In June, Governor Dannel P. Malloy issued a proclamation endorsing Connecticut's Environmental Literacy Plan. So, what does this mean for Greenwich?
Let's start with a basic question -- what is environmental literacy?
Environmental literacy is having a fundamental knowledge of the natural world in which we live. It is a basic understanding of Earth's systems and the relationship between living and nonliving things. This knowledge provides us with the ability to make informed decisions as individuals and as part of a larger community. We need an environmentally literate society to ensure that we have clean air, clean water and an abundant food supply for future generations.
So why does Connecticut need an environmental literacy plan?
Connecticut is a small urban state. We have more than 3.5 million people living on just over 3 million acres. Many of our residents are no longer connected to the natural world the way we were just a generation ago. The health of our residents and our quality of life is dependent on a healthy, clean environment. We make choices every day, both as individuals and as members of our communities. For example, as an individual we choose to recycle in our homes or not, we choose to use pesticides on our lawn or not.
As citizens and local officials, we may serve on a local land use commission, or on a school board, or other volunteer board where decisions are made every day. Should we move to single stream recycling? Should we purchase open space? Should we adopt a goose management program in town? Should we have a state inland wetland act? Should we reauthorize the Clean Water Act?
These types of decisions are made at the local, state and federal level. We need citizens who not only make informed choices in their personal lives but who also will make informed decisions in their role in the community. If we are to have a sustainable community for our children and grandchildren, then we need everyone to have a basic understanding of the world we live in and what is needed to sustain it.
So, who developed Connecticut's Environmental Literacy Plan, and how will it be implemented?
The development of Connecticut's Environmental Literacy Plan was led by the Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association working closely with the state Department of Education and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Beginning in 2009, many professionals in both the educational and environmental fields worked on this over the course of several years.
I participated in several work sessions hosted by COEEA. The plan identifies three partners: 1) Education partners (schools, colleges etc.); 2) Community partners (nonprofits); and 3) Government partners (elected, volunteer, and staff). These partners will be the cornerstone of the delivery system. We need students, town officials and the general public all engaged in this program. And this will only succeed if the local communities are on board.
So, what does the plan mean for Greenwich?
First, let me say that the support of the governor is important to the success of this program. COEEA worked hard on this plan and continues to provide leadership at the state level. The Connecticut ELP, however, is set up to be delivered on the local level working through the key partnerships.
Greenwich is very fortunate in that we already have a strong community team with our environmental roundtable. Since I participated in the state work group, I was able to begin promoting this in Greenwich early on.
This fall, the Conservation Commission will be pulling a team together in Greenwich to develop its own ELP based on the state plan. This would bring all of the local partners together to identify resources and maximize the effectiveness of our outreach programs. The Commission has been promoting the No Child Left Inside program for the past couple of years. We know that children that are engaged in the outside world do better in all subjects in school.
Environmental education has been shown to help close the achievement gap, as it is a universal subject that transcends all other areas. It is a very exciting time to be working on environmental education.