to develop a sustainable job base that promotes stability through diversification and locally owned, environmentally responsible enterprises. For example, in 1992, Boston announced plans to help create 10,000 new jobs in environmental services, including a $4 million recycling center.13 Communities will need technical assistance to implement similar economic development strategies. Entrepreneurs will need access to financing so they can establish sustainable enterprises, and communities will need funds for programs to train workers in the new industries. Rapid consolidation in the banking industry is making it increasingly difficult for communities and entrepreneurs to obtain that financing, a situation that must be remedied.
Educating workers and employers for a sustainable world needs to become a national priority, and a national effort to provide workforce training should be launched. In particular, training efforts should target K-12 students, students receiving vocational training at the secondary and postsecondary school levels, new employees and employers, employees and employers who need on-the-job upgrading of skills and training in sustainable practices, and displaced workers who must be retrained so they can find work in new industries.
Work-based learning is critical in equipping adults with the knowledge and skills they will need in a fast-changing world. On-the-job training is important in every economic sector, including service industries. One service industry -- health care -- is developing a program for educating its workforce that could serve as a model for other sectors of the economy. The National Association of Physicians for the Environment was founded in 1992 to educate physicians, patients, and the public. The association convenes conferences on environmental health issues, works to "green" the nation's 180,000 physicians' offices, and encourages physicians and other health practitioners to inform patients about the connection between pollution prevention and disease prevention.
Training and retraining programs must proliferate as the economy shifts to more efficient practices. Some businesses already are taking a proactive approach to training in business schools and should extend that effort. For example, companies are partnering with business schools to create internships and courses in environmental management that will help produce graduates knowledgeable of the environment's implications for business, including market opportunities resulting from environmental regulations.
Business and engineering schools at the University of Michigan and Carnegie-Mellon University have received funding for these kinds of programs from IBM and Dow Chemical. Similar initiatives in vocational education at the secondary and postsecondary levels should be established so that business will have the skilled workforce it will need to remain competitive in the global economy. Cooperative efforts by business and organized labor in this area would benefit both.
"School-to-work" opportunities offered through partnerships between industry and educators also should be encouraged. Promising models for career preparation range from career academies to "tech-prep" programs. The latter are often referred to as "2+2" programs, because they generally involve two years of high school and two years of postsecondary instruction. The idea is to administer a sequence of courses that prepares students for a variety of occupations within an industry. Tech-prep courses supported under the 1990 Perkins amendment to the federal vocational education law are coordinated through consultation with local businesses and unions. As of mid-1993, as many as 100,000 students in the United States were participating in tech-prep programs.
A recent study of 16 innovative school-to-work programs by Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation recommends that federal policy promote common themes and underlying principles rather than prescribe a specific program model. Localities should have the flexibility to customize their own school-to-work strategy, whether that means restructuring existing vocational programs or adopting another approach such as youth apprenticeships. Quality career preparation is desirable, achievable, and essential for attaining a sustainable society.
Some examples of ongoing innovative workforce training projects follow:
In 1995, a south Boston High School recognized the growth of employment
opportunities in the environmental field. The school saw this growth as
an opportunity to prepare students to meet the challenges of today's
changing workforce. The result was Green Tech, a program connecting the
classroom to the workplace by preparing urban high school students for
Working in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Boston Private Industry Council, Green Tech is a model program for environmental education, career awareness, and career preparation. Green Tech prepares students for environmental careers through specialized academic instruction and a progressive series of internships, "shadowships," and after-school and summer jobs.
Green Tech began on a small scale by selecting 25 sophomores to intern in environmental businesses during their junior and senior years of high school. By 1998, Green Tech envisions that all 1,000 students then participating in the program will graduate with a four-year education in environmental studies and possess the skills required to pursue environmental careers successfully.
Employers are benefiting from the program by helping develop a pool of potential workers who will not need extensive training once they enter the workforce. Students benefit by being able to complement their academic instruction with on-site work experience.
|Shore Trust: Conservation-Based
in the Rainforests of Home
ShoreTrust has a strategy for a new economy based on environmental
restoration and community development. Currently focused on coastal
temperate rainforest communities in the Pacific Northwest, ShoreTrust's
goal is to demonstrate that environmental restoration, economic
development, and job creation can be mutually reinforcing goals. Created
in the early 1990s, ShoreTrust grew out of a unique partnership between
Shorebank Corporation of Chicago and Ecotrust, a Portland-based nonprofit
The demonstration site for ShoreTrust's work is the Willapa watershed in southwest Washington. Willapa's economy has traditionally been based on natural resource extraction, primarily timber, fish, and cranberries, with little processing or value-added production before export. Structural changes in these industries over the last two decades, accompanied by recessionary pressures, have led to declining business investment and rising unemployment and poverty rates. ShoreTrust developed a strategy to help spark local investment and support a transition in the regional economic base. The conservation-based development strategy aimed at encouraging the creation and expansion of environmentally restorative businesses in the Willapa watershed.
Market testing determined that strong regional and national demand exists for environmentally restorative goods and services and that, with appropriate assistance, responsible entrepreneurs could take advantage of these opportunities. These natural resource-based businesses could then become the cornerstone of broad-ranging environmental restoration throughout the coastal temperate rainforest region along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Alaskan Peninsula.
To help these new businesses establish themselves in the community, ShoreTrust Bank was established. Scheduled to be operational in 1997, ShoreTrust Bank will lend to businesses in targeted communities throughout the coastal rainforest region to enhance community development and ecosystem health. "ShoreTrust Bank should be a significant addition to the state's economic fabric," says John Bley, Washington State Banking Commissioner. "The integration of community development and environmental health is critical to the future of rural Washington."
