Today, we have the opportunity to capitalize on the growing momentum within the scientific and educational communities to break down the silos between disciplines, between research and education, and between formal and informal ways of learning that will affect how we understand the nature of life on Earth. Society’s most pressing problems range from securing sufficient food and water, to discovering future supplies of energy, keeping ourselves healthy, and ensuring a habitable climate. All these problems require pooling knowledge and tools from multiple science and mathematics disciplines and all have ecological dimensions. Yet, environmental problems need to be understood in relation to human needs. In the urgent quest for sustainable solutions, it is imperative that a solid and up-to-date understanding of ecosystem functioning and the impacts of human behaviors on multiple scales inform decision-making at various levels. Further, the connections between human health and environmental health are increasingly evident.
Investing in environmental literacy is critical to developing a workforce and a citizenry that can engage in public discourse, research, and governance for a sustainable world. In the Summit, interest or engagement in environmental literacy activities may be part of a broad range of disciplines and approaches including but not limited to Earth Systems science, ecology, agriculture, chemistry, geography, life sciences, conservation, energy literacy,or sustainability education. Environmental literacy activities may also be part of faith-based education, language arts, history, medical training etc. Activities may be conducted in formal or informal settings and at any level from community to international activity.
The purpose of this historic and collaborative event is to:
- Disseminate best practices that will advance Environmental Literacy for a Sustainable World
- Reduce duplication of efforts
- Coordinate strategies to build capacity and pathways of support for green careers for the next generation
- Integrate technology into the study of earth and nature
- Develop strategies to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities and women into the environmental agenda
- Develop public policy and funding opportunities to advance environmental literacy
- Accelerate the transformation of teaching and lifelong learning in formal and informal settings
The Summit aims to create a national dialogue to accelerate the transformation of teaching and learning among K-20+ audiences in both formal and informal settings in response to today’s urgent and complex environmental challenges. The first half of the summit will be open to participants from national/regional/state organizations. Invited participants will remain for the second half of the summit to draft a Decadal Plan of Action for 2010-2020 based on the discussions.
The Summit will bring together diverse thought leaders, educators, scientists, professionals, and policy experts from a wide variety of sectors including academia, business, agriculture, government, health, and media, that serve the spectrum of grades K-20+ audiences.
Decadal Action Plan
The second half of the summit (from October 15 afternoon to October 16) will be an invitation-only workshop for approximately 50 participants to draft a Decadal Action Plan using the information presented before and during the conference. This smaller group will map out strategies to achieve environmental literacy that reaches all audiences. This coordinated Decadal Action Plan for environmental literacy with recommendations for action and coordination with immediate next steps and longer term milestones outlined. Joint collaborative goals are expected to be formulated and a National Implementation Task Force is expected to be created to ensure that the plan moves forward. The Summit will take the first step towards a consensus of an environmental literacy framework. The Decadal Plan will recommend action steps to achieve that consensus.
Within the next three years, national organizations will prioritize the focus of their programs based on identified gaps and needs to achieve environmental literacy among the citizenry. The summit will set in motion a plan for greater integration of programs horizontally (where one cohort experiences multiple and reinforced programs) and vertically (across age groups at developmentally appropriate stages). In the longer term, effective use of new technologies and pedagogies will be incorporated and an increased national capacity to promote greater and more diverse participation in environmental monitoring, stewardship and careers will be developed.