EcoDeposits, FDIC-insured bank products, are now being raised by South Shore Bank in Chicago and will provide the foundation for ShoreTrust Bank. Over 350 environmentally minded individuals and institutions throughout the country have joined in ShoreTrust's work by opening EcoDeposit accounts.
ShoreTrust is demonstrating that business and conservation can work together to help restore ecosystem and community health and improve the quality of people's lives.
|Jobs, Labor, and Sustainability Roundtables|
"We have to get together and exchange ideas. Difference of opinion is what makes us think."
The Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force (PLTF) held three roundtable dialogues on jobs, labor, and sustainability. The purpose was to engage community members in thinking collectively about the state of employment in their community, and what could be done to enhance the current employment situation. Chattanooga, TN was the site of the first roundtable. It brought together people from the local technical colleges and universities, as well as labor representatives, high school students, government officials, and industry leaders. The dominant theme of this roundtable was that continual training -- for students and workers -- was necessary to provide the discipline of learning and the skills needed to lead to meaningful employment opportunities. Additionally, all agreed that successful training efforts would only be realized if the local unions and businesses, vocational and public schools, and the community continue the dialogue and work together to develop programs that reflect the needs of the community.
In Boston, MA the roundtable focused on economic diversification, and developing strategies to sustainably use available natural resources such as fish stocks. Over-fishing in Boston Harbor has caused a severe depletion of fish stocks -- severe enough to have federal and state governments stepping in to curtail fishing in the area. Participants at the roundtable recognized the need to engage the public in creating a sustainability plan for their region. Said Tim Costello of Call to Action, "All of this is about revitalizing democracy. We have to develop ways to involve people in thinking about alternatives to the path we are heading down . . . governments, communities, and businesses need to support and fund a vigorous grassroots revival to participate in a community process . . . we need to ensure an adequate social safety net so the transition to new and better ways of doing things can be made without devastating people."
At the third roundtable in San Francisco, the theme was how to provide young people with education and training opportunities that would make them better suited for quality jobs with benefits and livable wages. One participant stressed the importance of school-to-work programs that help create incentives for students to be self-sufficient, and an increase in community efforts to create and offer quality jobs that youth are motivated to pursue. Said one advocate for California reinvestment, "A major problem is disinvestment in the communities . . . the lack of an engaged citizenry, a stakeholders' society, poses the greatest threat currently to sustainability." Small business owners and managers were quick to agree and voiced an eagerness to serve their communities by creating new employment opportunities, but encouraged the community to work together to direct funding to these areas.
The roundtable sessions provided diverse community representatives with the opportunity to discuss the most pressing issues facing their communities. Some of the issues mentioned included portable pensions, support during workplace and workforce transitions, worker training, school-to-work programs, creative funding options, and provisions for livable wages. However, education, dialogue, and action were touted as the most important remedies to help curb future employment crisis. It was agreed that individuals with interdisciplinary thinking skills are what creates innovation and solutions in our dynamic, global economy.
|As the Postal Service Goes, So Goes the Nation|
The United States Postal Service is one of the oldest and most
efficiently run businesses in the country. It is known for its delivery
people who brave adverse weather conditions, long distances, and dogs to
deliver the mail anywhere in the nation. What is not known by many
citizens is the leadership role the Postal Service is taking to promote
sustainability on the national level as well as within its own
organization. "The vision of the Postal Service's environmental programs
is to achieve compliance with government regulations and to serve as a
leader for government, industry, and communities," explains Charlie
Bravo, Manager of Environmental Management Policy. "As one of our guiding
principles states, "we will foster the sustainable use of our natural
resources by promoting pollution prevention, reducing waste, recycling,
and reusing material.""
The Postal Service has adopted environmental, social, and economic goals -- many of which are already being met. Environmentally, the Postal Service is a national leader in the use of recycled products including paper, retreaded tires, and re-refined oil; and has the nation's largest natural gas-powered delivery fleet -- more than 6,800 vehicles. Electric- and ethanol-powered vehicles are also being tested. On the community outreach side, the Postal Service has partnered with businesses such as Xerox, with whom it was involved in a return merchandise program for used copier toner cartridges. Economically, the Postal Service is increasing revenues through environmental compliance. For example, in 1995, more than one million tons of wastepaper, cardboard, and other material were recycled by the Postal Service resulting in $6.4 million in revenue. Locally, in Houston, for example, more than 500 tons of waste paper are recycled each month; this has generated more than $300,000 in revenue.
These accomplishments were made possible through aggressive employee training and public outreach programs. "Implementation of these types of initiatives requires awareness and cooperation throughout the organization," says Dawn Lebek, Environmental Compliance Coordinator for the Baltimore District. "In our organization, there is a continuous effort to educate and involve employees in pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling, and affirmative procurement. Employees are encouraged to participate on committees and to make recommendations that incorporate environmental programs into everyday operations. Employee involvement is critical if we are to realize our vision."
Education does not stop at the Postal Service walls; rather, its awareness efforts are filtering into communities, businesses, and schools. For example, in 1994, the Postal Service partnered with the McDonalds Corporation to sponsor a contest for youth to design four commemorative "Kid's Care" environmental stamps as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of Earth Day. The winning stamps portray reforestation, cleaning the earth, cleaning the beaches, and solar energy. The Postal Service is also involved in developing public service announcements, videotapes, and "good environmental citizen" kits, as well as using the Internet to convey information about environmental stewardship. "With almost 40,000 facilities across the country, our environmental programs can really have a positive impact in every community from coast to coast," notes Bravo.